For some breastfeeding moms, maintaining an adequate milk supply is a huge source of stress. Some turn to dry pumping to boost supply, and while it can definitely be effective, lactation consultants say it isn't always necessary.
I spoke with Jada Shapiro, a maternal health expert and the founder of boober, a New York City-based company that links new parents to on-demand lactation and postpartum services, about what exactly dry pumping entails, and who it can help. "The idea of dry pumping is the concept of breast pumping beyond when the milk is coming out of the breasts," Shapiro says. "One would dry pump in order to work on increasing supply, with the recommendation usually being to pump two to five minutes beyond not seeing any more milk." That extra pumping can send a signal to a pumping mom's body to produce more milk. "It takes several cycles to days of additional of pumping before we start to see an increase in our milk supply."
For some, dry pumping can be a lifesaver. "If your baby is not latching well, then a pump can be an amazing tool to increase milk supply," Shapiro says. But there are many times when moms are unnecessarily worried about how much milk they're making. Kelly Mom described a condition referred to as perceived low milk production, in which moms believe they aren't making enough and begin to lose confidence in their breastfeeding abilities. One study found that it's a significant factor in moms giving up breastfeeding earlier than they originally planned.
Shapiro says you should judge your supply based on how your baby's doing, and not what you measure out when you pump. "If the baby is gaining weight well, eliminating properly, meaning they're peeing and pooping as per your pediatrician's recommendations, if the baby seems generally content after a feed, if the baby seems like they are thriving... then in general the best practice in the early days is to allow the baby to drive the supply."
The pump itself can be part of the problem for moms who feel anxious about what they're producing, according to Shapiro. "The pump does not function in the same way as the optimal latch of a baby," she says, meaning milk may not flow as easily, even if the supply is there. And some women find that their bodies simply don't respond to the pump, according to Kids Health. Every situation is different. "There's this myth that everybody should be pumping to make sure that they make enough milk, when really the baby is the one who should be latching on and driving the milk supply."
Moms should also keep in mind that simple fixes like getting more rest and drinking more water could also give their supply a boost, according to Medela — which sounds much more appealing to me than spending extra time hooked up to a pump. And if you're worried about your supply, Shapiro says you should chat with your pediatrician and a lactation consultant. The problem — if there is one — can likely be solved.