There are many reasons a mother may choose to pump and if you are breastfeeding you will likely think about pumping at some point during your breastfeeding journey.
I pumped through my first month of motherhood because my daughter found direct breastfeeding difficult, while others may choose to pump their milk so partners or family can help with feeding or because they are returning to work.
Regardless of the reason you have chosen to breast pump, experiences vary from woman to woman and pumping can be difficult. It can be uncomfortable, and messy and no one likes the feeling of being hooked up to a machine for any length of time. However, here are some tips that can make the process of pumping easier.
1. Choose a good quality breast pump
There are many pumps on the market, from hand pumps to electric pumps. Picking the correct pump for you will make a big difference in how you feel about pumping and your overall success. If you are planning to pump regularly and need to provide a consistent supply of milk it will be worth investing in a double electric pump. This will allow you to pump both breasts quickly and efficiently. You can rent electric breast pumps or look for secondhand ones to reduce costs. However, if you plan to pump occasionally, you may only need a manual pump or a single pump. These pumps will be less expensive and should not affect your milk supply if used occasionally.
2. Keep hydrated
Drinking plenty of water can help increase your milk supply and make it easier to pump breast milk. If you are planning to pump regularly you should expect your milk supply to increase so you should also make sure you are drinking enough water while you are pumping. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, and more if you are exercising or live in a hot climate. You can also drink herbal teas, such as fenugreek tea, which are known to increase milk production.
3. Set a pumping schedule
Pumping your breast milk will increase your supply and the more you pump the more your body will produce. Make sure you pump regularly and set up a schedule to pump so you have time set aside to do it where you are comfortable and will not be disturbed.
If you are pumping to feed a newborn you may need to pump every 3-4 hours to keep up with their feeding demands, which will include pumping during the night. If your baby is older and feeds less regularly you can adjust how often you pump so your supply matches their needs.
4. Look at pictures of your baby
If you are finding it hard to pump try looking at pictures or videos of your baby. During breastfeeding a mother experiences a let-down where the breast milk is triggered and begins to flow. You can stimulate this let-down by looking at or thinking of your baby. Some mums like to watch videos of their babies cooing and wiggling as it stimulates their breast milk and can make pumping easier.
5. Create a relaxing environment
Distractions and stress can affect your body's ability to produce milk, so creating a relaxing environment is crucial to pumping. Find a quiet, warm, and private place to pump and create a calming atmosphere by adjusting the lighting and making yourself comfortable. Indulge in some self-care while pumping by listening to an uplifting podcast or watching an enjoyable movie.
If your baby is around while you are pumping, ask someone to take them for a walk or move to a separate room so you will not be distracted by trying to care for them.
If bottle feeding your baby your pumped milk is a problem, read our blog 10 things I wish I'd known about bottle-feeding a breastfed baby.