Pumping to Increase Milk Supply
Not all breast pumps are created equal. Make sure that you are using one appropriate for your needs. If your milk supply is very low or you are exclusively pumping, you should rent a hospital grade electric pump. Using the right flange size is also important and will ensure pain free pumping. Have a professional check that you are using the right pump and flanges.
The following are only guidelines. Be flexible in finding ways to fit pumping in with your busy schedule and remember that tending to your baby comes first.
The most common way of increasing milk production is by pumping after feeds. Keep your baby on the breast for as long as he is really eating. You will know that he is eating if he is taking long rhythmic sucks. Watch your baby's chin as he sucks. Every suck or two, there should be a short pause at the point when his mouth is opened the widest. Once he is no longer sucking in this manner, use breast compression. If that doesn't get him eating again, switch to the other breast and do the same. When he is no longer eating, remove him from the breast. If there is someone else to care for him now, you should pump right away. Either pump both breasts at the same time or one at a time switching sides every few minutes. Pumping should take 10 to 20 minutes depending on how well your baby ate. If he only nursed for a few minutes on each side than you should pump 20 minutes if alternating sides and 10 if you are double pumping. If your baby eats longer you can pump for less time. There may not be a lot of milk at the time but that is OK. Your goal is to stimulate your breasts to make more milk, not to fill a bottle. Any milk you pump can be given to your baby if he needs to be supplemented.
Pumping in the middle of the night is very beneficial to your milk supply. Sometime after midnight your prolactin levels get quite high. Pumping at this time will boost them even higher. Some mothers forgo the middle of night nursing if it is very ineffective and only pump at this time.
Power Pumping to Increase Supply
Some lactation consultants recommend an intense short term pumping schedule called power pumping. Set your pump out in a convenient location and pump for 5 to ten minutes throughout the day as often as every 45 minutes with the goal of pumping at least 10 times. You can leave the pump set up with milk in it for 4 to 6 hours, depending on the temperature of your room. After 4 to 6 hours, refrigerate the milk, wash out the pump parts and begin again. After a few days of this intense routine you should be able to return to your normal pumping routine.
As long as your baby is nursing effectively and often throughout the day and night, you should be able to stop pumping once your milk supply is sufficient.
Research has shown that women who massage their breasts before or during pumping increase the amount pumped and the amount of milk they produce. See the article about Getting Your Milk Flowing for tips.