Did you know using a breast pump to express milk for your infant can be a learned skill?
One of the challenges pumping mothers face is to elicit a let-down or their milk ejection reflex in a reasonable amount of time.
Breast pumps and your baby do not remove milk from your breast by suction alone. Compression and stimulation to your breast, and specifically to the areola and nipple, causes a message to be sent to your body to cause the muscles within the breast to contract, ejecting the milk in what is commonly called “the let-down.” Even with all the recent innovations in breast pumps, your body can tell the difference between an infant feeding and a breast pump at work.
If you can associate your let-down with an action you can control–a stimulus or a cue–you can reduce the time it takes for let-down to occur with or without your baby’s help.
You may remember the research of Dr. Ivan Pavlov, who would ring a bell every time food was presented to a dog. In time the dog would salivate on cue at the mere sound of the bell.
How does this translate to breastfeeding and breast pumping? You can use cues to program your milk to let down.
You can choose cues that are more meaningful than a bell ringing and that can serve a double purpose such as keeping you hydrated, comfortable or relaxed. Your chosen cues can incorporate your five senses. Their effect is more potent if used before let-down and at the beginning of when your milk lets down while you are nursing your baby. Then you can repeat these same cues in an entirely different setting when you are using your breast pump in the absence of your baby.
Here are some examples of cues:
Knowing that you can improve on your breast pumping skills is good news. By associating your let-down with cues you can reduce the time it takes to express your breast milk. Typically mothers will find they get better with practice and repetition without making any conscious effort to improve at all.
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