Breast Pump Tips

There are many reasons to pump breast milk. You may want to pump so your baby can continue drinking breastmilk while you’re at work. Or you may need to pump to increase your milk supply or want to pump so you can shop or eat out without your baby.

Our breast pump tips will help make it an easier, more enjoyable experience.

Do Some Practice Runs

If you plan to pump so that you can return to work, do some trial days a week or two before. On these days, pump at home at the times you will be pumping at the office.

Similarly, if you’re planning a night out, try pumping a full bottle a few days before. (After their first month, most babies drink up to three or four ounces at a time.)

By doing some trial runs, you won’t feel pressure for everything to go perfectly right away. Plus, it can take some time to get used to the sensation of the mechanical suction.

Get Comfy

While you can pump anywhere, including in a food court, you might prefer a cozy space while you get used to pumping. It’s easier to let down milk if you feel relaxed.

You may wish to listen to relaxing music and pack a blanket for your chest and shoulders. Keep in mind, it can take around 15 minutes to empty both breasts — or 30 minutes if you’re pumping one at a time.

If you’re back at work, U.S. federal law requires that all workplaces provide a private room to pump, and bathrooms don’t count. (The law applies to most employees, save for a few exceptions such as truckers or farmworkers.)

Think About Your Baby

Milk flows from the breast due to the let down reflex. To trigger this reflex, it helps to think about your baby. You can close your eyes and imagine holding and feeding your baby, for instance.

Some women find looking at photos or videos of their baby on their phone helps them let down milk.

Use the Right Size

The flange is the funnel part of the pump that fits around your nipple. Make sure you use a flange size that is right for your breasts. This ensures that the suction is properly stimulating your breasts to let down milk.

When the suction draws your nipples into the tunnels of the flanges, there should be very little space around them. Otherwise, it’s too big.

At the same time, your nipples shouldn’t rub against the sides of the flanges. If that’s happening, the flanges are too small. This image demonstrates how the flange should fit.

Consider a Hands-Free Approach

Don’t feel you have the time to pump? Hands-free pumping lets you type, talk on the phone, or eat lunch while you pump. A pumping bra holds the flanges of the pump tightly in place against your breast so your hands can be free.

Some clinics and stores that rent or sell breast pumps also sell pumping bras. You can call ahead to see if a spot near you has any available to try on.

Or consider a “wearable” breast pump. These fit inside your bra and allow you to pump while in motion without the encumbrance of wires or tubing connecting you to a single spot.

Try Massage

Try this simple breast pump tip to release milk more efficiently as you pump: start with your fingers and thumb in a ‘C’ position (or backwards ‘C’ on your righthand).

Place your hand near or at the back of your breast, with your thumb at the top and your fingers at the bottom. Move your fingers and thumb toward the areola, or nipple, applying pressure as you do so. Next, do this same motion but turn your hand so that you are massaging the sides of your breast.

To stimulate your breasts to let down milk, you may wish to massage both before pumping and at the start of pumping. Try massaging near the end as well. It can help you empty the breast faster as the milk flow slows down.

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Additional nutritional information to include

Dr. Lisa Enger and Dr. Nancy M. Hurst. Patient education: Pumping breast milk (Beyond the basics). UpToDate. Link

Dr. Diana Mayer. Breastfeeding FAQs. American Academy of Pediatrics. Link

United States Department of Labor. Nursing mothers workplace protections. Link

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About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.