If you’re looking for tips on expressing breast milk, then I’ve got you covered. I know how hard pumping can be and how difficult it is to find information that will help. So here are my 11 top tips for expressing milk:
1) Make sure you’re comfortable when you’re expressing milk
This might sound a bit basic, but if you’re uncomfortable (in any way) when you’re attempting to pump then you’re not going to produce the goods. So make sure that you’re sat comfortably, in a relaxing spot. I used to pump in my son’s nursing chair.
You should make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothes too and that you’re happy with the temperature of the room. Your boobs should be easy to reach and ideally you should be in a place where you’re free to let them hang out.
It is really important to feel at ease, because if you feel completely comfortable, then you’re more likely to pump liquid gold.
2) Drink a lot of water before you express milk
When it comes to top tips for expressing, drinking plenty of water is key. I exclusively pumped breast milk for my son, using a double electric breast pump and I found there was a direct coloration between what I drank and what I produced.
If you’re not hydrated, it doesn’t matter what you do, you won’t produce. So drink plenty throughout the day and make sure you have a drink to hand during your pumping session.
I would aim for a minimum of six pints of water per day. If you don’t think you could manage that, try adding some sugar free cordial to make it more palatable.
3) Make sure you’re eating well
As well as monitoring your water intake, you need to ensure that you’re eating a varied, balanced diet. In those early days it can be a struggle to find the time to eat yourself, but you have to. The nutrients you eat are passing through to your baby.
You may also find that your general health suffers if you don’t keep on top of your nutrition. It’s likely that nutrients like calcium will go to your milk, meaning that your bones and teeth end up lacking.
Eating well benefits mother and baby alike.
Some people find that eating particular foods, like oats, helps to boost their production. There isn’t any scientific evidence to back this up, but it is worth experimenting with different foods to see if anything makes a difference to your supply. Don’t be lured into buying a magic product to increase your supply though, as they simply do not exist. You should also keep in mind that anecdotal evidence is just that.
4) Power pumping can help
Power pumping is a tip for expressing that I was given from a breastfeeding support worker, when I was struggling to get my supply up. A power pumping session basically involves having short bursts on the pump, followed by little breaks, before getting back to it.
I found that a power pumping regime, when combined with my double Specra breast pump, was super effective. This is the schedule that worked for me:
5) Be patient… it does take time
When you first start pumping, you may be disappointed by your spoils, but try not to be. For most people it takes time, patience and persistence to get your supply up. You’re probably not going to produce lots of milk off the bat. So recognise that it will take time and acknowledge that that’s okay.
6) Watch and cuddle your baby before you express breast milk
If you’re struggling to produce the goods, then try having some skin-to-skin contact with your baby before attempting to pump can help to boost milk production. If this isn’t possible, then watch some videos of your little one, or scroll through some pictures. Touching, seeing and hearing your baby can help to boost your milk producing hormones.
7) Take the pressure off yourself
Pumping takes a lot of energy and dedication, so don’t drain yourself further by piling pressure on yourself to produce. Try to relax and take it one pump at a time. Remember, any breastmilk that you can produce for your baby is a bonus, so relax. Seriously, if you take anything from this collection of tips for expressing milk, let it be this: you’re doing your best and your best is enough.
8) Check your pump
If you’re really straggling to make progress pumping, then check that you’re using the correct flange sizes. If you’re using an incorrect size, then your supply will be impacted and it could cause a blocked duct.
You could also consider trying another breast pump. Each person will have a different experience. I always struggled with a manual pump, but I was able to get plenty of breast milk by using my Spectra S1 Plus Hospital Grade Double Electric Breast Pump.
9) Be consistent with your pumping schedule
If you want to pump milk then you need to remain consistent. Unless you’re regularly breastfeeding, you can’t just pump once per week and expect to yield good results.
If you’re not breastfeeding your baby directly, or you are, but you’re not doing it regularly, then you need to be consistent in your pumping. Aim to do it at least three times within a 24-hour period. Of course, you are bound to miss the odd session and it’s not the end of the world if you do. But try to stick to your pumping schedule where you can, so that your body gets used to creating a certain amount of milk.
10) Don’t compare your expressed breast milk
We all know that comparison is the thief of all joy, but that doesn’t stop us from doing it. Once you’ve expressed, there is literally no point in comparing yourself to others.
Every person is different. One may be an under-supplier, another may be an over-supplier. Our bodies work in different ways, so, as you’d expect, milk output differs as well. This means that comparing your milk levels to somebody else’s is about as useful as purchasing a chocolate teapot. Don’t do it. No good will come of it.
11) Don’t obsess over frozen breast milk
When mums are expressing, its natural to want to work ahead and to get some stashed in the freezer. But please do not obsess over frozen breast milk levels.
If you manage to produce some extra and you decide to freeze it, then that’s great. But your freezer stash is not the be-all and end-all. When I was pumping I was obsessed with getting a week ahead, but actually, it made no real difference and having these arbitrary aims just lead to me putting more pressure on myself.
If you do manage to store some breast milk in the freezer though, ensure that you’re packaging it up and storing breast milk correctly. The only breast milk storage bags that worked for me were Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags. I did try a cheaper solution, but I was left heartbroken when my precious milk leaked everywhere! If you’re taking the time to pump, you want to ensure that every drop of your milk ends up with your child, not on the floor. So don’t skimp when it comes to breast milk bags.
I’m finding it hard, are these tips really worth trying?
So there you have it, my top 11 tips for expressing milk. It can be hard, the journey may fill you with anxiety on occasion and you’ll probably feel vulnerable and question yourself. But if you really want to express breast milk, it is worth trying and persevering with and these tips are all tried and tested. Breast milk really is liquid gold and if you’re able to just express a drop, then that’s a bonus.
If you’re on a newborn feeding journey then I hope these tips for expressing milk help you. You may also be interested in these articles:
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2021 and has been revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.