The breast pump is usually considered a life saver to those of us who both work and yet want to breast feed. It allows us to stock up on breastmilk to give to our hungry babies, not to mention help us avoid problems like mastitis. It’s easy, convenient and it can be done pretty much everywhere.
However, this doesn’t mean that pumping is completely problem-free. There are, after all, more than a few problems that might arise when you’re pumping. In fact, we’ve listed fifteen of these problems you might encounter during this time.
Don’t worry, though. These problems are not completely without solution. We’ve also included some of the things you can do to help prevent and even solve these troubles as they come up.
15 A Mess
Let’s face it, sometimes pumping can be an epic mess. In fact, breastfeeding in general is mostly an epic mess. Between getting milk just everywhere and getting your letdown reflex unwantedly trigger when you hear a baby a mile away cry, it can be pretty frustrating. And then, just when you think that pumping can help, you’re dripping milk all over your office desk.
It can help if you lean down to pump, which ensures that all the milk flows straight down by gravity. You might want to bring along a bunch of pillows to help you position yourself properly while pumping too. But if those inevitable splashes end up everywhere, well, that’s where some nice wipes can come in handy.
14 Not Enough Milk for Baby
This is typically a problem for very new moms. During the first few months of breastfeeding, your breasts may still be adjusting to milk production. If you pump often during this time, you may not have enough left for the little one.
This does not, of course, mean that you’ll have to give up pumping for the first months. Just make sure that you feed your baby first. Pediatricians recommend that you breastfeed every 2-3 hours, or upon demand. Once your baby has fed, then you can pump.
13 Not Enough Milk Extraction
Some moms, however, have an entirely different problem. The little one in this case feeds just fine, is sated, and gains the appropriate amount of weight. However, when it’s time to pump, not enough milk comes out! It can be frustrating because there is, after all, milk in there. It’s just that the pump can’t get it all!
This problem is basically because breast pumps, for all their benefits, can’t extract milk as efficiently as a hungry little baby. Try varying the position of your pump, or even squeezing portions of your breast while pumping, to ensure that all parts of it are emptied.
12 Letdown a Letdown
Another thing that a pump just can’t do as efficiently as a baby is triggering the letdown reflex. For the unfamiliar, this is basically the reflex that causes the release of milk from your breasts and into your baby’s throat. Or, in this case, your breast pump.
The first thing you need to do in this case is relax. Find a comfortable location where you have plenty of privacy might help. You might then want to try warm breast compresses or a breast massage to help trigger your letdown. Finally, one thing that may do the trick is to think about your baby a lot. Play a recording of her crying, if you must.
11 Hand or Arm Pain
Before we get to the obvious trouble involving breast pain of all sorts, there is one problem that moms, particularly those using manual pumps, may have: hand or arm pain. This can get particularly painful if you’ve developed carpal tunnel syndrome due to all the fluid retention of pregnancy.
For arm pain, it may help to bring along pillows to help support your arms while breastfeeding. For carpal tunnel syndrome, you might want to avoid manually pumping with the affected hand. Repetitive motion can, after all, worsen your symptoms. Get an electric pump instead.
10 Latching Troubles
Working moms may have to combine breastfeeding and pumping. However, extended time on the pump may cause latching troubles. After all, when you’re not feeding your baby by the breast, she must be feeding by the bottle. Now, since the sort of latch you need while breastfeeding is different from that of pumping, your little one may have trouble adjusting between them.
For some moms, the post-pumping latch may be particularly painful. For others, the baby may get frustrated by the effort it takes to suck on your breast, as it’s easier to get milk out of a bottle nipple. It might help to get a bottle that is the most similar in structure and flow to your breast.
9 Dehydration and Lack of Calcium
These two are problems with breastfeeding in general. It’s still worth a mention here, however, since with combined breastfeeding and pumping you may actually be pumping more than your baby would extract otherwise with exclusive breastfeeding. This is because you actually use your body’s own raw materials when your produce milk.
Now, milk does require water so you’re pretty much taking from your own water stores. You must therefore drink up and drink often when you’re breastfeeding. In addition, if you’re not taking enough calcium in your diet, your body might take calcium out of your own bones to put in breastmilk. While this won’t result in any immediate problems, it can put you at risk for osteoporosis later on.
8 Nipple Soreness
For some moms, the nipples just get really sore due to pumping. This may be exacerbated by other factors, including a poor latch and friction between your nipples and your bra. It might help to use clean nursing pads to reduce this friction, and to keep moisture from accumulating around your nipples, which can cause infection.
If you’re using an electric pump, lower the suction. This may mean that it may take you longer to empty your breasts, but at least it’s not as painful. If you’re using a manual one, be gentler with the suction. Don’t press as hard and make sure you release the vacuum slowly.
7 Nipple Dryness
Another common pumping problem is nipple dryness, especially when this leads to cracking. In some cases, this can be caused by harsh cleaning products or moisturizers that you might use before or after pumping. Switching to mild and baby-safe versions may help you out. However, cracked nipples may also be due to an incorrect latch.
If you continue to have problems latching, you might want to give a breastfeeding consultant a call. While you’re waiting for the crack to heal, however, you might want to use a breast shield in the proper size for both breastfeeding and pumping. If, however, you’re still having trouble try manually expressing your milk for the meantime.
6 Clogged Ducts
Since your pump might not drain your milk as effectively as your little one, you might experience clogging in one or more of your ducts. You can recognize this from a hard lump in your breast that is painful to the touch and could also look red. Usually, this may feel better after you breastfeed.
Again, it may help if you massage your breast as you pump to literally milk out the clogged portions. Don’t apply pressure so hard that it’s really painful, though. You might also want to vary pumping positions so that you drain the most ducts. If you can breastfeed your baby more often at this point, that would be helpful too.
5 Poor Milk Preservation
When you’re pumping milk to feed to your little one through bottle later, be sure that you’re preserving it properly! Ideally, your pumped milk should be refrigerated, even frozen, right after you pump them in order to prevent the growth of microorganisms. You might even want to get a cooling storage bag to help keep it fresh when transporting it back home.
Another thing you must remember when you’re pumping milk is to wash your hands! Don’t go straight from work to pumping your milk, even if you think your hands won’t come in contact with the milk itself. You might end up contaminating your equipment as well.
4 Milk in the Motor
With some electric breast pumps, milk may accidentally find its way in the tubes and the motor. This isn’t a good thing, as milk that stays stagnant in these areas might cause the growth of bacteria or fungi. Definitely not good things for your little one’s milk!
If you find yourself having this problem, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions in cleaning the tubes and motor. If you’re unsure what to do, you should be able to give their customer service a call for help. Finally, whenever you pump, make sure to inspect the pump beforehand just to make sure milk hasn’t been retained in there.
3 Infection due to Secondhand Pumps
Given that breast pumps, particularly the electric ones, are particularly expensive, it’s understandable that some of us may opt for secondhand pumps. This is an economical idea, but it’s important to make sure that you thoroughly sterilize it before use! We’ve already discussed that retained milk can cause infection, so this is definitely something you’ll want to consider.
If you want to be extra sure that your pump is safe, make absolutely sure that your breast pump isn’t carrying any infectious agents, it might help to get a closed-system pump. Hospital-grade pumps are usually closed-system and are usually rented out for a reasonable price.
2 Poor Blood Supply
Some moms experience a rare condition where excessive pumping results in poor blood supply. This may present as the nipple blanching or turning pale. This is usually not painful, but may be for some mothers. In most cases, the nipple will return to its normal color after a few minutes.
However, if blanching and pain do not disappear even after the feeding, you might want to try a warm compress to encourage blood flow. An improper latch may also cause this. If, however, it just refuses to go away you may want to consult your doctor.
1 Difficulty Weaning
Even if you’ve had absolutely no problem with both breastfeeding and pumping, you may run into another problem later on: difficulty weaning. This is because frequently draining your breasts will always trigger an increased – or at least sustained – breastmilk output.
When you want to wean, this may be troublesome. After all, you’ll be breastfeeding less often at this time. However, since initially you will have plenty of milk output, you will be prone to problems like clogged ducts and mastitis. The best thing to do is to wean your baby – and your breast pump – off slowly. Try not to completely empty your breasts during each feeding or pumping session.