For someone who spent 25 years of life never wanting children, I apparently took to motherhood “like a fish to water” as my mom put it. My first born daughter was curled against me, nursing in a position that my mom had never used, even though she successfully breastfed all seven of her children. I did what felt good and natural. When it came to breastfeeding, my children thrived. I bought a Medela pump-in-style to prepare for going back to work and stumbled across a way to pump that’s so ridiculously easy and natural that I can’t believe I haven’t run into this advice from anyone else.
Pump before you feed the child.
Stay with me and I will explain why this worked so well. First, pumps are very inefficient at emptying the breast. This is well known knowledge, but I am still amazed at the amount of mothers I meet that judge their milk supply or how much their baby eats on how much they pump. There is no correlation. The only way to properly know what your baby is eating is by weighing the child directly before and after feeding. The next best way is by the amount of wet diapers.
The second reason you should pump before feeding is the opposite of the first. Simply, babies are very efficient at emptying the breast. The pump leaves behind a cache of milk that your child then empties. Your body responds by producing even more milk. An empty breast is one of the signals your body uses to increase production.
Some people even say that there is a foremilk and a hindmilk to the breast. Though this is debatable, there is some evidence that the fat sticks to the milk ducts and causes the milk to become fattier as the breast is drained. Because of this, if your child is having trouble with weight gain, he may even benefit from pumping first as he will be consuming a greater amount of fatty milk.
I recommend beginning to pump as soon as you can. I started within the first 48 hours with my second child and it was amazing to see the bags of milk change from a strong yellowish colostrum color to creamy off white. (And you can use that colostrum milk later as an immune boost if your little one gets sick.)
Start with just a pumping or two and increase as your supply increases. Pump until the milk significantly stops coming. Keep your child close. Let them nurse on demand, no matter how often. You may be tied down for most of the day, but nursing stimulates milk production. Since you are taking the easy milk, you need to give your child a chance to nurse frequently. Please don’t set your infant into a regulated feeding schedule! For those of you that think you will be starving your child, I can tell you from experience that my first child passed her birth weight in less than a week while using this method. It took my son just over three days. Both were happy, thriving, fat babies. Since I am lazy and dislike pumping, I did just two sessions a day. Within a couple weeks I was pumping 10-15 ounces consistently every morning and evening. I put away thousands of ounces over the months and filled my freezer!
I have two friends that followed this advice and they both saw their milk supply increase noticeably. Though nothing is a one-size-fits-all approach, give it a shot if you are having trouble. Relax, drink plenty, and focus on your baby’s health, not your waistline. Know that you can do this. Explore and educate yourself on breastfeeding until you feel empowered. And for those of you that trust your bodies and your God given ability to co-sleep, do it. (Read about the warnings and benefits here.) You will never have such a strong milk supply as when a baby can suckle on demand throughout the night.
This article is meant to pass on my personal experience and is not meant to override any doctors’ decisions or recommendations. Please assess the health and personal conditions of you and your infant before trying this.