Using a breast pump isn't always (read: rarely ever is) a pleasant experience. Although every mother has different reasons for using one, the mechanical, plastic nature of the pump is much harder to get used to than physically nursing your baby. If you're frustrated by unproductive pumping sessions that yield less milk than the time it takes to pump it is worth, you're not alone. Luckily, like with most aspects of motherhood, there are many ways to tweak the way you pump to make it more effective. Learning the one thing you're doing wrong while pumping can make a huge difference in your comfort while pumping and the amount of milk you're able to produce during each session.
Although factors like the quality of your pump, when and where you pump, and whether you have an electric or manual pump will make a bit of a difference in your output, believe it or not, the one thing your pumping routine is missing is actually a lot simpler than you might think.
Ready? Here it is: You're not massaging your breasts. According to La Leche League International (LLLI,) women who massage their breasts before and even during their pumping sessions produce a significantly higher amount of milk. The reason, much like the solution, is simple. When you massage your breasts using a specific technique, your body increases the amount of prolactin it produces which, in turn, helps your milk flow increase and encourages a quick and easy letdown.
According to Breastfeeding Problems, massaging your breasts promotes healthy circulation, increases milk production, prevents clogged ducts, and even removes toxins from your body through lymphatic stimulation.
The technique most experts recommend when pumping is called the "Massage-Stroke-Shake" technique, or the M-S-S technique. It sounds odd, but once you try it you'll see why it's the missing link in your pumping routine. LLLI noted that mothers should massage before they begin pumping and then again after five to seven minutes of pumping.
To try the M-S-S technique, LLLI instructed moms to massage both breasts simultaneously in a circular motion — as if you were performing a self-check breast examination. Then stroke your breasts in a straight line from your chest wall down towards your nipple. Finally, lean forward and gently cup your breasts with your hands and shake them slightly. Begin pumping again and more than likely you'll notice an immediate difference in output.
Much like hand-expression, which according to the Dr. Sears website can promote healthy letdown and increase output, the physical contact of massaging your breasts while pumping is an effective way to heighten the effectiveness of your pumping sessions. Give it a try the next time you pump and don't be surprised if pumping gets a whole lot easier.