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How Pumping Can Help Increase Your Milk Supply

Mother with her baby
Mother breastfeeding baby

How Pumping Can Help Increase Your Milk Supply

How To Increase Milk Production with a Breast Pump 

Now that you’ve put in all that hard work of bringing your baby out into the world, your body is gearing up to start nourishing and supporting your child’s growth in a whole new way. Breastfeeding and pumping are important to increase the milk supply that will stimulate your baby’s growth.

Breastfeeding has been scientifically proven as one of nature’s best ways to nourish and protect your growing infant and is recommended by the World Health Organization for at least the first 6 months. Babies who are breastfed for longer periods often have stronger immune systems and are less susceptible to infections. But just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s easy.

What if your breast milk doesn’t come in right away? 

Milk production isn’t the same for everyone. For some, breast milk comes in right away and there is enough (or more than enough) for your baby. For others, building up your milk supply can take time. Especially if your baby was born prematurely, your milk may not come in immediately.  

Don’t panic! It is very possible to stimulate your milk supply and get things going while keeping your baby fed. While there are numerous ways to naturally help increase your milk supply, one of the best ways to quickly increase milk production is to use a breast pump. 

How does a breast pump increase milk supply? 

A good breast pump will mimic the natural suckling rhythm of your baby, naturally stimulating your body to produce milk. Regular and consistent pumping is one of the most natural and effective ways to stimulate milk production and increase your milk supply. When your breasts are full of milk, it’s a cue to your body that it has made enough milk. If you regularly empty your breasts of milk through feeding or pumping, your body will begin to produce more milk to keep up with demand.

5 Tips To Increase Your Milk Supply with a Breast Pump: 

1. Cluster Pump and Feed:

Combining cluster pumping (also known as power pumping) and nursing is a great way to utilize your pump to help boost your milk production and get a new baby get used to nursing. If you are not producing much milk, you will want to cluster pump (e.g., 20 mins pumping, 10-minute break, 10 minutes nursing, 10-minute break, etc) and feed alternatively in consistent intervals of time to get both you and your baby used to a feeding schedule.*  

2. Be Consistent:

The key to successfully increasing your milk supply is consistency. Pump at the same times each day, and for the same amount of time over an extended period. If you find you’re still needing more, increase the intervals and time of your pumping sessions. Over time, your body will begin to adjust the amount of milk it produces to meet the needs of the demand. 

3. Avoid using a bottle too often early on (if possible):

When your infant is getting used to nursing, try to avoid using a bottle for supplemental feeding too often. As it’s easier to get milk from a bottle, relying on bottle feeding too often, too early on, may discourage your baby from nursing. As an alternative, find a small plastic syringe to feed your baby milk in between nursing sessions. The goal is to help your baby learn to latch and feed successfully from your breasts and not to become used to the bottle (until you’re ready to stop nursing). As your baby learns to latch effectively, the natural suckling in addition to pumping will help produce hormones that tell your body to produce more milk. If your baby is low weight, helping get their weight up will also help eventually help them to nurse more easily.  

4. Get Comfortable:

Choose a breast pump that is comfortable and does not cause you pain. Ensure you select a setting and flange that fits well and creates a good latch. Ideally your breast pump will have a selection of flanges to choose from to ensure you get a good fit. Also, ensure your body is comfortable while pumping or nursing. Using a nursing pillow, a pumping bra, or resting an arm on a chair armrest can help. Whatever your preferred position, find a place that feels comfortable for you to increase ease throughout pumping or nursing sessions. 

5. Use An Electric Pump:

While a manual breast pump can be useful, it is much more time-consuming and laborious. A manual pump often does not yield the same results as an electric breast pump, which can more easily mimic a baby’s suckling motion. If you’re wanting to use a breast pump for the purpose of increasing your milk supply, an electric pump is the best choice. 

Remember, breastfeeding is a learned skill for both you and your baby. It can be emotional and that is 100% okay. Stick with it, keep pumping and snuggling your baby and you will see positive results.

 *Always speak to your doctor, midwife or lactation specialist before beginning a cluster or power pumping regimen. And don’t forget to look after yourself! While you’re working hard to increase your milk supply and provide for and nourish your baby – don’t forget to stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet yourself too! 

Need A New Breast Pump? 

If you’re looking to buy a breast pump, we highly recommend the Ameda Mya Joy.  

It’s portable, comfortable and effective, with a wide range of suction and speed settings pre-set for ease of use. It also uses hospital-grade technology to ensure safe milk collection. 

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Breastfeeding Myth-Busting

Breastfeeding Myth Busting. Manual pump in foreground.
Breastfeeding Myth Busting. Mama breastfeeding baby.

Breastfeeding Myth-Busting

Bringing a tiny human into this world, protecting them and feeding them is scary enough without being overwhelmed with the myriad of breastfeeding myths that manage to resurface over and over. You have enough to manage without second guessing how you’re feeling just because a complete stranger in the coffeeshop has opinions on your choices. The Mama Bear Club is here to help with some good old-fashioned myth-busting of some common misconceptions around breastfeeding that can lead to stress, frustration, and a reduction in milk supply.

1) Breastfeeding Myth: It Won’t Hurt.

It shouldn’t hurt and it doesn’t have to… but most Mamas out there do experience some discomfort when breastfeeding. This discomfort can range from slight irritation to full on bleeding nipples and searing pain. You are not a failure if it hurts! Pain means that your baby’s latch probably needs some work. 99% of the time it is fixable. It also can take time for your nipples to get used to the actual feel of breastfeeding. There are many awesome resources out there that focus on what a correct latch looks, feels, and sounds like (yup that’s right, a correct latch often has a specific sound).

If troubleshooting on your own doesn’t fix the issue quickly (within 2-3 days the pain should reduce significantly), don’t hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant. They are fantastic at their jobs, can often fix latch issues in just one visit and are well-versed in the plethora of breastfeeding myths out there. Whatever you do, don’t hide your pain just because you’ve been told it won’t hurt or think it shouldn’t. Ultimately, the result could be a reduced milk supply or even a damaged breastfeeding relationship. Make sure to let your midwife, doctor, or support person know if you’re feeling discomfort so you can find a solution that works for both you and your baby.

Reality: There are times when it will hurt – if it does: Fix. The. Latch.

2) Breastfeeding Myth: It Will Feel Completely Natural

The way the media, your mom/aunt/sisters, and the ladies in the coffee shop talk, breastfeeding sounds like a magical bonding act that you and your baby will instinctively know how to do. New moms often believe breastfeeding will make you feel like a divine being full of light and grace. For some women, it can be like that. For most of us mortals though, the first couple weeks (or months!) of breastfeeding can involve pumps, feeding syringes or tubes, cluster feeding, engorged and/or painful breasts, breasts that shoot milk clear across the room, clogged ducts, mastitis, and a huge variety of other things that decidedly don’t make you feel like a Goddess.

Yes, eventually you will get into a rhythm, figure out what works best for you and your baby (or babies), and maybe even feel comfortable whipping out your breasts every couple hours but there is often a settling in period. Suddenly being completely responsible for feeding a tiny human (who needs to eat so, so, much) is a lot. It will take some getting used to – so don’t beat yourself up if it all feels a bit weird. Stressing over how you’re ‘supposed’ to feel instead of embracing how you do feel is a waste of time and energy that would be much better spent cuddling, sleeping, eating or showering.

Reality: It will probably feel weird at first and that’s okay!

3) Myth: Guinness Will Help Your Milk Supply

This breastfeeding myth is actually born of a very clever ad campaign on the part of Guinness! In reality, limited research has shown that barley hops, like those found in Guinness, can aid prolactin production, which helps with milk production… however alcohol has been strongly linked to a decrease in milk production, so any benefits are quickly trampled all over.

If you want to increase your milk production through your diet, there are other options that are fully beneficial, or at least won’t harm your milk supply! These foods/herbs/teas are known as galactagogues and include powerhouses like oatmeal (or oat milk), fenugreek (normally drank in a tea), fennel seeds (which make a lovely mouth freshener too), and products like lactation cookies or lactation teas. Diet can help your milk production, but remember – the very best way to increase milk production is to feed or pump frequently, drink lots of water, get as much rest as you can, and keep your stress levels low.

Reality: Hops might help but alcohol won’t.

4) Myth: Breastfeeding = Birth Control

Breastfeeding often delays the return of your period but not always. Sometimes your period can return as early as five weeks after you give birth, even while breastfeeding (because life just isn’t fair). Ovulation occurs before you have your period, so even if your period hasn’t returned while breastfeeding after birth, you could very well get pregnant again! Some breastfeeding women don’t even realize they’re pregnant again for a couple months as their period just never comes back. This happens more often than you would think, so if you plan on having sex and aren’t ready to get pregnant again right away, make sure to use some type of contraceptive!

Reality: Nope. Not even a little bit.

Mama breastfeeding twins. Breastfeeding Myth Busting

5) Myth: Breastfeeding Will Make You Lose Weight

I wish this one were true! While technically it should be true because making breast milk burns calories, I’ve yet to meet a Mama who managed to keep her diet the same (calorie-wise) post-baby and who lost weight through breastfeeding alone. Breastfeeding makes most women hungry all the time, because you’re making milk all the time. Women who never ate breakfast pre-baby wake up starving and a snack after every middle of the night feed feels like a reward you definitely deserve.

This myth feels particularly harmful because pregnancy and birth cause our bodies to change so dramatically that the promise of assisted weight loss after birth makes those changes feel temporary and more manageable. Discovering you’re not losing any of that baby weight due to breastfeeding can contribute to postpartum depression and stress – both of which majorly impact milk production. The best way to combat this one is to a) accept that it is unlikely breastfeeding alone will help you get back to a pre-baby weight b) spend a little bit of time honouring the amazing things your body did to grow and give birth to that beautiful baby, and c) eat healthy, nutritious food that will nourish both you and your babe.

Reality: Not unless you can stick to strict calorie counting (which is not recommended while breastfeeding).

6) Myth: If the milk doesn’t come immediately, switch to formula.

While for some new moms, breast milk comes in strong and fast, other moms need some help getting the milk flowing. It’s actually very common! If your milk supply doesn’t come in immediately, don’t give up and don’t panic! Using a breast pump (like the Mya Joy) between feedings will stimulate your body to make more milk and is a proven way to increase milk production (it can also help relieve pressure if you’re an over-producing Mama). If your baby was born early and is struggling to suck, pumping milk regularly and feeding with a syringe is a great way to ensure your baby is getting your milk, gaining weight and growing stronger while helping your body get into the rhythm of regular feedings.

Reality: With a little help, most Mamas can get the milk flowing.

You’re probably going to get a lot of advice, most of it unsolicited, and most of it unhelpful throughout your parenthood journey. Knowing how to spot when something feels off or untrue is a key skill to learn as soon as possible, and breastfeeding myths. Above all, remember that every journey in breastfeeding and parenthood is different and trying to compare them will always lead to feelings of confusion and/or disappointment. Trust your instincts, feel empowered to ask questions and, above all, ask for help when you need it.

Take care of yourselves Mamas! If you haven’t yet, be sure to join our community of awesome Mamas online at Mama Bear Club on Facebook or follow us on Mama Bear Club on Instagram.

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