Disclaimer regarding supply: True low milk supply is rare. Perceived low milk supply, however, is one of the leading reasons women cite for giving up breastfeeding.
Genuine low milk supply is often the result of a medical condition: hypoplastic tubular breasts, sometimes in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, sometimes in women who have had breast surgery, and sometimes in women with thyroid disorders.
If you don't fall into one of these categories, it is worth considering whether your milk supply issues might be either perceived, or real but fixable!In this series on milk supply, I'm going to offer tips for moms whose supply issues are in the "real but fixable" category.
The release of milk, called "let-down", is facilitated by a complex cocktail of hormones that a mom's body releases in response to her baby's smell, the touch of her baby's skin, seeing her baby . . . all of her senses working in conjunction with each other. It is safe to assume that, for most moms, a breast pump doesn't elicit the same lovey-dovey reaction. The hormonal response difference between what one can expect during the nursing experience and what one can expect during a pumping experience is partial explanation for the difference between the amount of milk a baby probably takes during a nursing session and how much milk a mom may yield during a pumping session.
As a new mom, I remember being told "Your pump volume is a poor indicator of your milk supply. Your baby probably takes more at the breast" and thinking "BULLLLLLLLLLLLLLSHIT!!!" (I'm very ladylike in my head, as you can see.) Now, after my training and having learned, in detail, how my body makes milk and why, I know that's actually true. I don't expect moms to take my word for it . . . I know as a new mom I wouldn't have . . . but you can, is all I'm saying!
So, while pumping, how can you "trick" your body into letting down, if not the same amount of milk it would while nursing, at least more than you've been getting? Lots of ways! Any of the tips in my "Supply Tips" series will help, as will anything you can do to trick your senses into thinking your baby is nearby: photos, holding last night's jammies, watching videos, even just daydreaming about your baby.
Because pumping mamas typically feel the pressure to produce X number of ounces each day, pumping can be a pretty stressful experience. Stress (you guessed it) inhibits let-down. One way to reduce stress while pumping is to distract yourself. You know the expression "A watched pot never boils?" Well, watched milk collection bottles never fill. Some tactics that I've used to help me stop watching the bottles are:
* Wearing a nursing cover while pumping
* Using a hands-free nursing bra and doing other activities, like housework or cooking, while pumping
* Checking emails
* Working on the computer
. . . and, most effectively for me (at least this week) . . .
* Playing Angry Birds on my iPhone.
Whatever works, right?
The Meyers could take that fort out in one bird flat.