This page contains two topics: information for those just
starting to pump or pumping for the first time AND tips for
Starting to Pump
Once you have selected or rented a pump,
you can start collecting milk any time. In the first two weeks
after your baby is born, you may want to pump occasionally to
relieve engorgement - you can save this milk, but don't get
carried away. Pumping a lot in these early weeks tells your body
that you had triplets, and brings in an enormous milk supply.
While this may sound like a good thing, it puts you at very high
risk for breast problems like plugged ducts and engorgement.
When your baby is a little older, you
can start adding pumping to your daily routine. While it's not
necessary, it's comforting to have a little bit of a stash of
milk built up before you return to work. Warning - be sure to
read this page on smart use of
your freezer stash! To do this, start adding a pumping session
at about the same time each day as soon as you want to - but
it's best if it's at least two weeks before you return to work.
When you first start pumping, you will
get very little milk. This is normal. After all, you've
just spent the first weeks of your baby's life getting your milk
supply into an exact balance with your baby's needs. There's not
supposed to be any extra. What you're doing by pumping in
these early days is building a little bit of a stash, and
getting used to pumping. You're also increasing your milk supply
by just a little bit.
Placing the Order
By pumping at about the same time each day, you're telling your
body that it needs to make a little more - you're tricking your
body into thinking that your baby has really taken to that 10am
feeding! Even if you pump and no milk comes out at all, you're
placing the order for milk to be made later.
Learning to Pump
It may take you a while to get the hang of pumping. You may
be tense and worried about whether you'll be able to pump enough
(don't worry, you will). You may be uncomfortable with a machine
hooked to your breasts (imagine!). Don't worry, that's why you
practice. This time pumping at home teaches you how to set up
your pump, how to set it so that you get the most milk in the
least time, and most importantly, how to relax when you're
How often to pump?
When you're pumping at home to build up your supply and a stash
of milk, once a day is plenty. Don't make yourself crazy with
Once you go back to work, the common guideline is once for each
missed feeding. In general this works out to about three times
in a standard eight hour work day. But you'll have to adjust it
according to your baby's needs and your schedule.
- If your baby nurses every two
hours, you may need to spread out your pumping sessions a
little more, but make them a bit longer than your baby
- If you don't have time for enough
pumping sessions during the day, pump when you get up,
before work, after your baby goes to bed, or during the
night - it can be done!
- If your baby nurses very
infrequently, you may need to pump more often, since the
baby is usually more efficient at getting the milk out. See
the typical daily
schedule for how most moms fit it all in.
How long should you pump?
In short, you should pump until milk isn't coming out any
more. Or, if you're trying to boost your supply, pump a little
while longer after the milk stops flowing. I'm just not a
clock-watcher, I think you should do things until they're done.
But, in general, pumping for 15 minutes should do it for most
people. If you're having trouble letting down for the pump, read
the section on Better Pumping just a bit further down this page.
There is no harm in pumping for a few minutes after the milk
stops flowing, and it's a great way to send your body the
message that more milk is needed (if it is).
Contrary to popular belief, your pump does not get the milk out
of your breasts by brute force alone. Stronger suction does not
necessarily mean that you will get out more milk. Stronger
suction may mean that you're in excruciating pain, or that
you're damaging your breasts, so back off a little, OK? What
your pump needs to do to get the most milk out is imitate your
baby. Pay attention to how frequently your baby sucks and the
strength of that suction. Then try to adjust your pump to match
your baby. From there, you can experiment to see if slightly
more, less, faster or slower suction feels better and produces
more milk. What's the best setting? The one that works
for you, so don't pay attention to how other people's pumps are
set. It's a personal thing.
A few tricks can increase your pumping output without increasing
the amount of time it takes. The most effective ways to increase
your output are good relaxation skills and breast compressions -
both described here.
Relaxing while Pumping
To some people, relaxing while pumping is akin to asking
them to relax during a root canal, but it can be done. Relaxing
is important, because it's really hard to have a let-down if you
are tense. Some tips for relaxation:
- Positioning: Sit back in your
chair, don't tense your shoulders, and support the bottles
so that you don't have to lean forward.
- Environment: Play relaxing music,
have a comfortable chair for pumping, have a cup of tea
before you start - in general - be comfortable!
- Baby Cues: If you are away from
your baby when you are pumping, bring some cues to help you
think about your baby. Some mothers respond very strongly to
the smell of your baby, so bring whatever your baby slept in
last night (as long as there's not too much spit-up on it!)
Other moms respond better to pictures or sounds - you can
put photos of your baby right in many of the pump carriers,
or bring a tape of your baby's "hungry noises" (all out
crying doesn't usually work - it's too stressful)
- Bottle Watching: For me, the best
way to stop a let-down in its tracks was to watch the
bottles. I always had trouble pumping enough, and the stress
of watching the ounces was enough to severely limit my
ability to pump. Look at something else - anything! Say to
yourself "any breastmilk at all is a precious gift to my
baby" and visualize waterfalls, spilled milk trucks, your
baby's contented face after a feeding - whatever relaxes
- Activity: Some people like to work
while they are pumping - for me, pumping time was when I
rewarded myself for the hard work of the rest of the day (or
for a particularly good run at FreeCell). Find something you
enjoy doing while you pump - maybe the latest Janet
Evanovitch novel, maybe reading the paper or People
magazine, maybe surfing the web if you're lucky enough to
pump at a computer. Make it relaxing time. Or, if you're
stressed about the work you're missing,
and keep on working - whatever relaxes you best.
website has a nice exercise to help with relaxation
Doing breast compressions while you are
pumping can help stimulate additional let-downs, and helps to
thoroughly drain all of the milk ducts. While you are pumping,
use one hand to massage your breast from the armpits towards the
nipple (or as close as you can get without dislodging the pump
flange). Gradually increase the pressure, and finish with a few
firm squeezes of your breast, like you do when you are
hand expressing milk.
For maximum effect, couple this with
the "massage-stroke-shake" routine described by Chele
Marmet on the
website (the technique is described in the first response,
point #3). Remove the pump once the milk stops flowing. Then
massage each breast from the armpit to the nipple, then again
from the center of your chest towards each nipple. Stroke each
breast gently towards the nipple a few times. Bend over and
cup your breasts in your hands. Give each a good shake (a
relaxing shake, not a painful shake). Then put the pump back on
- you should see more milk begin to flow.
A Good Fit
If you have trouble pumping enough and have tried the above,
make sure that your pump is a good fit. Having the right size
flanges can really improve your pumping output. Be sure to read
the page on Fitting Your Pump
to make sure you have the right size flange or insert.