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I have two questions today – very exciting!  (Have a question about pumping breast milk? Ask it here!)

First of all, let me just say that I LOVE your site! I can’t believe how well you’ve documented all this stuff – extremely helpful for an exclusive pumper like myself! And made me feel WAY less crazy, guilty, and alone! 

Anyway – I had a couple of questions and I hope you can answer them when you have time. I’ve cut down to 5 sessions a day and am finding that I have a big output in the morning… sometimes more than 12oz. What do you do with the bottles when they’re full? Do you stop pumping and switch bottles? I’m worried that my letdown will stop altogether if I do this. Any tips/techniques for pumping like this? This will be especially helpful to me when I cut down pumps further, because I’m expecting (hoping, at least) to pump around that much per session.

Another question: When did you notice a significant change in your supply? I’m doing 5 sessions a day right now, but hoping to go down to 4 when my baby is 6 months, followed by 3 a few months later and then 2 towards the end (let’s hope I last that long, though!)

overflowing-bottles-and-dropping-pumping-sessionsI had the same problem in the mornings! At first, I did switch the bottles. I’m not sure what kind of a pump you have but on the Freestyle (which is what I have) you can turn off just one side. So I would turn off the side I needed to change, and kept pumping on the other while I switched the bottles (which I had brought over before I started and had ready, so it was pretty quick). Since you letdown on both sides at the same time (based on messages from your boobs to your brain), this makes any concerns about letdown less of an issue.

But! Then I discovered these 8oz Medela bottles and started using them for my morning pumping session, which totally solved the problem. (I’m not sure what kind of pump you have, but even if it’s not Medela you might be able to find bigger ones that will screw into your pump).

As far as what happened to my supply when I dropped pumping sessions, I would say that I didn’t experience any drops in supply until I dropped from 4 to 3 pumps per day. The supply drop each time was very slow, but also kind of a lot, as you can see:

  • Going from 4 to 3: gradually (over 3 months) lost about 10 ounces
  • Going from 3 to 2: gradually (over 2 months) lost about 10 ounces
  • Going from 2 to 1: gradually went down to 3 ounces before I dropped the last pumping session

However, another thing that I’ll mention is that I also got my period back around the time I dropped to 3 pumps per day. With my second baby (the one I nursed), my supply took a few ounce hit every time I got my period and never recovered from it, like it’s supposed to, so every month I would lose a few ounces. I didn’t drop any feedings or pumping sessions, the only variable was my period. So I think that probably played into it with my first baby as well, though there’s really no way to know. Obviously, this is just my experience, and other people’s will likely vary.

Hiya thank you so much for this post. I am a new mum to a week old baby and am exclusively pumping and want to use a routine, I am just wondering do you just pump from one breast per sessions or bit of both, currently I am doing 15 min alternating each breast per feed e.g. 15 min right at 3pm then 15 min on left at 6pm (I currently get 3-4oz each time) .. I don’t know if that’s right. Only started it today, also what do you do if your going out for the day do you take pump with you or just use saved milk?

Congratulations on your brand new baby!

Do you have a double electric pump? If so, I would definitely recommend pumping both sides every three hours. It sounds like your supply is great for having a one week old! Since it will probably regulate in the next week or two, it’s best if you are pumping as much milk as possible now, so that when it does your supply will still be strong. (Basically, when your milk comes in, sometimes it comes in with a lot at first, and then your body will decide it knows how much you need and then cut back to that.) If you have a manual pump, I would still try to pump both sides, but since it’s more labor intensive it might be harder to do that.

As far as going out, I would always bring pumped milk for my baby, and only bring my pump if I was going to be gone more than 3 hours or so (or during a time when I would normally pump). I wouldn’t bring my pump and no milk because I was always nervous that he’d get hungry before I could pump and then I’d be stuck out in public with a crying baby and no food to give him and it would be a disaster.

Please feel free to add any suggestions or thoughts in comments!

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When I was pumping 7 or 8 times per day, I really looked forward to dropping a few pumping sessions. Even though I planned to keep my total amount of pumping time in a day the same, it’s still a pain to stop what you’re doing, find a place to pump (if you’re not home), get hooked up to/unhooked from the pump, and store the milk. It’s so much easier to do that 4 times a day than 8!

As much as I wanted to drop some pumps, I also worried about how it would impact my supply. The thing is, you never know what’s going to happen as far as supply goes when you drop a pumping session until you drop it (and sometimes, you don’t really know until a few weeks later) - it could go down, it could stay the same, or it could even increase.

So how to decide to drop a pump when you don’t know what it will do to your supply? I put together the below flowchart based on my experience (my own and what I learned from reading exclusive pumping message boards for over a year).

I made a couple of assumptions in putting this together:

  • The first is that you want to maintain your supply - if you’re trying to wean, you aren’t concerned with keeping your supply (in fact, you’re actively trying to make it go down), and you should therefore ignore this chart and drop sessions as quickly as you can without getting clogged ducts or mastitis.
  • The second assumption is that you haven’t already dropped a pumping session within the last two weeks. If you have, I would recommend waiting at least that long, and preferably a little longer.
  • Finally, I assumed that you want to drop a pump. If you have concerns about supply and are perfectly happy with your current schedule, then there’s no need to drop a pump just because the below chart says to – this is intended more for exclusively pumping moms who are itching to consolidate their pumping time. (Though I’m guessing that that includes most people reading!)

should-i-drop-a-pumping-session

 

(Supply regulation happens between 2 and 8 weeks post-partum. Some new moms will have more milk than then need at first, and then the body will adjust and regulate it down.)

One thing that I firmly believe (and tried to reflect above) is that if you are losing your mind from pumping too much (or just don’t want to pump so much), that trumps everything else – you should drop a pumping session. The most important thing that you can give your baby is a happy YOU - not an extra two ounces of breast milk.

Have any questions about dropping pumping sessions? Ask them in the comments!

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Last week, someone emailed me with the following question:

I just had a cyst aspirated and found out I had a galactocele.  It wasn’t an issue until it became large and uncomfortable.  Is there anything I can do to prevent it from coming back?

I had never actually heard of a galactocele before, so I did some research and found out that they are lumps in the breast that can appear in breastfeeding women (or women who have recently weaned). Here is what I learned, and what you might need to know if you discover a lump in your breast.

What is a galactocele?

galactocelesA galactocele is a cyst in the breast that is filled with milk. They occur (pretty rarely) in women who are pregnant, lactating, or have recently been lactating. 

How can I tell if I have one?

If you are lactating and you notice a smooth, moveable lump in your breast, you might have a galactocele. Galactoceles are sometimes mistaken for clogged ducts or for breast cancer (since both of these also have lumps as the first symptom). They may or may not be painful, and they often change size (sometimes filling up, sometimes getting smaller). One difference between a galactocele and a clogged duct, though, is that galactoceles are often much larger (they can be as large as a kiwi).

Galactoceles have to be diagnosed by a doctor. Because galactoceles and breast cancer both present with smooth and moveable lumps, doctors will generally refer women who have them for a breast cancer screening. In most cases, you will get an ultrasound and a biopsy to evaluate the lump; however, sometimes a mammogram is the first step.

One important thing to note is that galactoceles are not dangerous and have no relationship to breast cancer. The main issue with them (and it’s not a small one) is your discomfort.

How is a galactocele treated?

If they aren’t painful, the standard treatment is the same as it is for a cyst: just leaving them alone. If they are painful, they can be drained via fine needle aspiration (though unfortunately, they sometimes fill up again).

Most of the time, your body will reabsorb the galactocele when you are done breastfeeding. If for whatever reason it doesn’t, the milk duct can be removed surgically.

Ibuprofen and warm showers can help treat the pain associated with the galactocele.

Is there any way that I can prevent the galactocele from coming back?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive way to do this. If the milk is aspirated, it can fill right back up again. There are a few things that you can try:

  • Weaning from the affected breast (and continuing to pump from the breast without the galactocele).
  • Taking a lecithin supplement to decrease the stickiness of your milk.
  • Surgical removal of the milk duct (before or after weaning from breastfeeding).
  • Several women stated that their galactocele was significantly reduced when they got the flu and became dehydrated (Normally, I would not recommend trying to get the flu, but you gotta do what you gotta do).

(I would encourage anyone who thinks that they may have a galactocele to read this first-hand account of someone who had one, along with her update, and this scientific explanation of how they are diagnosed. This Baby Center thread also has a bunch of first-hand experiences with them.)

Have you had a galactocele? It would be great if you could comment and tell us about your experience!

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