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Ep. 32 – Pumping Hacks: Tips for maximizing your pumping output!

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This is Maureen Farrell and Heather ONeal. And this is the Milk Minute an inclusive evidence-based podcast. Hosted by midwives and lactation professionals. That’s us! Here to talk to you about all things, lactation and boobs, body positivity, mental health, all the Milky topics. Join us for another episode.

Pump, pump, pump, pump, pump, pump. We’re going to pump you up! Let’s get pumped up, pump it up, pump the jam, pump it up. Pump your boobs. Sorry. If you pump your boobs and you would like to know if and how to get the maximum output, this is the episode for you. And we get this question quite often from people that have to pump.

How do I [00:01:00] know when I’m getting enough? Can my pump get more out of me? Right. And we get a lot of, I’m only getting a half ounce, how do I get more out? Right. So of course, if you’ve listened to previous episodes, we talked about how every pump has a life on the motor. Yeah, you know, I just got a question about this on the Facebook group today. Really? Yeah, Breastfeeding for Busy Moms, where somebody had bought a used pump that was used for 200 hours, a Spectra.

And they were like, uh, the life only says 4,500 hours… what does that mean? And I had to break the news to that person. That that literally means the motor doesn’t work well after that. Yeah. They’re meant to be used by one person one time, so you can buy another one so they can make money. Yeah, and I remember in one episode, when we talked about that we did some math and we were like, oh fu*k, exclusive pumpers, get like two months out of these.

Yeah. It’s like two to four months. Yeah. What the [00:02:00] fu*k? Yeah. But anyways, so a lot of you, I have seen this before, where I go to a lactation appointment and I’m like, okay, just show me what you’ve been doing. And they get out their pump and they turn that sucker on full blast. And I’m like, ahhhhhhh! And they’re like, I don’t know why I have nipple pain! I’m like, okay, listen, it’s not easy… because most of the time we are learning how to pump when we’re exhausted and postpartum because you don’t practice pumping when you’re pregnant. It’s 2 am, and you’re like, uh, I’m just not, I’m just gonna like turn on this little light and press these buttons and fall asleep. Right.

Let’s take just a minute to thank our sponsor Liquid IV. Heather, I want to tell you a little bit about this because I was skeptical at first, but when I really looked at it, Liquid IV offers highly effective functional hydration products that make you feel better, faster. Well, I mean, I guess my question is how does that differ from sports drinks?

This is way different. These guys [00:03:00] function on premium ingredients and optimal flavor without all of the additives and sugar. Oh, okay. So you’re saying that you can balance your body and your hydration, get your vitamins and not pack your body full of sugar. Okay. Exactly. They work with a world-class team to create cutting edge functional beverages where science meets taste, and the company focuses on giving back to the communities they work with and on sustainability.

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So, I kind of developed this little step-by-step guide on how to make sure that you are getting the most out of your pump, maximizing your supply and making sure that it is doing what it needs to do for your body to keep your supply up. The step one is understanding how this thing works and what it’s supposed to be doing.

Right. And, you know, just a general reminder, [00:04:00] all pumps, pacifiers, bottles… they are all made to mimic the breast. Yes. So for example, when a baby first latches onto a breast, their sucking pattern is short and vigorous, it’s quick and it’s not very deep, you know, they’re just like trying to get your breast excited and get those hormones flowing to get that let down to come. And it’s kind of like suck, suck, suck, suck, swallow. Suck suck, suck, suck, suck swallow. Yes. Yes. And then after that milk lets down, you’ll notice that baby’s sucking pattern changes to a slower and deeper rhythm. Like suuuck, swallow, suuuck, swallow. Yeah, and you’ll really see that like jaw movement in the back where their ears are almost wiggling because they’re really drawing that nipple in.

Right. We call that the rocker motion. Ooh. The rocker motion. Yeah. So that’s what a baby’s pattern is on your breast and your pump should do the same. So, your pump is supposed to change settings. And I know that every pump is a [00:05:00] little bit different, but, you know, for example, the Medela has a pre-programmed setting where it starts out short and vigorous, and then it automatically goes to a more deep, longer, more powerful suction, which is great.

Except when it doesn’t sync up with what your body is actually doing, and then you either have to start it over from scratch, or you just kind of have to wait it out. And so sometimes your body’s not fully in sync with the Medela in that way, but sometimes it is. Yeah. And you know what I’ve noticed in helping people with their pumps, the way these are labeled, sometimes you’re like, I’m sorry, what does that mean?

Like I’ve noticed some of the Medelas have like different little droplet numbers next to the buttons and you’re like, three drops is what? Yeah. One drop is what? And then other ones have like a digital platform and you’re like pressing a plus or minus. And it’s, [00:06:00] you know, each pump is its own confusing little puzzle.

Yeah. So you’re going to have to read the manual, because you know, every pump is a little bit different and you know, so the Medela is, you know, it’s supposed to be idiot proof where you turn it on and go, and it’s got that automatic thing that happens, but don’t put me in a box. You know what I mean? I kind of like the Spectra if I was going to choose, I’m not an affiliate of Spectra, but, it requires a little bit more finesse because it does have a lot more settings on it, but you’re able to customize those settings and you’re able to change them in the middle of a feed.

So, you can even go back and try to stimulate a second, let down by making it short and vigorous again, we’re all different. So, I like that the Spectra has some variability. Yeah, that sounds nice to me. And typically, with the Spectra or something like it, I like to start with a faster cycle, maybe like at 70, with low suction, for two to three minutes. Is it on like a [00:07:00] one to a hundred scale? Or are they just random numbers they picked out? I don’t know how high it goes up because I had a Medela. I remember a post the other day on the Facebook group or somebody was like, can somebody tell me what these numbers are? There’s like a 34 and 114 and a 70. And then I just found this other one and we were all like, I don’t know. No clue.

So then after your let down occurs, turn down cycle to maybe like 50, but turn up the suction to medium or high, depending on what you can tolerate. And then do that for like 15 to 20 minutes, or if you’ve stopped flowing, and you don’t see any more drops of milk and it’s been a couple of minutes. You’re probably done.

Yeah. You just stop that’s okay. Everybody kind of empties at a different rate. So, when your milk starts sputtering out, just turn the cycle down to 30 and then turn up the suction too high for a couple more minutes to get those last good fatty drops at the end. So overall [00:08:00] stress doesn’t impact how much milk you make. But, as we’ve mentioned before, it can affect the letdown reflex where your mammary glands kind of like shoot milk out those ducts in that really, really easy flow, but that’s impacted by stress. It’s all controlled by oxytocin. So, we’ve actually seen better pumping output, specifically pumping with deep breathing, meditation, relaxation, watching videos of baby, smelling baby’s clothing, stuff like that, stuff that just like gets that happy hormone flowing. Right.

And then for those of you who are exclusive pumpers and it starts to become daunting and you don’t have anything to look forward to, you’re just pumping, like just, I’m just getting it done. I’m just getting it done. That can be really difficult mentally, because when you know, you’re about to have to pump, you already start increasing those stress hormones. Right. So, we [00:09:00] always recommend that people use that time. To do something for themselves while they’re pumping. So, you can kind of look forward to it a little bit, like reading or a book on tape or catching up with an old friend or something.

Just use that time for you. So, you don’t feel that stress creeping up as you’re anticipating it. Yeah, and if you’re one of those people, who’s like just staring at those bottles being like, come on, come on another ounce, cover it. Put a towel over it. Watch a funny show. Watch comedian something that’ll make you laugh.

A baby sock is great to put over the bottles if you use bottles. So, you can’t see it. If you take your brain out of the equation, your body tends to do a lot better. Yeah. Cover those bottles, flip Jim Gaffigan on and listen to him talk about his four children and you can laugh. Ha, it’s so true.

And then also about halfway through pumping, just do some breast compressions to ensure that you’re getting as much milk out as possible. Yeah. You can do some massage, like from the armpit toward the nipple. It’s a little bit, it’s [00:10:00] hard to get near your areola with that when you have these big flanges, cause you don’t want to dislodge them, but you can do toward the outside of your breasts and you know, just any help you can give yourself, man.

Yeah. And then of course you can use gravity. So, I used to lean forward all the time. Oh, like a dangle feed with your pump? Yeah, I would dangle feed with my pump. Just be careful because some of the flanges, the way they are built, they will actually spill out of the bag, which is stupid. So just, you know, make sure when you bend over, it’s not all going to fall out.

And then I always say, after you’re done pumping, just take your hands and feel around your breast to make sure there aren’t any hard areas left. And if there are hand express those hard areas out to make sure you don’t get clogged ducts, because those people that are exclusive pumpers tend to get way more clogged ducts, because it just isn’t as good as a baby nursing.

Right. And honestly, too, like you’re probably spending more time in a bra if you’re pumping. Often, you’re at work, you [00:11:00] know, and wearing those tight, restrictive bras causes more clogs for sure. It really does. So just take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to touch your own boobs. You know, I’m always telling people that.

They’re nice. They are so nice. Appreciate them.

Let’s take a minute to thank our sponsor, Taking Cara Babies, sleep courses. Tell me about that, Heather. Oh, it’s awesome. I took it. Everybody needs to take it. Cara owns a company called Taking Cara Babies. She was a NICU nurse and her husband is a pediatrician and she solves your problem of how to get your baby to sleep through the night and to nap and get on a good nap schedule while being breastfeeding friendly.

I mean, you think it’s not possible, but it actually is. And she basically gives you permission to do these evidence-based research-based things to get your baby to sleep better through the night without hurting your milk supply. Sounds great. So, tell me, how do our listeners get there? Go to the show notes, click the [00:12:00] link and sign up.

And that’s it. Go do it and enjoy your night’s sleep. Good night.

Step three is get the right equipment. Oh yeah. We have a whole little separate pod snag on this, but we’re going to talk about it all over again, because it is so important. Yeah. So, before you even pumped for the first time, I need you to please measure both of your nipples to size them correctly for flanges.

Yeah. One, two both of them. Not everyone has the symmetrical nipples. I don’t know that anybody really has truly symmetrical nipples, honestly, but some people have such different sizes and they don’t realize it. And then they end up with a severe nipple injury because they’ve measured one nipple and got the same flange.

This is when I hear someone saying. My right nipple has a crack on the bottom and I’m like, do you pump? Yeah. Yeah. Those cracks right at the base are brutal. And it’s often because you can’t see where the placement is and you’re [00:13:00] using a flange it’s a little bit too small. So, we’re not one size fits all. Please measure both. And if you do require two differently sized flanges, it’s perfectly normal. Just have two sets. Yeah. Which is fine. You have two sets and that’s fine. And that will help you to maximize your milk output. Because if you pump with one that’s too big, you can get deep breast vasospasms. And also, you will not get maximum milk output, which is what this episode’s about.

Right. And this is important from day one, pumping, like if you’re in the hospital and unexpectedly, baby is in a NICU stay and you get a hospital pump, make sure you get the right size flange from them because often in the pumping packs that they give you at the hospital, they actually only come with two sizes in there.

And it’s usually a 24 and a 28. So, are those even the most used sizes? I think 24 is, but I think people have smaller nipples than maybe they realized? I know a lot of people [00:14:00] using 19s and 21s. Yeah, so please measure before you even go to the hospital, you never know what’s going to happen. Right. And bring your own flanges if you’re anything other than a 24 or a 28.

Yeah. I also like it when people get or have on hand something that you can use as a breast massager. What are your favorites like a vibrator? Well, whatever is fine, but they do make some gimmicky breast massagers that you can get from different companies that are the shape of a breast, which is nice, you know.

And then I saw someone post one the other day that was kind of like a half-moon shape. Yeah. And I was like, well, that looks kind of nice also, like I might not want to spend however much that costs. Yeah. It’s like 40-ish dollars, I think, you know, for, I mean, if you’re a person that has repeat clogs or you’re an exclusive pumper, I would say it’d be worth the investment, but just, just have something that vibrates on hand, whether it’s an electric toothbrush or a back [00:15:00] massager or a vibrator or something that you can put on the outside of your breast, if you do get a clog, so you can apply that vibration externally and loosen up some of the fat clumps in there and get it out.

Yeah. Oh, and. Hands-free nursing bra. Oh man. Gotta have it. You do. And you can buy, you know, if you’re going to be pumping, hands-free like every single day, you know? Yeah. Go out and buy the really nice one. But if either that’s too much money for you or you’re like, I don’t want to spend that money on something I’m going to use only once a week.

You can make your own, you get your cheapest sports bra, you cut holes where your nipples sort of are. Cause you know, you can kind of squish those around a little bit. This does require you though having the kind of breast pump where the flange completely removes from the top and sometimes, they don’t.

But yeah, then you just put your flange in. And that works. And then if you are wearing that [00:16:00] DIY pumping bra, you can either plug those holes with breast pads afterwards, or, you know what I would do? I would literally just like, kind of tuck my boobs in a different position. Oh my, you’re so ghetto. I mean, I only ever like every once in a while, would do that.

Yeah like when you take a nap and you wake up and your nipples are just standing straight at attention. No, but really, it’s like my, you know, my breasts are larger. They’re much more flexible. This was like my oldest floppiest sports bra, you know, because I cut holes in it. So, I just kind of like scoot it up and it was great.

That’s super funny. I also love it if you have a hot compress and they’ve come a long way, and it’s great to have on hand prior to pumping, especially if you’re one of those people that is super stressed and you’re having a hard time with your milk letting down, or you’re pumping in a really cold storage closet.

Like someone posted in our group the other day that she was stuck in like an ice box basically. And her manager was not [00:17:00] allowing her to bring a space heater in. So, every time she’d expose her breasts, it wouldn’t respond to the pump… her nipples turn to little cherries… that’s awful! Yes! So hot compresses are great. And that can kind of open everything up and get things flowing.

You could use your HappiTummi. Yeah. Ooh! You could use your HappiTummi and it would smell so nice. So, the next thing we want to address is maintaining your equipment, right? If you have to turn your pump up all the way, every single time to get anything out. You might want to check all your pump parts.

Yeah. Because even if your motor’s still good, basically all of the other parts wear out. Yep. Every three months, I’m pretty sure is when most companies recommend that you replace like the little membranes and the gaskets and the tubing. You know, I feel like those membranes… if you’re pumping full time, you should place that every month. And they’re cheap and you can buy all these parts separately. And I’m pretty sure you could [00:18:00] probably buy them all on Amazon. But here’s a little tip for you. There are two websites that I want you to check out. One is called AeroFlow and the other one is called EdgePark. And these are companies that take your insurance information and contact your insurance company directly to get you your pump.

So, after you have your baby, they do all that for you. So, you don’t have to be postpartum calling your insurance, ordering your pump. Also, they text you when you are eligible for new parts through your insurance. It’s like, Hey Maureen, did you know that your insurance will pay for new pump parts now? Want me to order them for you? Yes or No? Right. And I’ll be like, what? I only slept an hour last night. Yeah. Thanks for doing that… AeroFlow! Plus, any day that I don’t have to deal with my freaking insurance company is a great day. Oh, thank God… yeah. So, it’s nice that they deal with that directly.

Last time you had to do that, Heather, you were texting me… you were like I’ve been on the phone for 37 hours. Yeah. It was four and a half hours. And heads rolled, but [00:19:00] the links to those are in the show notes. So please check it out if you need to order a pump. So now, you know, our best tips for maximizing your pumping output before you even have an issue, which is always the goal, right, Maureen? Yup. But if you run into any sticky wickets… we’re here for you. We are.

Yeah. And Heather’s going to give you this freebie. Yeah. I’ll give you the freebie… it’s kind of like a PDF of everything we just talked about. Right, because you know, probably you’re listening to this at 2am and you’re like, I definitely need to do this and I’m not going to remember it in five minutes.

We got you. So, I’ll put a link to this freebie in the show notes for you to snag. You’re welcome! Goodbye.

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