Parents make the decision to exclusively pump for all sorts of reasons – latching issues, early return to work or school, to facilitate scheduling, medical conditions, or weight gain concerns. Sometimes, parents choose exclusively pumping as the way they will feed their babies from the get-go, knowing putting babies to chest is just not for them. Any way you look at it, making the decision to provide breastmilk for your child is one to be admired, even if it doesn’t look the way you had pictured pre-babies.
Breastmilk supply is generated in response to demand, and empty breasts will get the strongest signal to get busy making that milk. Since we know babies do a better job removing milk than a pump, basing your supply on what you collect using the pump can sometimes be challenging. I spent many months pumping exclusively for my twin boys, and while it wasn’t easy, I was able to stick with it to meet my breastfeeding goals. Combined with my lactation training, my pumping experience taught me many tricks I want to share in hopes they help you meet your goals, too.
Here are a few of my favorites!
- Use your hands! If you spend any considerable amount of time pumping, having a hands-free pumping bra is invaluable. Besides being much easier, it enables you to use your hands to massage and compress your breasts in what is called the “hands-on” pumping technique. Research shows us a mother can produce up to 50% more milk when using the technique correctly. For something you might as well do any way while you are stuck pumping, that is a huge benefit! YouTube has some great video tutorials to show how women feel for full ducts under their skin, and gently but firmly squeeze while pushing fingers towards the nipple. This should be done the whole pumping session, but also once you turn the pump off – typically there is still a good amount of milk that the pump couldn’t get to, and our hands do a great job of helping move it along. Using hands-on techniques help empty your breast more thoroughly, which is the best way to encourage your supply to keep up. The emptier the breast, the faster it will make milk.
- Put a baby sock over each collection bottle. It may sound silly, but this trick helps many mamas pump more milk at each sitting than without. The reasoning is, when you are already stressed out about producing enough milk for your babies, watching the milk collect drop by drop can add to the anxiety. Placing a sock over the bottle frees your mind helps you relax, which in turn can increase the amount you yield.
- Add in some mini power-pumping sessions. A typical power pumping session is a series of 10-20 min spurts of pumping mixed in with a few 10 minute breaks, and lasts an hour. When done consistently this is a great way to help encourage supply, but let’s be real – when you have newborn twins or even older babies, finding an hour to be tethered to the pump can be difficult. Once or twice daily, try switching a typical pumping session to a mini power pumping session. Turn on the pump, pump for 15 minutes. Turn off the pump for 1-2 minutes, then back on for 10, off for 1-2, on for 10. In a little more than half the time of a typical power pumping session, you are still sending that strong message to your body to make more milk! A lot of times I would combine this with visualization – I would think of pouring pitchers of milk, rivers running of milk, milk waterfalls, etc. I know, it sounds nuts – but often I would get one or even two more letdowns with those 10 min pumping bursts. Overall, the goal is not to yield a huge amount of milk in these sessions, but more to increase the demand on your supply. Within a week or two, you should see a measurable difference in your daily output.
- If exclusively pumping for twins from birth, start with a hospital-grade pump and continue using at least until 12 weeks postpartum, when your supply should be regulated. Hospital-grade pumps are more powerful and do a better job of mimicking a baby’s natural suction than personal use pumps, the ones typically covered by health insurance. Besides there being a huge difference in performance between hospital-grade and personal use pumps, there is also a sizable jump in cost. The retail price of the Spectra S2 is $159.99, while a Medela Symphony, one of the most widely-used hospital-grade breast pumps brings a price tag of over $2,000. Because of this, most users of the Symphony rent it monthly rather than buying. Most insurance companies will cover the rental fees with a prescription from an OB or the babies’ pediatrician, but exact coverage should be verified with your insurance company. When teaching Twin Love Concierge’s Breastfeeding Twins class, I always strongly encourage parents to find the details of their hospital-grade pump coverage BEFORE delivery, preferably before 30 weeks. While you are at it, also ask about Lactation Consultant coverage! It is always better to know these allowances before you have two newborns to care for.
- Keep a detailed log of your pumping sessions and the milk you collect. One of the most motivating tools I used when pumping exclusively was tracking my milk output at each session. This allowed me to see trends, like which time of day I tended to yield the most, but also seeing an increase was so reassuring. No matter if it is 5 mL or 50, it is validating to see an increase when you are pouring your heart and soul into feeding your babies. It also helped me stay on top of any dips in supply, and I could then act quickly with extra or even just longer sessions.
Are you a parent of twins that plans to or is currently breastfeeding? Join our renowned Breastfeeding Twins Class online or schedule a one-on-one session with our Lactation Consultant!
I hope a few of these tips can be helpful in your breastfeeding journey. These tips and much, much more are covered in TLC’s class Breastfeeding Twins. For more information about my next class or questions on any of the information above, please feel free to contact me!
About the Author
Lindsay Castiglione, LC is Breastfeeding and Online Associate and the mother of two sets of twins, an identical 8 year old boy set, and a 6 year old boy/girl set. She was born and raised in Cape Cod, MA, and married a Submariner in the U.S. Navy for 10 years, so now home is where the Navy takes them. She has her B.S. in Social Work, and focused on helping support parents of young children before starting her own family. Breastfeeding was very different for each set, but equally as important, and her varied experiences motivated her to become a Certified Lactation Counselor in 2015. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on Online Expecting Twins Classes or Online Breastfeeding Twins Class details.