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Disclaimer: The information in this post is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider.

20 Tips for Pumping Breast Milk

tipsExpressing breast milk can often seem like an impassible mountain. Once you get the hang of it, though, you’ll be able to pump in your sleep! Here are some tips for pumping breast milk.

Keep in mind you can usually spend less time pumping with a hospital-grade pump but may end up pumping for longer periods of time with a consumer-grade pump.

Also, it’s highly recommended to use a new consumer-grade pump if you end up going that route (I recommend this one). It’s tempting to borrow from a friend, but most consumer-grade pumps have internal parts that cannot be sterilized. This can contaminate your breast milk! Ew!

Additionally, most consumer-grade pumps are only made to last the lifetime of one baby’s breast milk needs. So reusing a pump like this for a second and third, etc., baby may end up impacting your milk supply.

Ok, let’s move on. You’re headed to the birthing center (or the hospital, or your bedroom) to give birth to Baby. What do you need to know about pumping? Glad you asked!

20 Tips for Pumping Breast Milk

First Attempts

  • Begin pumping within 6 hours of your baby’s birth. Don’t panic, though, if your circumstances prohibit you from accessing a pump—just begin as quickly as possible.
  • When pumping, mimic a newborn’s pattern of nursing every 2-3 hours for 10-20 minutes each time (continue for 2-5 minutes after you see the last drops). This means 8-10+ pumping sessions.
  • If you’re breastfeeding as well, pump on one side while Baby nurses the other. Even if you don’t plan to breastfeed long-term, this is an excellent way to establish milk supply!
  • Switch pumps if you’re not seeing good results towards the end of the first week. There are generally four different ways to pump: hand expression, manual pumps, consumer-grade pumps, and hospital-grade pumps.
  • Check the fit of your flanges often as your breast size may fluctuate over the first couple of weeks.
  • Adjust the suction setting (lower it if you experience pain, raise it if you are not experiencing a solid let down).
  • Adjust the length of time. You may find you want to pump a bit longer at certain times of the day.
  • Rub some breast milk on your nipples before and after pumping at the first sign of soreness.
  • Establish a routine and keep it going. Set recurring timers for pumping sessions throughout the day.

NICU Babes

If your baby (or babies) are in the NICU, you may need to check with your doctor to see if the following are possible. Trust your mommy gut and if you feel an answer isn’t the best for you and your baby, ask a lactation consultant to help you sort through what you’re hearing and feeling.

  • Being close to your baby while pumping can be really beneficial. Sit near her little bed and pump, listening and watching her grow on every precious drop of your milk.
  • Kangaroo your baby while pumping.
  • Put Baby to the breast, even if she cannot latch, yet. This will stimulate your supply and is so beneficial for the baby to be close to you.
  • Get an update on your baby’s condition while at home—as he improves and your confidence grows, so could your milk flow and supply.

Make It Easy

  • Buy or make a hands-free bra so you can double-pump (like this one). To make a hands-free bra: use a cheap, thinly padded bra (sports or otherwise) and cut holes for the flanges where your nipples sit!
  • Buy a second collection kit (I recommend this one)! This is so very helpful when you find that you forgot to:
  • Wash the pump parts as soon as you’re done pumping.
  • Set up pumping on or near your bed so you don’t have to go far in the middle of the night. Place a cooler with ice packs nearby for storing the milk instead of traipsing to the kitchen half-asleep.

Get It Flowing

  • If you’re having trouble getting a let-down, look at a picture of your baby, smell a baby blanket with her sweet baby smell.
  • Massage your breasts prior to pumping.
  • Drink a glass of water and eat a snack before sitting down. It’s also a great way to ensure Mom stays fed and hydrated during an incredibly busy season.

And remember:

“The ability to measure how much milk you are pumping makes any decrease in pumping output more obvious and more worrying, even if it’s a normal variation.” (source)

So please do not be discouraged. Any breast milk you are able to provide your baby with is far better than nothing! And if you feel you are having supply issues, talk with a Lactation Consultant.

(Don’t forget to share with your new mommy friends! Remember when you were the “newbie”? It was super overwhelming, right? We want to help!)

What tips do you have for pumping mamas? What helped you the most?

Jennifer Fountain is the founder of Growing Up Triplets and is a contributor to other blogs, including Breastfeeding Place. She writes about raising their three-year-old-triplets, taking the family back to living simply, and endeavoring to honor God in the midst of it all. She has been married to her hubby, David, for nearly five years and is madly in love with him! You can follow Jennifer and the three peas on Google+FacebookTwitterPinterest and the blog.


  1. I would add that, unless you really HAVE to start pumping right after baby is born, to actually wait till about 3 weeks postpartum. It allows the stress and busyness of having a newborn to just be that… instead of the added pressure to start pumping to increase/build-up milk supply, and to allow the newborn the amount that they’re demanding at that time (instead of making the amount so great that they have a greater likelihood of eating too much and having tummy pains/troubles). Starting at 3 weeks still allows for a good freezer stash for those mommas going back to work (did it with my first), and it’s after all that painful engorgement (which is usually just swelling of the tissue from the introduction of the milk supply more than actual excess of milk), so makes pumping less of a pain (in every sense lol). Not everyone needs to start day one… and thinking they have to do it that way could be more of a stressor than they need when thinking about they’re awaited baby. 🙂

  2. Jennifer Fountain says

    Natalie, THANK YOU! Yes, this is a great tip! Many mamas don’t need to start Day 1 and this can just lead to confusing the body, mastitis and overproduction later on. For those of us who did need to, it truly is a challenge. <3


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