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Breast pumping is an experience that varies widely from one mother to another. This is especially true for exclusive pumping, which is, in other words, a process of regular removing of milk from the breasts throughout the day.
It’s something that has to be learned – you need to stay patient even if you’re unable to meet your expectations immediately. To help you out, we’ve prepared some tips that will assist you in handling your pump correctly and getting used to your new routine. Check them out:
#1 – Accept the Fact that it’s Not Easy
Exclusive pumping can be exceptionally physically challenging. In the beginning, as you’re slowly establishing your milk supply, you’ll probably feel like being chained to your gear as you’re expressing milk 8 to 12 times a day. You’ll feel uncomfortable and you’ll constantly have to deal with cleaning the bottles and parts. For moms who had hoped to nurse, there’s also the fact that it can be emotionally difficult to embrace such a sudden change in plan.
However, you should not feel discouraged – it gets easier later on as you “get into a groove.”
#2 – Get a Good Pump
When it comes to exclusive pumping, one of the most important things you need to do is to get a pump of good quality and which is well-suited to your needs. You can either buy a new one or rent a hospital-grade model that was designed to be used by multiple users.
Even though you might think that simply borrowing a pump from someone is a better idea, there’s always a risk of decreased motor function or even bacterial contamination. Remember that most models were designed to work at their full strength for around 12 months of daily use.
#3 – Be Prepared
In case you’re pumping during breaks at work, you’ll need to make sure that you have a few sets of clean breast shields at the start of each day. Always have one set assembled and ready to use – it something that will help you with making the most out of your break time.
Once you’re done with pumping, store the milk into a refrigerator and put the used flanges into one of those handy zipper-style bags. This will allow you to wash them later at home.
#4 – Establish a Routine
Try to create a set of steps that you will go through in each of your pumping sessions. These actions will act as cues for your body – looking at the picture of your baby, drinking a glass of water, dimming the office lights, and so on. Some mothers tend to use auditory cues, such as recordings of their child’s sounds or some simple relaxation music.
These cues tend to stimulate a mom’s let-down reflex because of the brain-body connection, similarly to the classical (Pavlovian) conditioning.
#5 – Massage Your Breasts
This is one of the essential steps in exclusive pumping and something you should never skip. Breast areas that feel firm need to be massaged and compressed if you want to improve your milk expression. Mothers who combine exclusive pumping with breast massage tend to express more milk.
Massaging the breasts yields the best results when done for 1-3 minutes before putting the flanges on. You’ll need to do some experimenting to find which kind of massage works best for you – circular motions, slow strokes, etc.
#7 – Have a Strategy for Cleaning
Every pumping mother knows that cleaning the parts after the session is half the battle of pumping. Although a chore, cleaning the components in a proper way is a critically important step. A couple of years ago, there was a case where a baby got infected by coming into contact with contaminated pump parts – you certainly don’t want that to happen.
In case you have a communal sink at your workplace, investing in multiple spare parts would be a wise decision. This will let you swap the parts out during your workday, and them clean them at home in your dishwasher.
#8 – Make Yourself Comfortable
A mom’s nipple should fit comfortably in the middle area of the breast flange. Once you begin with the pumping, a small quantity of air should be present around the nipple.
During the first 20 seconds, there’s a chance you’ll feel somewhat uncomfortable as your nipples are starting to stretch. Once the milk begins to flow, you’ll probably feel an unusual “tingling” sensation.
Although all of this might feel strange, pumping shouldn’t hurt. If it does, make sure to lower the suction level or have a talk with your lactation consultant.
#9 – Watch Your Diet
To maintain a sufficient milk supply, nursing and pumping mothers need to drink at least 96 ounces of water every day. However, some liquids should be avoided, such as those that contain caffeine and alcohol, as these substances can actually dehydrate you.
Moreover, there are certain foods that are well-known for their capability to increase a woman’s milk production. Spinach, fenugreek seeds, oatmeal, carrots, almonds, and brewer’s yeast are all excellent dietary additions. Getting enough calories from a well-balanced, healthy diet is crucial in maintaining a good supply.
#10 – Try Nipple Cream
Exclusive pumping requires multiple sessions throughout the day, which might lead to sore and cracked nipples. Fortunately, there’s a simple and effective solution for this annoying problem – the nipple cream.
These are available in a wide variety of brands and are quite affordable, although not all are created equal. Avoid creams that contain artificial ingredients or those that come with added fragrances.