How to Maximize Your Pumping Sessions and Get the Most Milk Possible

How to Maximize Your Pumping Sessions and Get the Most Milk Possible

Information about How to Maximize Your Pumping Sessions and Get the Most Milk Possible

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Worrying about the amount of breast milk that you pump can be really stressful. If you’re not pumping as much as you’d like, here are a few tricks that I’ve used to maximize pumping output and get the most milk possible out of a pumping session.

woman pumping breast milk while wearing a green and black polka dot shirt with text overlay How to Maximize Your Pumping Sessions - Get as much milk as possible

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7 Ways to Pump More Effectively and Maximize Your Output

How to Maximize Your Pumping Sessions | (text in circles) - Do breast compressions | Try to get multiple letdowns | Make sure that your breast shields fit | Relax as much as you can and don't look at the bottles | Try warmth | Replace pump parts regularly | Make sure that your pump is set to the right vacuum strength

If you’re already spending time pumping, you want to be able to get as much milk as you possibly can while you’re there!

Here are a few strategies you can try to pump more breast milk in the same amount of pumping time.

1. Do breast compressions (also called hands-on pumping)

With breast compressions, the goal is to push milk out of your milk ducts and empty as efficiently as possible.

Essentially, this just means massaging your breasts while you pump.

To do this, I used a hands-free pumping bra to hold the pump parts and squeezed my breasts with both hands. I moved my hands around to get to different parts of the breast.

One thing to watch out for is favoring one side when doing breast compressions. Consistently doing more breast compressions on one side will mean that side gradually produces more and more milk, which can contribute to unevenness.

More on breast compressions here.

2. Try to get a second (or third) letdown

Once the milk stops flowing, it’s tempting to stop pumping. After all, what’s the point of pumping an empty breast?

What Does a Letdown Look Like? | Dribble (with illustration of blue drops) - When you start pumping, you'll just see drops of milk come out. Suggested Mode: Letdown/Massage | Spray (with illustration of breast pump spraying) When your milk lets down, you will see it start to spray, and you may feel a pins and needles sensation. Suggested mode: Expression | Dribble (with illustration of blue drops) After your letdown finishes, you'll be back to getting drops. You may want to try to get another letdown. Suggested mode: Letdown/massage

However, if you keep pumping, you may be able to get another small letdown of milk (maybe about 1/4-1/2 of what was expressed in the previous letdown).

Some people have the best luck with putting their pump back into letdown mode after the milk stops flowing, while others stop the pump and take a short break before starting again. Others just keep pumping straight through in expression mode.  You may need to experiment to see what works best for you.

3. Try warmth

Warmth seems to help keep breast milk flowing, so a warm compresses before pumping may help.

A warm washcloth will do the trick, or if you’re at work, microwaving Booby Tubes (use code PUMPING15 for 15% off) is a good option.

Another option that some people find really helpful is LaVie’s warming massager, which uses both heat and vibration.

(*Note: LaVie makes two lactation massagers – a smaller one with just vibration and a warming massager that has heat AND vibration. They are both super helpful – use the code EPUMP on their website for 10% off!)

4. Try to relax and don’t look at the bottles

Checking how much milk was in the bottles always made me anxious, and stress is not good for milk supply.

I started putting a blanket or nursing cover on even when I was alone so that I couldn’t look at them until I was done pumping. Some people also cover the bottles with baby socks.

If you can do something you enjoy – like watching a show, reading, or playing a game – while you pump, that might help you relax, too.

5. Make sure your breast shields fit 

Breast shields come in many different sizes, and using the wrong size can cause lessened output because the milk ducts aren’t being compressed in the right way. Using the wrong size can also be quite painful.

Here’s how you might know that you’re not using the correct size for you:

  • You’re experiencing pain when pumping.
  • Your nipple can’t move freely in the flange tunnel.
  • Your nipples stretch almost to the end of the connector.

More on breast shield sizing here.

6. Replace your pump parts

Pump parts just stop working well over time – they can stretch, they get microscopic tears, and residue can build up.

If you notice that you’re starting to get less from the pump, try using a brand new set of pump parts. You may also want to proactively replace your pump parts.

Breast Pump Parts Replacement Guide - Valve Membrane - Pumps Per Day 3+: every 2-4 weeks / 1-2: every 2 months | Duckbill Valve Pumps per day 3+: every month / 1-2: every 2-3 months | Backflow Protectors Pumps per day 3+: every 3 months / 1-2: every 6 months | Flanges every 6 months | Tubing when it becomes damaged

In the US, some insurance companies cover replacement parts. Check with the medical device company that supplied your pump to see if this is the case for you.

More on replacing your breast pump parts here.

7. Make sure that your pump is set to the right vacuum strength

When I started pumping for the first time, I wasn’t sure what vacuum speed I should set the pump to. I figured higher = better = more milk. Let’s just say that putting that thing on the highest setting from the start was a bad idea.

Fortunately, I saw a lactation consultant when my son was a week old, and she told me to put the pump on the highest setting that was comfortable. This worked well for me, and it is what I would recommend doing.

Just turn the suction up high enough that you start to feel a little discomfort, and then bring it down a notch so that you’re comfortable.

Hopefully this will help you get the most milk possible from the pump!

Stressed about establishing or increasing your milk supply while exclusively pumping? Always worried there is something else you should be trying? Check out my milk supply guide here (use code SUPPLY for 10% off)!

References

  1. O’Brien, Rachel, IBCLC. “Stress and Breastfeeding: How to Protect Your Milk Supply.” https://www.rachelobrienibclc.com/blog/stress-and-breastfeeding-protect-milk-supply/
  2. Medela. “Breast Pumping Instructions.” https://www.medela.ca/breastfeeding/advice/pumping/useful-tips

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