Help & Advice
Tips for Pumping Breastmilk
Some moms plan to exclusively feed their baby from their breast.
But there are times, either planned or unexpected, when breastfeeding moms need to be away from their baby.
Pumping (or expressing) is a great way to provide milk for your baby when you need to balance breastfeeding with all the other things going on in your life. These tips, and a little practice, can go a long way in getting the most out of your breast pump.
Pumping generally falls into two categories: extra breastmilk for occasional use (such as when you have an appointment), or building supply for when you need to be away for longer stretches of time (such as going back to work). There are also times when pumping can help you give your supply a boost, but don’t forget that baby is usually the best way to teach your body to make more.
When to Pump
Many moms find they have the most success when they pump first thing in the morning. Resting has allowed their milk supply to replenish.
Returning to Work as a Pumping Mom
Going back to work takes a little more planning because you’ll want to have an ample amount of breastmilk saved in advance. To build up supply, pump daily after baby has nursed as this ensures you have drained all the milk and signals your body to make more. You can store the excess in your freezer.
When you’re back at work, pump at the times when your baby would feed, then safely store the milk and bring it home to add to your freezer stash. Also see our Back-to-Work Checklist for more tips.
How to Pump
Remember learning how to breastfeed your baby? For some of us, it happened quickly and easily, while for others it took a little more practice before it became second nature. Pumping can take some practice, too. Here are some tips to get you started, but remember it might take some time to get the hang of it:
- “Wake up” your breasts by massaging or leaning over and gently shaking them.
- Relaxation is key to getting your milk to flow freely. Some moms find looking at a photo of their baby and listening to soothing music helps.
- Close your eyes, shut out the world, think of your sweet baby—this has been shown to help with let-down and milk flow.
- To pump, center the nipple in the flange (the cone-like parts that go on the breast). Your breast needs to completely fill the flange to form a vacuum. Tilt the tunnel slightly downward so the milk flows naturally into the bottle. If you cannot achieve or maintain a vacuum, you may need a different size flange.
- Plan on a 20-minute pumping session, but know that this will vary – some moms take more or less time. Don’t get discouraged if your output initially seems low. By pumping, you’re telling your body to keep producing milk and over time, you’ll begin to see increased output .
- To build up your freezer supply, try pumping after nursing and add in extra sessions when baby is sleeping.