The Key to Expressing More Breast Milk for Your Baby

Relaxation while using your breast pump is essential to expressing more breast milk for you baby. It is important to eliminate influences in your nervous system that elicit the “fight or flight” response. You probably know the “fight or flight” response shuts down excess circulation to the extremities, sending adrenalin through your system, causing cold hands, slowing your digestion, and basically stopping any “unnecessary functions” such as your milk let-down in order to send more blood rushing to the heart and running muscles.

Eliminate Anxiety about Your Breast Pumping
Identify the source of your anxiety and eliminate it if possible. How? Talk about your worries openly with someone who will listen. Have a laugh about it if you can. If you have been holding back, have a cry about it, too. Do the best you can to fix the problem then move on. Next, try to distract yourself. Are you anxious about filling your bottles? Don’t watch them. Find something else to do with your eyes. Look at pictures (not just one) of your baby. Put pictures of your baby in a slide show or folder on your computer, if you pump at your desk. Read something light and diverting. Call a friend on the telephone and just chat. Eat a high protein snack. Have a drink, like raspberry leaf tea or a mother’s herb tea, or plenty of refreshing, cool water. Forbear from working while you are pumping if it contributes tension.

Ease Pain or Discomfort before Using Your Breast Pump
Take Advil or Tylenol thirty minutes before pumping if you have any pain of any variety. Are you too hot or too cold? Fix that. Do some of you muscles tire while pumping? Practice proper posture to prevent your back from tiring. Do some neck rolls. Extend your legs out in front of you and alternate flexing your heels and pointing your toes. Try a heating pad on the shoulders and back. Have someone massage your back while breast pumping. Has the breast pump always been uncomfortable or painful? Start with the lowest vacuum. Maybe you should keep it there. Some mothers have had better milk output by lowering the setting for greater comfort. Do you have fit issues with your funnels? One-third of all women who breast pump find they can get better results with larger size funnels. Try lanolin on your nipples to make them softer. If necessary, talk to the breast pump distributor or manufacturer. Talk to a lactation consultant. Consider switching to a better quality breast pump even if you have to rent one short-term to see if it makes a difference.

Use Visualization
As you are setting up your breast pump, imagine or visualize that you are preparing to feed your infant. Imagine the noises your hungry baby makes, and how he looks, putting his hands to his mouth, turning his head toward you. Imagine the peaceful feeling that comes over you when the milk lets-down. Visualize his little hand gripping your clothing or finger. Imagine his weight against you and the feel of his soft skin and blanket. Add as many details as you can, incorporating your five senses and positive emotions. Some women have success with relaxation scripts about lying on the beach or about waterfalls and rivers or imagining themselves as fountains of milk. You can also buy relaxation script recordings that are very well done with music or nature sounds.

Actively Relax Until Your Milk Lets-Down
Practice the relaxation techniques you learned in your childbirth class. Breathe deeply from the belly. Close your eyes. Practice progressive relaxation: breathing slowly and deeply, consciously relaxing every part of your body, first tense the muscles of the feet. Hold for a slow count of five, and then relax. Next tense the muscles of the lower legs, hold for a slow count of five and then relax. Repeat with other muscle groups as you move up your body to your head.

Continue breast pumping for a minute or two after the milk stops dripping. Do not be surprised if you can get a second or third let-down in one session with your breast pump. Eliminate anxiety, discomfort, or tension of any type to ward off the “fight or flight” hormones. With practice your let-down will come quicker and the quantity of your expressed breast milk will increase.

References: Kelly Bonyata, BS, IBCLC
http://www.geocities/Wellesley/4092/relax.html Diane O’Brien Juve