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Breast Pumping: Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck

Strategies for Maximizing Milk Production and Efficiency While Pumping Your Breasts

  • Make sure you have a well-stocked pumping station, filled with drinks, healthy snacks, and treats. Make sure you have something relaxing to do.

  • Power pumping once a day (20 min of pumping, 10 min rest, 10 min pumping, 10 min rest, 10 min pumping). This will add up to one hour, and should be done after your longest sleep (try to get 5 hours, with someone else doing a bottle feeding in that time), ideally between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m (your prolactin level is highest then). 

  • If you do not have an hour, power pump in two 30-min sessions of: pump 10 min/rest 10/pump 10, once in the morning, once in the evening.

  • Hands-on pumping as shown in this video: Stanford Newborn Nursery 

You probably already know about hands-free pumping bras, but just in case:

Hands-free breast pumping bra
A DIY pumping bra can allow you to (gently) massage your breasts, but be sure the suction is as strong with as without the bra

  • If you do not have time to pump, stick a Haakaa milk collector on your opposite breast while feeding your baby. (If your supply is about equal to your baby's needs, or is low, make sure to offer that milk to your baby so they get all the milk they would have taken from that side.)

  • Increase frequency of stimulation by hand expressing a few squirts of milk every time you pass a sink, while in the shower, and into any bottles or baby food you’re preparing.

  • Google “guided meditation for breast pumping” and pick one you like. (You don’t have to do this every time, just as needed/desired.)

  • Close your eyes and imagine the feeling and sound of fluids rushing through your body and pouring out of your breasts. Sometimes people feel a pins-and-needles feeling in their breasts right as milk starts flowing. (Imagination is actually a powerful tool for triggering certain bodily functions; you can see this when you imagine biting into a lemon wedge—notice your mouth fills with saliva just from thinking about it)

Always remember this: YOU matter more to your baby than how much milk you produce!

Mother smiling at young baby
Photo by Jonathan Borba via

  • Warm pump flanges before using in a bowl of hot water

  • Lubricate pump flanges with nipple ointment

  • Use warm compresses on the breasts while pumping for a few minutes (not hot)

  • Try a different pump. For reasons we don’t understand, sometimes a certain pump works better than another for a particular mother (Some mothers even report getting more milk with a manual pump; this is not typical though.)

  • Parallel pumping (see image below) can improve output and save time.

  • Listening to music while pumping has been shown by research to improve output for many women.

Mother pumping breast while breastfeeding baby, called "parallel pumping"
McCue & Stulberger (2019)
  • Check in with how your body and mind feel while pumping. Relax any tense muscles. Are you hungry or thirsty? Make sure you are as warm (or cool) as you like to be. Do you need a stool under your feet? If there is anything stressing you out, write it down on a note pad to address later, and try to relax. Remind yourself that you are doing a great job (you really are!).

  • Smell your baby, look at pics and videos, think about cute things they do that make you smile or tear up.

  • Always keep a manual pump with you while away from your baby; letting your breasts be full for a long period of time usually reduces the supply

  • Make out with your partner (seriously!), and try some of these other oxytocin-boosting strategies

  • If you are stressing over how much milk is coming out, put something (like baby socks) over the bottles so you can’t see them until the end.

  • For a few of your pumping sessions, do the following: when you’re done, take a 10-min break, then do 5 more minutes of extra pumping before putting your milk and supplies away.

Don’t feel like you have to do all of these things, every time, starting right now

It’s ok just to do what you feel up to, because adding too many additional burdens is counterproductive. Stress can be a milk-supply killer.

Make sure to track your 24-hour pumping output and baby’s 24-hour supplement consumption (and note if it is formula or breastmilk), so you can see if you’re gradually increasing your supply. At some point your pumping amount will plateau, and that is your personal milk production ceiling for this baby.

Most babies do not continually increase their daily milk consumption from 1–6 months, but rather take larger volumes less frequently (if bottle-fed) and establish their own pattern (if exclusively breastfed) that enables them to get what they need. Always follow your baby’s hunger cues to know how much to give them.

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