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Tips To Get Flexible on Pumping Breast Milk


There comes a time in many a breastfeeding mom's life when full-time nursing seems impossible, inconvenient or just too much to handle. This moment often happens around the three-month mark, when many maternity leaves end. You know breast milk is best, but how can you manage a full schedule of pumping with a full schedule on the job?

If you can keep breastfeeding, kudos - it's worth the effort. But if you feel like you're ready to throw in the towel, know that your baby will benefit from breast milk even if it’s supplemented with formula. In other words, some breast milk is better than none at all. The trick to successful part-time nursing is keeping up your milk supply even after your baby starts getting formula while you're at work. If you give up nursing, you can’t go back - so if you’re not sure, do what you can to keep up your milk production now.

Here's how to both be flexible about pumping and keep that precious milk flowing.

Pump When You Can

Even if it’s just once a day. If you wanted to feed your baby only breast milk, you'd pump on both sides for each time the baby has a bottle (that is, if the baby has three bottles while you're at work, you’d pump three times). She’d drink all the pumped milk the next day, and your body would know to keep making the same amount. But being a part-time breastfeeding mom doesn't entirely let you off the hook on pumping. If your baby isn’t nursing during the day and you’re not pumping at all, your milk supply will plummet, which could lessen your chances of nursing in the mornings and evenings.  “People think it’s all or nothing, but the difference between pumping no times and pumping once is huge,” says lactation consultant Beverly Solow.   While you’re at work, try pumping on your lunch hour. If you’re more comfortable pumping before a meal, try to at least have a protein snack and a full glass of something first; the protein will give you energy, and you need the hydration to make milk. Pumping generally only takes 10 to 15 minutes a side, but even 7 minutes is better than none. And if you have to stop before you've pumped both sides, that's OK too - just start on the other side next time.

Nurse When You Can

Make up for lost time on the weekends. “Milk removal equals milk production,” Solow says, meaning that the more the baby nurses - even if the schedule is off-kilter - the more milk you’ll make. Follow your baby’s lead and don’t worry about cuddling up with her and nursing frequently.

If you’re planning on pumping just once a day, there are likely to be periods in the morning when your breasts are feeling a bit uncomfortable. One way to keep up your milk production while helping yourself with the transition to a lunchtime-only pump is to pump before work. Lots of moms find success waking up a few minutes early, cuddling with the baby and nursing him. Then shower, dress, eat breakfast and let him nurse again before running out the door.

Relax About How Much Milk You're Pumping

If you think you're having milk supply or pumping problems, try adding one or two pumping sessions on the weekend, when you're more relaxed. Stress is the enemy of milk flow: Don’t monitor the milk going into the bottle and don't worry if you don’t get much the first few times.

If you’re consistently not emptying your breasts;

  • See if the pump is functioning properly. First watch the pump for visible expanding and contracting. Then try adjusting the settings.
  • Check the shield size. Solow notes that many moms need the 27- millimeter breast shields rather than the smaller 24 millimeter one that is generally provided with the pump.

Avoid Formula Surplus

A baby who’s filling up on formula during the day may be too stuffed to settle in for a nursing session come evening. Most 3-month-olds need just 24 to 30 ounces of milk a day. Make sure that yours isn’t getting all of that during the hours when you’re not nursing her. Here's how:

  • Make sure your caregiver monitors portion size. Forget about 8 oz bottles; provide 4 oz bottles instead. Your baby may still think she’s hungry after 4 ounces of formula, but by the time the caregiver comes back with the refill (a 2-ounce refill will be enough), the baby will probably be busy with something else. (And the caregiver can offer 2 to 3 ounces as a snack later on.)
  • Don't use bottles as pacifiers. It's easy for caregivers to overfeed a baby by making food the first remedy for fussing. But by three months, babies shouldn’t be getting a bottle at the first sign of discomfort. Often, they just want to suck on something. Share your nursing goals with your caregiver so she’ll know to try other comfort measures or distractions, including a pacifier if your baby uses one.
  • If your baby seems to inhale the formula, use slow-flow newborn nipples on those 4-ounce bottles so that he goes slower and gets  sucking satisfaction while doing so.
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