Breastfeeding Part 3 – Pumping

Whether you plan on staying home with your infant or going back to work, most breastfeeding mothers end up pumping at some point during their breastfeeding journey. Pumps range from single, manual pumps to double electric ones. For mothers who are only going to pump a few times, a single, manual or electric pump will work. However, if you plan on working out of the home or pumping frequently, investing in a double electric pump will increase your success rate and decrease your frustration in the long run. You do not have to buy a pump, you can borrow one from a friend, buy a used one or rent one from your local hospital. Several medical insurance plans are now covering the cost of pumps – all you have to do is call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask about your breast pump benefits (you may need a prescription from your pediatrician or OB/GYN). Just make sure to get new tubing, nipple shields, and collection bottles when you start pumping, especially with a used pump.

The process of electric pumping can be daunting at first, ask a lactation consultant or nurse in the hospital to show you how to set it up and get started. First, hand off your infant because it is very difficult to pump holding your baby! Next, connect the tubing, set up the nipple shield and collection bottles. Finally, place the nipple shields to your breasts and turn on the suction, slowly. If you are going to be double pumping frequently, several manufacturers make hands-free pumps and bras for easier use. Pumping takes an average time of 10-20 minutes per breast. Continue to pump until the milk flow stops if you have adequate supply, or longer (5-10 minutes) if you are trying to build up your supply.

Some breastfeeding mothers start pumping in the hospital, within a few days of birth. Breastmilk supply is based on demand – so the more stimulation to the breast, the faster milk “comes in”, with increased supply. Sometimes, mothers pump because they want their milk to come in faster, which works, but is not necessary for most mothers. The mothers who do need to pump are the ones with infants who are being supplemented formula because of jaundice or weight loss, or those who have infants in the NICU.

There are several different strategies for pumping and you will hear different advice from everyone you ask. I make my recommendations based on whether or not you are going back to work and when. For mothers who are going back to work within 6-8 weeks, I recommend starting to pump during the “engorgement phase” – usually between days 3-7 after birth. You will make plenty of milk during that time and it will help make you feel more comfortable. Pump only a couple of times per day, after your infant feeds. Remember that when you pump after your baby feeds, your body will make more milk at that time… so you can take advantage of that and pick times when you will be able to pump when you go back to work. Continue to pump daily after that to store milk for when you go back to work. For mothers who are not working outside the home or have an extended maternity leave, I recommend starting to pump and introducing a bottle a couple of weeks before you need it or just doing it “as needed” for a night out.

Expressed breastmilk can be stored in hard plastic bottles or breastmilk bags. I recommend storing or freezing in 2-4 oz allotments, so you do not waste any milk when you thaw it for your baby. As your infant gets older and eats more, 4-6 oz bags work well.  Click here for a chart on safe breastmilk storage:

http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm

While most breastfeeding mothers will admit that pumping is not the most exciting activity, it does give many mothers the opportunity to provide breastmilk for their infants whether they are working outside of the home or just out for a quiet dinner.

Heather Joyce, MD

Breastfeeding Part 2 – The First Days Home

Congratulations…you gave birth, decided to breastfeed, and made it through your hospital stay!  With the support of doctors, nurses, and lactation consultants, by the time you are discharged, hopefully, you are feeling pretty comfortable with the breastfeeding process.

This is exactly how I felt with my first son…so, when I got home and started having difficulty and pain, I felt frustrated and started doubting my ability to breastfeed. He was fussy and frantic at the breast, which lead to painful feeding sessions. I knew some pain was normal, so at the time I didn’t even know I needed help. Most parents would agree that the first couple of nights home with your first infant are the longest, most exhausting nights of your life. Add in difficulty with breastfeeding, and a time that should be filled with joy, becomes one that is filled with frustration. The good news is that this time passes quickly and with some patience and support, breastfeeding can get easier every day!

In my opinion, the biggest reason that new mothers are in this situation, is the fault of our current medical system. We send mothers and their infants home within 48 hours of delivery – well before most mother’s milk “comes in.”  So, many infants start to get very hungry within 24 hours of going home. This is a time when they start to gain back the weight that they lost after birth. If your milk is not “in” yet, then you are dealing with either a sleepy baby who does not have the energy to feed or a frantic, fussy baby.

The second problem that many mother’s run into is engorgement. Once the milk “comes in,” the breasts become hard, swollen and painful. A baby who was latching on perfectly before engorgement, can develop difficulty finding a comfortable latch – especially at the beginning of a breastfeeding session, when your nipple can lay flat against your areola.

Here are my tips to help you get through the fist days of breastfeeding, with as little difficulty as possible:

  1. Find support – a friend, relative, or lactation consultant
  2. Put your infant to the breast as often as they want (every 1-3 hours) – you can work on a feeding schedule later. In the first couple of weeks, the more your infant feeds, the faster your milk will “come in” and the more milk you will produce
  3. If your infant is too sleepy to feed or falls asleep at the breast, attempt to breastfeed for 10 minutes on each side, then pump to let your body know that you need more milk. If your infant is not gaining weight or having problems with jaundice, feed the baby this pumped milk (either with a supplementing tube/syringe or a bottle) after attempting to breastfeed. As a side note, this is exhausting – so utilize your partner or a relative to hold or feed the baby in between breastfeeding/pumping sessions. 
  4. If you are having pain or difficulty latching your infant due to engorgement, express breastmilk either with your hand or with a pump for about 1 minute prior to attempting to breastfeed. Be advised not to pump too much during this time (like after every feed) because you will overproduce milk and this can lead to lots of discomfort.

You will know that your infant is getting enough milk by the number of wet and dirty diapers they are having. They should increase every day until day 5 or 6. They will also start gaining weight around this time. So follow-up with your pediatrician is important.

It is normal to feel nipple discomfort for the fist 1-2 weeks of breastfeeding, though if the pain is making breastfeeding a dreaded task or you develop red sores, cracks or blisters – then find a lactation consultant to help work on your infant’s latch. You will also feel pain and fullness during engorgement – starting days 3-4 and resolving slowly over about a week. This pain should be tolerable with a supportive bra and cold packs.

Within 10-14 days, breastfeeding should become comfortable for both you and your infant. If it is not, or your infant is not gaining weight – seek help, because there are fixes for most breastfeeding problems. However, you need to know that some infants are not great breastfeeders and some moms don’t make enough milk – which makes me very thankful that formula was invented!

Heather Joyce, MD

Breastfeeding – Is it Safe to Exercise?

So … you’ve decided to breastfeed.  You also want to get back in shape following your baby.  While breastfeeding is a huge topic of conversation, there’s not as much talk about breastfeeding and exercise.   Here’s a few questions you may be asking …

Will baby refuse the breast after exercise?  You may have heard that babies don’t accept breast milk as readily after mom has exercised because of a buildup of lactic acid.  However, most studies have found no difference in acceptance of the breast, even after maximum intensity exercise.  Research has also not shown a noticeable increase in lactic acid buildup after moderate exercise.  Even with maximum intensity exercise where there is a minimal increase in lactic acid in breast milk, there are no harmful effects for the baby.  While there may be a change in taste of breast milk from lactic acid, babies will not subsequently refuse to breastfeed because of it.  More plausible reasons for why your baby may refuse to breastfeed after you exercise are issues such as the salty taste of sweat on your breast post-workout.

Is the composition of antibodies of breast milk affected by exercise?  Exhaustive exercise does cause IgA levels (a type of antibody) to decrease for a short amount of time.  However, these levels return to normal within an hour – a decrease in IgA levels in one feeding per day is not likely to be significant.  Moreover, moderate exercise does not affect antibody levels.

Is your milk supply affected?  In short, no.  In fact, some studies have shown that women who exercise regularly had a slight increase in milk supply.  However, if you exercise to the point of exhaustion, or train for an event such as an Ironman, your body may be depleted to the point where producing milk is its last priority.  Bottom line – moderate, regular exercise should not affect your milk supply.

What types of exercise are best?  There really is no “best” type of exercise for breastfeeding moms.  It’s really more about what you enjoy and what makes you feel good.  Because breastfeeding moms are a bit more top heavy, things like running may be more uncomfortable, but it can still be done with the right type of support/attire.

What attire provides the most support for breastfeeding moms?  The key to being comfortable while exercising is finding a good supportive bra that fits you.  I would suggest getting measured at a sports specialty store for women (e.g. Athleta, Title Nine, etc) so that you know exactly what you need.  It really does make a huge difference.  You can avoid the two sports bra routine if you find the right bra that fits you 🙂

Other tips …  Definitely try to breastfeed right before a session of exercise.  Clearly, this is more comfortable, especially for weight bearing activity like running.  You may develop plugged ducts if you  lift weights involving repetitive upper arm strengthening (if that happens, start with lower weight/reps).  And make sure you drink and stay well hydrated!!

Rachel Brewer, MD