THE MYTH-BUSTING SERIES BY HEATHER LIN,
LA LECHE LEAGUE LEADER
“How much you bench?”
We love measuring human performance, and we love drawing conclusions about our own ability based on those numbers. How much you can lift, how far you can run, how much money you make, how much you weigh and so on.
It's even true for breastfeeding: How much milk do you pump? What's your output?
Are you in the heavyweight class, consistently exceeding 100 ml? Are you a junior bantamweight, clocking in at 50 ml combined? Have you even entered the ring yet, three days fresh out of the hospital?
Want to know a secret? The amount of milk you pump is NOT a reliable indicator of milk supply.
That's right. The notion that the amount you pump reflects the amount a baby removes when nursing at the breast is inaccurate. Babies are often much more efficient at removing milk than pumps. Babies have numerous muscles in their mouth to suckle with, can adjust suction at will and have a hormonal and physical connection with their mother that stimulates milk production.
A pump is a piece of plastic attached to a motor.
Thus, the interaction between a pump and a breast can be less productive than a baby and the breast, resulting in lower output.
Photo Credit: Brian Smeets, Smeets Studios
Breast milk production works on supply and demand, meaning the more milk you remove, the more milk your body will make. Often, new mothers who see their upcoming return to work date looming, prepare for the eventual separation by pumping on top of nursing their baby at the breast.
Sometimes, they can be discouraged by the minimal output they yield.
They envision squeezing out paltry two-digit numbers while working a busy workday. But in this scenario, the lower output is due to the fact that a mother’s body has already calibrated what it needs to produce to meet her baby’s nursing needs.
Pumping on top of that is putting her milk production factories into overdrive.
It can take a few days for a mother’s supply to recalibrate to include the extra pumping session. Pumping milk is unavoidable for many mothers, especially those who work. There are many factors that can affect pumping yield, from mood to time of day to frequency to the type of pump, and more.
Photo Credit: Kindred Bravely
Maximising your routine will take trial and error, ups and downs, but that's true of any learned skill.
One of the best things you can do is connect with other mothers who pump and share best practice and trouble-shooting tips.
For more information head and advice please visit the dedicated website from La Leche League