Aug 16

Pumping Basics

Some mothers pump when they are at work or separated from baby; others pump by choice or because baby was unable to feed orally. Unlike nursing, it is not a loving encounter with your baby and finding ways to make it quicker or more efficient can be valuable.

Is There A Way To Make Pumping Easier?

Hands-free pumping may make pumping easier. You can buy a special pumping bra or make one out of an old bra by cutting holes for the flanges.

There are also pumping devices that fit in your bra that allow you to have hands free.

If your pump is not efficient consider renting a hospital grade pump – at least to help establish a good supply in the first months.

Is It Normal For My Breasts To Feel Swollen And Lumpy?

When your milk first comes in, your breasts may be full, heavy and large from a combination of swelling and milk production.

If your pumping routine is not emptying your breasts this can happen at any time and can lead to low milk supply or a breast infection.

Soften full areas or lumps by gently massaging your breasts prior to pumping and/or during pumping.

If your breasts are full, it is very important to empty them, this is the key to good milk production.

How Can I Increase My Milk Supply?

If your milk supply is not as high as you would like it to be, here are things you can try to help increase it:

  • Nurse your baby as much as you can when at home to improve your supply, consider planning some relaxing days at home to focus on nursing.
  • Check to make sure your pump is working well and that the flanges fit you comfortably.
    Consider renting a high quality electric pump.
  • Massage (gently) or compress your breasts during pumping to help your milk flow.
  • Increase your pumping to every three hours during the day and once at night (seven to eight times a day- if you are an exclusively pumping mother).

  • Increase your pumping time by 5-10 minutes.
  • Try relaxation or meditation when you pump.
  • Make sure you are getting enough to eat. Your body needs an additional 500 to 600 calories per day to produce milk.
  • Drink plenty of fluids – drinking water is fine; you do not need to drink milk in order to make milk.
  • Each culture has its own diet recommendations- talk to friends and family about what they recommend- many seem to have a good effect!
  • Consider drinking Mother’s Milk tea.
  • Speak with a lactation consultant or your doctor or midwife for other recommendation. (See the locations area of this app for lactation consultants near you.)

Tap here to learn more about hand massage to improve your milk production.

What If Pumping Feels Uncomfortable?

If pumping hurts or your nipple doesn’t move easily inside the plastic flange, ask for help from an experienced mother or lactation provider.

You may need a different size flange or may be able to reduce the friction by lubricating the flange with a little milk, lanolin, coconut oil or olive oil.

What If I Make Too Much Milk?

Some women produce a lot of milk, often due to genetic factors. While this may not be a problem, some women may suffer from plugged ducts, a fussy spitty baby, or very full breasts.

Lactation experts may have valuable information for you about bringing down your milk supply (typical fix is called ‘Block Nursing’) but be careful so that you don’t get a breast infection.

It would be good to get some extra help if you have way too much milk production.

If I Get Sick, Should I Stop Pumping?

No! When you are sick, your body produces antibodies, which are passed through your milk to protect your baby- keep going!

If you are sick or on new medication, please do not stop nursing or pumping. Talk to your doctor about how important your milk is for the baby.

You can also call your lactation consultant, your Pediatrician, OB or midwife before you take medicine or to check if you are getting potentially bad advice to stop pumping.

Don’t ever throw away milk until you are sure it is not safe for baby- always get advice first!

Tap here to check the safety of your medications during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.


Lisa Stellwagen MD, FAAP Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at UC San Diego Health