As a second time mom, I thought I was so prepared for breastfeeding that time! Turns out I was not- I didn't know enough to work on latching with my baby and ended up quickly moving into Exclusively Pumping when things didn't work out the way I planned. I read the books on all the nursing positions and everything- but still we really struggled and continuing breastfeeding was really important to me.
I successfully exclusively pumped for my second daughter for 14 months, became pregnant with my third baby and took a short break from pumping, and then picked back up again once he was born and I now feed both of them. Read more on how I induced a supply big enough for both of them here.
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I am a Certified Breastfeeding Specialist. However, the advice and tips on my pages is not personalized individual medical advice and you should always discuss concerns with your healthcare provider or seek the help of a lactation professional. I do not currently offer consults or counseling, just general information.
Looking back now after the third baby and becoming a Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, I do know where I went "wrong"-
I waited too long between feeds. I thought I knew the hunger cues, but I guess only the late ones. By the time I tried to feed her, she cried too much to calm down and latch.
I was also panicking to get her to stop crying (thank you anxiety) so my mother in law wouldn't come rushing in the room trying to help. She did try anyways which further induced anxiety and it was a horrible time. I was too busy panicking to avoid that to figure out how to properly latch her. Then she started in on "just give formula" and I grabbed my pump in a huff, because the same exact thing happened with my first baby and I was NOT doing that again. Here's your reminder that you are in charge of how your baby is fed, not your overbearing family members who insist they know better.
I tried using the Boppy breastfeeding pillow, and the breast friend pillow. Turns out- these are not a 'required' item to successfully latch a baby, and can actually make it more difficult! if you can't get a good position, you probably can't get a good latch. Looking back I thought I HAD to use these pillows, and this probably contributed heavily to our issues.
I missed signs of cluster feeding. Even with pumping- I missed these. We thought she just had gas but she was just hungry. With my third baby I have seen every hunger cue a mile away and he has been such an angel. I feel like hunger cues are not taught enough in basic prenatal education.
I thought I "didn't have enough milk" which is why she was so hungry so often- this is just cluster feeding. Especially on day two- that's the hardest night! For what it's worth, I was also given Sudafed in the hospital and nobody told me it had the potential to dry up supply until after I already had it.
Now if I had written myself a list of things I wish someone could have told me back when I started, it would look a lot like this.
You need to have a better pump than that shitty Medela Pump in Style with Max Flow. This thing has no screen, and crapped out on me within two weeks. I moved on to the Spectra Synergy Gold and saw great improvement in my supply (which could have been steadily increasing anyways, but I attribute a lot of that to the better pump.) And go for power and features over discretion and convenience, do not buy into expensive wearable pumps as primary pumps! They are typically not efficient enough.
You need a good hands free bra, not the cheapest one you could find on Amazon. I originally bought a $20 momcozy bra with my baby registry discount, I was at least smart enough to have that on hand in case I needed it (with my first baby I refused special bras altogether). It did not last long, it stretched out pretty quick and didn't hold the flanges up so great after a few short weeks. I moved on to a brand called Davin and Adley which I very much enjoy, their Amelia Cami is great for both nursing and pumping.
You need to pump on a schedule. You can't just pump whenever you feel like it or it's convenient- milk production is based on supply and demand, especially after your supply "regulates" and it goes from mostly hormonal control to supply and demand control. Starting off strong is way easier than trying to play catch up later, the first few weeks are crucial for laying the groundwork for your supply. In the early days, I recommend no less than 8-12 sessions per day (depending on how long they are!)
You need to pump long enough. I would recommend 30 minute pump sessions if you're looking at 8 pump sessions per day. You could do shorter and more frequent but truly as a mom who has pumped over two years, longer less often is more sustainable. It's important to pump long enough to get 'empty' (which you're never truly completely empty, but its a widely used term)
Your flanges need to fit - the ones that come with your pump probably don't! Measure your nipples and find a flange size that works for you. You can purchase a silicone ruler that's reusable or print one for free, I will put a download below for a free one. You can find a silicone very cheap on Amazon. Pain with pumping may mean there's something up with your equipment, whether it be flanges too large/small or suction too high. Check out my post here covering all types of breast pump flanges.
More suction does not equal more milk. You should not crank it higher than what feels comfortable to you. Lots of guides out there for "increase milk supply with these settings" include a portion of the session with the suction cranked all the way up.. this is not necessary and can cause pain or damage.
Power Pumping mimics cluster feeding and can help increase supply. Hungry nursing babies do something called "cluster feeding"- you can teach your body to increase the supply by increasing the demand in a similar fashion. This entails pumping for 20 minutes, pausing for 10 minutes, pumping for 10, pausing for 10, pumping for 10. The goal is not to see immediate results but to essentially "put in the order" for more.
There's a ton of toxic marketing. Watch out for "get milk quick" schemes like magic cookies, teas, and pills. These do not work for everyone and are usually just to make money. Some of them can work, but certainly not for everyone. You can always DIY your own lactation cookies with lactogenic ingredients like oatmeal, brewers yeast, flaxseed etc. Be cautious of fenugreek as a large number of women actually see a decrease in supply from that, myself included!
You can use the pitcher method. This means combining milk from the entire day into one central container, and then portioning out of this for feeds. I recommend using one pitcher per 24 hour period, as milk stays good in the fridge for four days, you don't want to have milk on the fourth day where half of the pitcher will expire and half will still be okay. Separate is better, even if this means a smaller "pitcher". By the way- that doesn't need to be literally a pitcher. Glass mason jars work great and come in lots of sizes, you can get pour spouts for them as well.
You'll probably want a portable pump at some point. While not required for a successful pumping journey, it can be nice to have a pocket sized pump. Not every pump works great for everybody, but the two most commonly used "pocket sized" pumps I see are the Genie Advanced and Baby Buddha.
You can "hack" parts between pumps. I have really never used the stock parts that come with pump motors- I have a specific setup of flanges that I use interchangeably with all of my pumps. There is no rule that says you have to use all branded parts together.
Certain things can decrease milk supply dramatically. Hormonal birth control or even becoming pregnant again can severely tank your supply. There are other things out there like certain herbs in large quantity such as parsley, sage, peppermint, etc. These are not the same for everyone but some people can be more sensitive than others.
It's not "taking away time from your child". So many people will wrongly say that spending time pumping takes away from your child and makes you less present of a parent. I beg to differ- if you're able to pump while doing other things like tending to the baby, playing with older kids, etc it is truly not taking you away.
You are not any less of a mother because you aren't nursing. For a long time, I felt so horrible that I wasn't able to figure out nursing. I still do. But let me tell you- it does not take away from your worth as a mother. If anything, the persistence to continue providing breastmilk through the struggles of nursing speaks volumes.
Not everyone produces the huge volumes you see online. This is often staged photos or oversupplies who produce more than normal. A lot of 'pumptok' influencers will even fake content for views and brand deals.. it's quite unfortunate. The 'normal' supply is producing exactly what baby eats. In fact, oversupply was not very common before pumping was incorporated so often.
There is no one 'best' pump that works wonders for everyone. Pumps are very person-to-person and some respond better than others, but there are some that do stand out and are "better" made, whereas some are just terrible, but there is no one 'best' despite what you may see from influencers. They can share their 'favorites' but to say one pump is the 'best' for everyone just is not true.
There is support and help out there. When we go into exclusive pumping, sometimes we have very little to no information. There is support out there, great educational content and resources. It's isolating when we have family that have all either nursed or just skipped to formula, but we don't all have family that has pumped. Or friends even! There's a ton of people out there though, a great community. I've tried my best to compile some great names and resources on this page here.
If something hurts, something isn't right! Whether it be flange fit is off or suction is too high, pain is not right and should not be happening! You could even try pumping spray or coconut oil for lubrication to avoid friction pain.
Don't forget to eat enough. As simple as that sounds- while adding pumping to our list of things to do every day, we may fall behind on taking care of simple things for ourselves. Have snacks nearby your pumping station, and a big water bottle as well (because the less times you need to remember to fill it, the better!)
You will have larger yields in the morning, and slowly taper off over the course of the day. This is due to the milk making hormone prolactin being produced while you sleep, which is one reason why a MOTNP - middle of the night pump - can be beneficial when trying to pull together extra ounces!
This is a few of the many many things I've learned over the years that I wish I had in my back pocket on day one. Oh, and here's the free download for a print and cut out nipple ruler to measure for flange size!
Check out some of my related posts for more info on milk supply and exclusive pumping!
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