OK, so let’s start by talking about that word ‘supply’, if you’ve been breastfeeding happily and your baby has been gaining weight and having plenty of wet and dirty nappies etc. you do not have a supply problem. You do not need to increase your supply.
What you’re going through is a release problem. You have the milk, you might have buckets of milk, but the issue is that when you feed your baby, or hold your baby, or smell the top of your babies head, your brain releases oxytocin, which in turn triggers the milk ejection reflex, which is what gets your milk flowing.
Oxytocin is the hormone of love. It’s the same hormone our brain releases when we fall in love with someone. So just think about that for a moment. The fanciest, most expensive, all singing, all dancing pump in the world is not going to trigger the release of that love hormone the same way looking down into your baby’s face is.
Sometimes then, we need to fool our breasts into releasing the milk. And fortunately there are a number of tricks we can use to do this.:
Warm compresses (or expressing after a relaxing warm bath or shower, but this might not be practical in some situations)
Breast massage Starting from the top of the breast, working around the circumference of the breast, and gently but firmly massaging from the back and top of the breast down towards the nipple
Hands on pumping This technique involves using the hands as well as a pump to remove more milk. This is a really good piece on hands on pumping and includes a video of a hand expressing technique that can be used to do hands on pumping while using a pump http://www.nancymohrbacher.com/articles/2012/6/27/to-pump-more-milk-use-hands-on-pumping.html
You’re probably now thinking ‘How in the heck am I supposed to hold the pump, and do hands on pumping all at the same time! And I get it. Many, aspects of parenting cause us to feel like we should grow an extra pair of hands with each child, and this is one of those times. Using a pumping bra can help to hold the pump in place for you. You don’t need to spend a fortune on one. You can make a DIY on using a cheap sports bra, and cutting a hole in it to hold the pump.
Distraction Stress and worry are the mortal enemies of oxytocin, which means they’re the mortal enemies of milk being released. A lot of mums get into a vicious cycle of staring at the bottle as they pump, seeing not much milk, worrying about how little milk they get, so the worry inhibits the milk release, so they get less milk, so they worry more, so they get even less milk, and round and round and round it goes.
So sometimes you need to tear your mind away from that pump. Put on a TV show, or a movie that makes you feel good, but is also fairly immersive. Or close your eyes and listen to your favourite music, music that makes you feel good or evokes happy memories. Download an app like Headspace and do some guided meditation. Anything, anything at all that makes you feel good and drags your brain away from the pump.
Massage As in someone else giving you one. This can help you relax, and release tension, and get the oxytocin flowing. The person doing it doesn’t have to be a master masseuse, but something as simple as your partner rubbing your shoulders, or even giving you a foot or a calf massage can help. This can ale be a way for your partner to feel involved. If your partner is seeing you stressed out about pumping they’re probably worried, and feeling helpless and actually really want to be able to do something to make life easy for you. This is a way they can do that.
Power pumping Power pumping is essentially a very intensive pumping session designed to mimic a babies cluster feeding pattern. If you’re struggling with pumping output it can be an idea to do one power pumping session a day, for a couple of days. This site has info on power pumping and how to go about it.