Pumping Tips

Using a breast pump should not hurt.

  • So why does pumping hurt sometimes?

There are two main causes of pumping pain.

  • Using breast shields that are the wrong size.

    • When breast pump flanges fit correctly, the nipple should move freely in and out of the flange tunnel with little to no areola pulled in.
    • The nipple should not rub along the sides of the tunnel at any point throughout the pumping session.
    • Nipples often expand while pumping, so it is very important to evaluate the nipple throughout the session.
    • A pump flange that looks like the correct fit early on in a session may actually be too small as the nipple expands.O
  • Turning the pump suction up too high.

    • Often moms think they will get more milk if they turn the suction up as high as they can possibly stand. This can actually be counterproductive!
    • The stress hormones that are released due to pain can inhibit the milk ejection reflex, and the milk ducts can collapse or compress in a way that decreases milk flow.
    • Set the pump suction at a level that is comfortable. If it is painful, dial it back!

mother using a breast pump

Frequency is more important than the length of pump sessions.

  • The number of times you pump in a 24 hour time period is much more important than the number of minutes spent pumping each time.
  • Pumping 4 times per day for 30 minutes (a total of 120 minutes) is NOT the same as pumping 8 times per day for 15 minutes (also a total of 120 minutes but much more effective). It is very important that you pump frequently!
  • For a mom trying to establish a milk supply with a breast pump, this means pumping at least 8 times per 24 hour day. For example…
    • Pump every 3 hours around the clock  OR
    • Pump every 2.5-3 hours during the day with one 4-5 hour stretch of sleep at night. (Ex: pump before bed at 10pm, then at 3am, 6am, 8:30am, 11am, 2pm, 4:30pm, and 7pm)

Hands-on pumping can dramatically increase your pumping efficiency.

  • Using hands-on pumping techniques can increase the amount of milk pumped, decrease the amount of time it takes to pump, or both.
  • Stanford University has produced a wonderful series of breastfeeding videos. For more information on hands-on pumping, watch this video.

Hand expression is an essential skill.

  • Hand expression is an essential skill for new moms.
    • It is valuable in the early days to collect colostrum for preterm infants or for infants who are sleepy or not feeding well.
    • It can also be used to relieve engorgement or plugged milk ducts.
  • It is also helpful when moms have nipple damage that makes pumping or breastfeeding too painful to tolerate.
    • Moms can use hand expression to remove milk or can pump on the lowest suction setting and follow with hand expression.
  • For moms who rely on electric breast pumps to maintain their milk supply, hand expression can be used in cases of power failure or natural disasters that may make using an electric breast pump impossible.

hand holding breast pump

Power pumping can help boost your supply.

  • Power pumping can replace one of your regular pumping sessions and may give your milk supply a boost by mimicking cluster feeding.
  • To Power Pump – pump for 10 minutes, take a 10 minute break, pump for 10 more minutes, take another 10 minute break, pump for a final 10 minutes. That’s it!
  • Some moms have reported plugged ducts when power pumping if they leave the flanges on the breasts during breaks.
    • To avoid plugged ducts, we recommend taking the flanges off the breasts when not actively pumping.

It is normal for one breast to make more milk than the other.

  • Did you know that is normal for one breast to produce more milk than the other breast? Why?
    • Because one breast usually has more working ducts and alveoli than the other.
    • It is not a cause for concern.
    • Keep breastfeeding as usual, alternating breasts so that both receive about the same amount of stimulation each day.

mother holding two pump bottles

It is normal for the amount of milk pumped to vary throughout the day.

  • Did you know that is normal for moms to pump different amounts at different times of day? Why?
    • Our hormone levels vary based on the time of day. Milk volume is typically highest in the morning hours and gradually decreases throughout the day.
    • The fat content of milk usually increases as the day progresses.
    • Babies will often feed more frequently in the afternoon and evening. This helps to stimulate the breasts and regulate mom’s milk supply.
    • As long as baby is gaining and growing well, this is normal baby behavior.

Improve pumping by watching videos of your baby.

  • Moms who are separated from their babies often find pumping more tolerable when they watch videos or look at photos of their baby while pumping.
  • Promoting those warm feelings can help increase oxytocin which is responsible for the milk ejection reflex or “letdown”.
  • Boosting oxytocin by looking at photos or videos of your baby, or even by thinking about your baby, can help produce faster and/or more frequent letdowns.

Questions about pumping?

Call us at 713-500-2800, option 1.