Pumping milk for your little one really is a labour of love. It takes a lot of commitment, time and energy to do it but seeing those droplets of liquid gold being expressed can be incredibly rewarding!
Reasons for wanting to pump
There are many reasons why you may want, or need, to express your milk with a pump. For example, perhaps your baby is unable to nurse directly at the breast and you want to be able to give them a bottle of expressed milk, or perhaps you want to build up a freezer stash of milk in advance of returning to work or for those times you may be away from your baby.
Here are some of the most common reasons for choosing to pump breast milk:
- Your baby has been born premature or is poorly and cannot nurse directly at the breast
- You want to help increase your milk supply
- Your nipples are sore and you want to give a bottle of expressed milk to give yourself a break
- You’ll be away from your baby for an extended period of time
- You want to donate your breast milk to a milk bank to help babies in need
- You have made the decision to exclusively pump milk for your little one
Pumping is a skill in itself
For some people, pumping milk is part of their day and they are able to express ounces of milk for their little. For others, it can be a real struggle to produce even the smallest amount of milk. This can be so disheartening and it could even make you question your milk supply.
The good news is, how much you express is not always an indicator of how much milk you produce.
It can be helpful to think of pumping milk as a skill that takes time to perfect. With practice and persistence, you’ll begin to see results. Even some small changes to how you do things, can make a positive difference to your output.
To help you on your way we’ve listed 10 things to do to help you pump more milk.
10 tried and tested ways to pump more milk
With some helpful techniques and top tips, you could find ways to pump more milk in no time.
1. Ensure your pump is in good working order
This may seem like an obvious one but you’d be surprised at how many people forget to check the effectiveness of their breast pump. Perhaps you’ve had your pump a few years or it’s been given to you by a friend. If you’re using an older electric pump, it may not be operating as effectively as it once was.
Start by taking your pump apart, cleaning it thoroughly, and checking it is fit for use. Look at the user manual and make sure it’s put back the correct way and functioning properly. If you suspect a part needs replaced, you may be able to purchase a new part, or you may decide the best option is to purchase a new breast pump.
Whilst you’re checking everything is in working order, also make sure you have breast milk storage bags to hand for safe and secure storage of breastmilk in the fridge or freezer. For extra convenience, this breast pump allows you to pump and feed straight from breast milk bags.
2. Pump more often
If you want to pump more milk then you need to pump regularly. That’s because milk production operated on a demand-supply process. When a pump or baby removes milk from a breast, more breast milk is made.
Try pumping as often as your baby eats, or a bare minimum of 8 times a day. You might want to set an alarm for every three hours to pump to act as your reminder.
3. Try night-time pumping
The early hours of the morning is when the milk-making hormone prolactin is at its highest so pumping at least once through the night should help increase your milk supply.
You may want to set your alarm (unless your baby is you’re alarm!) for between 1-5am to pump at least once during the night.
4. Check you have the right breast shield size
One of the big reasons why people are not able to pump very much milk is because the breast shield on their pump is not the right size for their nipple. The breast shield (also called funnel, breast shell or flange) refers to the part of the pump that is held next to the breast.
Breast shield sizes come in a variety of sizes and you should refer to the pump manufactures guide to assess what size you need. Using the right breast shield size can make pumping more comfortable and more effective in terms of output.
5. Create a relaxing environment to pump in
In an ideal world, you want to pump in a quiet and serene setting where you feel comfortable and relaxed. Perhaps somewhere dimly lit with music playing…however, often this just won’t be possible in the busyness of life!
If you’re able to pump at home try setting up a pumping station at home, where you have your breast pump, breast milk bags and other necessities like snacks close by. You’d be surprised at how this can really help you relax and pump in peace and comfort.
For those of you who need to pump on the go, at work or in the hospital, they try reading or listening to music to relax you. One study has shown that the moms of hospitalized babies who listened to guided relaxation or soothing music while pumping had an increased pumping output.
6. Think about your little one whilst you pump
It may sound simple, but thinking about your little one, or having them close by whilst you pump could have a big effect on the amount of milk you produce. This is because it helps boost oxytocin, one of the hormones involved in milk production.
If you can’t be near to your little one when you pump, look at a picture of them or have an item of their clothing close by to smell whilst you pump. Some people even record their baby’s cries and play them back to increase their supply!
7. Cover up your pump to avoid obsessing
When you’re pumping it can be so easy to become fixated over how much milk is coming out. But the more you look the more obsessed you become and the less milk appears. It’s a vicious cycle and one that can become very stressful. And when you’re stressed it can inhibit oxytocin which causes the “let-down reflex” for stimulating milk. Not good.
8. Consider power pumping
Power pumping is a relatively new concept coined by lactation consultant Cathy Watson.
The technique mimics a baby cluster feeding which can boost milk production.
So the next time you pump, throw a muslin cloth or bit of clothing over your pump, sit back and do something to occupy your mind. You might be surprised at how much you end up getting when you’re not looking!
Some people find it helpful to do a 2-3 day-long power pump every couple of weeks to “supercharge” their milk supply.
This is what a power pumping session can look like:
- 20mins pump – pump until milk stops flowing
- 10min rest
- 10min pump even if no milk flows
- 10min relax
- 10min pump even if no milk flows
- Repeat 1-3 times a day for 2-3 days to increase your milk supply.
9. Keep your energy up
As we’ve already mentioned pumping takes time and energy and so you need to make sure you are eating, drinking, and getting rest to be able to do it effectively. In the business of everyday life we know it can be so easy to skip a meal, live off scraps, and forget to drink enough fluids. But remember, taking care of yourself will pay off dividends.
Fill bottles of water and place them in the fridge and close to where you pump, along with some snacks to keep your energies up during pumping sessions. Whilst broken sleep can be part and parcel of early motherhood, do try and get to bed at a decent time and rest when you can. It can helpful to set your bedroom up as a place of sanctuary – somewhere you want to be and where you feel relaxed.
10. Opt for an electric breast pump
When it comes to maximising output, your best chance of pumping more milk is by using an electric breast pump. A good electric breast pump will have a variety of settings for which to pump – allowing you to pump comfortably and effectively in a short space of time.
Nowadays, you can also choose electric breast pumps which are silent, portable and smart-enabled – such as Smart Electric Breast Pump by LolaLykke. This breast pump won the Gold Award for best breast pump 2021 at the Made For Mums Awards and Mother&Baby Awards. Designed in Finland using high-quality materials and engineering, it has a 4 phase expression (stimulation, expression, automatic, memory) compared to other pumps’ 2-phase expression. It also has a stronger suction level than other pumps on the market, giving you the confidence to be able to pump more milk when it matters most.
By opting for an electric breast pump that best suits your needs, the pumping process becomes easier and more convenient. All this can help you relax during the pumping process – giving you the best chance of producing more milk for your little one.
You can find out more about how the Smart Electric Breast Pump works in this video.
So there you have it, 10 practical and positive way to help you pump more milk! Please note, if you have genuine concerns about your milk supply, speak with your healthcare provider or a lactation specialist for help and advice.