If you’re a pumping mama, the one thing that’s always on your mind is time.
It takes time to carve out pumping sessions.
It takes time to wash the shields and bottles.
And worst of all, it takes time away from your baby and time from all the other items on your giant to-do list.
If you’re taking the time to sit down and pump, you want to make sure it’s a worthwhile endeavor. That is, you want to see that the results of your labor have been worth the half hour you’ve sacrificed doing other things.
So if you’re looking for ways to maximize your milk output during pumping, here are ten things to try.
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1. Choose the right pump.
You’ll get the best and fastest results from a high-quality electric double pump. While manual pumps work well, they take a lot of time and effort. To minimize your pump time and maximize your output, choose an electric double pump. Many moms rave about the Medela Pump in Style which I also think is an excellent pump.
You can also read my guide on how to find the best pump for your specific situation.
2. Get the right breast shields.
You need properly-fitted breast shields to stay comfortable and to properly stimulate milk let-down. Most pumps come with a standard size, but you may have to purchase larger ones. Be advised that breast shields are not based on the size of your breasts, but rather the size of your nipples. Your nipples should be able to move freely while pumping while still maintaining a seal around the areola. Use this image from Medela to help you understand what the correct fit should look like.
3. Reduce pumping stress.
Not only does stress inhibit let-down and milk production, but some of the peripheral stress around frequent pumping (like washing that darn pump again) can cause us to be our own worst enemy and cause us to delay or skip a pumping session altogether. Set yourself up for success by making things easy on yourself. Put your pump (or at least the parts that contact milk) in the fridge after each use so you only have to wash them once a day, not once an hour. Invest in a hands-free pumping bra so your posture is healthy and you can relax. And pick a good book to read while you’re pumping so it’s an enjoyable little “mommy break” instead of another tedious item on your to-do list.
4. Set and keep a regular pumping schedule.
Your body is amazing, and it automatically adjusts its milk supply to your baby’s need. Trick your body into thinking your baby is regularly eating at new, set times by pumping at consistent times each day. After a few days, your body will respond by producing a full serving of milk for your baby’s faux “feeding” session.
It’s also worth noting that most women produce considerably higher volumes of milk in the morning, as opposed to at night. If you’re trying to pump as much as possible, add pumping sessions to your morning routine – you’ll likely get a whole lot more than you will from a post-bedtime session.
5. Pump longer & more frequently.
In order to increase milk production, your breasts must be completely emptied at each pumping session. Make sure you’re pumping long enough to stimulate multiple let-downs, and that after you have stopped releasing milk you continue to pump for about two minutes. Not only will this ensure that the breast is empty, but it will also send the message to your body that there is still a need to produce more milk, which will encourage it to increase production in future sessions.
If pumping longer is not helping to increase your supply, pump more frequently instead. For about a week, pump at two-hour intervals instead of three to boost your production and increase the amount of your milk at each pumping session. It’s a short-term annoyance but will result in a long-term payoff in the form of boosted supply and output.
6. Try power pumping.
Simulate a baby’s constant need to feed like they do during growth spurts to trick your body into ramping up its milk production. For three days, add a pumping session that looks like this: 20 minutes of pumping, 10 minutes of rest, 10 minutes of pumping, 10 minutes of rest, and then a final 10 minutes of pumping.
7. Pump and nurse simultaneously.
Nothing is better at stimulating let-down than your baby, and what’s more efficient than pumping and nursing at the same time? While you’re nursing at one breast, connect your pump to the other. Let your little suckle away while the pump works its magic on your other side.
8. Take care of your breasts.
If your milk ducts become clogged, your ability to pump will be negatively affected. Use warm compresses and massage your breasts while pumping. Not only will this keep ducts from becoming clogged, but it will also ensure every last drop of milk is removed from your breasts, helping to maintain – or even increase – your milk production.
9. Stimulate let-down with these tricks.
If you find yourself sitting at the pump for several minutes before your milk lets down, it can be frustrating and feel like you’re wasting time. Instead, scroll through pictures of your baby on your phone, massage your breasts, or hop in the shower immediately before pumping to let the steam relax you and help release the milk.
10. Eat lactation-friendly foods & watch your diet.
Some women struggle to find time to eat sufficiently after baby, while others intentionally cut calories in an effort to fit back into their pre-pregnancy jeans. If you’re trying to increase your milk production or pump a sufficient volume of milk, it’s critical that you eat enough calories from a healthy, well-balanced diet to maintain a good supply.
Women who are breastfeeding need more water than non-lactating women. In order to maintain a good milk supply, it’s recommended that nursing women drink between 96 and 104 ounces of water each day. Avoid liquids which contain alcohol and caffeine, as they can actually dehydrate you.
There are also certain foods that have been shown to increase milk production. Oatmeal, brewer’s yeast, fenugreek seeds, carrots, spinach, and almonds are all great dietary additions. And eating foods to boost your milk production doesn’t have to be bland or boring; if you head over to Pinterest and search for “lactation cookies,” you’ll see what I mean.
The Bottom Line
It would be wonderful if we could just sit attached to our breast pumps and produce exactly as much milk as we need for our baby without stressing about it, but the truth is that it’s a tricky business. Fortunately, with these strategies, you can hopefully maximize your milk output while minimizing the time you have to dedicate to pumping.
Keep at it, mama. Your little one thanks you.
If you’re looking for some more pumping tips, especially as you return to work, do not miss this Pumping Course from our friends at Milkology–>
About the Author
Jenny Silverstone is the mother of two, a coffee addict, a breastfeeding advocate and a mommy blogger. You can find her sharing her journey through motherhood, and giving little tips and tricks to become a more well-rounded parent on her blog MomLovesBest.com or sharing all the memes on Facebook.
Ana, a mom to three rambunctious little boys, has supported thousands of women throughout their pregnancy and motherhood journey since 2012 as a prenatal and postpartum educator at MommysBundle.com.