Tips for Mothers Who Exclusively Pump

A version of this blog appeared on the San Diego Breastfeeding Center blog. Reprinted with permission.

Whether exclusive pumping is a decision or a necessity due to surrounding circumstances, there are several things you can do to make your efforts more successful.

Start early

We know that the earlier after birth you begin expressing, milk production is set up for long-term success.  Hand expression of colostrum is often more effective than pumping in the early days and can increase your milk supply even when you begin using a pump.  You may not reach full production until around 10 days, so be patient as amounts in the early days may be very small. Here’s a fantastic video from Jane Morton at Stanford University, demonstrating Hand Expression

Pump often

In the beginning, plan to pump about 8 times in 24 hours, for anywhere from 15-20 minutes per session.  Once you have reached full production, you can generally decrease your number of pumping sessions to 6 or 7 times a day.  You may also find you can express for 10-15 minutes and be done.

Plan to rent a multi-user hospital grade pump and later purchase a single user double-electric pump to establish and maintain your milk supply.

Initially, a hospital grade pump is key to reaching full milk production.  Let’s put it this way: the hospital-grade pump is like the Ferrari and the double-electric you can purchase is similar to a Toyota.  The motor is far superior in the hospital-grade pump, but it is too expensive to purchase, therefore we recommend renting one.  The double-electric is much more affordable, yet is best for maintaining a supply, rather than bringing one in.

Ensure a good flange fit and consider having more than one flange size available.

A poor flange fit can cause breast and/or nipple damage and pain.  It can also decrease the amount of milk you are able to pump. Check out this article about finding the correct pump flange size.

Pump hands-free

Purchase a hands-free bra or make one out of an old sports bra but cutting small slits where the flanges would fit.  Your hands will now be free to massage that ‘hard-to-get-out’ milk that pools in the periphery of the breast.

Use hands-on pumping

You can maximize your pump output by using breast massage as you pump hands free. We LOVE this video on how to maximize your pumping output using breast massage!

Learn some relaxation techniques to promote milk let-down

Take some deep breaths after you turn on your pump.  Put on some relaxing music.  Think about how amazing your body is as it provides warmth and nourishment to your baby.  If you need a mental break, dive into one of your favorite magazines.  This will help the time fly by!

Focus on your baby

Whether you have your baby near or you have to be away, you can focus on your baby by thinking about him and listening to a recording of him cooing or making sweet baby noises.  Have an item nearby that smells like your baby and place a picture in your pump bag (or on your phone).

Prepare to store your milk

There are a variety of bags and containers to safely store your milk in.  Bags made specifically for milk storage take up the least amount of room and will lay flat in your freezer.  Click here for current milk storage guidelines

Set up a pump station at home and/or at work

Have everything you need for pumping within arms’ reach.  Also have some water available to sip on, the TV remote or a book if that is how you choose to relax, a snack, and perhaps your headphones.

Listen to The Boob Group podcast episode, Maximize Your Breast Pumping Sessions

Sometimes just listening to helpful ideas from other moms can help normalize your situation, as well as motivate you.  These moms have made pumping work for them and so can you!

And finally, keep up the great work!

Remember, whether you baby is going to the breast or not, every drop counts!  You are providing a life-long gift to your baby.  And every minute you spend providing breastmilk to your baby is worth it.

What tricks worked best for you while exclusively pumping?