Do you find yourself stressing over how to pump more milk? Are you watching the bottles filling up slowly with despair, wondering what’s wrong with your body?
I’ve been in your shoes, pumping for what feels like hours to only see you pumped such a minimal amount. Pumping has never been something I felt good at doing. Friends of mine would fill 8-ounce bottles from each breast while I struggled to pump the 4 ounces needed for my infant. It left me feeling defeated and wondering how I would provide enough breast milk for my infant when I went back to work.
That’s when I decided to figure out everything I needed to know about how to pump more milk. I want to share some of the best tips and advice I gathered over the past nine years of breastfeeding and pumping.
The first thing I need to stress to you is that your breastfeeding success has NOTHING to do with your ability to pump. Some breasts are stubborn – like mine – and prefer the baby rather than a pump. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure or not going to be able to breastfeed your baby.
Got it? Let’s keep going!
You don’t have to be that mom that pumps triple the amount of milk her baby needs at each pumping session. While that sounds great, some women who pump extreme amounts have problems with oversupply, and it can cause an imbalance of milk, leading to tummy problems for your baby. The grass isn’t always greener, ladies!
You want to set goals that you can reach, and those goals should be based on how long you’ve been breastfeeding. So, don’t set yourself up to get 8-ounces of milk each time unless you like feeling like you failed, which you don’t. Don’t set yourself up for failure!
If your baby is feeding at the breast nearly exclusively, your milk supply starts to decrease to what your baby needs, which is right around 30 ounces per day. So, if your pumping along with breastfeeding, your output will vary depending on how many times you’ve nursed your baby that day. You can’t just turn on your breast and expect it to flow like the sink.
What Factors That Might Affect Milk Yield?
Several factors can cause a low milk yield during breastfeeding, such as waiting too long to start breastfeeding or supplementing with formula while breastfeeding. A few other factors that might affect milk yield include:
If your baby doesn’t have a proper latch, he won’t be able to drain your breast effectively. Unless you’re emptying your breast, your body doesn’t receive the memo that you need to make more milk. Plus, a bad latch can cause cracked and bleeding nipples.
A lot of medications are safe during breastfeeding, but some can lower your milk supply without you realizing it. Some examples of medicine that can cause a low milk yield includes:
If you aren’t bringing the baby to the breast often enough, it can cause a lower milk supply. Most newborn babies will breastfeed every 1.5-3 hours. It can vary significantly from baby to baby. I’ve had some newborns who want to breastfeed every hour and a half while some can go every two and a half hours. Watch for early cues of hunger to determine when to feed your baby and increase feedings to make more milk.
Babies have several growth spurts during the first months of life, and during those times, your baby might breastfeed a lot. It will feel like you don’t have enough milk, even though you do. These periods don’t last too long!
Some women do have inadequate milk ducts and are physically unable to increase their milk supply. Speak to your doctor to see if this diagnosis fits you.
When to Consider Pumping to Increase Breast Milk Supply?
Here are a few situations that might make you want to pump to increase your milk supply. No one situation fits everyone, so take a look at these situations.
A variety of factors can cause you to have a low breast milk supply. No matter what caused your supply issue, by pumping more, you can increase your supply.
Sometimes, things don’t go as plan, and your child is born with an illness or born prematurely, requiring special care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). When babies are in the NICU, you might have to be separated from your baby after delivery. Pumping is the best way to start building up your breast milk supply while you wait for your baby.
If your body doesn’t go through pregnancy and delivery, it isn’t able to create the breast milk supply that you need. You can create a breast milk supply for an adopted baby with the use of medication and herbs, along with pumping a great deal to tell your body you need breast milk.
There might come a time when you need to be separated from your baby for a while, whether that’s due to hospitalization or a work trip. Pumping allows you to maintain your breast milk supply until you can breastfeed again.
Sometimes, you stop breastfeeding but decide later that you want to start again. Many have no idea that relactation is possible. You need to pump to help rebuild your breast milk supply.
When it’s time for you to return to work or school, that’s not the end of your breastfeeding journey. Working moms can continue to breastfeed their babies by pumping while they work. At night and when you’re home, you bring your baby to the breast.
If you’ve had breast surgery in the past or other complications, breastfeeding and pumping enough milk can be a bit complicated. Enough. You want to create as much milk as you can from your healthy breast tissue.
Did You Pick the Right Breast Pump?
How can you expect to pump milk if you don’t have the right equipment? That’s called setting yourself up for failure, and that’s not what we’re all about as moms. We need the right breast pump. Otherwise, we’ll be faced with pain and frustration.
Let me tell you something. If the breast pump looks cheap, it’s probably not going to be a good choice. Chances are your performance with the pump won’t be as you hoped. Higher-end models are more efficient and have features that help you pump more milk, such as customizable suction levels and massage modes.
If you only want to pump when needed, a manual pump should be sufficient, but an electric breast pump is better for frequent pumping.
Make Sure You Check Your Flange Size
Flanges, sometimes called breast shields, are one of the most critical parts of the breast pump. If the flanges don’t fit correctly, you’ll be in pain and not be able to pump as much as you could.
To find the right size flange, remember that breast shields aren’t based on the size of your breasts. Instead, they’re based on the size of your nipples. A shield should fit over your nipple and form a seal around your areola.
If you use a flange that is too small, it’ll feel like sandpaper on your nipple because your nipple is rubbing on the plastic. A small flange causes clogged milk ducts, and it’s just no fun.
Breast shields that are too large may cause your breasts not to drain thoroughly. You might end up with swelling and bruising of your areola because breast tissue is pulled into the pump. Check to make sure your nipples are centered into the breast shield tunnel and able to move during pumping.
It’s a Supply and Demand System
So, we talked about how you create around 30 ounces per day if you’re exclusively feeding your baby from your breasts. Now, if you want to feed your baby from the breast and pump a few bottles per day in preparation for work, it won’t be an immediate difference.
Your breast milk supply is an on-demand system. That means you have to demand more milk for your body to supply it. At first, your body isn’t going to give you too much milk. You need to pump five minutes after the milk stops flowing to let your body know it needs to create more milk. It’s like sending a memo to the boss upstairs about an issue. If you continue to pump after milk stops coming out, your body will kick into overdrive and make more milk.
So, remember, how often and how much milk you remove from your breasts are one of the most critical factors that determine how much milk you make!
10 Top Tips for How to Pump More Milk
Massage those breasts, mama! Massaging your breasts while pumping can help increase how much comes out of your breast. If you notice that milk isn’t flowing out of your breasts anymore, take off the pump and massage your breast. The La Leche League calls it MSS – massage, stroke, and shake – seriously! Then, place the pump back on your breast and turn it on while massaging a bit more.
A warm compress on your breast can help to increase how much milk you can remove. Place a warm rag or a microwavable pad over the top of your breasts. It’s one of the most effective methods I’ve found.
Most mothers have an abundance of milk in the morning. So, after you wake up and breastfeed, break out that breast pump and see what you can get out. Plan to pump every morning, and if you need to increase your freezer stash, consider waking up around 4 to 5 AM and add a pumping session.
The early morning hours are the golden hours for breastfeeding because prolactin, which is the hormone responsible for milk production, is the highest during these times. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to make more milk.
This trick is one of the only ways my breast would let down to the pump. Start breastfeeding on whatever side you want. Once your baby is nursing, attach to the pump to the next breast and start pumping. It’s like tricking your breast into thinking they need to create milk for two babies at a time.
Not only can you get more milk this way, but you also save a lot of time because you don’t have to try to stimulate let down. Your baby is doing that for you on the opposite breast.
A secret that you might not know is that you can have more than one let down. If I rely on just one let down, I would only get around 50-60% of the milk that I typically pump.
So, how do you get more than one let down? After the milk flow from your first let down starts to slow down, you’ll see only a little or no more milk drips, turn down your pump to the letdown or massage mode, depending on your pump. It will take more time to get the next let down.
Dehydration can decrease how much milk you can pump. Staying hydrated is necessary for breast milk production, so you should aim to drink close to 13 cups of fluids each day.
After you finish breastfeeding your baby, take out the pump and try pumping. You might not get very much milk, but you’ll send the memo to your body that it needs to create more milk. Over time, you’ll see an increase in your milk supply by using this technique
One way to further how much milk you pump is by hand expressing after using an electric pump. Using hands-on techniques help you yield the highest amount of milk. Make sure you learn how to hand express correctly to avoid any injury.
If you don’t want to hand express, you can have a similar experience by using a manual breast pump after you empty your breasts.
Have you heard of power pumping before? If you’ve been pumping or breastfeeding for a while, you’ve probably heard about this. Power pumping refers to doing several short pumping sessions within an hour with breaks in between. You want to do it a few times a day.
An example of power pumping would be:
Here is another trick that helps me get more milk. After the milk flow starts to slow down, I re-attach the breast shield to recreate the vacuum, but I might leave it in the same location where it was. When that doesn’t work, I reposition the shield by focusing on a different part of my breast.
This tip works for manual and electric pumps.
How to Keeping Your Milk Stored Properly?
Now that you spent all that time pumping breast milk, you need to make sure you store it properly. Otherwise, you’re just wasting everything! Here are the guidelines for storing breast milk
Up to six hours stored at room temperature, but up to four hours is ideal unless expressed in immaculate conditions.
Three to five days when pumped correctly in sanitized conditions.
Six to nine months is ideal. Make sure you don’t store milk on the door of the freezer where the temperature fluctuates the most.
You can store up to two hours at room temperature or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Do NOT refreeze after you’ve unthawed milk.
Pumping More Milk
Figuring out how to pump more milk can be frustrating for mothers. You want to provide for your baby, but it can harm your mental health. I want to be the first to tell you that you don’t need to feel guilty if you feel as if pumping is taking a hit on your mental health. A healthy mom is more important.
If you’re still struggling to pump enough breast milk, speak to a lactation consultant. She may be able to come over and check to ensure your breast pump is working effectively and give you some hands-on tips for best results in person.