Increasing Breastmilk Supply With Pumping For Milk Donation

by Jessica Martin-Weber and Dr. Pamela K. Murphy

This post made possible by the support of Ameda

Ameda brand

When my 4th baby was just a few months old, a friend of mine who had adopted a little girl from Vietnam asked me for breastmilk for her daughter. Her own milk supply was dwindling and after over a year of pumping after inducing lactation even before she had her daughter, her body was done producing milk and the effects of Domperidone had left her struggling with weight and energy issues. Initially they introduced formula but her daughter reacted with painful eczema head to toe. Convinced she needed breastmilk, my friend asked me to help her little girl.

Breastmilk truly is amazing and while many babies thrive on breastmilk substitutes, the healing nature of breastmilk is something that can’t be denied. We know it can help save lives, particularly the most fragile of our society. Giving breastmilk is giving the gift of life and health for another to thrive.

Milk donation gift ameda meme

I’ve always responded well to pumps, particularly if can hook up and get busy doing something else. But my supply was well established for my own baby and because I had a job that allowed me to bring my baby with me, I wasn’t pumping very much for her. I was more than willing to help my friend but I wasn’t sure how to get enough milk for two babies with my supply regulated for my one. I decided to see what I could do.

Having a tendency to easily develop over-supply and then have issues with mastitis, I knew I needed to be careful with this process. After talking with a couple IBCLC friends, I began to add pumping sessions to each of my existing feedings to slowly increase my supply and not interfere with my baby getting what she needed first. It worked so well that 2 years later with my 5th baby I intentionally increased my supply to donate to human milk banks and two other friends who had adopted little ones and with my 6th, as soon as my supply was established I began again for another friend’s baby and the Human Milk Bank Association of North America.

To get my supply up for those babies and to donate to a milk bank I started adding 10 minute pumping session to the end of my breastfeeding sessions. Then I started pumping one breast while feeding off the other. Two feedings a day I started increasing my pumping time to 20 minutes after my baby would finish which would be long enough to cycle through another let down. Sometimes this meant that I would pump with maybe just a few drips for 5 minutes or so or even without anything at all and then I would get another let down. The first feed of the day I always pumped one breast while my baby was on the other and in just a few days I had increased my supply so much I needed to pump into a large milk storage bottle. By 3 weeks I had added 2 full and one half pumping sessions in my day and by a month I was pumping one breast and feeding off the other 3 feedings a day (the first one in the morning was always my highest output) and then pumping 3 full sessions in between feeding my baby. By that point I was pumping enough milk in a day to completely supply another baby’s feeds and have some extra for back up. When I wanted to increase my supply again, I followed a similar pattern with extending my pumping times and adding a pumping session in the morning but it was adding an extra pumping session before bed that led to the morning pumping session to increase even more in just 3 days time.

Breastfeeding- Ameda

Here’s what I learned in increasing my breastmilk supply to donate:

Don’t focus on the output. The volume isn’t the point and it will take some time before you see it so focus on why you’re doing it, remember that babies don’t actually eat that much, and every single drop counts.

Baby helps. Your baby is your ally in increasing your supply. Skin-to-skin contact doesn’t just feel good and provide your baby with neurological stimulation that is beneficial for their development, it also tells your body to make milk. And if you can pump while they are feeding from the other breast, your body will be more willing to give up more milk.

Ask and it shall be given. Your body will give what it can when you ask it to. Unless you have some physiological barrier, if your body is asked for more milk, it will make more milk.

Hands-free. Pumping isn’t fun for most even it comes easily. Going hands-free can help free up your mind to focus on something else and help you feel more productive or at least entertained in the process.

Hands-on. It helps to be distracted but taking a little time with each pumping session to be hands on with some hand compressions at the breast (like a breast massage) can significantly increase your output and send the message to your breasts to make more milk. This video is an excellent demo of how to do so.

Be patient. The process takes time and responding to the pump may be an adjustment for your body. That’s ok. Don’t rush the process.

Wean off. When it’s time, whatever the reason (and please respect your boundaries and stop when you need to), wean off slowly. Supply increase is real and not draining the breast could lead to infection and mastitis is even worse than pumping so stop slowly.

Celebrate. This is hard work and it’s a sacrifice of love. Celebrate that. Celebrate babies getting human milk.

Not everyone is going to want to increase their supply to that amount for donate but every little bit helps. You may not be able to add so many pumping sessions to your schedule but you still want to donate. If you choose to donate, do what you can and resist the urge to compare with others. Every single drop really does count.

Dual pumping- Ameda

So you want to get started increasing your supply to donate, Dr. Pamela Murphy, PhD, CNM, IBCLC shares with us some helpful information and tips to get you started:

Will pumping to increase supply take milk away from mom’s own baby?

Not if you pump after breastfeeding or in the middle of a long period when your baby isn’t breastfeeding (like a long nap). If you are trying to stock up some extra milk for when you are apart from your baby or to donate, pump 1-2x a day after breastfeeding or in the middle of a long sleeping stretch. Your body will start to make more milk to meet your new demands, just like when your baby goes through a growth spurt and breastfeeds more. This cluster-feeding helps increase your milk supply! Just keep in mind, be patient, it can take a few days to see your milk supply increase.

How do our bodies just start making more milk when we start pumping more?

Hormones! The more often you drain your breasts of milk, the more milk they make! Breastfeeding and pumping stimulates the release of prolactin, a hormone that increases your milk supply. Isn’t is amazing how nature works! Check out this quick video to learn more.

Should moms take medication, herbs, or eat certain foods to increase their supply for donation?

Normally you do not want to take anything to increase you milk supply unless you have to. Very few moms need to take anything to increase their milk supply if they are draining their breasts often. Medications, herbs and foods that help increase milk supply are called galactogogues and work by increasing the hormone, prolactin, which helps your body make breast milk. If you decide that you want to try to increase your milk supply to donate more milk, talk to your healthcare provider or lactation consultant to figure out what galactogogue might work best for you. Keep in mind that galactogogues can cause side effects, health complications or allergic reactions for you or your baby. And most milk banks won’t accept milk from a mother on certain medications, including herbs used to boost supply. If you are donating to a family directly, be sure to disclose if you used any herbs or medications to increase your supply so they can make an informed decision. Here are some additional tips about your diet while breastfeeding.

What kind of pump should moms use? What should they avoid? 

Once you have established your milk supply use a quality double electric pump like the Ameda Purely Yours. It really depends though, every woman is different and responds differently to different pumps. Some actually prefer hand expression and get more milk that way but most will do better with a double electric. A single pump or hand pump may make it harder for you to keep up with your pumping schedule since it will take longer to drain both breasts at the same time. Here is some more info about choosing the right breast pump for your situation.

How to store milk intended for donation?

Check with your milk bank to see if they have special guidelines. Some general guidelines are to always use clean pump parts and wash your hands. Collect your milk and store in either a bottle or milk storage bag. Do not store milk from more than one pumping session in the same bag. Here is some additional information about pumping and storing your pumped milk.

Anything else to keep in mind regarding being a milk donor? Even if you cannot produce enough to donate remember that milk banks are always looking for volunteers. You can still do you part to help babies! If you are a social media user, follow non-profit milk bank accounts and share and interact with them, believe it or not this is an excellent way to raise awareness and increase the number of women who donate when they become aware of the need. Find a milk bank near you.

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Are you a breastmilk donor? How did you get your supply up? What tips would you add to our list to encourage other donors-to-be?

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Pam headshot- Ameda

Pamela K. Murphy, PhD, MS, CNM, IBCLC has worked with birthing and breastfeeding families for more than 15 years. Her lactation practice extends from the preterm/high risk infant to the healthy newborn both in the inpatient and outpatient settings. She has published research on pregnancy, nutrition and lactation in peer-reviewed journals including Breastfeeding Medicine, JAPNA, the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health and Advances in Neonatal Care. She is shown here with her once breastfed & beautiful daughter Audrey.
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Healing Power of Breastmilk Donation After Loss- In Memory of Maya; a #MyStoryMatters Leaky Share

 by Ulrike K. Ingram

***Please note, this piece covers infant loss in detail and may be triggering for some.

infant and pregnancy loss

My daughter Maya was stillborn at 35 weeks gestation. It was a sudden and devastating loss to find out that after an easy, uncomplicated pregnancy, she had died due to a cord accident. While still being in shock after her death and birth, I started to think about what to do once my milk came in. I knew early on that I wanted to try to pump for donation purposes, but wasn’t sure if I could really do it, physically and emotionally. I planned to just take it one pumping session at a time. I didn’t want to make a long term commitment and then fail. My milk came in when I woke up on the Friday after she died on Wednesday. I started pumping that day and collected maybe 2 ounces of milk during the first session.

I have two older children who I breastfed. When they were younger, I was working part-time and I only had to pump occasionally. Pumping exclusively after Maya’s birth was a challenge. I tried to pump 6- 7 times in a 24 hour period. Three weeks later, I was consistently getting about 5 ounces of milk per session. I was still taking it one session at a time, always worried that my supply was decreasing, or that I was just too tired to get up in the middle of the night to pump. I was very close to stopping maybe five weeks after Maya was born. I struggled for several days with whether to continue or stop. After talking to my husband and praying about it for several days, I felt a piece in my heart about continuing on this journey. It felt like a God given guidance that it was good to pump and good to continue for longer.

Three months went by and I was still pumping, though not as frequently, probably only about four times per day. I didn’t plan how long I would continue to pump because it my only connection to Maya.

Sometimes when I pumped during the day, one or both of my sons would sit with me, or play on the floor next to me. My younger son would ask, “Mommy, why do you have to pump?” or when I’m done, “Mommy, why are you stopping?” I have explained to them why I pump. Although I wasn’t sure they really understood, I recognized that it was okay. Once my younger son told my husband that he likes to play in our guest bedroom because that’s where mommy pumps.

Almost five months went by and I stopped pumping at the end of July – 4 1⁄2 months after Maya was born. I decreased my pumping frequently from four times to three times per day. I then limited the remaining pumping sessions to 10 minutes, then 9 minutes two days later, then 8 minutes, and so forth. I was eventually able to stop pumping without feeling engorged. It was a slow process of letting go, physically and emotionally.

In total, I pumped for 131 days, and donated 470 breast milk bags, an estimation of 2300 ounces of milk. I donated the milk to local moms through a Facebook page, which matches milk donors with moms looking for milk, who for various reasons do not have enough milk for their baby, or want to provide breast milk to their adopted child.

guest post, leaky to leaky

It has been a privilege and an honor to use Maya’s milk in a meaningful way. It was one of the few things I was able to do in my daughter’s name. It’s part of her legacy. It’s her milk. It was made for her, and I was able to give it to somebody else who needed it. On the difficult days, when I was tired or emotionally drained, I sometimes wondered whether it was worth it. I suspect that the recipient cannot appreciate the value of this milk to the full extent. There is a lot more meaning and love in this milk and the act of pumping and the invested time than the recipients will ever know. I imagine that Maya has been watching over our family from heaven, seeing me pump, and understands that it was for her. It’s her legacy and her memory that is being carried forward and passed on to others.

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If you’d like to share your story with a larger audience, submit your story, photos, and your bio, with #MyStoryMatters in the subject to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces).

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Ulrike and her husband have two older boys and then got pregnant with their daughter Maya in 2013. After an easy pregnancy, they found out that she had passed away at 36 weeks gestation due to a blood clotting issue. Ulrike pumped and donated Maya’s milk for several months. It was a way to keep her memory alive in one tangible and physical way for Ulrike.
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You Are Gold — A Letter To My Son’s Milk Donor

Dear Allison,

Thank you for giving my son life.

ThrivingOnDonorMilk

My unlikely squishy baby.

I don’t want to get crazy on you here, but let me be totally transparent: I can’t imagine what my family would look like without that liquid gold.  Your gold.  Your life-force alchemy.

Thank you.

I know what it’s like to hook yourself up to a pump every day, mulitple times a day, for months on end.  Extracting that milk, creating extra steps, extra dishes, extra work while engaging in the most extra energy exerting time of your life with a newborn clutched to one breast as the pump cranks on the other.  You never even hinted at the burden I knew it was for you. You handled it with an elegant grace I unreservedly admire.

Last year, I found myself stuck in a nightmare with my eight month old son. My sweet baby had severe food allergies (here’s what I want you to know about FPIES), and needed more milk than I could produce.  My breasts, the ones that were meant to feed him, began to fail us both.  Even after all of the nutrition and support and finally pharmaceutical medication, I could not raise my milk supply to keep up with his demand.  Exclusive pumping, unimaginable stress, sick baby, hormone shifts, whatever.  You name it, it contributed to the decrease in my milk.

Formula was a risky option for my son, even the expensive elemental ones that work for 99.9% of infants with food allergies.  We had no guarantee my son’s compromised system could tolerate the pre-digested proteins, as many other babies with his syndrome are unable to. I prayed. I researched. I lit candles and called formula companies and looked into every conceivable way to feed my son that did not require actual food.

LastDonorBottle

My son’s last bottle of Allison’s donor milk from Texas.

And then my phone rang and you were on the line, understanding with your medical knowledge and feeling it all with your tender heart, and asked if you could give my son your milk.

I cried.  With my back literally against the wall, sitting on the floor of my bedroom, muffling my relieved sobs, I accepted your gift with the undeniable knowledge there was no way I could ever pay this gift forward, much less pay you back. With a newborn baby who needed your milk and a toddler who needed your attention, a full-time job and active community involvement, you offered to close the gap for us.  You added one more thing to your very full plate and you did it with grace and strength and love.

Every few weeks, a box would arrive, overnighted from Texas to Oregon, dry ice all but disintegrated in a custom styrofoam cooler. (One of many coolers you recruited your friends to save for you to ship your milk to us.)  You pumped your milk, froze it, picked up the cooler from your friend, loaded it all into your car, bought dry ice, carefully constructed the layers of dry ice and newspaper and milk inside the cooler, put that cooler in a box and took it to the shipping place with a hope and a prayer that all your hard work and irreplaceable milk would travel 2,000 miles and still be frozen when it arrived.  You, who had a million and one things to do, found time and capacity to do one more (hard) thing.  And you never complained.

I followed a strict elimination diet, and at one point I could only safely eat 11 foods without causing my son’s gut to bleed and his weight to drop.  You altered your diet, too.  You ate the same tiny list of foods because you loved my son that much.  You restricted your menu and dilligently read every label and questioned every ingredient before eating a single bite in order to keep my son safe. You were full of encouraging words and creatively figured out what to eat when you couldn’t really eat anything and shared your food hacks with me.

Last summer, after seven months of pumping and freezing and shipping, you called me in tears.  Your milk was almost gone, drying up to barely a trickle.  I cried, too. I offered to send back what milk I had left in my freezer for your daughter.  The milk belonged to her. YOU are HER mama.  That milk was made for her. I was adamant.

You said no.

Unbeknownst to me, you had already tried other supplemental options and she responded well. “My baby is healthy. We can still nurse. And two more weeks of freezer milk will buy you time to find another way.”  And you were right.  We found another way.  Another donor, (your sister). And another donor after that, (my best friend). And eventually, another supplementation my son’s body accepted.

You gave my son seven months of milk.  Seven months to heal and thrive without taxing his little body even more.  Seven months of weight gain. Seven months of knowing he had all the milk he needed and more.  You gave me seven months of relief knowing my son would not just live, but he would thrive. Seven months of a little more sleep, a little less stress. Seven months of hope.
Donors

Three of my closest friends, years before we had babies, on the night before my wedding. Each of them gave their milk to my son. Allison, the woman in green, was our main donor.

I know our friendship is life-long and this donor bond goes deeper than words can express.  But I also know you.  You with your elegant grace, generous heart, deep well of love, creative time and resource management, and desire to change the world in your strong, quietly fierce way.  I know you.
And I know you would have done this for anyone.
You, my alchemist soul sister, are pure gold.
With love and gratitude,
C
P.S. ~ My son received milk from a total of six different women over the course of 14 months, all of whom I want to acknowledge and thank from the depths of my mama soul:
  • Two friends in Texas (including his main donor, Allison)
  • One visiting friend from England (and sister to Allison)
  • My BFF who supplied milk for several months after our main donor could not continue.
  • My midwife who learned she was pregnant about an hour before my son was born and donated her baby’s colostrum.
  • A friend of a friend I met only once, but for whom I feel much gratitude.
 _________________________________________________________________________If you like this post, check out How Jimmy Fallon Saved My Morning Milk and I Am A Sh*tty Friend over on our sister site, Our Stable Table.


IMG_2895Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.
 
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