Pumping Breast Milk

pumping breast milk, bottle feeding

Remember that breast pumping output does not indicate whether you have enough breast milk or not. A baby will always remove more breast milk than a breast pump.

Pumping while breastfeeding can be a challenge, but it does get easier as you practice. When pumping breast milk, the main things to look out for are relaxation, hydration, and nutrition. Other than these, here are a few tips that will make pumping a little easier…

Pumping Tips

  • Make sure you are using a pump that suits your specific pumping needs. (Discussed more in detail below)
  • If you have let down problems while pumping breast milk, you can look at your baby or baby picture while pumping, this helps the flow of hormones, which will help with the flow of your milk.
  • Always lubricate the breast pump parts with a little lanolin or olive oil, this will make pumping more comfortable and will help the pump draw in more of the breast.
  • Relax while pumping. Milk is more easily released while a mother is relaxed. Get a comfortable spot, without interruptions.
  • Always place the breast shields center, so that your nipples are not damaged. You should not feel any pain while pumping.
  • Massage your breasts just before pumping and use a warm compress or warm shower to get your milk flowing.
  • Always begin pumping on a lower setting (slower suction). Never use the pump on a speed level that hurts your breast, as this could harm your breasts and decrease the amount of milk that is expressed.
  • Ensure that you have the right size breast flange for your breast size. Your milk output will increase with the right size flange.
  • You can make pumping breast milk a whole lot easier if you have a hands free pumping system.
  • Drink enough water. When your body is hydrated, it can produce breast milk in abundance.
  • Consider doing a power pumping boot camp if you need to increase your milk supply. 

Pumping Tips for Working Mothers

  • You should start pumping milk a few weeks before you return to work, this will allow you to build a backup supply of milk.
  • Most working mothers find that they keep their milk supply up easier when using an electric, double action breast pump.
  • It’s always best to keep a pumping schedule so that your body becomes accustomed to pumping times.
  • Mornings are a great time to pump the most milk, many mothers find they have more milk in the morning than the rest of the day.
  • Let your employer know that you are planning to pump at work. Get the sample letter here. Ask for a private room and make sure that there is a refrigerator for storing your breast milk. If you cannot get a private place to pump, you can always pump at your desk with a nursing cover.
  • Nurse your baby whenever you get a chance at home. Some babies may start drinking more in the evenings, than what they do during the day. This is called reverse cycling
  • Read more breastfeeding and pumping tips while working.

Pumping Breast Milk to Increase Supply

    Will pumping increase milk supply? Yes, any extra stimulation to the breast will increase supply as long as it does not replace the baby’s suckling; pumping should be done between feedings.

If pumping is the only means of increasing supply, the mother will need to pump more often.

  • Pump more frequently, rather than more extended periods at a time.
  • Do not skip a session of pumping.
  • Comfort nursing (non-nutritive feeding) is excellent for helping to increase supply.
  • Pumping both breasts at once has been found to help release more hormones during pumping, therefore, increasing milk output at each session. There are special double breast pump sets available for this purpose.
  • Pump at least every two hours or less.
  • Pumping one breast while breastfeeding, can help with milk flow too.
  • Herbs that can be combined with pumping to increase milk supply.
  • Using breast compression while pumping and breastfeeding, will help you drain the breast. 
  • Many wonderful lactogenic foods can help to increase your milk supply naturally. 
  • If you are pumping exclusively, you may want to consider using Galactagogues or Domperidone

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When Buying a Breast Pump

Should I use a Manual Breast Pump or Electric?

There are so many pumps to choose from. I always suggest that a mother uses a manual pump for normal pumping, but if you have a tight schedule and are pumping large amounts, quickly, then it is always best to get a good quality, electrical, double action breast pump. This will save you a lot of time and effort; these pumps will keep your milk supply up better than a manual breast pump. 

If you are pumping exclusively, then a hospital grade, a double electric breast pump is best. These hospital grade breast pumps can be rented at a hospital for about $3 a day.

Useful accessories to look out for that come with electric breast pumps are; car AC adapters, built-in milk coolers, travel cases and hands-free kits.

Manual hand pumps are smaller, lighter, cheaper, quieter and helpful if you like to control the suction, but definitely take up a lot of time. Some moms also complain that manual pumps do not drain the breasts as well as electric ones.

Choosing a Breast Pump

Questions that can help you choose a breast pump

  • How often will you be pumping?
  • How much time are you prepared to spend on pumping?
  • How much money are you prepared to spend on pumping?
  • Do you need a pump that is easy to transport?
  • Are the breast shields the correct size?

Which feature should you look for, when buying a pump?

  • The best breast pumps have adjustable suction control (manual and electrical)
  • Efficiency: Does the pump allow you to pump both breasts at once? 
  • User-friendly: Easy to assemble, clean, use and its compact?

How much Milk should I be Expressing when I Pump?

Even with the best breast pumps, pumping can never be used as a measuring tool, to see if you are producing enough milk. No pump can extract milk as your baby can. The amount of milk that comes out is different for everyone.

Some mothers will only need to pump for 15 minutes, while other moms might need to pump for a whole 40 minutes at a time.

Your breasts will only start to flow after a few minutes, this is called “let down" so try to be patient. The more milk you remove from your breasts, the more milk you will produce.

Learn more about how breastmilk production works.

Pump Accessories

Best breast pumps accessories you might need:

  • Breast shields can help for milk flow, and some are soothing.
  • Freezer bags “gel packs" for keeping milk cold during the day.
  • Lanolin ointment for sore nipples.

Cleaning Your Pump

How to clean a breast pump

  • Your breast pump can be stored without rinsing, in a closed container in your fridge for one day.
  • Each day the used breast pump parts are to be washed well, with hot, soapy water.
  • Let them air dry on clean paper toweling.
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