Do you ever use a breast pump? Most women who breastfeed do.  They may pump once. They may pump every few hours. They may pump for relief from engorgement or to get milk for a relief bottle. They may pump regularly at work.

Whether by necessity or choice, more and more mothers are pumping exclusively.

Whatever your reason is for pumping, every mom who does it wants to do it fast, get a lot of milk, and she wants it to be comfortable. I’m going to give you the secrets to all three.

It’s important to remember that many of these pumping tips are for a mom with the average milk supply. Moms with an overabundant milk supply or a low supply probably may respond differently.

Pumping Tip #1: Type of Pump

  • A good pump is worth every penny.
  • Either rent a pump or get a new one.
  • Some pumps are better than others, do your research or request my free pump review.
  • Pumps you buy are generally meant for the mom with the established milk supply.
    • It takes 4-6 weeks to establish your milk supply.
  • If your insurance company provides you with a breast pump, take advantage of this benefit. Most of them will give you one for each baby if three years have passed.
    • If it has been less than three years, which it has for a lot of moms (it was for me after my first baby), it is worth the money to get a new one if your last pump was well used.

Do not use someone else’s used pump. Just don’t do it.

Pumping tip #2: Time of Day

Your milk production varies throughout the day. It makes sense that how much milk you will get when you pump will differ too.

  • Most moms are going to have the most milk in the morning hours. You probably don’t want this kind of technical information. But I’m going to give it to you anyway, I promise, it will only be one sentence. Not even the whole sentence! The milk-making hormone, prolactin is at it’s highest levels in the very early morning hours.

Who wants to pump at two in the morning? Most moms I know want to sleep at 2 in the morning. If they are up feeding their little one, they want to get back to sleep as soon as they can. However, if you are a night person, go for it!

If you’re not a person, who functions well, or happily, in the middle of the night, pick a more civilized morning feeding time. I’m sure you have lots to choose from.

Pumping Tip #3: Before, During or After a Feeding?

How about in between feedings? Not a good time. You will get more milk. The reason you get more milk is that you are taking away part of your baby’s next meal. You generally don’t want that.

The best time to pump is right after a feeding. If you pump after a feeding, you are just taking the leftovers.

Consistency matters!

If you pump every day at the same time of day your supply will probably increase at this time of day. The first time you pump right after a feeding you may or may not get very much. After a week you will probably be getting more.

Pumping Tips for Occasional Pumpers

Back in the day (waaaay back) I used a single, battery operated pump and I did this all the time. You have to be comfortable with the cradle hold to be able to do this.

By the way, I didn’t use that pump because it was a great pump. It was pretty much the only pump available that wasn’t just a manual pump. Okay, now I’m really dating myself. Moving on!

Pumping Tips for Moms who are Working Pumpers

Working moms are pumping every day, several times a day. They really need a good pump. If your pump is starting to slack on you, check the parts that need to be replaced often.

On most Medela pumps, these little membrane things, Medela Extra Membranes, 2 Packs of 6 Membranes  are often the culprit to poor suction. My advice is to have several in your pump bag.

Even if you just put a brand new one on, if you still aren’t getting good suction, change them out again. Even brand-new things can be defective. I’ve learned that the hard way by being stubborn and thinking, “It can’t possibly be that because it’s brand new!” And sure enough, it was “that.”

A hands-free pumping accessory is one of the most useful things to a working mom. Women are multi-taskers, moms are super multi-taskers, and working moms are super multi-taskers of a higher level.

I found this amazing item Classic Hands-Free Pump&Nurse all-in-one Nursing Tank with built in hands-free pumping bra – Black, M. If you have the budget, I would buy enough to wear one every day. If you have a more frugal budget, you can make one.

It will save you time in terms of putting it on and taking it off, and be one less thing to pack, which means one less thing to forget. I also find that tanks allow me to wear a lot of tops that are just too low cut for the work place.

Exclusive Pumpers

I’ve written a whole post that addresses the unique needs of the mom who is exclusively

Pumping Tips for Comfort

breast milk pumping close up

The correct flange fit is important for both comfort and getting the most milk.

These are also called breast shields. Same thing, different name.

Your nipples should not rub against the sides of the flange. The flange should allow for a small bit of the areola to be pulled in.

One of the best pumping tips I have learned is that putting a tiny bit of lanolin or the nipple butter of your choice on the inside of the flange, right where it bends will make pumping infinitely more comfortable.

Tips to Pump Quickly

  • A good pump (I sound like a broken record with this, don’t I? The reason is that it affects so many things).
  • Hands-on pumping.Check out this video.

Pumping Tips I Don’t Recommend

  • Not washing your pump between pumping sessions. At the very least you will want a quick rinse with cool water and then a longer rinse with hot water.
  • I personally don’t like the wipes some companies sell for pump cleaning. When I trialed them, they left a residue on the parts.
  • Pumping into already expressed milk, unless it was within the last 4 hours and was not refrigerated. You want to avoid changing the temperature of the milk repeatedly as this encourages bacterial growth.

Milk storage times

While this isn’t technically a pumping tip, but I get asked this all the time. This is from the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (yes, there is an organization by that name; how cool is that?).

  Optimal Acceptable
Room Temp up to 85° 4 hours 6-8 hours
Insulated cooler bag 24 hours None given
Refrigerator 4 days 5-8 days
Freezer 6 months 6-12 months

Eglash, A., & Simon, L. (2017). ABM Clinical Protocol# 8: Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Full-Term Infants, Revised 2017. Breastfeeding Medicine12(7), 390-395.

Packing frozen breast milk storage bags

One Last Thought

Most women use a breast pump at one time or another. These tips should help you do it faster, get more milk and do it more comfortably.

Do you have any other pumping tips that you would like to share? Please tell us in the comments section.

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Next Time

The Reluctant Weanling