9 Common Pumping Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

As a new mom, one of the most important things you will do for your baby is breastfeed. Breastfeeding provides unbeatable benefits and allows you to spend some quality time with your newborn. While you’ll likely never want to miss a feeding, it’s not realistic to expect to nurse your baby every time they need to eat. To make sure that you’re still providing the nutrition they need, many moms will start pumping to create a freezer stash of breastmilk for their partner or childcare professionals to use during feedings when you’re away. However, pumping is a lot different than nursing and often takes a lot of trial and error to perfect. To help you expedite that process, here are 9 common pumping mistakes and how to avoid them.

  1. Using Excessive Suction

    If you’re new to breast pumping, you might assume that stronger suction equates to more milk expelled. This isn’t the case. As it turns out, using excessive suction will actually have the opposite effect.2 When you pump up the intensity it stimulates inflammation, which in turn makes expelling milk difficult if not impossible.2 Using a breast pump is different than nursing, so your body will need to learn to react to both.

    To get the most out of your pumping sessions, start with the lowest suction setting on your breast pump.2 When you start to get a better understanding of how your milk supply works and what your body can handle, then you can experiment with a higher suction setting. Avoid jumping from low to high suction as this will revert back to inflammation and instead go from low to medium and then see how your body handles it. Most women have found that the medium suction level is the best for expelling the most milk in the least amount of time.2

    If you’re still having problems with using your breast pump, take a minute to make sure that you fully read and understand the manual. The constant suction from a breast pump is much different than the suction from a baby nursing, so you might have to play around with different settings to get the results you need. There are plenty of great pumps on the market with customizable settings to help you perfect your pumping.

  2. Completing Short Pumping Sessions

    Pumping sessions need to be a certain length of time to avoid disrupting your milk supply and causing problems. When you cut your pumping sessions short, you won’t completely empty your breasts. When your breasts aren’t completely emptied, your body doesn’t get the signal to make more, which can lead to low milk production and problems with nursing. Instead, aim for about 15-20 minutes of pumping or 5 minutes after the milk stops flowing.2

    To really stimulate your body’s natural milk cycle, pump immediately after nursing—especially if the nursing session was short. When your breasts are completely empty, you’ll end up making more milk in less time, which can help you feed your baby and create a significant freezer stash for when you’re away.

  3. Not Pumping Enough

    Another issue is that you might not be pumping enough. Again, this could contribute to lower milk production as your body runs on a supply and demand type of cycle. Contrary to what you’d think, increasing your pumping frequency will stimulate your breasts and cause them to release more milk over time. To help kickstart the frequency of your pumping, try cluster pumping and then adjust accordingly.

  4. Pumping Sporadically

    Once you’ve increased your milk supply using cluster pumping, create a pumping schedule and stick to it. Pumping sporadically throughout the day will confuse your body and throw off your milk production. Our body’s appreciate consistency, so a pumping schedule helps strengthen the supply and demand cycle even more. When you’re with your baby, you’ll pump less often because you’ll also be nursing. However, you will need to make up for the missed nursing sessions when you’re away or at work if you don’t want your breast milk production to suffer. While a newborn’s eating schedule will be a little hectic, you’ll eventually fall into a routine. Create your pumping schedule around that. Stick to it as best as you can, but don’t worry if it’s not exact. The problems start when you go long periods of time in between expelling milk, not if you miss a session by 15-30 minutes.

  5. Not Drinking Enough Water

    Dehydration causes a lot of health problems, but many women don’t realize that it also increases the difficulty of nursing and pumping. Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for yourself and is crucial when it comes to your milk production. If you’re having problems staying hydrated or with remembering to drink water, get a water bottle that has hourly progress points on it or make one yourself. If that’s too much at least try to drink about 8oz of water every time you pump or nurse.2

  6. Not Eating Enough

    Breastfeeding and pumping burn a lot of calories and takes a high amount of energy, even if it doesn’t feel like. While many women are trying to lose their pregnancy weight during this time, depriving your body of the nutrients and energy it needs will end up causing problems. Just like you need extra calories during pregnancy for fetal development, experts suggest eating about 450-500 calories more per day when you’re breastfeeding and pumping.3 To stay healthy and keep you on the right track for your post-baby body goals, make sure that these calories come from whole foods with high nutrient contents and avoid processed junk-food.

  7. Letting Stress Dominate Your Day

    Our bodies react to stress, even if we don’t realize it. When we get stressed out, cortisol levels soar and milk production drops. To make sure that you’re having successful pumping sessions, work on managing your stress levels naturally and try to make time for you to decompress and relax regularly. This will be difficult as a new mom, but it’s worth it as it benefits both your sanity and your baby’s health.

    Many new moms end up over-focusing on their freezer stash. Yes, building a freezer stash is a great way to make sure that you always have enough milk for your baby, but it shouldn’t dominate your mind. A lot of new mothers end up focusing on this and then start to get anxiety about not having enough milk stored in the freezer.1 This becomes a negative feedback cycle because your body will create stress hormones from your anxiety about insufficient freezer supply, which in turn can negatively affect your body’s natural milk production. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol can decrease your milk output, so don’t get too hung up on your freezer stash.

  8. Ignoring Your Mental Health

    In conjunction with managing stress, make sure that you prioritize your mental health. It’s hard being a new mom and if you’re struggling with anything, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Communicate with your partner and make sure that you pay attention to your feelings and address anything that’s bothering you. If you think you’re experiencing postpartum depression, don’t hesitate to contact a professional. You’re not alone and talking with a professional will help you understand and work through these feelings.

  9. Using the Wrong Flange Size

There are a lot of moving parts to a breast pump and even if you’ve found the perfect one, the flange sizes might be off. The flange is the part of your breast pump that stimulates the breast so that milk is expressed.2 However, many women don’t realize that breast flanges come in a variety of sizes. Instead, they stick with the one that came with their pump. Flanges come in sizes ranging from 19mm-36mm depending on the pump, so it’s important to find the size that best fits you.1 Some signs that you might be using the wrong flange size include pumping discomfort, clogged ducts, sore nipples, or difficulty expelling milk.2 Get measured, order a few in a range of sizes, and find the right flange size to make pumping easier and more comfortable.

Conclusion

Breastfeeding is a great way to bond with your baby and give them the nutrients they need, but you might not be able to be there for every feeding. Breast pumping allows you to give your baby what they need regardless of if you’re there or not. Try these tips to fix common pumping mistakes and if you’re still having trouble getting milk out, talk to your doctor about finding a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist. Do some research on a pump that will work for you and remember that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, new and expecting mothers are eligible to receive a breast pump covered by their insurance provider.

If you have any tips or advice about breast pumping or want to share your experience with a lactation consultant, head over to our Facebook page today and leave a comment!

Sources:

1 https://exclusivepumping.com/exclusive-pumping-mistakes/

2 https://www.swaddlesnbottles.com/7-common-pumping-mistakes-and-what-to-do-instead/

3 https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/how-to-increase-milk-supply-when-pumping#think-about-baby