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Is it my pump or my supply?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I have a Medela PIS that I bought new 7 months ago. I used to be able to pump 5-6 oz in a sitting, and now I can barely get 1.5 oz max, usually only 1 oz. 

I notice that I don't have a problem letting down, but after a the first few squirts of milk everything stops. I can get a little bit more milk with massage but nowhere near as before. I nurse 7-8 times a day and pump 2-3 times a day.


I pump to keep up my supply because 4 months ago (!) DS started a nursing strike that never quite ended...he nurses when he's drowsy (but I have a hard time getting him to take a full feed before he falls asleep), and with lots of coaxing I can get him to nurse maybe 2-3 minutes awake provided he gets a quick letdown. Sometimes he'll nurse longer if I turn on the TV so he can watch while he eatsblush.gif He is a voracious solids eater (though I've cut back on them), and I have to keep on breastfeeding for another four months because he refuses to drink any formula. Between his distractibility/disinterest and solid food I'm really stressing out about my supply. He gets really frustrated when he's nursing and there's no milk.


Anyway, back to the original question...I tried replacing the valve and membranes and it was a little better, but I still am wondering what's going on. I drink 3 cups of Mother's Milk Tea daily and take 8 capsules of fenugreek. I think that there is still milk in my breasts when the pumping output stops, but I can't be certain. Could the motor be wearing out already? Ideas? Tips?

post #2 of 7

My supply has decreased as my son has gotten older. I work 4 days a week, and pump during the day, and I've noticed a decrease in my pumping now vs 6 months ago. I used to pump 16 oz at work, and now it's probably 9 oz. I'm wondering if you've had a similar decrease? I think that introducing solids impacts supply, but breast milk changes as the babies get older and have different needs, so I wonder if that's part of it too?


It's good you replaced those silly membranes - I was going to suggest that :) When you clean the pump parts, do you take the membranes off to clean them? That can impact the suction. Maybe check them again to make sure there aren't any tears? I had tears recently and was surprised to see that!


Have you tried increasing or changing the suction? How long are you pumping for? 10 - 20 minutes? Maybe pump longer? Visualization might help, relaxing, listening to music / radio, watching a program...


One thing you can do to increase your supply is to do some cluster pumping. I've done this (it's a pumping party, so having a nice movie to watch helps!). I'll pump for 10 minutes, every 30 minutes, and do that maybe 3 - 4 times.


I wouldn't *think* the motor is wearing out (I have a PIS advanced that is 6 years old), but it should still be under warranty. Is there a store you can go to to have them check on the suction?

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Oh man...I pump 20 minutes each session during the day, and in the evening when he goes to bed I cluster pump each night for a total of an hour and a half. My nipples are being good sports :) I start off with a lower suction and then up to the maximum when it's more comfortable. 


Tonight I am really sure it is the pump, because I just finished cluster pumping and I feel pretty full. I noticed something that I wished I would have paid more attention to when it was it was going well--are the membranes supposed to flap out every time the pump cycles, or only when milk is going into the container? Because they are just lying flat against the valve the whole time even at the highest suction. Is that normal? I can't remember what it's supposed to look like.


Yeah, I think I could probably call LLL and find someone to test my pump. That would be irritating for it to wear out so fast, though.

post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

Bumping...could someone who is having good luck with a PIS please check if the membrane lays flat against the valve when the pump is running but there's no milk dripping down, or does it flap with each cycle of the pump?

post #5 of 7
Hey, I'm sitting here attached to my PIS pumping some colustrum for my sick toddler. It appears that when the pump is running the membranes (which I replaced yesterday) move ever so slightly with each cycle of the pump. Have you checked your tubing for any holes or cracks?

I found that when I changed my flange size, my supply and amount i was getting increased greatly. You said that for the first few squirts its great. After the first couple of squirts if you take flange off and put it back on do you get a few more good squirts of milk? That is what was happening to me, and I needed bigger flanges.
post #6 of 7

Babies have a strong need to suck and a strong survival drive. When you feed bottles you are allowing your baby to meet those needs at the bottle. If you were to eliminate bottles and pacifiers you may be able to get your baby back to breastfeeding well. Of course your baby needs your milk until he is nursing well. You could give it to him other ways. A cup would be easiest and if he isn't taking one he is old enough to learn.


It's normal for babies to breastfeed in their sleep. Some babies show ques of needing to nurse when they are asleep and if you miss that opportunity it can be difficult to get them to feed at all. There are videos of watching for babies cues that may be helpful. It's normal for a baby to fall asleep soon after they start a feeding and to continue to get milk. I always held my babies and let them continue to be at the breast while they were asleep. A baby may sleep ten minutes and then either they start suckling again or the mik lets down a little (you may not feel it) and they will start suckling. I never put my babies "down" for a nap I either held them, laid with them, or put them in a carrier.


Have you heard of laid-back breastfeeding? Since your baby is sensitive to his nursing environment trying it may help. My computer isn't working right and I can't provide the link but if you go to google and type in laid-back breastfeeding the first result should be a web site with a video.


I breastfed my babies in the 70s and 80s when there weren't $300 pumps women could buy. We had to find non-pumping/bottle feeding solutions to breastfeeding problems. We still don't have any strong evidence that herbs increase milk supply. If they did find a drug that was great for making milk without side effects a drug company would have it on the market as the breastfeeding pill and it would be regulated.


It is possible to get a baby that is nursing some of the time to nurse all of the time. That doesn't mean it is possible to get your baby to do it. However, I think it is better to put the effort into getting the baby to breastfeed rather than putting the effort into trying to pump enough milk. I realize you have tried and you may think you have tried everything and this is an emotional issue for you. You may not have tried everything (because you didn't know what everything was) and since pumping and bottle feeding is common that was an acceptable option for you.


How you know if your baby is getting enough milk is by weight gain. After 6 months a breastfed baby's weight gain slows and may be less than a pound a month. You say your baby eats a lot. If a baby is feeding himself a variety of nutritious foods that shouldn't be an issue. He doesn't need to be spoonfed, cereal, or baby foods.

post #7 of 7
Ummm...her baby is 8 months old. Totally acceptable to be eating solid food. OP didnt say why she had to pump, she might have to work for all we know. Not everyone has the option of having a nursing relationship only at the boob. And breast pumps have been around for a long time. They might not have been $300.00 back in the 70's but they were available. In the 70's only about 25% of women were breastfeeding. That number is up now to almost 75%. Do you think women would have made that jump if they couldnt pump and give milk to their babies while they were at work?


OP, by the way, my DD was not born with a strong need to suck. She could care less until she was a few months old. Not all babies have a strong desire to eat/ suck.
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