A dear friend of mine (whom I’ll not name so I don’t embarrass her) recently texted me. She was at work on a short break and was pumping milk for her baby at home. Not only that—she was catching up on emails, sending me pics of her munchkin and blow drying her hair (which she’d left in a wet bun until now). I couldn’t believe all her multitasking while pumping at work. Wow, she is a supermom! I thought.
As her need to do so much during such a short time shows, pumping at work is not easy. Plus, many moms feel a lot of pressure to make enough milk for their babies while they are at work. So it’s no surprise that nearly every pumping mom I know has, at some point, wanted to pump more milk.
When tricks to increase your milk supply don’t work
The more a mom pumps, the more at risk she is of decreasing her milk supply. That’s because a breast pump typically isn’t as efficient at getting milk out as a baby is. (Makes sense, right?) That can affect the supply and demand cycle that dictates how much milk you make.
But what happens when these attempts to increase your supply doesn’t help you pump more milk?
Well, you can supplement with formula. If your baby is old enough and you have your pediatrician’s go-ahead, you can increase solids. You can make up the difference by offering your baby lots and lots of boob when you are together.
Or you can try this simple, cheap solution to pump more milk that too many of us forget.
Change your breast pump’s membranes to pump more milk
When I was a breastfeeding and pumping newbie all those years ago, I had pretty much no idea how to use my breast pump. I didn’t know what all the parts did, and the pump seemed overly complicated.
No wonder, then, that I didn’t know what to do with those small, white flaps that go on the valves—the membranes.
These membranes, though, are what create the suction that makes the pump work. When the pump sucks air in, a membrane that makes a complete seal over the valve is working: It creates suction that allows the pump to pull your nipple, simulating what a baby does when she is breastfeeding. And the membrane relaxes, letting the pumped milk dribble into the bottle, when the pump takes a “break” from its suction. That’s how your breast pump works!
If, however, the membrane isn’t making a complete seal, the suction is weaker or nonexistent. (It’s like when you drink out of a straw: If your lips didn’t go all around the straw, you have a lot harder time pulling up the liquid.)
Membranes wear out. They might warp a little bit in the dishwasher or become loosened when you’re fiddling with your pump parts.
Good thing it’s so easy to replace your pump membranes!
For a couple of bucks, you can buy spare membranes. Just pull off the old ones and stick the new ones on. They should lay flat against the valve with no gaps.
Then, when you pump again, you may notice a difference—a very good difference! You might see that you don’t have to turn the pump as high to get the right amount of suction, and the pump should be more efficient at getting out breast milk—meaning you will pump more milk!
Keep it up, Mama. You’re doing great!
PS – If you’re a pumping mama, you may want to read my post about ready-made comebacks for awkward coworker questions.
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