Should you pump before, after, or in between feeds? How much is enough? And why does pumping feel so awkward? While pumping is a great way to make sure your baby doesn’t have to forego breast milk, even when you’re not around, there’s no denying that most of us prefer actually nursing.
Follow these tips to make expressing feel a little less uncomfortable.
Have a warm shower before you pump
Alternatively, place a warm cloth over your breasts. This helps to get the milk flowing. A breast massage will also help.
Choose a relaxing spot in the house
Relaxation is key when pumping – if you’re self-conscious because your husband is getting dressed in the same room, it’s best to find a spot where you can be alone. Grab your book, make a cup of tea, and just let the pump do its thing.
Look at pictures of your baby
One of the reasons nursing is so much easier than pumping is because the proximity of your baby – that delicious smell, those soft chubby legs – stimulates the release of hormones that encourage the let-down reflex. In the absence of the real deal, pictures of your little one will help to get those hormones flowing.
If pumping is painful, your body isn’t going to respond. Avoid discomfort by lubricating the pump with lanolin or olive oil; making sure that the breast shields are placed correctly; and starting off on the lowest setting.
Up your milk production
The first step to maxing milk production is drinking water – hydration is crucial. It also helps to pump more frequently, rather than for longer periods, to mimic cluster feeding (remember that the more you pump, the more milk you will produce). With this in mind, expressing every two hours may also give you a boost. Experts also say that expressing two breasts at once stimulates more hormones, which leads to more milk, so consider a double pump or breastfeeding on one side while you express on the other.
Gear up for work
If you’re pumping because you’re returning to work, it’s a good idea to prepare beforehand. Let your employer know that you’re planning to pump at work, and ask if a space can be made available for this. Start pumping a few weeks before your return, so that your body gets used to the process, and set up a pumping schedule. This helps because it keeps your body primed for milk production – kind of like when you get hungry just ahead of mealtimes. The mornings are usually particularly good for pumping, as most moms find they have a lot of milk at this time. Finally, you can minimise the chances of reverse cycling (where your baby drinks more at night than during the day) by giving a feed as soon as you get home.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.