Every new mom wants to give her baby the very best. In making the choice to breastfeed, we know you're ready to give your baby the healthiest start. But breastfeeding does not always come easily, and one challenge that mothers face is low milk supply. Luckily there are several ways that mothers can increase milk supply, and one of those is by using a breast pump.
Whether you only pump occasionally or need to pump exclusively, this article will help you understand how to increase your breast milk supply by pumping.
Getting Started on Increasing Milk Supply with a Breast Pump
The first key to ensuring that you’ll be able to pump enough to feed your baby and keep your supply up is making sure you have the right breast pump.
1.) Find an Effective Double-Electric Breast Pump Don’t just assume that the double-electric pump you receive through your insurance will be a great fit for you. You may need to be open to investing in one that will give you the most success. You can find a comprehensive list here.
2.) Be Sure Your Pump Fits Correctly. I would highly recommend consulting with a lactation consultant who can help you determine if your pump is fitting correctly. An ill-fitting pump can quickly sabotage your milk supply.
Once you’ve determined that you have a great pump that fits well and fully drains your breasts, it’s time to get started with the following techniques to increase your milk supply through pumping.
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Top Ways to Increase Milk Supply By Pumping
These are the top techniques we’ve found that increase a mother’s milk supply by using a breast pump. We recommend finding what works best for you without getting overwhelmed trying to do it all.
Utilize the Power Pumping Technique
The purpose of power pumping is to replicate when a baby cluster feeds.
Cluster feeds are times when a baby needs to nurse more often in a short period of time in order to get more calories. Cluster feeding is very normal in young infants as they experience rapid growth. Though it can feel overwhelming when your baby wants to feed constantly, it usually only happens for a short period of time. In turn, your body starts producing more milk.
Since power pumping mimics cluster feeding, it can be a great way to stimulate more milk production. In order for power pumping to work in the same way as cluster feeding, you’ll want to pump several times over one period at least once per day, perhaps twice. Lansinoh recommends the following pattern:
- Pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes
- Pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes
Pump for 10 minutes.
Though you may get little milk during the second or third pump initially, you should start seeing an increase within a few days. Utilizing this process tells your body, “Hey! It’s time for more milk!”
Pump After the First Nursing of the Day
Breastfeeding mothers usually notice that they have the most milk in the early morning. This is due to a couple of reasons:
1) The hormone prolactin plays a major role in milk production and more of it is produced at night. So when you wake in the morning to feed your baby, you’ll notice that your breasts are full and you have a lot of milk to give your baby.
2) This study also states that a mother’s body produces more milk in line with circadian rhythms. Essentially, when it starts to get light out, it’s a signal to the body that your baby is ready to wake up and eat.
If you currently nurse your baby, pumping right afterwards can get you more milk and bump up that supply.
Pump More Often
Raising a newborn baby is both a joyful and exhausting task. So we know that trying to find extra times to pump through the day can be challenging with everything else you have to do to care for your little one. But if you truly want to increase your supply, you’ll likely need to nurse more or pump more than what you’re currently doing. When you demand more milk from your body, it will supply it.
Use a Warm Compress with Massage
Since even the best pumps don’t often get as much milk as a baby who efficiently and effectively nurses, you want to do everything you can to get as much output as you can during a pumping session. Utilizing warm compresses while massaging the breasts can help you avoid clogged ducts that can decrease the amount of milk you produce. This process can also induce letdown for a faster milk flow.
Hand Express After Pumping
La Leche League writes that Mothers usually get more milk using hand expression combined with pumping than just pumping alone. Once milk flow has stopped, you can continue to stimulate the breasts by utilizing hand expression.
While keeping one of the bottles from your electric pump in place on your breast, place the other inside the bökee. This will allow you to remove the flange with one hand. Then, take the other bottle off your breast and switch it with the other bottle currently in the bökee. This gives that bottle a resting place while you hand express into the bottle that you’re holding.
For helpful hints on using the bökee to prevent spills when transferring breast milk read: How to Collect, Transfer and Store Breastmilk Easily and Safely.
Don’t you just love when people tell you to stop stressing?!! Though it’s a tall order to make your stress go away when it comes to pumping and being sure you’re pumping enough, it will help your supply if you are more relaxed. Here are some ways to make sure you can make the pumping process go more smoothly:
There lots of mothers who need to exclusively pump. If you are someone who doesn’t nurse, but instead pumps in order to get your baby all the breastmilk they need, you face some unique challenges.
Additional Ways to Increase Milk Supply if Exclusively Pumping
Since you don’t have the possibility of nursing your baby more to increase your overall milk supply, you’ll need to be extra diligent about utilizing your pump in the best way to to maximize your milk output.
In addition to everything listed above, here are some other ways to increase milk supply when you’re an exclusively pumping mama:
Hold Your Baby Skin-to-Skin
Healthy Children states, “Breast milk pumping immediately after holding your baby skin to skin is a very effective way to increase your milk supply.” This can be especially helpful if you are trying to initially establish milk supply when your baby is first born.
Pump for at Least 15 Minutes
Many mothers will find that they can complete a pumping session within 10 minutes. If you don’t appear to be producing any milk beyond this timeframe it makes sense that you would finish up. However, if you’re working to increase your milk supply, you’ll want to pump for at least 15-20 minutes. Continuing to pump after milk stops flowing will stimulate the nipples and will send a signal to your body that you need to produce more milk.
Pump Every Hour
Earlier we discussed how including a power pumping session in your day can help increase milk supply. Another option for mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding is to include a pumping session every hour for several hours during the course of a day. Find a time of day that works best for you that you can try to pump for four hours in a row on top of your normal pumping schedule.Though you may not get any milk during the third or fourth hour intially, after doing this for several days in a row, you should see an increase in milk supply. Continuing to stimulate the breasts will send a message to your body to start producing more milk.
Be Proud of That Pumped Milk!
We applaud you, Mama, for working so hard for your little one. We know how difficult breastfeeding and pumping can, and nothing about increasing your milk supply is easy. The fact that you’re willing to take the steps to try to get as much breast milk for the little person you love the most is just one of the many reasons you're an amazing mom. All we ask is that you don't forget to take care of yourself during this journey and know that no matter what, you are enough!