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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.

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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.

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So far 2020 has been a year of big changes for Meghan Markle and her husband, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. Earlier this month the royal couple announced plans step back and senior members of the royal family. Initially, the plan was for the couples to retain their royal tiles and raise their "son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born" while also give themselves the space to work and live in North America.

But sometimes, young parents have to make tough choices to do what's best for their new family and that can mean making changes that impact your family of origin.

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This weekend the Queen announced that her family has found a way for Harry and Meghan to move forward, and it means they're not only not senior royals anymore, they do not have HRH titles (His Royal Highness or Her Royal Highness) anymore and "are no longer working members of the Royal Family."

The statement from the Queen reads, in part: "Following many months of conversations and more recent discussions, I am pleased that together we have found a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family.

"Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family.

"I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.

"I want to thank them for all their dedicated work across this country, the Commonwealth and beyond, and am particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.

"It is my whole family's hope that today's agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life."

The Queen's statement explains that Harry and Meghan have "shared their wish to repay Sovereign Grant expenditure for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, which will remain their UK family home."

Basically, they're serious about being financially independent and they're going to pay rent on the cottage.

Untangling family issues can be hard, and it is hard for anyone to imagine what it must be like to live this out on the world's stage. In her statement, the Queen said she understands the role the intense press scrutiny has played in the couple's decision to forge a new path, and that they will always be her family.

Whether you're leaving the royal family to move to Canada, or just trying to explain to your parents that your own family needs to move to another state, this stuff is hard.

Here's to a new chapter in 2020, for Harry and Meghan and all the other new parents who are writing their own stories.

News

Motherhood is a juggling act. Whether you have one child or many, work outside the home or don't, have a partner or are doing this whole thing solo, you are always juggling something. So how on earth do we keep up the act? How do we ensure no ball gets dropped?

We don't.

All of us, every single one, lets something slip through our fingers on some occasion or another. And that's totally okay.

A friend from college recently commented on Instagram how peaceful and sweet my children seemed. I laughed out loud, and not an endearing chuckle, a wholehearted cackle. What a glorious and erroneous idea that my children are peaceful and sweet. I have three of these beautiful monsters, ages 12, 5 and 4 months. Our house sounds more like a child run circus than a zen meditation retreat.

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It is true that my children are sweet at times. And I will admit I try very hard to create a peaceful life and home, but those are not the two words I would ever use to describe our family. I might choose words like rambunctious, spirited, passionate and intense.

What I realized as I simultaneously smiled and snorted in laughter, was that I put a lot of work into creating a life on social media that looks just like that. Peaceful and sweet. I choose my words carefully, I edit my photos and of course choose only the best ones, the ones where everyone is smiling and we appear to love each other. The pictures of my children pulling each other's hair, stealing snacks and shouting that they hate each other don't get quite as many likes.

Don't get me wrong—my children often smile and we do love each other very much. But by carefully curating the life I post on social media I have unintentionally created something laughable. What a jolt to realize the very thing I'm striving for makes me laugh out loud when someone names it. Is there anything more inauthentic than that?

I am working to strive for authenticity and perfect imperfection.

I make mistakes, hurt those I love, burn dinner and that is what makes me human.

I drop the ball every single day in some large or small way—and that's okay. It is to be expected really.

It's what can give us the gift of connection. We can connect with one another via our faults and our vulnerabilities. We starve ourselves of this by pretending to be perfect.

As I write this I'm sitting in the front seat of my car in the parking lot of our local skate park, my youngest is napping in his car seat, my oldest is wearing a helmet and pads and is driving his new BMX bike as fast as he can up and down hills and ramps set at odd angles with weird curves among them.

This moment feels ideal t. The breeze blows through my open windows as my oldest is getting a great workout and my youngest slowly wakes up cooing.

We can only enjoy the moment if we are present within it. When I live my life constantly in a state of distraction, constantly keeping my eyes on all the balls I'm juggling, I'm not enjoying any of it.

I am not a master juggler at this moment in life. I don't think what I'm doing even looks like juggling. I do not have my eyes on all the balls, I am not even attempting to catch or toss them all in that perfect arc that looks so magical.

I prefer to relish these kinds of moments, soak up their joy, their peace, their sweetness and to do that I have to let go of the charade, I have to accept imperfection in the form of letting some balls drop.

I want to live a life full of authenticity and joy in the simple moments.

I want to live without the pressure of doing it all.

I want to give myself the gift of not doing everything the way it should be done by the imagined deadlines that cannot be met.

I want to enjoy my rambunctious, passionate children.

So I let the ball drop—and I'm okay with that.

Life

Feeding your new baby can be a beautiful experience, but it can also be really hard. We at Motherly have talked about it. Amy Schumer has talked about it. And now Kate Upton is talking about it, too.

Upton and her husband Justin Verlander became parents when their daughter Genevieve was born in November 2018, and in a new interview with Editorialist, Upton explains that while she loves motherhood she didn't always love breastfeeding.

"Having VeVe has changed my life in such a wonderful way," she explains, adding that in the early days of motherhood she felt "so much pressure"..."to be doing all these things, like breastfeeding on the go—when the reality, for me, was that breastfeeding was sucking the energy away from me. I realized I needed to calm down, to allow my body to recover."

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Breastfeeding can take up a lot of a mama's time and energy in those early weeks and months, and while Upton doesn't explicitly say whether she switched to formula, combo fed, pumped or what, it's clear that she did give herself some grace when it came to breastfeeding and found the right parenting pace by taking the pressure off of herself.

Upton took the pressure off herself when it came to her demanding breastfeeding schedule, and she's also resisting the pressure to keep up with a social media posting schedule.

"I want to be enjoying my life, enjoying my family, not constantly trying to take the perfect picture," she says. "I think my husband wants me to throw my phone away. We talk about it in the house all the time: 'Let's have a phone-free dinner.' We don't want [our daughter] thinking being on the phone is all that life is."

Whether the pressure to be perfect is coming from your phone or from society's conflicting exceptions of mothers it's a force worth rejecting. Upton is loving life at her own pace, imperfect as reallife can be.

News

After the treat-filled sugar rush of holidays and birthdays, it can be hard to get back on track with eating healthy as a family. (What can I say, I love cake—and my kids do, too.) It's totally okay to hold your boundary for sugar in your kid's diet, no matter what that boundary is. And you can do it without being the bad guy.

Putting a positive spin on "the sugar issue" (letting kids know that they can have treats sometimes, but not all. the. time.) will help prevent sugar becoming an ongoing power struggle, which nobody wants.

Here are a few phrases that can help your kids eat less sugar, without creating a power struggle over treats:

1. "Holiday and birthday treats are so fun, but they're not for every day."

Acknowledge that all of the extra treats were fun (they were!). You can talk about how some foods are for special occasions and others are the ones we eat every day to have strong bodies and feel good.

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2. "I feel so much better when I eat lots of fruits and vegetables."

Instead of putting the emphasis on why sugar is bad, try focusing on all the good reasons to eat healthy foods. You can talk about how eating carrots gives us strong eyes, eating oranges keeps us from getting sniffles, or eating kale helps us feel good and have lots of energy for playing.

3. "Which fruit would you like to have with your lunch?"

Keep it fun by letting your child choose which healthy foods to eat. Two or three choices are fine. You can let them help pick at the grocery store or let them pick from the options you've selected—the important thing is to offer choice.

4. "Let's see if we can make a rainbow on your plate!"

Who doesn't love rainbows, especially among the under-six crowd? Use their universal appeal to your advantage and encourage kiddos to make their own edible rainbows.

Make it extra fun by writing a checklist with colored pencils, one checkbox for every rainbow color, and bringing it with you to the grocery store. Let your child choose one item from the produce section for every color.

5. "You can choose one treat with dinner, but candy isn't a choice for snack today."

Make sure kids know that they will still be able to enjoy treats sometimes. Instead of saying "candy makes you crazy," or "sugar rots your teeth," just let them know when you're okay with them having a treat. It may be every night after dinner, only on Friday nights, or it may not be until Valentine's Day, but having a clear boundary will help reduce the constant pleas for sweet treats.

6. "I think treats feel more special when we don't have them every day."

Talk to your child about how part of the fun of holiday treats is that they're out of the ordinary. They are special traditions we get to enjoy each year and they help make the holidays feel magical. Just as it wouldn't be as fun if we had a Christmas tree up all year or wore a Halloween costume every day, treats aren't as fun if we eat them nonstop.

7. "I hear that you really want candy. I can't let you have it right now, but it's okay to be disappointed."

Let your child know that you empathize with their feelings about not being able to eat what they want all of the time.

Sometimes children just need to be heard. It might be more important to them to know that you understand their feelings about treats than to actually get a treat.

8. "Let's think of a healthy treat we could get at the grocery store next week."

Brainstorm with your child and come up with a list of healthy treats you could bring home from your next grocery shopping trip. This might be a kind of fruit they haven't had in a while, a granola bar you don't usually buy, or the makings of a fun trail mix.

Part of the fun of treats is the ritual—you can still enjoy the sweetness without the extra sugar.

9. "Would you like to bake with me?"

Carry those fond memories of making Christmas cookies together into the new year to help wean kids off the holiday high of constant treats. Just find something you're okay with your child eating regularly, like a healthy muffin recipe, baked oatmeal, or energy bites—whatever meets your own nutritional guidelines for your family!

10. "I noticed you didn't sleep well when you ate those treats before nap time. Let's think of a better time for treats together."

You can explain the effects of sugar on the body without vilifying it. Sometimes just saying sugar is bad makes it all the more desirable or pits you against your child. But that doesn't mean you can't give them the facts. Just tell them plainly that sugar makes it harder for them to sleep well, makes it harder for them to concentrate, or whatever other effects you've seen.

Here's to a healthy 2020—you've got this, mama!

Learn + Play
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