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When it comes to pumping breast milk, there is definitely an art to it. I’ve been pumping for a grand total of 43 months and counting. (That’s an estimated 38,000 ounces!!) Needless to say, I’ve learned quite a few things along the way. You actually think that’s not so hard to do, but once you’re actually confronted with it, you realize that it is. You are under a lot of stress because you’re constantly worried if you’ll be able to pump enough milk for your little one. On the other hand, you feel that it’s become the only reason for your existence – that you’re nothing more than a glorified milk supplier.
But even if it gets hard at times, when you realize that there isn’t anything healthier than a mom’s breast milk, nothing is too much for you.
Whether you are an exclusive pumper (hats off to you, mama!), an occasional pumper, a pump-at-work-er, or somewhere in between, I have some tips and tricks on how to pump more breast milk.
Ways to Pump More Breast Milk
(Psst…keep reading to the end to get your free printable!)
1. Check your fit
Make sure the horn/flange is the right size for your body. Areolas and nipples come in all sizes, so don’t assume that the “standard” size will fit you. You want to make sure your nipple isn’t rubbing the inside of the flange tube. Check your breast pump manufacturer’s website for a sizing guide. Many moms use Medela breast pumps and they’re pretty satisfied with them, so you can see if their products work well for you as well.
Once you’re sure you have the right size, be sure the position is correct. Take care that you put the flange on straight. You don’t want your nipple to be at an angle or positioned in a way that is painful. Remember, if it hurts, stop doing it immediately.
2. Low and slow
When you turn on your electric pump, start with a lower suction setting and gradually work your way up to a stronger suction that is comfortable to you. You don’t want the suction to be painful.
Also, if you’re using a manual pump, make sure that you do it slowly, because nothing right can happen when you do it fast, especially a delicate thing like breast pumping. Make sure you do it when you really have some peace and nobody’s disturbing you. It’s not like you can do it while busy with other things.
You need some privacy and peace so you can dedicate yourself to your pumping session completely.
3. Watch the clock
Aim to pump for about 15-20 minutes at a time. Pumping for longer than 20 minutes may damage your nipples. (Obviously, use your discretion here. If your breasts are really full, you may need to pump longer. But if your nipples are sore, don’t push yourself.)
A pumping schedule is an important thing in the whole process, so establish and stick to the same pattern.
4. Use your imagination
Visualize a river of flowing milk or a waterfall of milk. The imagination is a powerful tool! That’s why you need to take time while breast pumping just like you do when you breastfeed. Many breastfeeding moms use this tactic to get more milk supply.
Also, working moms who need to do their pump session ASAP use this tip to pump faster so they can go back to their daily tasks. I know it would be great to be with your child while you’re breastfeeding, but for some moms, it is simply mission impossible.
5. Heat it up
Apply warmth to your breasts. Warmth helps with letdown and better milk flow, so use a heating pad on your breasts while you pump. (I use this one.)
No heating pad? Warm a towel in the microwave for the same results. (Seriously, this works great! You gotta try it!)
One word of caution though…babies have sensitive skin and you’ll want to be careful not to use heat while holding your baby so he/she doesn’t get burned!
Massage and squeeze your breasts while pumping. Use circular motions and downward strokes, especially focusing on areas that feel full. Breast compression is one of the best pumping tips you can get. It’s great for better milk flow and for getting a bigger milk supply. Do this every time before and during breast pumping, and the results will be amazing.
Also, be sure you’re massaging your armpits, too. (Did you know you have milk ducts in your armpits? Crazy!)
7. All the feels
Look at a picture of your baby or imagine your baby nursing. (Those sounds baby makes? That little chin movement? Ahh!!) Moms do this when they can’t focus on breast pumping for some reason. Maybe some of them are at work or so tired because they didn’t sleep enough for the past couple of nights. Also, sometimes you won’t be in the mood for breast pumping because your nipples are sore.
There are so many reasons why moms sometimes give up on nursing. But all you need to do is to get some rest and ask for some help. I’m sure a good midwife will talk to you and show you how you can get more milk for your little one. If you get just a little bit of assistance, everything will be much easier.
8. Sniff sniff
Smell your baby’s hat or an outfit that smells like him or her. (Is there any sweeter scent?!) You’re probably wondering why, right? Well, many moms swear by this trick when they can’t pump enough milk for their baby.
When you take your baby’s clothes and smell it, your hormones are triggered and your milk production will be a lot better. It’ll remind you of your little one and the happiness they bring to you every day.
9. Pics for days
Look at photos of breastfeeding. (There are some really beautiful/touching ones out there!) When you look at those photos, they’ll remind you of your baby and the time you spend together getting to know each other.
It’ll also remind you of breastfeeding and that moment that only the two of you understand and means so much to both of you. Every mom will get nostalgic at these kinds of photos. Also, you can bring a photo of your little one or save some of them on your phone.
So, when you want to breast pump, you can just take a look at the photo of your baby and the milk flow will be much easier.
Take some deep breaths. Stress inhibits letdown, so be sure to breathe deeply and relax all your muscles. Especially take note of your jaw and your shoulder muscles. Are they tight? Be sure to relax those muscles with every exhale. Don’t try to breast pump if you don’t have time for it. You need to relax and take your time.
Give yourself some space and time and do it while someone else is taking care of your baby. If you’re under stress, pumping breast milk, and checking on baby at the same time, nothing will happen. You’ll just get nervous and end up transferring it to your baby.
Listen to relaxing music or a stress-reduction meditation. (You can find both of these for free on YouTube!) This helps with the let-down reflex because it’s easier to get more milk for your little one.
Consider that time only for yourself when you don’t think about anything else but on providing your baby with the healthiest liquid that exists. If you do it while you’re relaxed and if you give yourself as much time as you need, the whole process will be much better.
You won’t stress out and you’ll have enough milk for your little one.
If you want to know how to pump more breast milk, try this great tip: If you’re pumping and nothing is coming out, disconnect and try hand expression for a few minutes. Get some rest, take a deep breath, and give yourself a tender breast massage.
Don’t do it fast – give yourself time and focus on what you’re doing. Remember that you don’t need to hurry anywhere and that nothing is more important than the milk you’re about to pump. After that, you can connect to your pump and try again.
In case this doesn’t help, leave the pump for a bit and do something that you like. Dedicate yourself to your baby, eat something yummy, or watch TV.
After you stop pushing yourself to do it, the let-down reflex will start working normally and you’ll be able to breastfeed or pump more breast milk.
13. Eat fenugreek
What you eat has a lot to do with breast milk production. That’s why you need to eat food that is rich with galactagogues like for example fenugreek. You can try these seeds and your milk supply will get higher after 24 hours. Also, you can take it as a pill, which most women do, and you can find it in your local supermarket.
Making a fenugreek tea is possible as well, but it doesn’t have as strong an effect as taking the pills. Every lactation consultant will advise you to take this herb because it’s been known for over a hundred years to boost milk production.
When you have an ample amount of milk, you won’t be under stress about whether or not your baby has enough food. Even if there are many baby formulas for newborns, most moms insist on breastfeeding if possible, so milk supply is of a high importance.
14. Ask for help from an IBCLC
For all of you who don’t know an IBCLC stands for (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), it’s a person who helps new moms who’re not sure how to breastfeed or how to pump more breast milk properly. You can take this course earlier in your pregnancy so you can be ready once you give birth.
Things that you learn in this course can be a lifesaver in one moment. I know many moms who didn’t know how to breastfeed properly and they did it wrong the whole time. Result? Extremely sore nipples, sometimes even bleeding, and a baby who is crying all the time because they’re hungry. I know that some of you don’t want to take these courses, but at least ask a midwife how to breastfeed properly so you and your baby don’t run into any problems.
15. Have a pumping schedule
A pumping schedule is an important thing if you want to pump more breast milk. If you normally pump milk early in the morning, make sure that you do it at the same time. There is no sense in pumping for 15 minutes and then trying it again in 15 minutes.
There won’t be enough milk in your breasts and you’ll just waste time trying to do something unrealistic. On the other hand, there are moms who have so much milk at some point that they simply have to pump themselves more often. It also depends from woman to woman.
In case you need to pump more often, you can use a pumping bra and have your hands free at the same time. Cool, right? There are some great Medela pumping bras that have helped new moms more than anything else during this sensitive period in their lives.
16. Stay hydrated
Another great tip for pumping more breast milk is drinking a lot of water. You need to take care of your diet and drink a lot of liquid, and the best would be just water. That way, you’ll be able to produce more milk. And the more milk you pump, the more you’ll have, since pumping works on supply and demand.
The most important thing when breastfeeding or pumping is to eat healthily and to drink a lot of water, since you need to make up for all the milk that you’re pumping out. Remember, you need to take care of yourself and be good to yourself so you’re able to be good to your baby as well.
17. Double pumping is the real deal
Double pumping results in more milk. So, why wouldn’t you do it when you have the chance? It’s much easier, it’s time-saving, and your little one is guaranteed to get enough milk. This is really great for working moms who don’t have time for themselves. So, while they double pump they can apply makeup or comb their hair. When you double pump, you’re extracting more milk because of the double stimulation.
Many moms couldn’t believe this was possible until they tried it themselves. And you know what? It really works. So, if you want more time for yourself, if you feel that you’re pumping the whole day, or if you’re stressed out about your baby getting enough milk, try double pumping. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
18. Use a breast shield for breastfeeding
If you have sore nipples and if they sometimes bleed because the position is not right, you can try a breast shield. Many moms swear by Medela breast shields. The catch when using a shield is that your baby won’t irritate the area around the nipple and the nipple will stay as it is.
I know that I had so many problems after I gave birth to my first baby. My nipples were so irritated; they hurt and were bleeding. After using some nipple cream to recover, I started using the breast shields and it never happened to me again. Also, if someone explains to you what the right position is for nursing a baby, it can prevent you from nipple pain. So, always educate yourself and ask as many questions as you want. That’s the only way to learn something properly.
19. Make sure you have a high-quality breast pump
One thing that you need to take time for is choosing the right pump. If you’re not planning to pump a lot, a manual pump will be enough for you. But if you intend on pumping several times per day, it’s better to buy an electric pump.
Buying a double pump is better than buying a single one. It saves time and you get more milk because you’re pumping from both breasts, which increases the level of prolactin – the hormone essential for milk production.
There are many models from the Medela collection that are of a high quality and many moms have told me they are satisfied with them. Also, if you don’t have a budget for a new pump, you can borrow one from a mom who isn’t using it. But the most important thing is that it is of high quality and you feel comfortable while pumping milk.
20. Don’t quit
No matter how hard it can sometimes be, don’t quit. Just think about all the pros your milk has on your baby. Your milk is the first antibiotic that your baby gets when they start breastfeeding. It helps their immune system to develop, meaning a healthier baby.
I know that you’ll sometimes be tired and that nothing will make sense, especially if you have low milk supply, but please don’t give up. The best tip on how to pump more breast milk is simply not giving up. Everything will pass and one day when you forget all the problems, you’ll be happy that you were persistent in your call and that you didn’t give up.
If you feel that you can’t do it by yourself anymore, reach out to someone to talk to. You’re just a mom – you’re not a superhero – you need some support. In this sensitive period of your life, it’s very important to have someone who’ll be there for you and help you overcome it all much easier.
To wrap up, I’d like to quickly share my personal experience with all of you awesome moms who’re giving your best to feed your little ones. Please read further.
My story + How I can help…
When I was a new pumping mama I felt so overwhelmed by all the information out there. I was so stressed and confused!
Friend, It doesn’t have to be this way! Across the span of three kids, I’ve pumped for more than 3 years.
After hearing from so many moms who are struggling with pumping difficulties, I developed an online course called Pumping Mom Academy designed to teach you all you need to know about pumping and to encourage/support you along the way.
Be sure to pin this article so you can refer to it later! And remember, pumpin’ ain’t always easy. You’re doing a great job! 🙂
UPDATE July 2019:
You guys are awesome! This article has been shared SO many times and I am THRILLED to be helping so many awesome moms pump liquid gold for their little ones.
That’s why I have created this FREE printable for my e-mail subscribers! This exclusive checklist includes all 12 tips above in an easy-to-read format. Print a copy and place it near your pumping station or toss a copy in your pump bag for work or on-the-go.
And if you haven’t already, be sure to click here and pin this article to help spread the word to all the pumpin’ mamas!
(Gmail users, my email might go to your promotions tab, so be sure to check there!)