Pumping is a far cry from the warm and fuzzy feeling of nursing your baby -- that's why becoming an accomplished pumper takes patience. It takes time to learn how to "let down" to a pump. This reflex is the hormonally triggered release of milk from the cells where it is made, and can be psychologically started or stopped.
First, avoid staring at the pump. Instead, watch TV, listen to music, or talk to a friend on the phone, since distraction can actually aid milk flow. If you're separated from your baby (like at work), calling home and listening to your baby's gurgles may encourage letdown. You can also listen to a CD of your baby cooing, look at a picture of him or her, or hold something that smells like her.
To increase your output, try pumping at the same time every day, and taking a warm shower (if you can) or massaging your breasts before you begin pumping. If you pump for a while and nothing happens, quit for a few minutes and relax before trying again. If the flow stops, eat or drink something and then make another attempt.
Although it requires a bit of coordination, women may also be able to increase their milk flow by pumping on one side while they nurse the baby on the other or by using a pump that attaches to both breasts at once. And remember, not all women are the same. While some may be able to use a manual breast pump to get the job done, others may need a stronger electric pump. Call a lactation consultant if you think you're using the pump incorrectly or just want extra help. Most importantly, don't be too hard on yourself: Pumping takes practice. --Diana McKeon Charkalis
Copyright © 2003. Reprinted with permission from the August 2003 issue of Child magazine.