Menu

14 ways to pump more milk, mama

Increase your milk supply with these 14 tips

pumping-more-milk

Pumping is a wonderful way to provide your baby with breastmilk when nursing is not an option (or a desire). But let's face it—pumping is hard. It's a bit robotic, plus it requires a great deal of planning, lugging around of gear and cleaning.

When pumping mamas find a drop in their milk supply, it can be even harder. But fear not.

Here are 14 things to try to increase your pumped milk supply:

1. Check your pump

Is it in optimal working order? Do the batteries need to be replaced or is the cord fraying? Is it possible that the motor is starting to tire out?

If you're concerned that your pump isn't working perfectly, give the manufacturing-brand a call. They may be able to help you diagnose what's going on over the phone.

FEATURED VIDEO

Also, take a look at all the pump accessories. Is there a crack in one of the tubes? Are those impossible small membranes intact (or present at all… says the mama who has washed them down the sink on many occasions)?

2. Clean your pump

Doing a deep clean of your pump and all the pieces every once in a while is a good idea—the frequency depends on how often you use it, but you could aim for once every two weeks as a baseline.

Even though you clean the parts a lot, it is possible for milk residue to accumulate, decreasing the functionality of the parts. Boiling the tubes, membranes, valves, and flanges for a few minutes will help loosen any gunk.

3. Assess the flanges

Flanges are the plastic trumpet-looking pieces that you place on your breasts when pumping. When it comes to flanges, size definitely matters. If you are not getting enough milk it is possible that you need to change your flange size (most likely up, though possibly down). To get an idea of what's right for you, most pump brands have a flange fitting guide available on their websites.

4. Get comfy

Have you ever found yourself finishing a pumping session and finding that your back aches? (🙋🏽♀️) Finding the right position to pump in can be awkward, especially when we need to pump in non-conventional places. (Has anyone else pumped in an airport bathroom stall?) But, research finds that when women are comfortable, they usually produce more milk.

Do what you can to make your environment comfortable. Support your lower back with pillows—a breastfeeding pillow can work for pumping too! And pay attention to your shoulders—keep them low and relaxed, not hunched up by your ears.

5. Look at a picture of your baby

Pumping does not exactly inspire warm, lovey-dovey emotions. Sure, you know that you are doing something wonderful for your baby. But the act of pumping is fairly mechanical—and this lack of emotional can impact the amount of milk you produce.

When your baby latches to your breast, your body releases oxytocin, the love hormone, which helps your milk let-down. Try to emulate this by looking at some photos or videos of your baby while you are pumping to get you oxytocin, and milk, flowing.

6. Pump as often as your baby eats

Milk is made by supply and demand—the more your tiny boss demands, the more your body will supply. When the frequency of emptying the breasts changes, our body get the message that it needs to make more or less milk accordingly. More emptying = more milk, less emptying = less milk.

Pumping frequently can be a challenge, but to the extent that you are able to, try to pump as frequently as your baby eats. If your baby eats every three hours, your breasts will "want" to empty every three hours in order to maintain their milk supply.

If work or life is extra hectic, see if you can pump for even a few minutes. A really short pumping session is better than none at all.

7. Double pump

Research indicates that double pumping—pumping both breasts at the same time—produces more milk in a single session than pumping just one breast. If you need your hands to multitask while pumping, try a pumping bra to hold the flanges in place.

8. Try a pumping marathon

A great way to boost your milk supply to do a pumping marathon, sometimes called cluster pumping.

Carve out an hour or so of your day, get comfy (and get snacks), and then pump for three sessions within that hour. Pump for 15 minutes, take a 10-minute break, pump again for 15 minutes, take a 10-minute break, and then pump again for 15 minutes. Try doing this for a few days in a row.

This on-again-off-again milk removal sends a ton of those "make more milk" signals to your brain, which will over time, increases your supply.

This can be a challenge, for sure. It can be hard enough to find time for one pumping session, let alone a marathon. The good news is that now that wearable pumps like Willow are available, you can even power pump and multitask.

9. Nurse, then pump

If you are also breastfeeding your baby, you can try to add a little pumping in after you nurse. You don't have to do it at every feeding—once or twice a day is great. Remember, breastmilk is made by supply and demand. So, when your baby has finished making their demands, use your pump to make a few more. Your body will learn to supply more milk accordingly.

10. Find your zen

My favorite meme ever shares the well-known fact: Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down.

So I am really sorry to say this, mama: Try to relax.

As every mom who has tried to cram a pumping session in between meetings at work knows, stress can decrease your milk supply. So to the extent that you can, try to find your pumping zen.

This will look different for everyone. Maybe you take one minute before you start to take some deep breaths and listen to a mini-meditation on your phone. Maybe you do a couple of quick yoga poses. Or maybe pumping happens after a quick walk to get some fresh air.

In a viral pumping hack, one mom shared that she puts a sock over the bottles she is pumping into so that she can't see—and therefore worry about—the amount of milk she produces.

Find whatever it is that brings you peace and calm, and prioritize it—your milk supply and your stress level will thank you.

11. Consider your health

Making breastmilk is hard work. Sometimes when milk production is a little low it's a sign that something is up in our bodies. So do a self check-in.

Are you eating enough? The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends adding 450 to 500 calories to your daily recommended caloric intake, which is as follows:

  • Sedentary: 1,800 to 2,000 calories per day
  • Moderately active: 2,000 to 2,200 calories per day
  • Active: 2,200 to 2,400 calories per day

Are you drinking enough? Generally speaking, we recommend that nursing and pumping women drink about 10 eight-ounce glasses of water per day, but try not to stress about it—focus on drinking enough fluid to not be thirty.

Are you getting sick? Illness can take the body's focus away from milk production as it fights whatever is brewing. If you are sick, keep on breastfeeding or pumping with the same frequency (assuming your provider hasn't told you not to). Even if less milk is coming out, you want to keep sending that make-milk signal to your brain, so that when you're better, your supply can go back to normal.

Speaking of health…

12. Take a pregnancy test

A sudden drop in breastmilk may happen if your body is needing to send all its resources to something else… like a new pregnancy.

13. Try some galactagogues

The scientific jury is out on whether galactagogues—or foods and herbs that increase breast milk—actually work. Anecdotally though, women have had tremendous success.

Check out this guide to surprising foods that may increase your supply.

14. Talk to a professional

Reach out to your OB provider and a lactation consultant. They can help you assess what the problem is and find the right solution—which may include specific herbs and medications.

Hang in there, mama. You've got this.

You might also like:

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


Keep reading Show less
Shop

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Life

Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

Keep reading Show less
Life