Become a Pumping Pro: by Christsenio Dean, RN, CLEC
Hello everyone, it’s Christsenio here! After our first chat “Which Pump is Right for You”, I’m back to talk more with our pumping warrior’s about getting your maximum milk output while pumping! If we haven’t met yet, I’m a NICU Nurse and one of the Allergy Experts here at Free to Feed. I’m incredibly passionate about helping families navigate infant food allergies, while continuing breastfeeding. Despite what you may have heard, your breastfeeding journey does NOT need to end at the first sign of infant food allergies, and I’ve helped many families successfully continue breast/body feeding despite infant allergy challenges. I am a parent and a food allergy warrior supporter. You can learn more about my background here.
Now, let’s dive in so I can help you in getting the output you’re striving towards!
Below you’ll learn:
Importance of choosing the best pump for you (refer to this blog post for a deeper dive into this topic)
How supply and demand impacts pumping
Elimination diets while pumping
Top 10 ways to get the most milk output using a pump
Choosing the Best Pump for YOU!
If you were able to read the previous blog “What Pump is Right for You” then you already know how important it is to choose the right pump for you. Your choice in a pump may determine the output you get from that pump type. To read even more about this topic, please check out my first blog post here.
Supply and Demand while Breastfeeding & Pumping
A key concept in relation to increasing milk output is that of frequency. Your body is amazing enough to function on a supply and demand basis in regards to milk supply. Essentially, the more frequently you remove milk from your body, the more milk your body will make. Aka, the more pumping sessions, the more you’re signaling to your body to produce more milk for your baby. Please keep in mind, pumping too frequently can cause oversupply which increases risks for plugged ducts and mastitis. Our Free to Feed Lactation Consultants are always happy to support you if you have additional questions or concerns regarding your supply.
Impact of Elimination Diets while Pumping
While on an elimination diet, some food allergy warriors note a decrease in their milk output. Breastfeeding requires individuals to consume about an extra 500 calories per day. Sometimes, individuals that are doing an elimination diet, have decreased food options and may struggle to achieve adequate caloric intake. When there's not enough caloric intake, the body prioritizes basic functions over producing breast milk. Thus, it is important to consume as much of a variety of foods as possible while on an elimination diet. I’m here to help you learn more ways to get the most milk output out of the pump, especially when navigating your baby's food allergy journey.
10 Ways to Get the Most Milk Output Using a Pump
Replacing pump parts & proper sizing
Pictures, videos & scent
Hands-free nursing bra
Adding a night session
Avoid watching that pump!
Power pumping is meant to mimic a baby's cluster feeding behavior. More stimulation signals your body to make more milk for your baby. I tell clients they can power pump multiple times throughout the day if they’d like and that they should see results within 2-3 days.
Power pumping is just like regular pumping, but on a different schedule. Instead of pumping, say every 2-4 hours, power pumping involves pumping frequently over varying time intervals, while including small breaks in between pumping sessions.
For example, during a one-hour time period, a power pumping session may look like this (2):
Pump for 20 minutes
Break for 10 minutes
Pump for 10 minutes
Break for 10 minutes
Pump again for 10 min
My second recommendation circles back to what we discussed earlier about considering the type of pump you are using. There are a few different types of breast pumps to choose from:
Single manual breast pump
Single electric breast pump
Double electric breast pump
A double pump is different from a single pump in that a double pump allows you to pump from both breasts at the same time. With both single and double pumps, you have the option of using a manual or an electric pump. If able, I strongly encourage clients to use a double electric breast pump.
Double pumping increases the volume of milk produced and removes milk at a faster rate. It has shown an increase in long-term milk volume (4) and that is just what I want for you!
Replace those Pump Parts & Ensure Proper Flange Sizing
Have you been using your pump and pump parts for a while? Is your pump REALLY old? It might just be time to replace those pump parts to ensure that your pump is functioning optimally allowing you to maintain your milk production. If your pump is not draining efficiently, more milk will remain in your breasts and that will result in the body making less milk.
Keep in mind that you may even need a new pump altogether. Pump motors can wear down with time and the more the pump has been used (1). Replacement depends on frequency of use. The more frequently used, the more often parts will need replacing. Most manufacturers give direction as to how often to replace different parts. Part replacements can range anywhere from a few weeks to 6 months. Generally, pumps older than one year and used most days of the week will need to be considered for replacement.
One other aspect to note is that many pumps come packaged with one, maybe two different flange sizes. You want to ensure that your flange is properly fitted to your breast. Pump flanges that are too small or too big can alter milk output and prevent you from maximizing your total milk output. You can purchase different flange sizes for all pumps at any time!
Massage while Pumping.
Pumping while simultaneously massaging and compressing the breast, or a practice called “hands on pumping” has been shown to increase milk volume output (4).
Hands-on pumping looks like:
Before even turning on your pump, begin massaging your breasts
Turn on your pump
Continue massaging and compressing your breasts throughout the pumping session until flow slows to a trickle
Finish by hand expressing to drain breasts as much as possible (4)
Warmth has been shown to increase blood flow to the breasts. Since milk is made from blood, the greater the blood flow to the area, the greater the milk output (5). One option is to warm the flanges of your pump by soaking them in warm water or wrapping them in a warm towel prior to pumping. Another option is to apply a warm compress (such as a washcloth soaked in warm water) to the breasts prior to pumping.
Look at your sweet baby, or pictures/videos of your little sunshine
Many parents are away from their babies while pumping and this is when looking at photos or videos of their sweet faces can be very helpful. One study showed that when parents looked at photos of their baby, they pumped more milk than those who did not. Another idea is to pack one of their onesies and smell their sweet baby smell while pumping. Seeing your baby, looking at pictures/videos of your baby or smelling their items also helps with your milk let down (3).
Create a Calm Environment
I know as a parent of a baby it is TOUGH to be relaxed in the early days, but try as much as you can to be relaxed while you are pumping, just like while nursing. Stress can inhibit your milk milk letdown, thus altering the amount of milk you pump. Studies have shown that individuals who listen to relaxing music pump significantly more milk than those that do not (3). Create and listen to that favorite playlist of yours and try to embrace that pump session with some great music.
Have a Hands-Free Nursing Bra
This suggestion ties into other strategies mentioned above. Having your hands free allows for massage and breast compression. It also gives you the chance to use your hands to do other things that may distract you from the fact that you’re pumping (ex. reading, listening to music, listening to a podcast, cooking, baking, journaling, etc.).
Adding a Pumping Session at Night
As parents of littles, I know sleep is SO, SO hard to come by, but adding a night pump session or two can make a huge difference in the amount of milk you produce. The milk making hormone, prolactin, is higher between the hours of 1am and 5am. Having one pumping session fall between this time can greatly help with your total output!
Avoid looking at that pump!
Last but not least, try to avoid consistently staring at your pump. This can cause stress and anxiety about achieving a certain volume. I know we discussed stress & milk production in a previous section, but this is such an important reminder for parents of littles because you are likely dealing with SO many stressors all day long. As much as you can, try to take advantage of your pump time by doing something that is relaxing and enjoyable for YOU!
You can do this! Feeding your little can feel so overwhelming and adding pumping to the mix can bring about even more stress.
Remember the pump you choose to use can make a huge difference in your pumping sessions and your total milk output. By trying some of the above recommendations, I feel confident that you should be on your way to maximizing your total milk output. You’re doing amazing and remember I’m here to support you in reaching your goals!
The Free to Feed team is here to support you, too. We are here to cheer you on, problem solve with you and find ways that can make this more doable for your unique circumstances. If you would like more support with your journey, I recommend you lean on an Allergy Expert (like me!) who understands the challenges you are currently facing, and can relate to what you are feeling. Not only do our Allergy Experts have first-hand experience navigating infant food allergies in our own families, we’ve directly helped over 5,000 families find success with our consultations.
Book a consult here.
That’s all for today! I look forward to continuing our ‘Become a Pumping Pro’ series, and will be back to share more pumping guidance and support soon!
Keep on pumping,
💙 Christsenio Dean
Registered Nurse, Certified Lactation Educator Counselor, & Allergy Expert at Free to Feed
Bonyata, K. (2023, July 17). I’m not pumping enough milk. what can I do? • kellymom.com. KellyMom.com. https://kellymom.com/hot-topics/pumping_decrease/
Hallas, A.-L. (2018, October 23). Power pumping: How to increase your milk supply. Lansinoh. https://lansinoh.com/blogs/breastfeeding-pumping/power-pumping-how-to-increase-your-milk-supply
Keith, D. R., Weaver, B. S., & Vogel, R. L. (2012). The effect of music-based listening interventions on the volume, fat content, and caloric content of breast milk–produced by mothers of premature and critically ill infants. Advances in Neonatal Care, 12(2), 112–119. https://doi.org/10.1097/anc.0b013e31824d9842
Medela. (2022, October 13). Too little breast milk? how to increase low milk supply. Medela. https://www.medela.com/breastfeeding/mums-journey/low-milk-supply
Yiğit, F., Çiğdem, Z., Temizsoy, E., Cingi, M. E., Korel, Ö., Yıldırım, E., & Ovalı, F. (2012). Does warming the breasts affect the amount of breastmilk production? Breastfeeding Medicine, 7(6), 487–488. https://doi.org/10.1089/bfm.2011.0142