Pumping 101: Tips for Breastfeeding Mothers

Breast pumping is not easy – here is a list of all the breast pumping tips a mother could use!

Here are 25+ breast pumping tips and tricks for breastfeeding mothers!

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Pumping is hard work.

And I’m not talking about pumping iron. ?

When I envisioned breastfeeding my second son, I imagined it would go much like the experience with my first. Jack latched on great, loved to nurse, gained weight, and it was an enjoyable time for both of us! I don’t even remember experiencing any pain! I pumped three times when I nursed him. I figured it would be the same with Oliver, so I didn’t even get my breast pump out of storage before he was born.

Well, Oliver latched on great. And, to me, it seemed like he was doing quite well. And then we went to an appointment at 10 days of age, and his pediatrician thought he hadn’t gained enough weight. If I knew what I knew know, I would have smiled and kept doing what I was doing. But she seriously freaked me out, and it sent me into a cycle of feeding, pumping, and bottle feeding for a time. Then he developed reflux, had somewhat of a lazy latch (most likely due to a posterior tongue tie and possibly a lip tie) and once again had trouble gaining weight, and I had to start feeding him 2-3 ounces of extra fatty breast milk to get him through that time.

Yes, my pump and I become best friends. I spent hours googling about pumping. I was introduced to a whole new world of breastfeeding. It was hard. Sometimes I just wanted to throw the pump against the wall. But to me, it was worth it. I wanted to feed my son breast milk, and I was determined to do it.

While I slowly was able to wean him away from the supplemental feedings, and we now  breastfeed full-time, I feel like I learned a lot. I encountered mothers who pumped day and night for their babies (seriously, warrior mamas there). I learned different techniques, which pumps were the best, and found myself cheering for other moms in support groups I was in every time they posted a picture of a bottle of breast milk they pumped.

So, I thought I would put together a resource full of all the information that found especially useful during my pumping days. I still pump occasionally now, and while I never pumped exclusively, I feel like I learned a lot. Hopefully if you find yourself my position – desperately Googling the Internet in the late hours for tips for pumping success – you’ll find this post useful.

Also, one of the best things you can do is take a lactation course and have a qualified IBCLC on hand. I highly recommend the online Simply Breastfeeding course, but if you aren’t sure you want to pay for it, definitely check out their free “Getting Ready to Breastfeed” course. The paid course includeds 1 on 1 phone calls with the ladies, as well as access to a forum. I think the phone calls are worth the $40 alone! These women are amazing! (and for a limited time, you can get the course for 50% off using the code SIMPLY50).

How you choose to feed your baby is entirely up to you. Isn’t it great that we live in a time where we have so many options?! Pumping is exhausting. But breastfeeding can be too. And making bottles of formula can be too.

Do what is best for you and your baby, and if you find that pumping isn’t for you – that’s great too. However, if you want to feed your baby breast milk, and pumping is how you have to do it, then you’ve got my full support. Feed the baby. That’s what is important!

Thanks to Avent for making this post possible. 

Tips for Pumping Success

If you are struggling with supply, make sure to read my post on increasing breast milk supply!

Getting Started with Pumping

So, you may wonder why someone would need to pump. Well, some ladies have to go back to work. Others have babies who just cannot latch on for whatever reason. Some babies have to be fed through a tube, and their moms want to provide them with breast milk. Like me, supplementing may be necessary at times, and if you are wanting to breastfeed and have to do this, your own breast milk is the best supplement. And then, of course, some people just want to be able to leave their baby with a bottle of milk every now and then. Whatever your reason, hopefully these tips will help!

Follow the Instructions

This is so important. Even if you have pumped before and are using a new pump – read the instructions. I recently started using the Avent Comfort Double Electric Pump, and I won’t lie – at first, I didn’t think it worked. I tried to use it like I used my other pump (skipped the letdown phase), and I got droplets. However, once I went back and read the instructions, looked for a few different tips online (such as removing the comfort shields), I was able to produce a decent amount of milk! Every pump is different, especially when you jump to a new brand.

Use a Quality Pump

Look around for reviews on different pumps and see which one you think will work best. Insurance companies are required to provide lactating mothers with breast pumps, so make sure you check with your insurance to see what type of pump they provide. Some companies will give you an option of a couple of different ones, and others have a specific pump.

I used a pump that wasn’t super high quality at one point, and it felt like I would pump forever just to get 1/2 an ounce. However, when I upgraded to a much more powerful pump, it made a world of difference (in my output and in my sanity!)


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Consider a Different Pump

If you aren’t having success with a certain kind of pump, consider switching out to a new one. Like I said earlier, all pumps are different and you may respond better to one over another. I know people who switched pumps and doubled (even tripled) their output.

I used a hospital grade pump for the first while with Oliver, which was very helpful. However, those are SUPER expensive (even to rent), so if you can get by with another pump, I would. I do have to say that I do like the Avent Comfort Double Pump. It’s definitely the most comfortable pump that I’ve used (no sore nipples). I also like that it’s smaller – I feel like it’s easier to pump with, and the parts are simpler to use. It actually has worked better for me than the hospital grade pump I used for awhile.

Lots of women I know absolutely RAVE about the Spectra Pumps. There are two versions, but everyone  I know who has used one says that they are just as good as hospital grade pumps, but they are just around $100. There are people who have used these pumps successfully that haven’t been able to pump at all with other pumps. I highly recommend looking into them.

Surprisingly, I also really love having a hand pump. It’s nice for using at night, having more control over the suction, etc. I’ve gotten more from a hand pump on occasion then I ever got from an electric. It just takes a lot more work! I use the Medela Harmony Hand Pump.

Pump as Often as Baby eats

If you want to pump exclusively, you need to pump every time (or within a reasonable amount of time) baby eats. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand thing, so if you want to produce the amount of breast milk your baby needs. You can’t expect to pump enough milk for your baby if you are only pumping once or twice a day!

Even if you aren’t pumping exclusively, if you want to maintain your supply, whenever you feed your baby a bottle, make sure you pump!

Set realistic expectations

So, there are a couple different types of moms who pump. Moms who breastfeed full-time and will occasionally pump for an extra bottle. Moms who try to breastfeed full time but may have to supplement with their breast milk. Moms who breastfeed when they are home but have to go back to work and pump during that time. And then there are the warrior mamas who pump day and night for their babes.

If you are breastfeeding full time, don’t expect to pump ounces and ounces of breast milk when you pump. For one, if you did do this, it may indicate an oversupply, which isn’t as wonderful as it may sound. According to Kelly Mom, women who pump upon breastfeeding full-time can typically pump between .5 and 2 ounces after a breastfeeding session.

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Double Pump

If you just are planning to pump every now and then, you’ll probably be okay with a single electric pump (some people like manual pumps – I do not.) However, if you will be pumping every day, a double pump will save you. Seriously. When I first started having to pump after every feed with Oliver, I only had a single pump, and it made the process so much longer and more difficult. It was a great moment when I got a double pump to use!

Pump while baby eats

This was suggested to me when I was having to triple feed (breastfeed, pump, bottle feed Oliver.) It was an exhausting process, but it made it a little simpler. Basically, I would feed Oliver on one side and then when I switched him to the next, I would pump on the other side while he ate. It can take some practice to get the hang of. I highly recommend using a pumping bra if you do this. It can be tricky to hold a baby and pump at the same time!

Have you ever heard of the milkies collection cups? They are so cool. They are little shields you can wear that collect milk that drips while you are pumping or nursing on one side. When I would collect this milk, I would sometimes get over an ounce! Every little bit of milk counts.

I have also heard wonderful things about the Zerlar Manual Pump. It’s only $15, but it works by using suction. Just put it on the other breast while you nurse, and let it work its magic!

Don’t get discouraged

Pumping is something you have to practice at. There are lots of techniques involved in getting more milk out (quickly). I’ll talk about that in a bit, but don’t feel discouraged if you struggle at first!

Something I see a lot of women talking about is when they get concerned that their supply is dropping. This is very common to happen after about the first six weeks of a baby’s life when a supply is getting regulated. Some women may go from pumping several ounces after a few to very little. This is NOT indicative of your supply. More than likely, it’s just a sign that your body is regulated to your baby’s needs. Of course, if you find that you aren’t pumping enough to meet your baby’s needs, you could consider pumping an additional time or do power pumping. I’ll talk about a few different ways to optimize supply at the end.

Make yourself comfortable

You don’t want pumping to be a horrible experience that you dread every time you do it. Yes, it may not seem as loving and warm as breastfeeding your baby, but it can be a good experience. Put some nice music on (white noise is always a favorite of mine), sit in a comfortable rocking chair, fill up a glass with ice, cold water, and just make your pumping time a time to relax. If you are using a hands-free pumping bra, you can even bring a book or magazine in!

I recently learned about the Freemie pumping system, and it’s brilliant! It works with most pumps, and it’s a silent system that you can use with your shirt on! If I had to pump frequently outside my home, I would definitely buy this. This would be great for offices!


Have a routine

Make pumping a part of your daily schedule so it doesn’t seem so cumbersome. Invest in a breast pump car adapter for your car so you can pump on the go (or just bring a manual breast pump with you places.) If you know in advance what your schedule is going to be, it will be easier to do.

How Long

I typically try and pump for about 10 minutes or for at least two letdowns. However, this will vary depending on who you are. Some women may pump for five minutes and get a ton and others may have to pump for 15 minutes or more. You may need to experiment to see what works best for you. Even if you pump dry for a little bit, it can signal to your body that you may need to produce more (only do this if you really do need to increase your supply!)

Don’t Pump if You Don’t Have To

After being in some different breastfeeding groups, I’ve found that people are quite proud of their breast milk supply. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I like having a nice little stash of my own. However, if you don’t need to pump milk regularly, you don’t have to. I pumped three times with Jack. THREE. And if I don’t have to pump, I don’t. Even if you are going back to work, my lactation consultant would always tell everyone to put the pump down until about four weeks postpartum and just enjoy your baby. I mean, in my case, I didn’t have much of a choice and had to pump for awhile. However, if you don’t have to, don’t stress about it. You don’t really need a huge stockpile of breast milk! With Jack, I probably had three ounces in my freezer.

Some people think that if you are really engorged you should pump. However, it is often a better idea to just hand express to comfort. If your baby doesn’t need to eat then, and you pump, it’s just signaling to your body that you still need milk at that time, which you may not.

If you find yourself with an excess of milk you’ve pumped, consider becoming a donor to a milk bank!

Get Encouragement

Something that drives me crazy is when people say something like, “Why would you pump? Just feed the formula.” Okay, if you want to feed your baby formula – then great! That’s totally your choice, and I support it 100%. However, if you want your baby to get breast milk and you are able to produce it, then no one should give you grief otherwise.

Attend lactation support groups (La Leche League is awesome). Make sure your pediatrician is breastfeeding friendly. Find an amazing IBCLC. Join a breastfeeding support group on Facebook or BabyCenter. There are groups on both those sites that are created specifically for exclusive pumpers (here is the BabyCenter group). If you want to feed your baby breast milk, and if breastfeeding straight from the breast isn’t always an option – you can do it. Surround yourself with those that support you.

Optimizing Output

Remind yourself of baby

If you aren’t with your baby when you are pumping, it can make it a lot harder for some women to produce the hormones that stimulate breast milk production. If you are working, you may be far away from your baby! Here are a few suggestions to help you feel closer to your baby as you pump:

  • Put a blanket that they use or an outfit around your neck as you pump so you can smell their scent
  • Look at pictures or video of your baby
  • If your caregiver allows it, request to be on video chat with your baby as you pump!

Lean forward

I have found that when I’m leaning back in a chair, I don’t pump as much. I think by leaning forward, milk flows a little better. However, I know this can be super uncomfortable to just sit straight up and forward. That’s one of the reasons why I like the Avent Comfort Double Pump specifically. It’s designed to allow you to sit in a more relaxed, reclined position and still help produce milk.

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Relax

Stress can seriously impact your supply! I honestly believe one of the reasons Oliver was having trouble getting milk for awhile was because of the stress I was put under (but that’s a whole other story.) Do you very best to try and eliminate all stress in your life, especially when you are pumping. Pump in a quiet room away from all distractions.

Pump an hour after breastfeeding

If you pump immediately following your breastfeeding session, you likely won’t get a lot. Your breasts won’t be as full so a letdown won’t happen as easily. I found that pumping 30 minutes to an hour after I pumped (and at least an hour before the next time I breastfeed) helps me to pump more milk.

Some people worry about doing a pumping session to close to when you will breastfeed. I try to make sure I don’t pump within an hour of when I’m going to nurse, mainly because Oliver is a big fan of getting milk right away (and sometimes if I’ve pumped too close, letdown takes too long.) However, it is a myth that your breasts are ever empty. They aren’t! Milk is constantly being produced – it sometimes just takes more time than others to draw that milk out. But the good news is, you’ll likely be producing some nice hindmilk when you pump or breastfeed more frequently!

Breast Massage and Compressions

There is a great video that talks about hands on pumping – it basically is a way to use your hands to help draw more milk out of the breast. Breast massage before and during pumping, along with compressions, can help to increase milk flow and help increase the amount of hindmilk that is drawn out. This video shows a little bit about breast message, and this article talks a bit about it as well.

Breast compressions are helpful to help get milk flowing. I used this a lot when Oliver was having trouble transferring milk, but it helps with pumping as well. You can find out more about breast compression here.

Change out parts

There are many parts to a pump, and they often wear out pretty quickly. I recommend changing the membranes in the pump every month if you use it every day. Most pump parts are available on Amazon! This is one foR the first things I would do if milk output went down.


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Power Pumping

When a breastfed baby is going through a growth spurt, they will often want to eat more frequently (which will obviously signal your body to produce more milk.) Power pumping basically mimics a growth spurt. The IBCLC I used to see would say that you’re placing an order for milk when you do this, and it will comes in within 24-72 hours. If you are having supply issues, this is a great option.

Basically, you pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes and repeat this cycle for an hour, even if you are just pumping dry. Most of the time doing this once a day can be effective, but some women find they need to do it more frequently. Again, this isn’t something everyone has to do – but if you feel you need more milk, it’s a good option.

Don’t forget to signup here to get your free power pumping reference guide sent straight to your email.

Pump extra in the morning

Prolactin levels are highest in the morning, especially early morning (we’re talking 2-3 AM.) I always pump twice in the morning that I do in the afternoon. I know a lot of women that will still pump once during the night even when their baby is sleeping through the night just because they get so much more.

Decrease time between pumps

From everything I’ve read, it’s more effective to pump closer together for shorter periods of time rather than increase the time between pumps and increase how long you pump. Plus, the more frequently you pump, the emptier your breasts will be which typically results in more fatty hindmilk!

Tips to Save your Sanity

Try different size flanges

Most pumps just come with one or two sizes of flanges. There are many different sizes and shapes of breasts and nipples. Most pump manufacturers do have different size flanges available, so if you are feeling like you aren’t pumping very much or it’s particularly painful, consider trying a different size. I’ve heard awesome things about the Pumpin’ Pals flange set, which are compatible with lots of different breast pumps. This is a great resource for determining if your flange is the correct size. IBCLCs can help, too!

Zerlar Manual Pump

I have been hearing RAVE reviews about this $15 manual pump. Not only is it all one piece, which makes cleaning a breeze, but people use it often while nursing on the opposite side and get a lot! I’m not exactly sure how it works, but everyone seems to act like you don’t even really have to do anything but attach it to the breast. If you try it out, I’d love to hear how it works for you.

Pumping Bra

I will admit that I have never purchased a pumping bra, but almost every time I pump, I wish I had one. It makes it so you can read a book, look at your phone, or even hold your baby while you pump. I think that they make it easier to do breast compressions and massage as well. I even know people that pump while they drive, thanks to their pumping bra. Here are a few recommendations:

Simple Wishes Hands-Free Pumping Bra – this appears to be the most highly recommended one on Amazon.
LactaMed Simplicity Pumping Bra – Looks a little weird, but it’s less expensive than most!
Relaxed All-in-One Hands-Free Pumping and Nursing Bra


Freeze in 2-3 ounces

While it might be tempting to want to fill up an entire breast milk storage bag with breast milk, sometimes it’s better to just freeze them in the amounts that your baby will eat them. Then you can take them out as you need them and not worry about using up extra if you defrosted too much. You can freeze it in the freezer bags in smaller ounce increments, use breast milk freezer trays, or even freeze them in disposable breast milk freezer cups.

Put everything in the refrigerator

Something that I learned that made pumping so much easier was that I didn’t have to wash and sanitize the parts every time I pumped! You can actually put everything in the refrigerator, and it will be okay to use later that day. I would recommend washing and sanitizing at the end of the day. I really liked having a bottle sanitizer or a breast pump parts sanitizing bag, just to make sure there was no bacteria leftover to get into the liquid gold!

Kiinde Breast Milk Pump Storage Kit

I love this system! They are bags that you pump directly in to. I always am a little bit sad at the remnant of breast milk that always seems to stay behind in the bottles when I pump. By using the Kiinde bags, you don’t have to worry about losing any of that precious breast milk. You can also attach a nipple to them and feed directly from the bag!


Pump water out of tubing

One of the most annoying parts of a pump to clean is the tubing! The little water droplets are tricky to get out. What I do is hang them up to dry overnight and then the next day, I attach them to the breast pump and turn it on with just the tubing attached. I let it run for about five to ten minutes, and it pumps out all the extra water droplets!

Guidelines on Storing Breastmilk

Remember – you can combine different pumps together! Just make sure they are the same temperature before doing so. You can also refreeze breast milk, so long as you can see ice crystals in the milk.

Make sure you transfer breast milk to containers using clean, sterile hands. Do not reuse breast milk storage bags. You want to make sure you get all excess air out of the bags! A lot of women like to freeze the bags by laying them flat in the freezer as it makes it easier to store later.

There are different guidelines floating around pertaining to how long breast milk is good at different temperatures. The IBCLC I saw gave me the 7-7-7 rule. Seven hours on the counter, seven days in the fridge, and seven months in a freezer (though in a deep freezer, more like a year.) However, there are different recommendations, so consult your consultant for their opinion.

Do not defrost the milk in the microwave. You can use a bottle warmer or just warm water!

As I mentioned above, you can store your milk in freezer bags, in freezer trays (and then transfer them to a freezer bag), or in breast milk cups!

Make sure to grab your FREE breastfeeding storage and power pumping guide by signing up here

Haven’t had your baby yet? Save some money and time, and sign up for this amazing prenatal class from Hilary Erickson, RN. She’s amazing and so is her class.For a limited time, you can get 10% off most options using the code ccpnc, or $10 off the deluxe course!

Other Breastfeeding Posts You May Enjoy:

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17 Truths About Breastfeeding

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The Ultimate Guide to Increasing Breast Milk Supply

The Ultimate Guide (2)

The Ultimate Guide to Bottle feeding your Breastfed Baby

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 I am part of the PTPA Brand Ambassador Program with Philips Avent and I received Compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

I am not a breastfeeding specialist of any kind. I’m just a mother passionate about breastfeeding who has done a lot of research and thought I’d share it with those interested! Always work with an IBCLC if you are having breastfeeding issues!

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48 Comments

    • Thanks Chelsea! And seriously - I hate holding the pumps on. I really need to invest in one. I know some people say you can just cut slits in a sports bra, so I guess that's a cheap hack. I think the actual one would be a lot nicer though :) I'm glad you liked the post though! I figure I might as well turn my crazy, middle-of-the-night researching into something useful :)
  • I would use for me. I have a 7 week old and I have had to pump and feed her with a bottle due to tongue tied issues. It has been an interesting and hard experience. Thank you for all the tips and info. Really helpful.
    • Hi Janalyn! I'm so sorry about your baby's tongue tie issues. I know that can be so difficult. Oliver has a posterior tongue tie, which isn't as bad as some, but it's been rough. I'm a part of a great Tongue Tie support group on FB if you would like to join! I hope everything works out, and that these tips will help you!
  • Thank you this indepth post. I am pregnant with twins and would like to breastfeed/pump without supplements. I want to be as successful as possible. Your post will definitely help with that. I was very successful with my first born. But with two, i may have to supplemnt by but hopefully not. I wasn't really satisfied with my hands free bra, thanks for the suggestions. I used advent bottles for my first born but used a medela pump. I would love to win the adventpump hoping it will help produce more milk. Thanks again for this in depth post.
    • Oh I'm so glad you found it helpful! Twins might be difficult at first, but I have no doubt you'll be able to do it. I think one of the most important things you can do is find an excellent IBCLC who will help you come up with a plan. Meet with them before the baby is born even! Here is an excellent resource: http://www.llli.org/faq/twins.html Good luck and way to go for wanting to breastfeed your twins!
    • I hope they help! I have a post coming out on Monday about tips for helping breast milk supply, so I hope you'll check back for that!
  • Thanks for the tips, I am a part time working momma and going from breastfeeding to pumping every week is no fun! Hopefully these tips will help!
    • You are very welcome!! I hope that you'll have some more success. If you are having trouble with supply, I have a post tomorrow about increasing breastmilk supply :)
  • One tip I found online made my nursing bra a pumping bra. Use two ponytail holders on each side and hook your shield using the hooks at the top of the top of the cup on nursing bra. Check your favorite search engine to see some great diagrams of this. I also bought a cheap extender for the back of my nursing bras. This allowed me to use the same set of nursing bras for maternity, nursing and pumping, even as my size fluctuated greatly during this time.
  • There's a lot of misinformation out there about pumping. I was ebf and pumping when I had free time and I thought something was wrong with me because I was barely pumping anything. I wish I would have read this post sooner.
    • I'm so sorry you had problems! There really is a lot of misinformation out there about pumping. I hope that this post will help others in the future as well.
  • Thank you for the tips! My son also has posterior tongue tie and Lip tie. We are pumping and bottle feeding. He recently got it revised and now we are working on getting back to breast. I'd love to know how you were able to get your son back to the breast successfully.
    • Oh I'm so glad you were able to get him revised. I'm sure that will make such a difference. I will try and write a post about getting baby back to breast - but in the meantime, feel free to send me an email at katie@clarkscondensed.com. I'm always happy to help fellow breastfeeding mommy's in whatever way I can!
  • I just want to say thank you! I just returned to work and have been pretty much been exclusively pumping since 2 weeks postpartum. I'm still learning so much about breastfeeding! This is great information.
  • Thanks for the tips! Its always good to have advise! If I win, I will use it for my second which is due around the end of the month!
  • I'm due in July and am worried about figuring out a pumping schedule that will be good for me when I go back to work. I stumbled upon this post and it's very informative. Thanks for all the tips for first time moms/pumpers.
  • I would love to win a pump to use for myself to have breast milk on hand for my 6 week old when go back to work
  • These tips are presented in a way that makes me feel like it's my friend telling me about them. Also, they are very informative!!! I've never read any breastfeeding information quite like it.
  • Love the tip about keeping pump parts in the fridge between pumping sessions, such a time saver.
  • My son had compilations at birth and now resides in the NICU and will for a time, and I've been pumping to give him the best of what he can but I have only been able to fill about 1/3 of a bottle per breast and I am trying to make more. I will definitely giving these tips a try.
    • Good luck! You are doing a hard thin, especially with your baby being in the NICU. Feel free to join our breastfeeding support group! :)
  • Ive been washing my pumping stuff after everytime I pump. That would save me so much time at work! Do you rinse your pumping stuff after each time you pump or just put it directly in a bag in the fridge and then wash and sterilize at the end of the day?
  • Hey there, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your website in Ie, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, very good blog!
  • You could add- some women just want to pump and find it easier and more convienent. I liked the freedom of being able to have my husband feed our daughter and I liked being able to leave her so I could enjoy my time out. Not everyone enjoys breast feeding.

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