5 signs you should break up with your breast pump and switch methods

5 reasons you may want to ditch your double electric pump for another option
5 reasons you may want to ditch your double electric pump for another option

Breast is best.

Chances are you have heard this no matter your current motherhood status.  The pressure to provide your child breast milk is intense but you still have other responsibilities like keeping a roof over their heads or I don’t know food on the table, clothes on their back, and medical insurance for all those well child checks (and the general cost of a medical professional attending your birth).  So now you have to express milk.

Enter the breast pump.

Chances are you are aware that your breastfed baby does have a few differences from his or her formula fed counter part, like weight and the point at which they start sleeping through the night.  But here are a few things I learned nursing baby number 2 that caused be to pack up the pump for good.

1.)  Your breastfed baby doesn’t need more breast milk as he or she ages or grows 

Chances are you know that as a formula fed baby grows, they drink more formula through the day.  But did you know that current research shows babies who are breastfed do not increase their milk take (except during growth spurts) from a few weeks old through 6 months?  After 6 months, if your baby is starting solids, he or she will drink less milk.

Turns out that whole idea of breast milk being an ideal nutrition for your child includes increasing the calories per unit to accommodate their increased size.  This would have been helpful when I was nursing my first and got discouraged because I couldn’t pump 8 oz in a whole day let alone one session to provide her with all those larger feedings.  The formula fed counter parts need to have a greater volume as they age because the formula nutritional content doesn’t change requiring more liquid to accommodate growing bodies.

Read more and find links to academic journals at kellymom.com.

2.)  1 – 3 oz of milk per pump session is typical

This may have been my biggest frustration during pumping for my daughter while working full time.  I would get so frustrated with myself because I had an unrealistic idea of what I should be able to pump per session.  I would feel discouraged after bringing home 4 – 5 oz of milk at the end of the day.  In conjunction with the above point, I would go home feeling like I would never have enough milk to feed my daughter during the day while I was at work.  Of course the stress didn’t help me get any more volume from my pumps.

Read more about what you can expect while pumping at mother-2-mother.com

3.)  Your baby is more efficient than your pump 

If you are a pumping mom or close to your baby’s due date, your provider has probably shared this with you.  This is something I was told at my appointments too.  And of course it makes sense but why baby is more efficient than the pump is probably a little more important.  Through my prenatal visits and my new baby class, I learned that your body responds to your little one’s cues, touch, smell … basically any sense you can use to interact with your baby encourages your let down response.  So when I was concerned and frustrated, I was told to bring an article of clothing, a picture and/or a recording of my baby’s hungry cry.  Unfortunately, no matter how you simulate being close to your baby, it doesn’t replace being close to your baby and it won’t make your pump move the way the baby’s mouth moves to express milk.  So I switched from my Medela to a Dr. Brown’s pump.  It was supposed to mimic baby’s suckling.  It didn’t work work any better.  And when combined with baby’s hungry cry recorded to produce a let down reflex … well I was left feeling like a broken emotional failure.

4.)  A double electric pump is the most efficient way to express milk

One luxury I experienced with baby number two that I didn’t get with the first is being at home almost exclusively.  He is now 9 months old and I have not had to be away from him for extended periods to date.  That will change soon but he eats a lot of table food now so I am not as worried about milk expression and it will be once or twice a month that I am away for 8 hours or more at a time.  I have been pretty lucky to be in that position as it has reduced my stress level dramatically.

I can remember when it was time to pick a pump with my daughter everyone told me that I need to just spring the cash for a double electric pump and a ‘hands free’ accessory.  While it was nice when I was working because I could bring my computer into the lactation room with me and still answer emails/work I quickly discovered with baby number two that there are other options.

5.)  Pumping requires specialized equipment and extra time to ‘set up’ and ‘break down’

It would take me about 30 to 35 minutes to pump from start to end with my daughter and I was happy when I ended up with 3 oz.  Some sessions I ended up with nothing.  The time it took was too great for my liking.  Between putting the pump together, getting the phalanges properly placed on the breast, a 10 – 20 minute pump, and then clean up … well it was a major time suck and I wasn’t willing to keep up with that while I was at home in the evenings and on the weekends.  So I fell further and further behind on my stash of expressed milk.  This was really frustrating when I was drinking so much water I felt like my organs were swimming and I was choking down tea to boost supply.

With my second I finally discovered the secret for me was to hand express.  Sure it take a little getting used to but in about 15 minutes start to finish I could express about 2 – 3 oz.  It is extremely inexpensive as it doesn’t require any specialized equipment, can be done anywhere – seriously, there was a time or two I had to do it in the car when we needed to drop them off for a few hours and he needed a little milk to get by – and I didn’t have to sit in a room connected to a pump for 20 minutes.  I could literally keep an eye on my kids no matter where they were.

Possibly the biggest benefit for me was the lack of discomfort.  I found both pumps I have used to be pretty uncomfortable.  Of course there are the women with an oversupply or those who don’t terribly mind pumping and the answer is different for everyone.

What tips and tricks have you found suit you best in your attempts to express milk while you are away from the baby?

For tips on hand expression check out this wikihow.  While you are going to find your own method, I like this one because it also includes a few tips to get the most you can – like the warm wash cloth.

For tips on boosting supply check out this post.  Just beware that the photo is misleading in the sense that 8 + oz of milk is not the average expression per session and that this is one person’s experience.  If you have questions or concerns a lactation consultant or your ob is the way to go.