As many of you know Jen has been expressing full time since Kayla was born and as a result has gained a huge amount of experience with this. Here are her top tips for anyone who needs to express milk full time for their baby.
1) Get a hospital grade double pump. To start off with I would recommend renting a Medela Symphony, if your supply is well established (after at least 6 weeks) you could then move to a lower grade like a Spectra or Ardo. A smaller pump like a swing is perfect for the odd bottle but this will not cut it for a full time expressing mother. You can ask your local PHN, cuidiu branch or medical social worker if there are any free or discounted pumps in your area. You can rent a hospital grade pump from Medicare www.medicare.ie (make sure to get the kit too - with the parts you need to pump like bottles/tubing/flanges. ask in the hospital if they could give you a set to get you started)
2) Get comfortable. Prop yourself with cushions/pillows. Relax your shoulders. Take a few deep breaths. Some mothers find listening to music or relaxation tracks helpful. You can take this time for you to de-stress / practice mindfulness and regroup.
3) Take the time to do a good breast massage before beginning to pump. Use a warm compress (hot face cloth/hot water bottle/ nappy or sanitary pad under hot water if you are in the hospital with limited access) This will help the milk to flow and you will get a higher volume.
4) Cut holes in a tight top or old sports bra and feed the flanges (funnel part that goes over your nipple) through. This way you can pump hands free. This is great to allow massage/breast compressions but also so you can use the time to eat & drink too. (or write a blog as I am LOL)
5) Don’t be afraid of your breasts. Be involved in the pumping process and massage/do breast compressions. Really get in there! Imagine you are pressing/massaging/squeezing out the milk. This is called Hands On Pumping and is proven to increase your total milk volume. It also helps you to avoid blocked ducts so it is win win really.
6) Choose the setting for you. Pushing the power to the max is not always what is best. You obviously want to have good suction but if it is painful you won’t get a good let down (ie your milk won’t flow as freely). A good rule is to get to the point where it begins to feel uncomfortable and move down a level. *At the beginning you may need to be on a very low level for comfort. You will find as time goes on you can gradually increase the strength.
7) Pump at least 8-10 times in 24 hours. This is essential. It is how often a newborn will feed (and often much more!) You can take one 4 or 5 hour stretch at night but you must get at least one pump in between midnight and 5am. Your prolactin, your “make more milk” hormone is at its highest at those times and it needs to be stimulated to keep your supply up. This is why newborns often want to feed frequently at night.
8) Choose the correct Flange size for you (note that this may change over time, you can go up and down sizes) Having the right fit is so important for your comfort but also to get the maximum milk production possible. Try a few different sizes but start off small and work up as needed. The Medela symphony sets come with size 24 as an average you can order them on www.medicare.ie. I found the “pumping pals” sets work the best for me, my supply is much better and I am more comfortable. You can order these on Amazon.
9) Use Lubricant on your nipples to avoid chafing. You can use multimam balm, coconut oil, olive oil or similar safe oils for baby. (don’t be stingy with it, lather it on!)
10) Surround yourself with Water/food/phone/books etc. All within reach. You will be spending a lot of time each day with your pump, you will get great at multi tasking!
11) If you are alone to care for your baby and need to pump you can set up on your bed and prop your Baby on a pillow – they may nap or you can chat and play with them. Otherwise i find putting Kayla in her buggy beside me works well as I can rub her face, play with her or grab her quickly without pulling off my nipples if she needs to be lifted up.
12) Don't watch the volumes. "A watched pot will never boil". Some mothers find putting light socks over the bottles help to distract and often they get much more milk when they are not watching it drip for drip.
13) Remember to take time to do a few short & frequent pumps or Power Pump to give your milk supply a boost every now and then. This will imitate a babys natural growth spurts (cluster feeding).
14) You can keep your pumping stuff in a zip lock bag in the fridge between pumps for 24 hours if you do not want to wash & sterilise each time. Do check with your babys health care provider first - as babies with compromised immune systems may need different care.
15) Bring a big "I'm not getting out of bed" box up with you at night. It should include all your pumping parts for the 3 or 4 pumps during the night, your babys feeding bottle/SNS etc, snacks and plenty of water for you. Some mothers bring a note pad and pen to document volumes & times too.
16) Do lots of skin to skin with your baby, as often as possible. Let your baby lick or suck at your nipple, even non nutritive sucking (where baby isn't actually getting milk out) will help your supply and allow your body to create antibodies tailor made for your baby.
17) Get help around the house. Call in all favours! Pumping is a full time job. Take any offers of help. Let others worry about the house and feed you. Make life as easy as possible. You can do your grocery shop online (remember to order lots of healthy snacks) If you are cooking doing a big batch and freeze for quick to grab dinners. Many mothers find a sling for their baby helps to achieve more, plus it is lovely for bonding.
18) Link in with an experienced IBCLC. Not all Lactation Consultants have experience with full time pumping mothers. You can find an IBCLC on www.alcireland.ie
19) Hire a Postpartum Doula! Well of course I am going to say that. But the support we received from the DoulaCare Ireland team was absolutely invaluable in ensuring we succeeded in those first few weeks. If you can budget for this you won't regret it. DoulaCare Ireland doulas can work anything from 3 hour shifts to 24 hour shifts. They meet you where you are at and ensure you are nurtured and heard. You can find out more on our website www.doulacare.ie or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will ensure to put you in touch with a member of our team that is right for you.
20) If you are separated from your baby:
- Keep something that smells of your baby with you when you pump (we are mammals after all and our senses are huge in milk production)
- Watch videos on your phone of your baby/look at photos
- Remember you are doing an incredible thing for your baby. You are creating milk that is tailor made just for them. Only you can do this and you are amazing!