A hands-free pumping bra frees up your hands to do many things you love, like eat, apply your make up, read, play with your baby etc. but unfortunately also for things you don’t love as much such as work, pay your bills online, wash the dishes and the list goes on.
Research shows however, that if you put your hands to proper use you can notably increase your milk supply.
Simply because the more milk you remove from your breast, the more milk is produced. Neither a breastfed baby nor a pump can efficiently empty your breast, although the baby can certainly do a better job than the pump. The Stanford University Website provides a great video that actually shows you how you can use your hands while expressing milk using a double pump. The information in this video if put to practice, can significantly improve your supply and I highly recommend you watch it.
(Note that this material is put together by Jane Morton, MD and produced for educational purposes only)
The video proves that the pump alone extracts significantly less milk than if you were to combine pumping with breast massaging and hand expressions.
The results are shown in the above graph. Note that all the mothers participating in the research above pumped the same number of times and the same length of time each day.
The results confirm that:
- Mothers who solely relied on the suction of the pump extracted substantially less milk than those who massaged their breasts while pumping. Their supply also declined slowly as the weeks went by (black line)
- Mothers who used their hands to massage their breasts while expressing had a significant gain in milk supply. This supply continued to grow as they kept pumping and using their hands to massage their breasts (yellow line)
- The red line exhibits the supply of mothers who used the pump while massaging their breasts as will as hand expressing the remaining milk after their pumping sessions ended. They did the hand expressing only for the first three days after their milk came in, thus what differentiates these mothers from those of the yellow line is only these first three days of additional hand expressions. You can see the impact the few days of manual expressions had in their long-term milk supply which proves how important those first days are in building your long-term supply.
What we can learn from this
The main conclusion from this study is that you can increase your milk production using the pump and your hands without sacrificing any additional time.
If you are at the beginning stage and your milk has just come in you are in the perfect position to easily increase your milk supply. Do this by double pumping and breast massaging and then once your pumping session is over, hand expressing any remaining milk. If you are uncomfortable with hand expressing, you can also single pump and massage each breast. Yes, you will spend a lot of time with the pump, but you only need to do this in the first few days and then revert to pumping and breast massaging after that.
However, it’s important to note that no matter how many weeks you have already pumped it’s still not too late to put your hands to use to help you extract more milk. You can also try to single pump each breast after your pumping session if you want to increase your supply.
There are no specific methods on how to hand massage. Develop your own technique of hands on pumping. Feel for areas of firmness and press. This also has the added side effect of reducing your chances of developing clogs and mastitis. Watch the video for guidelines.