Pumping loads of milk can be easy— Just keep emptying the breasts!!
But there’s a lot more to it than you think.
Lots of moms have a hard time producing enough milk to keep up with the baby’s needs and also to release the engorgement pain.
I had a horrible time with my three kids, especially the third one, who was born premature. So, I had to pump exclusively for a month before I could start breastfeeding.
In the beginning, it was just 14 oz a day!! Shocking right? All those consultations seemed useless at that point. Few more weeks in and I said I had enough. I need to pump more milk.
What I did was make a list of the most successful breastfeeding and pumping moms in my community. Talked with them and used their ideas. Then I went looking for research that could back up those ideas. Applied them and I would say most of them worked!
The result— I was able to increase it to around 30 oz a day after a few weeks.
Here are the exact same strategies that I used to double up my milk volume!!
1. Keeping the Breasts Empty (Most Effective)
This one is the most talked strategy in the entire history of moms. Straightforward but it seems most first time moms get it wrong.
Research has found that milk production is heavily dependent on effective emptying of the breasts and not frequent pumping. Yes, that’s the difference ladies.
Use your hands to massage and pull out milk until you think you are empty. Even if you think you have pumped enough and your baby needs no more milk, do it.
2. Utilize Power Pumping
You can try out power pumping (rapidly emptying the breasts) if you have a perfectly healthy, full-term baby but struggling to find time for day time pumping.
Well, there are lots of ways to do it. What worked for me was to pump whenever I came across my pumping unit. So, I would pump for 10 minutes every 40-50 minutes for 5 hours, empty the bottle and start over again.
Continue doing this for 3-4 days until you can shift to your usual pumping routine.
3. Double up the Pumping
If you are using a single pump, you are depriving yourself of producing more milk. It seems that double breast pumping can only reduce time, which is BTW necessary for working moms.
I was surprised to know that simultaneous breast pumping can increase your production. The reason is when you double up, your body responds to the stimulation longer compared to single pumping.
Well, if you haven’t got a double pump yet, follow this guide to get some of the most effective pumps in the market that can help you keep up to daily output.
4. Pump Right After and Between Feeds
This was one of the easiest ways to deal with low milk supply. One of my neighbors accidentally found that pumping right after breastfeeding gave her more milk.
I did some digging and found that it’s actually a fact. Right after your baby suckles, start pumping. Do it for 10-20 minutes even if there’s no milk. Remember, you are keeping yourself stimulated here and tricking your body to produce more.
For some moms, taking an hour gap and pumping in between feeding works best. So, you have two options, now. Let us know what works for you.
Note: If you are night weaning, you might not want to pump in the middle of the night, though!
5. Warm Breasts, More Milk?
Yes! This works. And.. lots of studies have proven it to be effective.
If you are using an electric breast pump, warming up your breasts before the session can significantly increase milk supply. It might be because of oxytocin reflex (letdown reflex) or the milk channels receive less obstruction.
The easiest way is to use a warm breastshield. Alternatively, you can wrap a warm and wet washcloth on your breast or DIY warm wet sock filled with uncooked rice. Whatever way you choose, it should work.
6. Mind Training and Relaxation Goes a Long Way
Milk production has a connection with our emotions. At least that’s how our brain is designed!
If you have been through post-traumatic stress due to childbirth, lost someone you loved, living with an abusive partner, or any other emotional stress, your milk supply can drastically decrease!
It’s important to get away from those stress factors. Training your mind in a certain way can improve the condition to some extent. Here’s what you can do:
Get isolated when pumping or at least away from negative persons or thoughts.
Keep yourself distracted by talking on the phone or watching a movie.
Imagine thoughts that trigger your milk ejection. I get triggered when I hear my baby cry. So, listening to an audio clip of your baby crying can be the solution.
7. Combine Electric Pumping With Hand Compression (Highly Effective)
The best way to breast pump exclusively and still keep increasing milk supply might seem counterproductive! But with additions of some hand techniques, your production can increase 10%-46%. That’s huge!
I recommend compressing your breasts during pumping. With modern electric pumps that stimulate, compress, and suck at the same time, this should be a no brainer job!
8. Getting the Suction Level Right
Most moms have the idea that increasing the suction power can help them obtain more milk. In fact, it’s the other way round!
There is something called ‘maximum comfortable vacuum’. This is the highest level of suction at which you remain comfortable. Research shows that pumping in this way can increase flow rate and volume.
The suction level is different for different mothers. For a particular person, it might not be the same every day. So, start from the lowest setting and tap the + button until you find the sweet spot.
9. Flange Size Matters!
To be honest, I never thought flange size can actually impact my milk flow. I started using the flange that came with my pump! It was too small and I ended up with pain and decreased production.
The same goes for large flanges, except your nipple will feel squeezed and sometimes become discolored. So, measure your nipple size and get the right flange.
10. Alternative Strategies to Increase Milk
Sometimes when nothing works, you need to look for alternatives-
Herbal Treatment: Often known as galactogogues in medical science! Certain herbs like Alfalfa, anise seed and fenugreek can increase milk!
Chiropractics: This one needs a doctor’s approval. However, I have met with moms whose milk production increased after a chiropractic treatment.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture for treating milk production can be dated back to thousands of years as it helps stimulate oxytocin.
Body Massage: I found shoulder massage and having someone walk on the sides of my spine to help me get more milk. Maybe it has something to do with that shivering sensation.
How much milk can I get when exclusively pumping?
If you follow basic guidelines and the strategies we mentioned, you can get 25oz-30oz breast milk every day!
Do I need to take galactagogues like Domperidone for increased milk supply?
In most cases, changing your pumping style, mental approach, and eating certain herbs can improve the condition. However, if nothing works, you should talk with your doctor about any possibility of improvement with Domperidone.
Sometimes it’s best to give yourself time and some treats to replenish. If you feel like not pumping, take a day or two rest. Breast pumping or feeding doesn’t work if you are not motivated! Come back again and apply these techniques as much as you can. Most of these, if not all, will work.