Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
Looking to pump more breast milk?
Whether you’re hoping to build up an extra stash of breastmilk, need to pump while you’re at work, or exclusively pumping for your baby, it can certainly be intimidating when you’re starting out. And frustrating at other times.
While pumping takes time, work, energy, and dedication, it is totally doable! Sometimes you just need a little routine, strategy, and encouragement to stay strong and see it through. So, for all the pumping mamas out there, I’ve put together some advice and pumping tips to help simplify the pumping process.
1. Pick The Best Pump For Your Needs and Lifestyle
The first challenge is to select a breast pump that will work for your lifestyle. The options can be overwhelming, so to narrow it down, begin to think about how often you will need to pump. If you’re exclusively pumping, you’ll want the most efficient pump on the market. If you’re breastfeeding with occasional pumping needs, you can consider other types of pumps that may not be as efficient but are more simplistic.
Here are the main types of breast pumps you’ll find. (You may qualify to get a free breast pump through Aeroflow and your insurance.)
Manual breast pumps generate suction with your hands by squeezing the pump handle: hence, manual pump. This type of pump is lightweight and portable. They can be super convenient for moms if pumping will be an occasional thing for you.
Manual pumps are often cheaper, but obviously, they can be a lot slower. Manual pumps only allow you to pump one side at a time. Plus, it requires complete hands-on involvement, so you’ll have your hands tied when pumping. They also don’t express as much milk as electric pumps do.
Buy on Amazon
Electric Breast Pump
For frequent or exclusive pumpers, an electric pump can be a big time saver. Electric pumps have a much stronger suction than manual pumps, and they also have an array of settings to make pumping more effective and efficient. These features may include timers, different suction levels and cycle speeds, and even nightlights. This is definitely the way to go if you are pumping at work or are exclusively pumping. Do note that electric pumps have multiple parts that need to be taken apart, washed, and sanitized daily.
Buy on Amazon
Wearable Breast Pump
As noted, this is a breast pump that you can wear. It’s hands-free and fits right inside your bra, which allows women to pump discretely while doing other things —working, shopping, driving—you name it! Just note that this type of pump may not be covered by your medical insurance, so you will want to look into this more closely if you’re considering it.
Buy on Amazon
Silicone Breast Pump
Silicone breast pumps use suction to create pressure and stimulate the release of your breast milk. Often, these are great pumps to use on one side while you’re nursing your baby on the other side. This is a great pump for moms who are breastfeeding but want to gradually build a storage of milk without any extra effort. Keep in mind, this type of pump will not empty your breast completely. A really popular silicone pump is the Haakaa pump.
Buy on Amazon
2. Get the Right Fit
If you choose an electric pump, it will come with a lot of parts. Typically, this will include a set of tubing, a couple of flanges of different sizes (the part that attaches to your breast), valves that go inside the flange, and a bottle that collects the milk. Getting the right size flange is really important to effectively remove the milk. The right size will also help you avoid nipple pain or damage.
Ideally, your nipple should fit into the flange without touching the sides, and when the suction is turned on, the nipple should be able to be freely pulled into the “tube” of the flange without rubbing, while the areola is not pulled in. If the flanges your pump came with are not working or are uncomfortable, you can purchase other sizes and styles. A lactation consultant can also help with getting the right fit.
3. Schedule Your Pumping Sessions
When you are pumping full-time, you will want to develop a routine that gives you discrete pumping breaks. This is one of my favorite pumping tips because it will help you stay on a schedule, keep your supply up, and store the appropriate amount of milk for your hungry baby.
You should plan to allow at least 15-20 minutes for a good pumping session, although any amount of time you can fit in is better than not pumping at all. It takes a few minutes for the letdown reflex to happen — especially when your body is responding to a pump instead of your baby— so don’t be discouraged when the milk doesn’t start flowing immediately!
Ideally, you’ll want to pump for 5-10 minutes after your letdown. You may even trigger a second letdown.
If you’re pumping during work, add your pumping sessions to your work calendar and block off the time. Then, do your best to stick to your own schedule and try to honor the time you’ve set aside for pumping.
4. Find a good location
When you’re pumping, it’s so important to make yourself comfortable. Try to find a place you can relax and be in a comfortable position. This might be a chair in your office, a nursing room at work, your baby’s nursery, or even the kitchen table. Wherever you feel best!
5. Go Hands-Free.
Try a hands-free pumping bra! These are invaluable for women who need to multitask while pumping, whether it’s wrangling a baby or answering emails at work.
6. Pull Out the Baby Photos.
Look at pictures or videos of your baby while you pump. This can actually stimulate your hormones that help with milk production and letdown.
7. Stay hydrated.
Stay hydrated when you’re pumping. Keep a water bottle and snacks with your pumping supplies as a reminder to eat and drink when you pump. This will help keep your milk supply up (and your energy!). A lot of moms also swear by hydration powders to boost their hydration and milk supply.
8. Massage While You Pump
Manually massaging your breasts towards the pump flange while pumping can do wonders to increase the amount of milk you can get out.
9. Save Time Cleaning Your Pump Parts.
If you’re pumping multiple times during the day, you can save time by simply rinsing your pump flanges after each session and keeping them in a food-safe bag or container in the refrigerator to wash at the end of the day.
10. Know What to Expect
Pumping can bring up all kinds of questions about milk supply since you get to see exactly how much you’re getting each time. It’s really common to wonder if you’re making enough milk. It’s important to remember that babies are generally much more efficient at removing milk than a pump is, so the amount you pump does NOT necessarily accurately reflect how much milk your baby gets when they nurse.
Breastfeeding and Pumping
If you’re pumping in between normal nursing feedings, most moms will get about 1-3oz total per pumping session. Milk supply tends to be highest in the morning, so early morning is a great time to pump! Ideally, wait about an hour after a feeding. Milk is constantly being produced, so you will never completely “empty” your breasts.
Pumping to Increase Supply
Pumping in between nursing feedings is a great way to increase your milk supply. Simply put, releasing more milk tells your body to produce more milk. If you’ve just started pumping you may not get much those first few sessions, but adding a consistent pumping session at the same time each day will tell your body that the extra “feeding” is needed.
More is not always better if you are already making enough, though. Oversupply can also happen, so be mindful of how much milk you need and don’t add unnecessary pump sessions.
Pumping to Replace a Feeding
If you’re pumping to replace a feeding — for instance, while at work, or while someone else gives your baby a bottle— most women can expect to pump about 4oz, a typical breastfed meal. Of course, this can vary! The key to maintaining your supply is to pump for each missed feeding so your body keeps getting that cue to produce milk.
11. Don’t Look at Your Output
If you’re stressed, it may affect your milk supply and your pump output. It’s natural to monitor how much you’re pumping, so if you find this to be a stressor for you, you might want to avoid looking at the pump bottles while you pump. I’ve heard some moms cover the sides of the bottles with a shirt or even with some socks. Anything to help keep your mind at ease during your pumping session. This can be really helpful!
12. Keep an Extra Set of Parts on Hand
How many times have you tried to pump only to realize that you forgot a flange or you are missing a tube? It’s not only frustrating to be unable to pump as expected, but it can decrease your milk supply and cause engorgement. If you are frequently pumping at work or on the go, keep an extra set of pump parts in your desk or in your car and only use them as backup.
13. Manual Pumping is a Sanity-Saver
Sometimes, using an electric pump can be tiring. I know that sometimes I would pull out my pump and literally groan. Whenever you need a break from the electric pump, swap it out for a manual pump. Or better yet, you can even double up with a manual pump on one breast and a Haakaa pump on the other.
14. Store Your Breastmilk Safely
Food safety rules apply to breastmilk, so there are a few rules to follow! If you’re using your pumped milk right away, you can just keep the pumped bottles in the fridge. Fresh breastmilk can be kept at room temperature for 4-6 hours and can be stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
For longer-term storage, you’ll need to freeze it. Many people use breastmilk storage bags that can be conveniently frozen flat and stacked, but any clean food-safe container can work. In a regular freezer, milk is good for 3-6 months, and up to a year in a deep freeze! A lot of readers also like to use 4 oz. glass mason jars for breastmilk storage.
It’s important to follow basic safety guidelines to make sure your pumped breast milk stays safe for your baby. Here are a few key guidelines:
- Wash your hands before pumping, and make sure all pump parts have been cleaned.
- Always label stored milk with the date pumped, and always use the oldest milk first. If combining milk from multiple dates, label with the oldest date!
- Freeze milk in 2-4oz servings to avoid waste when defrosting
- If combining milk from different sessions, make sure it is all the same temperature before combining. Don’t add room-temperature milk to refrigerated milk or refrigerated to frozen.
- Never microwave breast milk as it can create hot spots that scald your baby’s mouth. Defrost it by running under warm water or leaving it in the refrigerator overnight. Use passive warming like placing the bottle in a bowl of warm water, and test the temperature before feeding!
- Defrosted breastmilk should be used within 24 hours (when in the refrigerator).
15. Use a Pumping Bra
It’s great to be able to pump hands-free, and a pumping bra makes it easy for you to multi-task while pumping. You may be surprised at how much use you get out of one. It truly simplifies pumping and allows you a moment to either relax, read something, watch a show, or get some work done while pumping.
Don’t Get Discouraged, Mama
Pumping certainly can bring on all the feelings. Whether you’re frustrated, confused, or just stressed out, take a deep breath and realize that it takes time and patience to learn the best way to pump! It’s a learning curve and can take some trial and error to figure out what works for your body and schedule.
Know that you are certainly not alone, and there are lots of resources out there to help you learn more. Talking to a lactation consultant or a breastfeeding support group can help you troubleshoot how to best use your pump to meet your goals.
Hopefully these pumping tips have been helpful to you in your breastfeeding journey.
FAQs on How to Pump More Breast Milk
More questions about pumping? Read on!
How long should I pump on each side?
This depends on your pumping goals. In general, it will take about 3-5 minutes for the pump to signal a letdown. And then you should continue pumping for at least 10 more minutes on each side to fully empty your breast before switching to the other side.
How many times should I let down when I pump?
This depends on how long you’re pumping for! If you’re pumping for over 15 minutes, you might have a second letdown and release more milk. If you’re only pumping for 10-15 minutes, you can expect one letdown.
Do breasts need time to refill?
Your breasts are never really empty of milk. Your breasts will produce milk constantly. In general, you’ll find that your baby doesn’t completely empty your breast when nursing or pumping, but may take about 75% of available breastmilk. The more your baby feeds or the more you pump, the more milk is produced, so you’ll never be on “empty.”
What’s the difference between foremilk and hindmilk?
This is purely the difference in the timing of milk release. Foremilk is available at the very beginning of feeding and hindmilk comes after. The foremilk has a lower amount of fat content and might seem sweeter to your baby. The hindmilk is higher in fat content. Keep in mind this is particular to each feeding session, and the change from foremilk to hindmilk is slow and gradual.
Can I mix both left and right side milk into one bottle?
Yes, if you pumped both of these breasts during the same pumping session. You can just pour one bottle into the other. You can also combine if both containers of milk have been stored in the refrigerator prior to making the bottle.
What pumping tips have helped you the most? I’d love to know!