When it comes to pumping breast milk, it can feel like there is a lot to know. These are my top 5 tips to make pumping easier including how long to pump for and how to get more milk per pumping session.
Wait At Least Six Weeks
In the first 4-6 weeks postpartum, your body is trying to figure out how much milk supply it needs to make for your particular baby or babies. Whether you have a singular baby, twins or triplets and you're feeding them from your body, they are creating a demand for milk from your body, which in turn tells your body to make more milk! Demand and supply ;)
So, if you are breastfeeding as well as pumping, know that it is creating more demand for milk on the body. This will tell your body to produce more milk which is a great way to increase production if that’s what you need, but know that it can also cause an oversupply. When there’s an oversupply of milk that may not be “cleared” right away, it can lead to issues with latching, blocked ducts, or an infection called mastitis.
Around 6 weeks or so, your body is starting to get used to Baby’s needs so it can be anytime now through the next few months that you may notice breast changes - feeling softer and less “full.” This is normal as your body continues to adjust! You more than likely still have all that Baby needs. While the demand and supply rule is there for the duration of your breastfeeding/chest-feeding journey, as demand decreases over time so will the supply. But know this - it takes A LOT for breastmilk to be gone completely, so know that there is always something there, even if Baby is only latched for a short time ;)
The Pump Is Not As Effective As A Baby’s Mouth
Keep in mind that a mechanical pump, no matter how fancy, is generally not as effective as your baby. For best results, make sure that the pump flange (the part that goes on your breast/around the nipple) is the correct size.
During a pumping session, at some point milk will stop coming out, or it will be coming out very slowly. That’s usually an indicator that you have “drained” that side, and should switch to the other side or stop.
PS - Milk flow will never stop for your baby though! It can slow down, but you’re never actually “empty” or void of milk until you’ve long ended your breastfeeding journey!
Prolactin Surges Overnight
You may notice that in the evenings you have less milk in your breasts but you have more overnight and first thing in the morning. This is because the hormone prolactin, which is the milk-making hormone, surges sometime around 2-3am.
You can take advantage of this to help boost your supply by breastfeeding and/or pumping in the night and early mornings.
It is ideal to breastfeed overnight instead of bottle feeding because of this surge. If you don’t express the milk you are at risk for engorgement, blocked ducts or eventually mastitis. If you are looking to get a longer stretch of sleep, have someone bottle feed during the day so you can get a nap in.
Why Are You Pumping?
Outside of just wanting someone else to feed the baby for a change, generally there are two main reasons to pump: you want a backup storage of milk or because you’re going to be away from your baby.
Away From Baby
If you’re going to be away from your baby, and missing a feeding or more for your baby, you may need to pump to “drain” your breasts so you can be comfortable while also keeping up your milk supply.
Treat this pumping session like a feeding and pump as much as you want to - potentially 10-15 minutes per side but this depends on the person!
Building Up Storage Supply
If you are pumping to build up your storage supply, always feed your baby first, before pumping so that you know Baby is getting everything he/she needs first.
After you’ve fed your baby from your body, you can then pump for only about 2-3 minutes, regardless of how much milk is coming out. This is so that you won’t be telling we don’t your body that there’s another mouth to feed!
The milk should be stored at the back of the fridge or freezer unless you’re planning to use it within a few hours. Read more about storing breastmilk.
How To Get More Milk Per Pumping Session
The first few times you pump, or hand express, you may not yield much milk, and that’s totally normal! It takes some time for your body to get used to it.
There are a few tricks to get more milk when you are pumping:
It can also help to not look at how much you’re pumping. Literally put a sock over the bottle so you can’t see the amount. Stress is not going to help produce more milk!
There are so many different topics and questions when it comes to pumping breast milk. If you have questions or want to learn more, check out my podcast Bringing Up Baby or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Both Lindsey and Ashley contribute to the blog! Sometimes also with guests and sometimes from conversations with guests :)