If Pumping Hurts

Pumping should not hurt. What can you do if it does?

Start with rapid, light suctionBabies generally start with some gentle sucks first. Do the same with the suction on your pump, to ease your nipples into the process.

Use lower suction overall.A pump provides the most milk when it is set at the upper end of comfortable. That is not the same as uncomfortable! Think of a drinking straw that’s been sucked on so hard that it flattens out and no liquid can flow. With uncomfortably high suction, your milk ducts can do the same. There is no need to turn the suction up beyond comfortable.

Change the flange If your rental-quality pump is a problem, it may be that your nipple or the surrounding tissue needs a different size flange (the funnel that is put against your breast). Flanges now come in an array of sizes. If your nipple or the skin around it rubs in the narrow part, or if your nipple is swollen or purple after pumping, check with someone who carries different-sized flanges for your pump, and who can help you determine the right size for you.

Change the pumpThe hospital-grade rental pumps work for almost everyone. Less expensive pumps work for some women but definitely not all women. Pumps made by formula or bottle companies are generally not good choices; the big money for them is not in breastfeeding

Adjust the sucking speedNipples aren’t built to take lengthy suction without a release of suction

Make sure the pump is set up correctlyfor the way you’re using it. With some pumps, for instance, using the double-pumping setting while single pumping can cause soreness.

Add something slide-y.Coating the flange or your breast with a bit of olive oil may provide just enough lubrication to make the pump flange comfortable

Coat your nipple tip. Especially if your milk volume is low right now, pumping may be irritating. Put a thin coating of lanolin on the tip of your nipple to see if that helps

Check for infection.Thrush and bacterial infections can make pumping painful.

Check the pump itselfSometimes even the best pumps fail. But the concept behind a breast pump is relatively simple, and there may be a simple and easily corrected problem. Do some basic trouble-shooting with someone at the pump company or with a knowledgeable breastfeeding helper.

Check for allergic reactions.This is rare. But some mothers have a skin reaction to pump A and not pump B, while others have a reaction to pump B and not pump A.

©2006 Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC www.normalfed.com

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