Milk Expression Tips
Tip #1: Relax & Let Mother Nature Do Her JobMother Nature designed your breasts to make milk when stimulated. The more stimulation they receive, the more milk they will make. So, when your baby’s milk needs increase, he or she will nurse more often. The increased stimulation and more frequent breast emptying signals your body to release hormones and proteins, which tell your body to make more milk. When your breasts need more stimulating, pumping becomes a different way of signaling your body to make more milk
Tip #2: Don’t Worry About a ScheduleMothers are typically advised to pump for 15-20 minutes every 3 hours. This may work for some moms but trying to follow this schedule can become stressful if it doesn’t fit with your lifestyle. But don’t worry – just like your baby does not necessarily feed on a schedule, you do not need to express on a schedule. In fact, the stress of worrying about schedules is counter-productive and can actually decreases your milk flow as stress turns off oxytocin, which is an important hormone for the production and release of milk.
Tip #3: Find a Way to Make Milk Expression Convenient For You
We want oxytocin turned on so our goal is to fit your schedule and keep you relaxed. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Do not watch the clock.
- Do not pump on a set schedule.
- Keep a container nearby and hand express for a few minutes frequently throughout the day.
- Relax by listening to music, reading a book, talking to a friend or putting your feet up.
- Consider taking a hot shower or using warm compresses before pumping/hand expressing to help your milk flow.
- Cover your pump with a towel so you do not worry about the amount of milk. There is nothing wrong with a slow trickle or small amounts of milk.
- Even pumping on an empty breast and expressing just a little milk helps increase your milk supply because your breasts are still getting told to make more milk.
Tip #4: Let Your Body Tell You How Often to PumpWomen frequently ask how often they should pump but there is not one right answer. The important thing is to pump for what feels right for you. If you are trying to increase your milk supply, a general rule of thumb is to pump after the baby feeds or for 10 to 15 minutes instead of a feed. However, if you need to interrupt to take care of a sibling, go the bathroom or eat, that is fine. Just as your baby’s nursing session can be interrupted and returned to in a bit, so can your pumping. In fact, the break may even be a beneficial signal to your body. To maintain or increase supply the number of feedings and pumping should be as often as your Magic Number ( see Low milk supply for definition) or more.
Tip #5: Switch Things Up & Try Cluster PumpingCluster pumping provides breast stimulation concentrated into parts of the day and frees up other parts for a longer nap or other necessities. This allows you to pump at irregular times and for various lengths. The goal is to pump whenever you can for however long you can. If, for example, you have a free hour in the middle of the day, pump for 10 minutes, take a 10-15 minute break to relax and then pump again for another 10 minutes. Keep the pattern up for an hour or so.
Tip #6: If Your Milk Production Needs a Boost, Try Power Pumping
Sometimes your milk needs an extra boost to increase the volume. This may happen if your supply had a slow start in the hospital, you were sick or separated from your baby or if your baby has trouble latching. Adding a few extra pumping sessions into your day can be helpful. While you are unlikely to see an immediate increase in milk production, you can be sure that your body is processing your order and the extra milk will be available a few days later. With power pumping, you pump like crazy knowing you cannot maintain this schedule for more than a couple of days. Examples of power pumping include:
- Pump for 10 minutes every hour for a day.
- Pump a lot all morning then the next day pump a lot in the evening.
- Pump on and off for an hour; for example, 10 minutes on, then 10 minutes off for an hour, once or twice a day for a couple of days.
- Define your own routine of power pumping to make it easier for you!
Tip #7: Hand Expression
Don’t forget about hand expression (see The Basics of Breast Massage and Hand Expression). Hand expression can be just as effective as pumping. Studies out of Stanford University have found that hand expression combined with pumping increases milk production more than pumping alone. Click here for their video on hands on pumping for a demonstration.
Hand expression is also a great option when you do not have your pump with you.