Pumping to increase and maintain supply
At two and a half weeks old, and having lost 10% of her birth weight, our baby girl was struggling to regain any weight - and dirty nappies were not all that frequent. After ruling out all other possible issues (attachment, positioning, malabsorption), and in discussion with our midwife and lactation consultants, it was identified that I likely have a condition called 'Insufficient Glandular Tissue' resulting in chronic low supply.
'Project Increase Supply' then began! It became clear that I was not making enough milk to enable my baby to gain weight, but I could still do everything possible to increase my supply as much as possible. I ensured that my daughter fed as frequently as possible, and whenever I got the chance I pumped with an electric pump to maintain stimulation of my breasts. Sometimes that meant 5 minutes in between other things at home; sometimes it meant 10 minutes in the car on the way into the city! Often I wasn't able to express much at all, but the extra 'reminder' to my body to make milk was the important thing. I also added a number of other supply-increasing measures, including medication, herbal supplements, diet modification and breast compressions. With the addition of supplementation with a small amount of donor breastmilk each day, we finally saw our baby gain weight consistently.
Roll forward six months - and our breastfeeding journey continues! For the last couple of months, I have changed my pumping regime and reduced to one session each evening. Now that my daughter is sleeping from around 7pm to 11pm, this gives me the chance to 'power pump' - 5 minutes each breast every 45 minutes to an hour. My sense is that this gives me the best results - both in terms of the volume of milk I can produce, and the effect on my supply. I certainly notice a slight dip in supply when I haven't pumped for a couple of days - hence the breast pump is always packed when we go on holidays now!
Pumping has been a slightly tedious but nevertheless crucial part of our bid to increase and now maintain supply. I suspect that I will continue to pump regularly throughout our breastfeeding journey - so it could continue for some time to come!