Jun 28 , 2021
Moms that pump breastmilk will attest that no two pumping journeys are ever the same and there's always room for improvement. To remove some of the guess work around pumping here's a list of five common mistakes and how to solve them.
This week, we’ve partnered with the wonderful, and very pumping-savvy, Amanda Glenn. She’s a Certified Lactation Counselor who runs ExclusivePumping.com. She has written this post on how to get the most out of your pumping and avoid common mistakes that can hinder your ability to pump successfully.
We leave you with Amanda’s advice and check out her site for more information on exclusive pumping or pumping in general.
Pumping breast milk isn’t the most intuitive thing, so if you’ve never done it before, it’s easy to make a mistake! Here are five of the most common pumping mistakes, and how you can avoid making them.
1. Pumping with the wrong size flange
Many new parents don’t realize that breast shields come in different sizes, and the standard size that comes with your pump may not be the best size for you.
For example, most breast pumps come with a 24mm breast shield included. (Sometimes an additional size also comes with the pump, but often you just get the one size.) The best size for you may be smaller (as small as a 15mm breast shield) or larger (up to a 36mm flange) than the standard size.
Pumping with the wrong size breast shield can lead to pain, nipple damage, and decreased pumping output.
Therefore, you want to make sure that you have the right size. If you're having any pain while pumping, it’s a good idea to measure yourself or see if you're able to get sized by a lactation consultant to find the right breast shield size for you.
One additional tip - breast shield size is based on the size of your nipple, not the size of your breast. Therefore, it’s possible to have large breasts and need a smaller flange size.
2. Thinking that your breasts are “empty” when the milk stops flowing
Another mistake that people that are new to pumping can make is to end their pumping sessions too soon.
You may have noticed that, aside from occasional leaks, your milk generally stays in your breasts unless you are actually nursing or pumping.
When you do nurse or pump, milk is released out of your milk ducts via the letdown reflex. Some people feel their letdown as a pins-and-needles sensation.
If you’re pumping, you may also be able see your letdown.
When you first start pumping, you might see milk start to dribble out. Then, after a few minutes, milk may start to spray - this is your milk letting down. After some time, the letdown will finish and you’ll be back to a dribble.
Many times, new parents see that the spray has stopped, and they assume that it means that their breast is “empty,” and that there is no more milk.
However, because breasts are always producing milk, they can never be completely empty. Often, if you keep pumping for another five minutes or so, you will get another letdown and you’ll see it start to spray again. This can result in higher output, and over time, increased milk supply.
3. Not washing your pump parts in a wash basin
Many new parents don’t know that all infant feeding items should be washed in some sort of wash basin rather than directly in the sink.
The reason behind that is that there can be bacteria in the sink from food, and then that bacteria can get into infant feeding items and potentially make your baby ill.
There’s an easy fix for this - just make sure that you wash your bottles and pump parts in a clean wash basin that you only use for that purpose.
Here’s how the CDC’s recommends washing pump parts and how you can make following these recommendations as easy as possible.
4. Not using a hands-free pumping bra
Hands-free pumping bras are essential for parents who pump regularly.
Using one allows you to do other things while you pump - you can work on a laptop, eat lunch, make a quick meal, fold laundry, etc.
Hands-free pumping bras come in several different styles - some are integrated with your nursing bra, while others are a corset-style bra that you put on when it’s time to pump.
5. Not doing breast compressions
Another thing that some people don't know can be helpful when they pump is doing breast compressions.
This can help you both pump more quickly/efficiently, as well as get more milk than you would have otherwise gotten.
Some people find that their milk doesn’t seem to flow much at all unless they do breast compressions. One option if that's something that you struggle with is the Lilu massage bra, because it does the breast compressions for you, while also holding your flanges in place, for truly hands-free pumping.