PUMPING MORE MILK

For your first few pumping sessions, you’ll be ok with being a bit inefficient when you pump. Pretty soon though, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the most milk out (a.k.a milk removal) in the shortest period of time. In this section, we’ll share some tips that might help, and why.

How to pump more milk

Because your anatomy and physiology is different from everyone else, only some of these tips will work for you. Although the research on pumping packs a punch, there’s embarrassingly little research funded (we just keep coming back to this, don’t we?!). This means it’s difficult to say for sure which ones are more likely to help.

On top of this, the volumes you collect will vary so widely depending on time of day, how you’re feeling, and how recently you last pumped or fed, that it will be hard to distinguish what actually made the change in your volumes. 

Looking at and recording volumes all the time can also be stressful because you rarely feel like you have enough. We prefer to focus on two other missions instead:  

  1. Getting to letdown faster (or if you don’t have an obvious letdown, getting to milk flowing)
  2. Increasing milk flow itself - think squirts (high flow) over drips (low flow).

If you can improve both of these things, the volume will look after itself. As your grandmother might have said: count the pennies and pounds will look after themselves.

How to get faster letdown

This is all about  

Read here to learn about how your body makes and expresses milk.  

 

Relax

Relax as much as you can. Try to re-frame your brain into thinking of your pumping sessions as your peaceful time out. Get a cup of herby tea. Clear your head. Meditate. Read. Do yoga if you have a fancy pump that doesn’t leak when you’re upside down. Play music. Get off your phone (or at least look at pictures or videos of your baby). Get your carer to give you a neck massage.

Actually, don’t relax

Having said all that, forced relaxation is the worst nightmare for a lot of women we know, so it may be far more calming to work, chat with a friend on the phone, clean the house, or chill with your baby on the floor. All these more active things are possible with portable pumps.

Apply heat

Heat can stimulate milk flow. Researchers from the University of Western Australia found that using a warm breast pump shield (39°C), as opposed to a regular shield (25°C), increased the efficiency of “milk removal”[1]. What does that mean? Well, the 25 women in the study, when pumping at their maximum comfortable pumping level, collected more milk after 5 minutes of pumping with a heated shield.  It did even out after 15 minutes though, so perhaps this is something to try if you’re short on time. How to warm your shield or cushion attachment? Dip it into water you have just boiled and check it’s not too hot before you place on your skin. You could also try applying a heat pack just before you pump.

Try for multiple Letdowns

You may be someone who can get multiple letdowns. If your milk has stopped flowing, and it hasn’t been too long, you could try to wait for another letdown.

 

 

Researchers found that women who heated their breast shield (to 39degC) expressed more milk within the first 5 mins of their pumping session than with a cold flange.

Researchers found that pumping with a warm flange gets more milk. Being science, there’s more detail

Did you know that heat can increase your milk flow?

In 2011, researchers found that pumping with a warm flange allowed women to collect more milk, for the first five minutes of their session. Being science, there’s detail and caveats. DM us for more info.  

How to get higher milk flow

Pump as high as comfy

Pump at your highest comfortable suction. Those same authors from University of Western Australia[2] found that women pumping at their highest suction setting (that was comfortable) allowed them to express more milk than at a standard suction of -125mm Hg.

Prevent pain

Try to avoid having pain or discomfort from pumping in the first place. This means getting the ‘right’ flange size, using an attachment that is designed to make pumping comfortable (see here for a list with pros and cons), and not dialling the suction up so high that it becomes uncomfortable. At Milkdrop, we routinely hear from women who have pain or damage around the areola and nipple from having the suction up high. They had thought that having higher suction would get them more milk – which is totally understandable if you’ve never used a pump before.

Replace your parts

Make sure your pump parts are replaced as recommended. As a rule of thumb, the softer the part, the more often it needs to be replaced. Each manufacturer is different but see here for a guide.

 

  • Make sure that your breast shields are the correct size. Incorrect sizing causes pain and can also affect output.
  • Do breast compressions. This can help push milk out of your milk ducts and make pumping more efficient.
    Don’t look at the bottles – cover them with socks.
  • Make sure to replace your pump parts regularly (especially valves). Suction can decrease over time.

 

An electric pump is typically the fastest way to express milk. Read here about the difference between electric and manual pumps if you’re not sure. Depending on how well pumping is going for you, sometimes a manual pump can be more efficient.

A quick way to improve your efficiency is to double pump. This means pumping both breasts at once. This works for many women, although if you find you really need hand compressions to get milk at all, then one at a time may actually be more efficient.     

  • how to pump - double vs single
  • how to pump - getting letdown
  • mindset
  • how to pump – hacks
  • how to pump – volumes
  • how to pump – efficiently
  • how to pump – tips
  • Volume hacks - to get more milk/relax – visuals
  • how to pump – massage / hand express as you pump
  • how to pump – positions
  • check age of the pump parts – need to replace valves regularly, pump motor could wear out if very old
  • how to pump – diet
  • how to pump – power
  • double the pump, half the time
  • wearable pump
  • something to remind you of your baby – photo, video, clothing to help w letdown