I'll be the first one to admit, I do not care for pumping. I'm grateful that for me personally, pumping is an option and not a necessity. So for all of you moms out there who have to pump often, I feel for you. It is NOT easy.
Whether you pump here and there, at work or exclusively I think every pumping mom has found themselves impatiently waiting and watching every drop of milk drip down. Unfortunately, this waiting, watching and stressing does no your body no good. Increased stress and anxiety can impact the release of oxytocin (the feel good hormone) which is responsible for your milk let-down. This means that stress/anxiety can = less milk. And if you have to pump multiple times at work, while at your desk or crammed into a small closet or bathroom stall, I'm sure you can relate.
So when I came across an article written by Legendary Milk that mentions a study which shows moms were able to increase their milk output an average of 63%, I had to share it!
Dr. Stephen Feher found that with relaxation and guided imagery therapy moms were able to substantially increase their milk output. His study included 55 moms with premature infants in the NICU. Moms were randomly assigned to on of two groups:
(1) the study group which listened to a 20 minute relaxation/guided imagery tape each day
(2) the control group which did not receive a tape
After one week, the moms in the relaxation group pumped an average of 63% more milk than the moms in the control group. Now, this was a rather small sample size and you may not have an extra 20 minutes to spare before pumping, especially if you're at work, but, I thought it was still worth sharing! Maybe listening to this tape even while you pump could still offer some benefits? Some other recommendations I have to help with relaxing:
Practice hands on pumping (learn more in this previous blog post)
Look at pictures or watch videos of your baby while you pump
Practice a relaxing deep breathing exercise (inhale for 5, hold for 3, exhale for 5-8 seconds and repeat)
Sip on your favorite drink or have a favorite snack
Listen to music or a podcast you enjoy
You can listen to the 20 minute recording here!
Also, if you are finding that your milk output has dropped I recommend:
checking your flange size
replacing pump parts like the duckbill valves (those should be replaced monthly if you're an exclusive pumper and about every 3 months if you pump less often)
working with a CLC or IBCLC to explore other potential causes!
If you give this meditation a try and find it helpful I'd love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments