Pumps are machines designed to help establish and maintain milk supply to feed your baby. They are not perfect and no where near as efficient as a baby If they are not used correctly they can fail you (and your supply). Make sure you’re using the correct sized flange and alternating between the settings. Pumps don’t measure milk supply. They also don’t measure your worth as a parent. If your milk supply dropped because of the pump, the pump failed you. You are not a failure.
Pumps are a modern invention and are far from perfect. They’re still seem like rotary telephone technology in an iPhone generation. The first pump was patented in 1854, and the second patent in 1864 was literally for cows. New pumps were created every few years, typically as improved medical devices used to treat inverted nipples and to help babies who were too small or too weak to nurse, but comfort was not the priority. Widely available products for personal or home use have really only been around for about 30 years. It wasn’t until 1991 (around the time most of y’all who are reading this were born) that the Swiss manufacturer Medela introduced its first electric-powered, vacuum-operated breast pump in the US for personal use. Prior to that pumps were limited to select hospitals. Pumps have become such a common tool that many of us think you have to pump if you want to be successful at breastfeeding. While pumping may be needed for some to help establish and maintain supply or for when away from baby, if all is going well and you’re with your baby there’s never a need to pump.
There are lots of bottles on the market. And so many of them are marketed to be “most like the breast”. Let me tell you a secret. There is no bottle that works like the breast. Don’t fall for the marketing. The breast is a complex organ that works with hormones, compression, suction, positive and negative pressure. It is controlled by the baby and how the baby sucks. Baby can make your milk flow or not depending on how they suck. It is never empty and constantly making more. It is hormone driven. A bottle is passive. It has a hole that will drip when turned over. Your nipple changes shape to fill baby’s mouth. Your nipple can help fill a high palate. your nipple and a good portion of your areola/breast also need to be in baby’s mouth in a deep latch for milk to be transferred. Your nipple should go in round and come out round. Baby’s tongue should cup and protrude past the lower gums and stay out to massage your nipple/breast in their mouth Baby has to change the shape of their tongue to accommodate the firm bottle nipple. Baby can chomp or mash the nipple and doesn’t need to keep the tongue out because they can compress milk out. Baby can also latch just to the tip of the bottle nipple and still get milk.
We can make the bottle work like the breast, though. By slowing the feeding down or “pacing” the feeding, we can help baby go back and forth between bottle and breast. You want a straight nipple that tapers wide at the base for a “deep” latch. If your baby is just latched to the tip of a bottle nipple they can still get milk. But then their muscles will learn to latch shallow and that’s often why you’ll get a shallow latch with a “small” mouth at the breast. The bottle nipples that are already pinched or tapered are also not good choices. If your nipple came out of baby’s mouth looking like, that you’d have damage within a few days. If your baby struggled at the breast and will only take a bottle nipple that looks flat and pinched there is usually something going on in baby’s mouth and the bottle nipple is compensating for it. Tongue tie is the most common culprit.
LATCHING TO A BOTTLE
Having an optimal latch at the breast reduces nipple pain and prevents damage. Your nipple should go in baby’s mouth round and come out round. If we want to encourage good latch when breastfeeding, we want to do the same when bottle feeding. This helps baby go back and forth without “confusion”.
This can be difficult when a bottle nipple abruptly changes in shape from narrow to wide. Bottle nipples like the Playtex Baby Ventaire Bottle,Tommee Tippee, Avent Natural, Nuby Comfort, and Chicco Naturalfit have narrow nipple tips and wide bases. Babies usually end up latching onto the tip and sucking it like a straw. If baby’s cheeks dimple or suck in when feeding from these bottles, they’re drinking but not demonstrating a wide latch and optimal mouth posture. If they had that same mouth posture on your nipple, they would cause pain and damage. Baby’s don’t drink from the breast like a straw. Conversely, they may try to fit the base of the nipple in their mouth and end up with air pockets where the tip meets the base. This can result in breaking the suction and swallowing excess air while feeding. Nipples like the Nuk Simply Natural and Mam are not round, but pinched or flat. If your nipple looked like that coming out of baby’s mouth we’d be talking about deeper latch or tongue tie.
Bottle nipples that gradually change in shape from narrow at the tip to wider at the base promote a deeper latch. If the nipple stays narrow at the base, like the Similac nipples many hospitals give at birth for supplementing, you’ll want baby’s lips to be able to come up almost to the collar (plastic o-ring base). If the nipple is sloped to gradually widen at the base, baby will be able to get the nipple deeper into their mouth with no air pockets. My favorite sloped nipples include the Pigeon SS Nipple, Lansinoh, Dr Brown’s Original Narrow, Dr Brown’s Wide Neck, Munchkin Latch, and Evenflo Balance, which promote a deeper latch mouth on the nipple.
So what does this mean?! If your baby is already bottle feeding and going back and forth from bottle to breast, don’t sweat it! No need to change anything! If your baby is struggling at the breast and preferring a narrower or non-round nipple, having a full oral motor assessment may help you get back to breast.
What pump do you have? What size flange are you using? The answer can make a huge difference in pumping success.
Not all pumps are created equal. Prior to the ACA, there were few pump choices. Once laws said people needed to be provided with a breast pump, and insurance would fit the bill, lots of companies flooded the market with pumps. Not all of them are good, and some will even sabotage your supply. You want a pump with a good motor in it that has lots of variability in the cycle (how fast or slow it pumps) and suction (how strong it sucks).
You also need to be mindful of the flange you’re pumping on. Most companies will send a standard 24mm flange. Sometimes they’ll send a larger size as well. In reality nipples, and thus flanges, are not one size fits all. And in my practice I hardly EVER use the 24 or bigger flanges. For almost all of my families we’re sizing down. Some times significantly smaller.
Flanges are the horn shaped part that actually touch the breast. The fit of the flange can make or break your pumping experience. Too small and friction can cause pain and even damage (and pain makes it difficult for milk to let down). Too large and the breast may not be stimulated well, which inhibits your let down to have milk flow. When too much areola is pulled into the flange, the tissue swells around the nipple pores and can prevent milk from efficiently emptying from the breast, resulting in plugged ducts, pain, tissue breakdown, and eventually a reduced milk supply. Using too large of a flange from the beginning may even prevent you from bringing in a full milk supply. Do you ever pump for 20+ minutes and still feel like there’s milk in there? Most likely too large of a flange. The stimulation from the pump is triggering you to make more milk, but the size of the flange is preventing you from emptying that milk efficiently. Poor flange fit can also impact the suction of your pump and how well it functions with your body. If you have the suction all the way to the highest level and aren’t emptying well, you flange is too big.
Flange fit tips:
🗝Flange fit isn’t based on your breast or areola size, it is JUST the size of the nipple and how it changes with suction. Some nipples are dense and don’t stretch much. Some are super elastic and swell a lot. How your nipple responds to suction can make a difference in which flange you select and if other products are needed to happy pump
🗝Proper fit isn’t as simple as measuring your nipple, but it’s a start. See a trained IBCLC to help if you haven’t found the right fit or are struggling with poor output, pain/damage, or plugged ducts
🗝A small amount of space around your nipple in the flange tunnel is good. There should be no space around the areola or in the larger bell part of the flange. If your breast tissue recoils back into the horn part of the flange with every cycle, the flange is too large. If the tissue is white where the tunnel meets the horn, the flange is too small
🗝Pain or blanching means it’s the wrong size
🗝Nipples rubbing against the sides of the flange tunnel mean fit needs to be improved and there is a risk of pain and damage
🗝There should only be a small amount of areola pulled in the flange tunnel space. The bell or horn part will have most of the areola held back so it doesn’t get pulled into the tunnel
🗝The nipple tip shouldn’t hit the back of the flange. This means you have an elastic nipple. Sizing up isn’t necessarily the right answer. Using a pump insert, cushion like @beaugenmom or @pumpinpalofficial may be a better solution
🗝Evaluate as you pump. You can changing flange size mid-pump to improve comfort if you’re between sizes. You may also need to change the flange size the longer you pump. Our nipples can become more elastic and larger or smaller with time.
🗝Every nipple is unique and each side may use a different size (or shape/brand!). There are all kinds of flange sizes, inserts, and cushions to improve the pump experience
If breastfeeding is going well and you’re planning on being home with your baby or only gone for a few hours at a time there is no need to have a huge freezer stash. Having milk in the freezer is a nice security, especially is your have to work or will be away from your baby. But if you’re always with your baby or are only gone for a short while, there is no need to have a stash.
Having the right stash for your family means having enough stashed for when you’re away from your baby. If you’re gone for one feeding, you only need one feeding worth of milk. If you’re gone 2-3 feedings, you need 2-3 feedings worth of milk. If your baby is being bottle feeding while you’re away, you would pump while you’re gone to tell your body the milk is needed. That milk then becomes the stash for the next time that you’re gone.
If you want to have a big stash, great!!! You can absolutely have that as an option. Just don’t feel pressured from other people’s journeys on social media to have something you may not need or use. I’ve had several moms who spent countless hours pumping and stashing only to have to donate or throw out the milk stash because they never used it and it was going to expire. I’ve also had several moms who thought you had to have a stash and were relieved to know they didn’t! Do what is best for you and your baby and not based off of anyone else.
You’ve got this. Trust your body. Trust your baby.
Paced bottle feeding (meaning you’re setting the pace for how fast/slow baby drinks) helps prevent over feeding baby: it takes 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain that it’s full. If a baby takes a bottle too quickly, the mouth can still be “hungry” and wanting to suck when the stomach is actually full. Like going to an all you can eat buffet and eating a lot of food quickly and then realizing half hour later you ate way too much. A baby that happily sucks down too much milk from a bottle can make you think you don’t have enough breast milk even if you make a normal amount. It can also make baby frustrated by the flow of milk from the breast and inadvertently sabotage breastfeeding
These pictures are the same baby in two different positions for paced feeding: semi upright and side lying. Side lying is my favorite position to use as it puts baby in the same position as breastfeeding. Many parents feel baby is more supported in this position. Baby is supported by your leg or breastfeeding pillow.
🍼Never feed baby on their back
🍼Keep the bottle parallel with the floor with about half the nipple filled with milk
🍼Use the slowest flow nipple baby will tolerate
🍼Rub the nipple gently on baby’s lips, allow baby to latch at their own pace, don’t force it into their mouth
🍼It should take 15-20 minutes to finish the bottle
🍼Watch the baby and not the bottle, stop when they show signs of being full
🍼Resist the urge to finish the bottle, even if there is only a little left, when baby is showing signs their tummy is full
🍼Take short breaks to burp and give the tummy time to fill naturally
🍼If baby is gulping or chugging, slow down
🍼If baby has taken a good volume of milk (2-4oz) in a short amount of time and is still acting hungry, offer a pacifier for a few minutes to help them digest and give the tummy to to tell the brain it’s full. If they’re still hungry, slowly offer more in 1/2oz increments
The best way to lose weight is to be in a calorie deficit. Choosing the right foods, protein, fruits and vegetables with moderation of carbs, sugars and starches is guaranteed for most to lose extra pounds. Sure, exercise helps. It helps burn calories, again contributing to calorie deficit. But exercise alone won’t help you lose weight if you’re still eating a high calorie diet. Sure, going vegetarian or vegan or doing Weight Watchers or Atkins or any other “diet” helps. It helps you monitor intake to be in a calorie deficit. But even on any diet plan, if you’re not following it correctly and still eating high amounts of foods you won’t lose weight. Certain people do better on certain diets or with specific exercise programs because of how their specific body handles and processes food, vitamins, stress, movement, and all of the other factors like environment and genetics. Finding a nutritionist, weight loss coach, or personal trainer helps you look at your specific body and goals and helps you reach them. You can absolutely get there in your own, having someone counsel you through often gets you quicker results from their experience and wisdom. But the principle remains: calorie deficit is the number one way to lose weight.
The best way to make breast milk is to empty breast milk. Whether that’s your baby or a high quality breast pump, moving milk multiple times a day tells the body to make more milk. The more often milk is removed, the faster it is made. Sure, supplements help. They support your thyroid and blood with the extra nutrients and hormones needed to produce milk. But supplements alone is no replacement for moving milk. You can take the best lactation bars and drink all the tea you want, but without emptying the breast every few hours routinely I wouldn’t expect the majority of us to make enough milk to feed baby. Sure, hydration and nutrition are important. It takes calories to make calories and hydration help with that process. But even the research shows women who are malnourished in famine torn countries make plenty of milk for their babies when baby is allowed unrestricted access to the breast. Yes, adding in chia seed, flax seed, oats, nuts and nut butters, and coconut water helps make milk. Certain people do better on certain herbs and foods because of how their specific body handles and processes food, vitamins, stress, hormones, and all of the other factors like anatomy and genetics. Finding a lactation consultant, peer counselor, or trained doula helps you look at your specific body and goals and helps you reach them. You can absolutely get there in your own, having someone counsel you through often gets you quicker results from their experience and wisdom. But the principle remains: emptying milk from the breast is the number one way to make breast milk.
You don’t need to have a stash. If you want to exclusively breastfeed and are never away from your baby, you don’t need any milk in your freezer. You don’t need a huge stash if you’re going to be gone from baby. It’s nice to have stored up milk, but that milk is extra milk. Feed the baby, not the freezer. You only need enough milk for when you’re away from baby. If you’re only going to be gone for 2-3 hours, you may not need any milk at all. Feed your baby immediately before you leave. If baby becomes fussy before you get home, have your caregiver take baby on a walk, distract with toys or use a pacifier and feed them as soon as you walk in the door. If you’re going to be gone more than 3 hours, you only need to have enough milk for the time you’re gone. Optimally if baby is being fed by bottle, to maintain your milk supply, you should be pumping, thus replacing the milk from your stash that was used.
There are several ways to build your stash
🍼Passively collect with a milk catcher like a Lacticup or Milkies Milk Saver. No extra work needed, this works great in the early weeks if you leak
🍼Use manual silicone breast pump like the Haakaa. While these look passive, the vacuum created does stimulate the breast and can increase leaking and milk supply
🍼If you have a large to very large storage capacity and only feed from one breast at a time, pump the other breast during or after feeding baby
🍼Pump with a double electric pump, after breastfeeding, for 10-15 minutes. Only expect to get 1/4-1 ounce as this is “left over” milk that your baby doesn’t need.
🍼Pump with a double electric pump in between breastfeedings when you think baby may take a longer nap. Aim to pump half way between when you think baby will want to feed again. If you think baby will go 2 hours, pump after an hour, etc. try not to pump too close to the next feed as baby may get fussy at the slower flow of milk.
🥛Decide how often and how much you want to pump/collect. Know that the more you empty, the more you will make as you’re telling your body baby needs that milk.
🥛Too much pumping or frequently changing your pump routine does increase your risk of plugged ducts and mastitis
🥛You can combine 24 hours of milk into one batch
🥛Breastfed babies usually only need 2-4 ounces every 2-4 hours. Aim to leave 1-1.5 ounces for every hour you’re gone
The number one complaint I get my mothers going back to work is a drop in supply when they start to pump. They go from seeing tons of milk to very little. Pumping at work is a PITA. You have to be very committed to it and depending on your job it can be stressful or difficult to get away to pump. What most women don’t seem to understand about Breastfeeding is that the more milk you remove the more milk you will make. You can’t just will your body to make the same amount of milk whether you pump once or six times. The science doesn’t work that way.
Through the first year of life, I recommend mothers pump three times on an 8 hour shift and four times on a 12 hour shift. Remember, I recommend leaving the same number of ounces as number of hours you will be gone. If you’re gone 8 hours, you only need to leave 8 ounces. Make sure your caregivers are doing paced bottle feedings and not accidentally sabotaging your milk supply. Mothers can add in additional pump sessions by pumping in the car with the battery operated pump. Once your baby turns a year, and his or her milk needs decrease; as long as they are taking a healthy amount of solid foods mom can drop down to pumping twice or three times a shift.
As your Toddler continues to grow, you can make the decision to add in another milk/milk substitute, continue to pump, or just breastfeed when you are home and have caregivers give water depending on how much you are gone from your older toddler.
Breastfeeding will working is a large commitment. I know this full well. These are the guidelines I followed with my own daughter. Up until she was 12 months, I pumped 3 times on my 8 hour shift. I had decided at 17 months to stop pumping while at work and just feed my daughter when I was home. However she had other plans 🙂 she constantly asks for May May, which is her word for my milk, while I am gone. So I was back to pumping just once a day and mixing my small amount of breastmilk with flax milk. She eats off of me like a barracuda when I walk in the door. (I think she just wants the snuggles). At 18 months I am now no longer pumping at work. She will nurse when she wakes up, when I come home, around bed time at 6:30, and every once in a while she’ll still wake up around 4am for an early morning snack. This is what my tiny human does. You have to figure out what works best for your tiny human, your family, and your health. Happy pumping!
The number one method to sabotage your milk supply when you go back to work is a caregiver who over feeds your baby.
Scenario one: Baby is given a full bottle and takes 5 ounces in five minutes. Baby then spits up half the feeding and caregiver tries to give more to “keep it down”. Caregiver tells mom baby is fussy and has reflux. Baby gets put on Zantac and rice cereal.
Reality: there are several factors going on in that scenario that will sabotage a working mother’s milk supply. First, babies are not supposed to take five ounces in a feeding. Their stomach is the size of their fist and should only be taking 1-3 ounces per feeding through the first year of life. Their stomach can only hold so much and if it’s past capacity, the only place for it to go is up. I can eat a whole cake, but I shouldn’t. As an adult, if I overeat I get uncomfortable, too. I either take peptobismol or put on my stretchy pants to wait for the pain to subside. Then I don’t eat that much again. Babies fuss and spit up for the same reason. We’re over diagnosing babies with reflux that are being fed too much or too fast.
Scenario two: Caregiver gives a baby six ounces every feeding, 3 times while mom is gone, every time the baby cries or wants to suck. Baby appears fussy and wants to suck all the time.
Exclusively breastfed babies should consume 25-35 ounces across each 24 hour day and approximately 20% of their calories should be taken over night. If you do the math, that’s a little over an ounce an hour, or 1-3 ounces every two to three hours. And in accordance to what the baby needs, mom will make that volume. So if caregiver is feeding 6 ounces three times in an 8 hour shift, you’re expecting mom to pump 18+ ounces. In reality, her body will most likely make 6-10 ounces which would be the amount she would make if she were home with her baby. In a few days of over feeding the baby, mom becomes discouraged that she’s not making enough and pretty soon she’ll start supplementing with formula
Babies also want to suck for a variety of reasons: comfort, pain, bonding, nutrition, pleasure, etc. Babies use mom as a pacifier without actually drinking. When babies are away from their mommies is very stressful, so their way to soothe is to suck.
Scenario three: Baby is given 4 ounces and chugs it down in five minutes. Baby is happy to chug down high volume and the caregiver thinks baby is just a piggy and really hungry. Baby occasionally coughs and chokes and milk comes out her mouth.
Reason: Babies have a swallow reflex that is with them at birth. When liquid reaches the back of the throat it triggers the swallow reflex. Babies are obligated to swallow otherwise they will choke or let the milk pool out of their mouths. When you see a baby chugging down milk really fast, it’s not usually because they are starving, but because they are trying to keep up with the flow of the bottle. As I said in an earlier post, there’s really no such thing as nipple confusion, but flow confusion. At the breast, other than during active let down in the first few minutes of active feeding, the baby controls the flow of milk by how they suck. In bottle feeding, the bottle will flow because gravity always wins. Caregivers need to be taught paced bottle feeding. Using a slow flow nipple, feeding baby in side lying, and frequently tilting the fluid away from the nipple to slow the baby from drinking so fast gives the baby more oral control and time to appropriately eat.
There are two kinds of receptors in the stomach: stretch and density. It should take a baby 10-20 minutes to eat from a bottle. This is also how long it takes the stretch receptors to tell the brain that the stomach is full. I can eat a whole pizza really fast, but I shouldn’t. Babies can eat a large volume really quickly, but they shouldn’t. Not only is it not developmentally appropriate, but pretty quickly the high volume needs will sabotage mom’s opinion of her perfectly healthy milk volume. She’ll turn to all kinds of milk makers: cookies, teas, herbs, etc and eventually if she’s discouraged enough she’ll turn to formula, when in reality if the caregiver would slow down feedings and give the rigjt volume, every one would be happy.
Asking for medical advise from social media forums, especially mommy groups, is like asking a mother who’s had a baby to deliver yours. Just because she has experience in the field does not make her qualified to give technical advice in that area. She can give you her opinions or share her experience, but she did never be relied on as a trustworthy source when providing care to YOUR child.
Breastfeeding is especially one of those areas that we need to tread wisely into when asking for help and advice. Or culture has hidden breastfeeding from the norm and made it this mysterious, murky action where myths and misunderstandings abound. So much of the information found in quick Google searches are anecdotal, antiquated, or based off formula feeding data which is completely distinct and sometimes totally opposite of true breastfeeding. We should be seeking community support for breastfeeding, but not when medical advice is being solicited.
When mothers give out advice on social media platforms, they are not taking into consideration the whole breastfeeding picture and may inadvertently give advice that could care harm or actually negatively impact breastfeeding. For instance, when a mother of a two month old asks for advice on increasing her breastmilk supply and mother start giving advice on herbs, lactation cookies, or teas, they may not be considering WHY she is needing to increase her supply. Is her baby in the NICU? Is she going back to work and stressed with the pumping process? Does she have. History of sexual abuse that she actually needs to work through? Did her pediatrician have her supplement which impacted her supply? Is she trying to sleep train and sabotaging her own supply? Is she ALLERGIC to the herbs in those teas and supplements? How often is she feeding? Does she have a metabolic or hormonal disorder impacting her supply? Does she have enough glandular breast tissue to even produce sufficient milk supply? Does her baby have a tongue tie? Does the baby simply have a poor latch? These are the questions that are crucial in giving appropriate breastfeeding advice to protect the breastfeeding relationship. The best advice a mother can give on the social media platform is to have the questioning mother contact a lactation consultant.
The gold standard for breastfeeding advice is the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). There are other forms of lactation consultants that teach and serve out of a variety of backgrounds. The IBCLC is the top most coveted professional because of the extensive education and rigorous testing they need to go through in order to be able to assist lactating mothers. In order to sit for the FOUR HOUR board exam, candidates must have extensive education in specific health science subjects, like nutrition, psychology, and childhood development; 90 college level credit hours of education in human lactation and breastfeeding, and hundreds to thousands of clinical practice in providing care to breastfeeding families. They must also maintain a high level of continuing education courses and continue to sit for the board exam every 10 years.
So when you see moms with questions related to breastfeeding in social media forums that are beyond opinions or personal experience, the best advice is professional advice.