How can I get more milk when I'm pumping?
Breastfeeding is a skill, and it takes some time to get better at it. Even less instinctive, though, is pumping breast milk to feed to your little one later on. Like breastfeeding, pumping is a skill that can take some time to perfect, and many moms don’t pump as much milk as they’d like when they’re first starting out.
One of the most common questions about pumping is how to make the most of it, and how to get the most milk from it. This is partially because, unlike when you’re nursing, you can see exactly how much milk you’re accumulating when you pump, and partially because even the most advanced models of pumps aren’t quite as good as a well-latched baby at coaxing milk out. Luckily, there are a few pretty common strategies for getting more milk when you pump.
- Warmth: Heat can help to stimulate milk production, which is why many nursing moms find that just coming out of a hot shower is a great time to pump. Warm compresses can also help, and can be a more portable option, if you’re looking for something to take to work.
- Try a massage: Hands-free pumping is great, but sometimes, putting those free hands back to work can be exactly what your body needs to stimulate your breasts more effectively. Many women find that it helps to gently massage their breasts starting on the outside, and then working their way in a spiral pattern, like the one doctors use for breast exams.
- Be nice to your nipples: Sore nipples aren’t uncommon, especially if you’ve just started pumping and are now doing it pretty regularly. The first thing to do is to make sure that you’re using the right size flange for your nipples, since pumping itself shouldn’t hurt. Even with the right flange, though, chapping does happen. Moisturizer or nipple cream and using the lowest setting of the pump for a little while can help give your nipples a little time to adjust to their new job.
- Power pump: If you’re not producing a lot of milk, more stimulation is generally the answer, or at least part of it. When you’re home, your baby can be your helper, here, since she is the best-equipped to provide it, so breastfeeding whenever you can is part of the puzzle. The other part, though, isn’t to pump longer, but to pump more often. If you can, try shortening how long you pump by a little bit, and work in one more time during the day to pump, instead.
- Ask your baby for help: She is probably already doing her part by breastfeeding, but she can do more than that! If you’re trying to build up your supply, you can try attaching the pump to one breast when your baby is nursing on the other. When your baby isn’t around, like if you’re at work, having a picture, video, or even piece of clothing or soft toy that will remind you of your baby can help you relax, and can help encourage your body to let down your milk.
- Take care of yourself: It can be hard to remember to think of yourself when you have your baby to think of, but when you’re feeding her using your body like this, your health is her health. Stress can hurt your milk supply, so even just trying to make sure that pumping is your time, when you can read, watch something, listen to music, or even just close your eyes and breathe for a while can make a huge difference. Nutrition is important for breastfeeding and pumping, too, and so is hydration. Generally, whatever you can do to help yourself feel physically healthy can help you out in boosting your supply, and you’re the best person to know what that is, whether it’s figuring out how to add another hour of sleep to your life or loading up on the leafy greens.
If you’re having trouble producing breast milk when you pump, and you’re not sure how to address the problem, a healthcare provider or lactation consultant may be able to help.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Breast-feeding and pumping: 7 tips for success.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, April 8 2015. Web.
- Gloria Charland. “Getting More Milk When Pumping.” La Leche League International. Le Leche League International, March 30 2016. Web.
- “18 Breast Pumping Tips.” AskDrSears. AskDrSears.com, 2016. Web.
- “Expressing Breast Milk on the Job.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.
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