We’ve assembled the ultimate list of pumping tips for you, all in one convenient place.
And we can guarantee whether you’re a new mom or an experienced pumper, you’ll learn at least one or two new pumping tips or tricks by the end.
Pumping, if you are able, is a great idea because of the numerous health benefits of breast milk and the potential for cost-savings.
Whether you’re looking for how to get started, storage tips, time-saving hacks, or even how to just make it more comfortable – we’ve got you covered.
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Top Pumping Tips
1 | Don’t Stress
We cannot emphasize this enough – no matter what happens during your pumping journey, don’t stress about it.
You missed a pump session? Don’t stress.
Not producing as much as you’d like? Don’t stress.
Spilled 5 ounces of freshly pumped breast milk (aka liquid gold)? We know, it’s tragic and heartbreaking – but try not to stress about it.
Stress isn’t good for you, your baby, or your milk production. We know it’s much easier said than done, but stress won’t help anything.
Tell yourself this is just a drop in the bucket, that you are still very lucky and fortunate, and that this is all normal. You can make up a missed session and build production back up. You rock, mama.
2 | Use Photos/Videos of Baby
To make pumping a little easier and speed up a let down, try thinking about your baby. Looking at photos or videos on your phone can help. The sound of your baby crying may trigger your milk.
Also some moms find that the smell of their baby helps, so consider bringing on their hats or blankets to sniff.
3 | Add Heat
A warm compress right before pumping can help your milk let down. Heat while pumping can also reduce your pumping time. I like these because they are shaped just right, come with washable covers, and can be used for heat or cold.
Another idea is to pump right after a hot shower.
As an added plus, heat can also help relieve engorgement and plugged ducts.
4 | Keep At It
Not all mom’s bodies respond to the pump right away. And the same pumping tips and tricks won’t work for every mom.
Don’t give up, even if you have a few sessions where you’re not producing as much as you’d like. Experiment with different pumping tips, diets, times, durations, and schedules to see if you can find a method that works best for your body.
And keep in mind that sometimes it takes days or weeks to see positive results. So keep at it.
That being said, there is no shame in giving up and supplementing or switching over to formula. Formula is a miracle and literally saves baby lives and mom’s sanity. It’s important to do what is best for your family.
5 | Know the Milk Timeline
Talk to your doctor, nurses, and/or a lactation consultant about the right time to start pumping for your individual situation. For moms who are exclusively pumping, they often begin right away. While exclusively breastfeeding moms are often told to wait a few months.
For those moms who begin pumping shortly after the baby is born, it can awhile for your milk to come in.
Directly following delivery, you’ll produce something called colostrum. Colostrum is this thick, yellowish fluid that is extremely nutrient dense. Since your baby’s stomach is so small in the beginning, you don’t produce a lot right off the bat. But what you do make is very healthy and filling.
Most women start producing true breast milk 2-5 days following delivery. But for some women it can take a full week. So try your best to be patient.
6 | Learn Your Let-Downs
To understand how pumping works, it’s helpful to think about what happens during breastfeeding.
When baby first latches to the breast, they will start to suckle. These short little sucks help stimulate mom’s let-down reflex. This let-down reflex is simply the release of milk from mom’s breast. During a let-down, baby will start to suck slower and longer to drink the milk.
Often baby’s will go through 2 to 3 let-downs during a feeding session. So it’s a constant cycle of small suckles following by longer, deeper draws to bring in the milk.
Now let’s go back to the pumping tips. This means that you’re not going to continuously produce milk the entire time you’re pumping.
You might have a couple of dribbles during the “suckling” phase, but the majority of the production will come in these let-down “waves”.
7 | Explore Your Pump Settings
Related to the previous point, you want to change up the settings during each pumping session. This mimics breastfeeding and helps your body respond to the pump.
Start with a fast, light setting in the beginning to mimic short suckles. Once you feel a let-down starting, switch to the deep, slower pumps.
Almost every pump has these let-down settings, so you’ll have to read your manual and learn how to use your individual model.
8 | Don’t Watch
Watching your production during a pumping session is a big no-no. It just stresses you out.
If you feel yourself starting to get nervous your body isn’t responding how you want it to, cover the pump with a baby blanket to prevent yourself from checking the bottles. Close your eyes and try to relax. Maybe think about your baby. Or just watch one of these awesome shows about motherhood.
Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran mom, you can still learn something about proper pumping technique.
9 | Pump for the Correct Amount of Time
Pump sessions should generally last 10-20 minutes.
Shorter durations (the ones closer to 10 minutes) should be for the middle of the night or after a breastfeeding session.
Longer sessions (20+ minutes) should be at your highest and lowest producing times. This might sound counterintuitive, so let me explain.
You want to pump for a while to take advantage of those higher producing times and stash as much milk as possible. But you also want to pump for a longer duration during the lower producing times so you can encourage your body to make more milk.
For the rest of the sessions, aim for around 15 minutes. You generally want to shoot for 2 to 3 let-downs per session.
10 | Pump Past Empty
Don’t skip a session or stop pumping if you’re not producing anything.
Even pumping when you’re drained is effective! Not effective in collecting milk, but it is extremely effective in communicating to your body to produce more milk.
After a couple of low-production sessions, expect your body to get the message and amp up the breast milk production line!
11 | Pump Every 3-5 Hours
Aim to pump or feed at least every 3-5 hours. Yes, this means waking up every 5 hours at night if you are exclusively pumping.
12 | Develop a Routine
To help yourself remember to pump, it’s helpful to establish a pumping schedule.
Creating your own, personalized pumping schedule is such an individualized process with so many factors.
Lucky for you, we have an entire article dedicated to creating your very own pumping schedule.
13 | Quantity Over Quality
Always remember that frequency of pumping is more important than the duration.
This means that if, possible, you should opt for more frequent, shorter pumps over longer, spaced out pumps.
There’s no graceful way to say it, but pumping can be rough on the nipples. Here are some tips to make the process as comfortable as possible.
14 | Check You Flange Size
Not exactly surprising, but not all nipples are the same size so the standard flanges that came with your pump may or may not be the best fit for you. A bad fit can be painful and not allow effective pumping.
So how do you know if you are using the right size? Well, your pump manufacturer should have a sizing guide where you literally measure your nipple to determine the correct size. A lactation consultant can also be extremely helpful if you’re unsure about your size.
The best advice I received was to try a couple sizes and check for comfort and milk output.
15 | Put Nipple Cream On The Flange
Pumping can be very uncomfortable, but a simple solution is to use nipple cream like lanolin directly on the flange. Put it all around the bend in the flange to avoid chafing.
You can use whatever baby safe nipple cream that you choose as a lubricant and can put it on your nipple as well.
16 | Use a Nursing Cover
Pumping when you’re out of the house can leave you feeling like an exposed cow.
17 | Buy the Right Bags
There are a bajillion different breast milk storage bags out there! Which ones are the best?
The two most important qualities in a milk storage bag are 1) durability (no leaks!) and 2) pourability.
The perfect mix of these two factors is the NUK bags. Bonus, they’re super affordable too!
We’re also fan of the Lansinoh, especially when you want to store in larger (10 oz) quantities.
18 | Store Different Quantities
As your baby grows, they’ll drink different amounts of milk.
For this reason, it’s extremely helpful to store breast milk in different quantities (ranging from 3-6 oz). That way, you can mix and match the different bags to fulfill any bottle volume your baby needs.
19 | Know the Limits
According to the CDC, pumped breast milk can be left at room temperature for up to 4 hours, in the fridge for 4 days, and up to 12 months in the freezer. Thawed breast milk can be left on the counter for up to 2 hours and up to 1 day in the fridge.
Memorizing these (or having their handy chart available) is one of the most important pumping tips to help your sanity! This means if you have to pump during a girls night out, you don’t have to stress about hauling a cooler if you’re going to be back home within 4 hours.
20 | Fridge Storage
Store breast milk in the fridge in reusable storage and collection bottles (get lots that are compatible with your pump!) clearly marked with the date and time expressed.
This way you make sure you’re using milk in the correct order and freezing anything that’s starting to reach its limit.
Marking the time is very helpful if you’re trying to figure out if anything in your diet is affecting your baby.
When you’re ready to feed, let the container sit on the counter to come to temperature or put it in a warm water bath. Gently swirl the bottle around to mix the separated thicker parts.
21 | Freezer Organization, Rotate
As we previously mentioned, do yourself a favor and buy lots of the NUK storage bags if you’re planning on pumping and freezing breast milk.
Before adding the milk to the bag, write the date pumped and the quantity on the top section. Trust the measured amount from your storage bottle, not the lines on the bag itself.
Lay the bags as flat as possible in the freezer. I liked to lay mine on a frozen dinner because they wouldn’t freeze and stick to the cardboard surface.
Once frozen, either store standing up in a cardboard box for easy visibility or group all similar dates in a larger gallon size freezer bag and mark the bag with the date range.
Increasing Production Tips
Many moms struggle with producing enough breast milk from the pump. If you find yourself in this situation, try some of these pumping tips to help increase supply.
Make sure to try a couple of these tricks, and then if those don’t work try some different techniques. The same tips don’t work for every mom, so it takes some experimentation to find what works best for you.
22 | Eat a Smart Diet
It’s generally best to eat healthy and be sure to drink plenty of water.
TONS of water, like 64-100 ounces per day.
On a similar note, be sure you’re eating enough calories. Making breast milk burns a ton of calories, so make sure you’re eating enough to feed that production.
23 | Know What to Avoid
You might find that your baby doesn’t respond well after eating something in particular. So if your baby seems collicky you might want to start keeping track of what you ate prior to pumping.
Some foods can even decrease your milk supply! For this reason, it’s best to avoid excess caffeine, parsley, oregano, and mint.
24 | Try Supplements
Every mom will tell you their own combination of secret foods/supplements increase your milk supply. But the truth of the matter is that there’s no magic formula that works for everyone.
We recommend trying a few at a time to see what works best for you. Here are some ideas to get you started
- Dr. Pepper
- Mother’s milk tea
- Fenugreek supplements
- Lactation cookies
- Brewers yeast
- Lactation bars
25 | Pump After Nursing
Remember that breastfeeding is a supply-demand kind of situation. The higher the demand, the more breast milk your body will produce.
If you are nursing, one helpful tip to increase your supply is to pump right after a breastfeeding session. This tricks your body into thinking the “demand” is higher.
26 | Breast Massage & Compression
Breast massage before with breast compression while pumping has been shown to increase the amount of milk pumped. This is an extremely effective way to maximize your milk output while pumping.
The massage and compression help to fully drain the breast and even get more fatty, high calorie milk.
When massaging, pay extra attention to areas that feel full or lumpy.
27 | Power Pump
Power pumping is where you pump multiple times with very short durations in between. It mimics a baby’s cluster feeding which stimulates your body to produce more breast milk.
28 | Wake Up
If you’re exclusively pumping, try waking up once or twice at night for quick 10 minute pump sessions to encourage your milk supply.
29 | Replace Parts
Moms who exclusively pump can spend up to 2 hours a day pumping. Now while that doesn’t apply to everyone, there’s no doubt that pumping can be a major time suck.
Here are some pumping tips designed to help you save time:
30 | Get Extra Parts
If you are going to be pumping regularly, it is definitely a good idea to have a few sets of pump parts. This way you can leave one at work or in your pump bag in case you forget. It also avoids the disappointing moment when you go to pump and realize your parts are sitting in the soapy sink waiting to be washed.
It’s a small investment in your sanity.
31 | Put The Parts In The Fridge
Though it is important to keep your pump parts clean, washing after every pumping session takes a ton of extra time. You can save yourself the time and headache by storing the pump parts in the refrigerator.
By keeping them cool in the fridge, you don’t need to wash them each time you pump. You can just pull them out and they’re ready to go for the next pumping session. You can place them in a tupperware or ziplock bag to keep them clean in the refrigerator.
32 | Go Hands-Free
We feel you, you’re a busy mom and pumping takes so. much. time.
Getting a hands free pumping bra can be incredibly helpful because it allows you to multitask. Pump which you’re feeding another child, answering emails, or even just scrolling Facebook.
*Pro-Mom Pumping Tips* While the hands free bras are technically designed to be worn only while pumping, we found it much easier to wear them all day. You just have to make sure to wear an undercover mama tank top so the lines of the bra aren’t visible.
Some moms have luck making their own hands-free bra from an old sports bra. Just cut holes in the nipple area and voila… hands free bra for free.
33 | Take Advantage of Time on the Road
It can be hard to find the time to pump when you’re taking care of a newborn. One of our sneakiest time-saving pumping tips is to pump in the car when you’re driving.
First, grab a compatible car adapter for your pump. Make sure to always hook up the pump before starting the car. Pop a blanket or nursing cover on top and you’re good to go!
Whew, we know that seems like a lot and it can feel overwhelming. Hopefully you learned at least one or two new tidbits that will help you on your journey.
Any pumping tips you would add? Questions about pumping in general? Let us know in the comments below!