How to Pump to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply

Tips for Using a Breast Pump to Create, Maintain, or Increase Milk Production

Woman using a breast pump
Pumping helps to drain the breasts and stimulate the production of breast milk. Jamie Grill/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

15 Tips for Pumping to Build or Increase Your Breast Milk Supply

The regular and frequent use of a breast pump to remove the breast milk from your breasts can help you to create, maintain, or increase your supply of breast milk.  Whether you're pumping after and between breastfeedings, or pumping exclusively for your child, fully draining the milk from your breasts and the action of the breast pump stimulating your breasts will encourage your body to make more breast milk.

Here are 15 tips for pumping to build or increase your breast milk supply.

#1. Use the Right Breast Pump

Use a hospital grade pump or a high-quality electric breast pump. A pump that's operated by hand or a small electric or battery-powered pump is OK for occasional pumping, but it is not strong enough to build and maintain a healthy supply of breast milk. A double pump may be a good investment since it's a great time-saver, especially if you're pumping exclusively.

#2. Use the Pump Correctly

For the best results, follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to use the pump correctly, and make sure the pump is good working order. 

#3. Make Sure Your Breast Flanges Fit

Be sure that the pump flanges (shields), the part of the pump that goes over your breasts and nipples, fit you properly. Using breast flanges that are too big or too small can lead to breast issues such as sore nipples or damaged breast tissue.

 #4. Prepare a Snack and a Drink

You may feel thirsty or hungry while you're pumping, so place a glass of water or juice and some healthy food next to your pumping spot before you begin. It will be easy to grab a snack and sip a drink if it's within your reach. 

#5. Get Ready to Pump

Before you start to pump, wash your hands and choose a  breast milk storage container that fits your needs.

#6. Make Yourself Comfortable

You'll be pumping for 20 to 30 minutes so get into a comfortable position.

#7. Pump Often

If your baby will take the breast, breastfeed first and then pump after each feeding. If you're exclusively pumping, express your breast milk as often as possible to stimulate the production of breast milk. Aim for every 3 hours if you can.

#8. Spend Some Time In Direct Skin-to-Skin Contact With Your Child

Studies show that kangaroo care, which is spending time in direct skin-to-skin contact with your baby, can increase the amount of breast milk that you're able to pump. If your baby is in the hospital and cannot breastfeed, talk to the hospital staff about using kangaroo care as often as your baby can tolerate it.  

#9. Apply Warm, Moist Heat to Your Breasts

Before you pump, place warm, wet washcloths on your breasts. The moist heat can help bring about the flow of your breast milk. 

#10. Your Baby Can Help You Pump More Breast Milk

If possible, pump while you're near your baby, or while you're holding your baby.

When you're pumping away from your child, try to relax and think of him. Looking at a picture of your child, listening to a recording of his coos or cry, and holding a piece of clothing or a blanket that carries his smell can help to stimulate your let-down reflex and get the breast milk flowing.

#11. Pump for 10 to 15 Minutes on Each Breast

If you are pumping one breast at a time, switch back and forth between breasts whenever the flow of breast milk slows down to a just a few drops or stops completely. If you're pumping both breasts at the same time, you can pump until the flow slows or stops, rest for a few minutes and then start to pump again. As you pump, massage or stroke your breasts to help remove more breast milk.

#12. Pumping + Galactagogues = More Breast Milk

Ask your doctor or lactation consultant about galactagogues. Pumping along with the use of certain medications or herbs can help to increase your supply of breast milk. Of course, it's important to note that the use of medications and herbs on their own will not help very much. Breast stimulation and the removal of milk from the breasts is necessary to see results from galactagogues, so make sure that you keep on pumping very often.

#13. Store Your Pumped Breast Milk Safely

After you finish pumping, properly store the breast milk that you've collected. Breast milk can be left out at room temperature, refrigerated, or frozen. In the right container, and at the right temperature, breast milk can be stored for six months or even longer

#14. Keep Your Pump, Breast Flanges, Tubing, and Breast Milk Storage Equipment Clean

After each use follow the manufacturer's instructions for wiping down and cleaning your breast pump and tubing. Wash your breast flanges and breast milk storage containers in hot, soapy water. Then, rinse them well and allow them to completely dry so they'll be ready to use when you need them next.

#15. Take Care of Yourself

When you're taking care of a little one, and there's always so much to do, it's easy to put yourself last. But, if you don't take care of yourself, it can affect your breast milk supply. So, try your best to eat a well-balanced diet with extra calories, drink plenty of fluids, and get some rest.

When to Consider Pumping to Increase Breast Milk Supply

You Have a Low Breast Milk Supply: Many things can cause a low breast milk supply. But, breastfeeding more often and pumping after and in-between feedings can help to increase a low supply.

There's a Problem at Birth: If your child is born with an illness or another issue that requires special care in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), you may have to be separated from your baby after the delivery.  Pumping will allow you to begin building up your breast milk supply while you wait to put your baby to the breast.

Your Baby Is Born Premature: Depending on how early your preemie arrives, you may not be able to breastfeed for a while. Pumping will help you to build up your supply. Plus, once your child can tolerate feedings, she can have the breast milk that you pump through a feeding tube or in a bottle.

Your Adopting: When your body does not go through pregnancy and delivery, it doesn't know that you need breast milk. Creating a milk supply to breastfeed an adopted baby might be a challenge, but it can be done. Pumping along with the use of medications or herbs will give you better results.

You Have to Be Separated From Your Child: If you need to be away from your baby for a short period due to a hospitalization, a business trip, or a vacation, you should pump to maintain your breast milk supply until you can breastfeed again.

You Wish to Relactate: If you have stopped breastfeeding altogether and then decide that you want to begin nursing again, pumping can help you to rebuild your breast milk supply.

You're Dealing With Your Hormones: Health conditions that affect your hormones, such as hypothyroidism or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), can cause a low breast milk supply. You should see your doctor for the proper treatment of these conditions and put your baby to the breast as often as possible. Also, using a breast pump after or between nursing sessions can help to stimulate your body to make more breast milk.

You Have a Breast Issue: If you have hypoplastic breasts or if you've had a previous breast surgery and you want to try to produce as much breast milk as you possibly can from the healthy breast tissue that you do have, pumping may be helpful.

You Have to Return to Work or School: When it's time to return to work or school, you don't have to stop breastfeeding. Many working moms breastfeed their children in the morning and again at night. Then, while they're at work during the day, they pump to maintain their breast milk supply. If you decide to do this, you can pump and collect your breast milk while you're at work. Then, your child's caregiver can provide your child with a bottle of your breast milk during the day.  

Where to Find More Information About Pumping and Your Breast Milk Supply

If you have any questions about your breast milk supply, breast pumps, or pumping, talk to your doctor, a lactation consultant, or a local breastfeeding support group such as La Leche. These resources can help you decide on the pump that is right for you based on your particular circumstances, budget, and needs. They can also provide you with additional help and support as you work on building and maintaining your milk supply.


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Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

McGuire, W., Henderson, G., Fowlie, P. W. ABC of Preterm Birth: Feeding the Preterm Infant. British Medical Journal. 2004. 329(7476): 1227.

Newman, Jack, MD, Pitman, Theresa. The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. Three Rivers Press. New York. 2006.

Slusher, T., Slusher, I. L., Biomdo, M., Bode-Thomas, F., Curtis, B. A., Meier, P. Electric Breast Pump Use Increases Maternal Milk Volume in African Nurseries. Journal of Tropical Pediatrics. 2007. 53(2): 125-130.

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