Problems Pumping?

PSP moms talk about how they solved problems with breast pumping and share things to try when what you are doing isn't working!

ORIGINAL POSTER:

 

"I'm on maternity leave with second baby and return to work on October 13th (around the corner--I will soon be an emotional wreck). With my first, I breastfed during maternity leave but when I returned to work, my supply plummeted and although I continued to pump for 2 more months, it was basically pointless as I was going home with 3 oz at the end of the day (that's after 3 pumping sessions). I had tried everything - fenugreek, teas, oatmeals, pumping extra, etc. I attributed my issues with having given my daughter an occasional formula bottle during leave and never having gotten a great latch from her. But now here I am with my son, who I've been able to breastfeed exclusively (with the help of a lactation consultant) and still get barely nothing when I pump. (Example: (sorry to get technical) I will feed on one side and when I pump the rest of that side and pump the other (supposedly full) side, I get less than an ounce total. This is in the morning when I'm supposedly the most full.
- I checked all the pump/pump part connections, the membranes are in tact, and it's a brand new medela pump in style.
- supply can not be the issue. My son was 8lbs at birth and was just 14lbs at his two month appt. !!

I've pumped here and there while on leave to create a small stock pile and just to get used to it but I just never get a huge amount. At the beginning when my milk was coming in I could get up to 3oz on one side.

I will be following up with my lactation consultant when I'm back in Brooklyn as I'm away right now, but do some women just have issues with pumping?? Even if the breastfeeding is totally fine? Has anyone experienced this? I just feel like it's not nearly as efficient as nursing (for me)! I must be doing something wrong! :(

Any advice? In the end, if/when I have to give formula, I will accept it so it's not that I'm stressing myself over it (ok maybe I am a little), but it's just frustrating that I've put so much time and money into getting down the nursing but am having issues with the pump!

Thanks for reading and for any advice, info, empathy you can offer! This group has always been helpful!"

 

RESPONSES:

 

Try a hospital grade pump:
"Have you tried renting a hospital grade pump?  I have heard from other momma's that upgrading to one can make a huge difference.  Might be worth a try - I think yummy mummy and upper breast side rent them (and even deliver)."

"Try renting a Medela Symphony. It's a hospital-grade pump that is more efficient, but also gentler. You can get it from several of the pharmacies in the neighborhood. I think Palma's Chemist and the Neergaard near 9th St both have them.

Try breast compression/massage:
"It sounds like you've tried a lot of great approaches.  One thing you didn't mention was breast compressions/massage.  I found that compressions before and during pumping made a huge difference, and caused me to have more than one let-down during a session.  Here is the links (scroll down for breast massage/compression links)"

Try a pumping/breast feeding combo:
"Have you tried pumping the second side while you nurse? As in, turn the pump to that second mode when you get a letdown. Warm compresses can also help (put a diaper of hot water in your bra)."

Try checking if you are using the pump right!
"How are you using the pump? For months I made the mistake of not using the pump the right way. I needed to turn to expression mode as soon as I felt the letdown and then turn the pump UP to as high as was still comfortable -- on the Medela Symphony this meant going from the default 6 bars up to 9. This made a difference. I also needed to pump for longer -- until the second letdown, which for me came at around minute 17."

Try a different pump flange size:
"The standard size worked for me, but many moms in my group found a slightly larger size had a significant impact on their pumping output. Other people have had success with the Pumpin's Pals flanges - I bought a set and haven't found they really work for me. I'd be happy to give them to you if you'd like to try them.
Pump brand/style - some people just work better with different pumps. I know this is a large investment, so you don't want to have to go out an buy different pumps. Could you try renting a different pump brand, just to see if you see any difference? The hospital grade Dory mentions might help, too."

Try "getting the mood" for pumping:
"Pumping anxiety - okay, so I think pumping is really awkward/weird, and it only feels weirder when I am sitting there looking down at the pump thinking about what is happening, mechanically. I found at the beginning, I had a much larger output when I got "in the mood" for pumping. This was actually somewhat hard for me to do while looking at my actual child in person, although some moms found that helped. Instead, what worked for me was looking at photos on my phone and thinking pretty intently about how sweet it feels to smell her head, kiss her cheek, etc. etc. (letting myself get a little emotional about it). Another friend found sound really helped her - she used her phone to make an audio recording of her (very noisy) daughter while nursing, and then she would listen to that recording and close her eyes while pumping. Honestly, this mindset thing has had the largest impact for me. And I found watching my actual child while pumping often decreased my supply because I felt very strange about pumping (rather than breastfeeding, even if we had just fed) while my real kid was sitting there."

Try pumping pals:
"Also try pumping pals.  I had a similar issue that I never got a lot of milk from pumping but the pumping pal flanges did help, so did eating something and drinking a large glass of water before pumping, trying to relax/think about baby, and hand compressions.  But I do think it's possible that some women just don't respond to the pump as well as others and I think I'm one of them too."

Try looking at videos and photos of your child when you pump:
"I keep a bunch of videos of my son on my phone, and find that usually helps. The less anxiety I have about output, the more I get too. Easier said than done, I know!"

Try distracting yourself:
"I started out watching videos of my son, thinking about him, getting all emotional, blah blah. Eventually I just did Facebook and online shopping--much easier!"

Try talking to a lactation consultant:
"I experienced a decrease in supply when I went back to work, so I called the lactation consultant who had been so helpful after Kara was born. She had me rent a hospital-grade pump, as others have said, and that made such a huge difference. I got it from Worldwide Surgical, which delivers free in Brooklyn and was cheaper than many of the other options I checked out. She also watched me pump and made some recommendations around flange size, compressions, etc. that helped a little. My supply never quite got back to where it was before I returned to work, but it got better."

For PSP member recommended lactation consultants, go here.

Try a manual pump:
"Have you tried a manual pump? When I first started pumping, I would get a lot -- sometimes 8-10 oz. in 15 minutes. Out of nowhere, it started gradually decreasing. Then the pump started yielding nothing. I mean NOTHING. I would sit there for 10 minutes and nothing would come out. I changed all the parts, tubing, etc. and it didn't work. Then, I tried the Medela Harmony (manual pump), and now I get anywhere from 4-6 oz. a session. It usually only takes me 10-15 minutes. Even when I don't feel full, I can always get a decent amount whenever I use it. For some reason, it just works so much better for me than the electric pump (also a Medela)."

Try other things than pumping, nursing, formula etc:
"I just wanted to answer the initial question and say Yes, some people don’t get very much milk by pumping. There may be a better pump out there for you, or there may not, and people have given some good suggestions and you should try them. But it IS possible that ultimately you won’t be able to get that much with a pump. If that happens, I’d recommend concentrating on nursing morning and evening and using formula in the middle of the day, which worked for me. I never had great supply (my hormones were probably low due to relatively advanced age, plus he had a tongue tie that we only got diagnosed and treated at 4 weeks, so he wasn’t efficiently priming my pump, so to speak, to start with), so we had supplemented a little all along, and I could never get more than about 2 1/2 oz at a time pumping both sides (best case was about 4.5 oz total from two pumping sessions at work). I decided I’d rather take back the extra 40 min of time for pumping and arrive a bit later every morning so I could nurse twice before leaving, and then I would also nurse right after I got home and before I put the baby to bed. This still gives the baby nutritional benefits and immunities from the milk he does get, and the physical closeness, and giving your baby 100% breast milk instead of 60%, or whatever, is probably not worth your driving yourself crazy over. I ended up nursing till my son was past 2 (for the last year only once a day, at wakeup), and at 6 he is healthy with no allergies other than an occasional springtime sneeze, so it doesn’t look like it hurt him."