Whenever we talk about pumping breast milk, we take it for granted that it will be easy. We think it’s just a matter of pumping and waiting for the milk to flow. And in some cases, this is true, but in others, pumping can be a daunting and frustrating task.
Today we answer all the most common questions on the subject:
When I pump, nothing comes out at all!
The relationship with the breast pump is often a love/hate relationship for many mothers. And there are many things to keep in mind when it comes to pumping breastmilk.
The first is that a breast pump is not a baby.
It is easy for babies to produce a milk let-down and achieve all the milk they need, but a breast pump does just what its name suggests: it pumps the milk out.
In other words, if your breasts are full of milk, the breast pump will easily pump out the accumulated milk. But, normally, the difficulty is to create a milk ejection reflex (a let-down) and create milk for the pump.
You also need to know that there are many different brands of breast pumps, and not all of them have the same effectiveness. If you compare it to different brands of cars, you can understand it easier. First, there is your preference for a brand, and second, the effectiveness of your chosen brand. All cars have wheels, but not all of them can take you on a Safari.
Also, keep in mind that you have to make sure that the size of your breast pump funnel (flange) is the right one for you, as often, if you don’t get the right size, this simple fact could make pumping difficult for you.
But I have the best breast pump, and I still don’t manage to pump any milk!
So you’ve already checked your funnel size and made sure that you have chosen and fitted the right one. Then, you will be able to pump a little more breastmilk thanks to these different techniques and tricks, that can help.
- Get comfortable in a familiar and relaxed place.
- Begin with stimulating your breasts before you pump by massaging the entire breast to encourage the milk flow.
- If it is possible, try to pump milk at the same time as your baby is feeding on the other side, or use a double breast pump to increase the milk ejection reflex.
- If your baby is not with you, keep a picture of your baby in sight or smell your baby’s clothes. Many breastfeeding mothers notice that when they hear another baby cry somewhere, they experience a small milk let-down.
You may be interested in expanding your information on this topic with this article on 10 tricks to express more milk with a breast pump.
On the other hand, you should know that during the first months of a baby’s life, up to about 3 months, pumping breastmilk is very easy. However, at this point, breasts regulate their production very well, and it then gets more difficult to express that bit of extra milk that you used to pump quite easily.
To understand this, breasts produce a lot of milk after giving birth to make it available for the baby to feed on. But around the third month, your breasts begin to regulate the supply, generating only the exact quantity of milk your baby needs. The fact that this gets adjusted is very positive for breastfeeding because it means from this point onwards, your breasts will stop swelling so much when your baby is not suckling, and you will no longer experience so many leaks of milk. But on the other hand, it also makes it more difficult to pump, which can be frustrating.
If I get 50 ml from both of my breasts, is that all the milk I have?
No. A breast pump can never be used to measure the amount of milk you have. Mothers often get scared when they start using a pump and see how little milk comes out.
A breast pump does not measure your milk supply. Don’t panic if you pump very little or even no breastmilk at all. If your baby is growing well with exclusive breastfeeding, it shows you have all the milk your baby needs.
I used to be able to pump more milk when I was at work, and now I don’t manage to pump anything at all; why?
Stimulation with a breast pump has a downside. As the stimulation is less, your body does not understand what to do, and it usually happens that overnight the milk you managed to pump then drops sharply without any warning.
It’s not you; it’s the pump. Because a breast pump can never be as effective as a baby.
If you pump at work to give this milk to your baby the next day, you can try to increase the number of pumping sessions, even if you do so for less time. If you pump just to keep up your milk supply, then don’t worry. Because when you are with your baby at the breast again, if you let your baby nurse as much as they ask for, they will be able to get all the milk they need and will be able to maintain an optimal supply.
If I pump for longer, will I pump more milk?
To increase your pumping output, it is best to pump for a short period of time several times a day. This is much more effective than pumping for 1 hour once a day.
In this case, pumping a little, but more often, is much more effective: pump short, frequent times rather than for one long pumping session.
When you see drops of milk coming out of one breast, move on to the next side. And again, go back to the first side when you see that it comes out slowly. Finish with a hand massage to express as much breastmilk as possible.
I pump after feeding my baby, and nothing comes out
If you pump just after your baby has had a large part of your milk, you might be able to only pump a small quantity.
You can pump at any time of the day, so don’t be afraid that you might leave your baby without milk because they can produce a milk let-down in just 2 minutes and then get all the milk they need*.
So, to gain confidence in yourself and your baby, you can pump milk from one breast side at the same time as feeding your baby from the other side, or you can wait about an hour after breastfeeding to pump.
*It is not advisable to pump before the baby has fed at the breast, if your baby has a weak or immature suckling,