Amanda’s Guide to Pumping (Breastmilk)

I have been reading lots of breastfeeding and pumping threads lately on some breastfeeding groups on Facebook. Lots of new mamas and new pumpers. So it has inspired me to do a post regarding everything I learned during my 16 months of exclusively pumping(EP’g) for Munchkin.

This is my post about what started my EP’g journey

Now for the tips(a lot of which can apply to breastfeeding in general):

  1. Make sure you are eating at least one hot, complete meal a day.       Yes this means a protein source, some veggies, a grain, etc. There are specific foods, herbs and spices that are beneficial to your milk supply. There are also some that are harmful. I will address some of these further down the list and provide you with some other resources.
  2. Make sure you are drinking enough water. Having a glass or bottle of water with you at all times and drinking while nursing/pumping is important. Drink to thirst. I can’t give you a specific number of ounces because everyone is different in their requirements. Too much water can be just as bad for supply as too little water.
  3. Learn about hand expression and breast massage. They are very useful tools to have. Massaging the breast while pumping will help you get more milk. It can also be useful while breastfeeding to help your little one get more hindmilk. Hand expression is useful if you forget your pump or if you are just feeling extra full and need to take some pressure off.
  4. Make sure you have an adequate pump. If you are an occasional pumper a hand pump or single pump should be fine. If you are pumping while at work or are an EP’er, you really need a double electric pump and a hands-free pumping bra. You do need to spend some money on a good pump. Back when I was pumping, I was using a Medela Pump In Style. It was a good pump and back then I would have recommended it.  Medela is no longer WHO(World Health Organization) compliant though, so for my own moral standards, I won’t recommend them. Hygeia is a good company as well as Ameda. They both make very good pumps from what I have heard. As for the hands-free bra, there are a few on the market. I used the Easy Expressions hands-free bustier. You can also fashion a hands free device out of elastic bands(I never attempted this) or you can use an old sports bra(you need something snug fitting) and cut a slit where your nipples are to insert the flanges of your pump through.
  5. Flange size is very important. The flange is that cone-shaped thing that fits over your nipple/breast. There are charts that show you how to properly size your flange. I personally felt that trying the different sizes wile pumping a few times was the most helpful. I finally settled on two different sized flanges. A different size for each breast. This allowed me maximum output.
  6. Sometimes the flanges can cause irritation. There is a lot of suction in those pumps and they can cause friction. You can coat the flange with olive oil to help with this. I kept a small bottle specific for this in my pump bag.
  7. Using heat on your breasts for 5 – 10 minutes before you start pumping will help with letdown. It also helps if you get a plugged milk duct. I grabbed one of my husbands tube socks, dumped a bunch of uncooked rice in it and sewed the end closed. Stick it in the microwave for a minute or two and you are good to go. It holds the heat nicely and for quite a while as well.
  8. If you are having supply problems you can try a power pump session. Pump for 20 mins, rest for 10, pump for 10, rest for 10, pump for 10. I usually did this as part of my before bed routine. You can also take a pump day or a pump-in. If you are nursing, do a nurse-in. Either way, lie in bed with your babe all day with lots of skin-to-skin contact. Watch movies, read books, soak in the sweetness of your little one’s long gazes and smiles. If you are pumping, pump every hour for 20 minutes. If you are breastfeeding, leave your breasts exposed and just let your little one nurse whenever it suits him. Let your significant other take care of you. He/she can bring you whatever you need and even take part in the baby bonding time too. These were great days. 🙂
  9. If you are away from your babe, have a picture with you or a video of your little one to look at while you pump. You can also try visualizing trucks full of milk, waterfalls of milk, etc. Visualization is a big help.
  10. Relax! I know it just isn’t that simple, but it is so important. Once I got my hands-free bra and was able to relax while pumping, my supply went up. I was no longer watching the clock. I could play with my babe, I could give him a bottle. I could watch TV or use the computer. I could read a book. You get the picture.
  11. Having a “pump station” that is all ready set up is a plus.That way you don’t sit down, set up and then realize you forgot something. My pump bag usually held the following :  a bottle of olive oil, a bottle of water,a burp rag for clean up, chapstick/lip gloss, a book/magazine, a nail file, my hands-free bra, a hair tie, and a snack. Oh, I usually had the baby’s nail trimmers in there too.
  12. Remember that pumping is a learned behavior. You’re body has to learn to respond to the pump. In the beginning you may only get a few drops. Don’t be discouraged, keep at it. You will start to get more.
  13. A nice trick to save on washing is you can rinse out your pump bottles and flanges and then put them in a ziploc bag in the fridge in between pumpings. Just wash once at the end of the night.
  14. I personally kept a notebook to keep track of when I pumped, how long I pumped and how much I was able to pump. It was a real boost for me to see my supply going up. I could also see what happened if I cut out a pump or if I ate something different, etc.
  15. Set small goals for yourself. Wanting to make it 3, 6, 9, 12 months is great, but setting shorter goals while pumping exclusively makes it seem that much more attainable. I would keep giving myself a goal of just one more month. If I was having a particularly rough time, I would tell myself just one more week. I kept going. I cheered for myself and made a  huge deal whenever I hit one of my pumping goals. It sounds silly, but if you are exclusively pumping it is a lot of extra work. It takes determination.
  16. One of the MOST important factors for success, is to have a great support system. Having a supportive partner is so crucial. You don’t need someone over your shoulder telling you to just go ahead and give formula. I know formula does have its place, I had supplement, but it’s damaging to your psyche when you are trying so hard to obtain the goal of providing exclusive breastmilk to your little one. Tell family members if they can’t be supportive, then they need to keep their opinions to themselves. Find a breastfeeding support group or your local La Leche League to join. Even though you are not directly breastfeeding, you will still be welcome.
  17. Oh, one last thing. Never quit on a bad day. You need to make sure you are in a positive place when you finally make that decision to “hang up the horns”.
  18. Ok, I lied about the one last thing. I have a few more to add. 🙂 Remember that pumping is not an accurate portrayal of how much milk you can or are producing. A baby will almost always be more efficient at removing milk from your breasts than the pump will be.
  19. Another sure fire way to boost your supply is lots of skin-to-skin time or kangaroo care. Invest in a wrap, figure out how to wrap it (there are lots of great video tutorials, even better if you know someone to personally show you) and wear your baby (in only a diaper) snug against your bare chest. Even if you are pumping, this sends the right signals to your body. Who knows, if you are an exclusive pumper, it may lead baby down a path where she will want to try nursing. 🙂
  20. If you are an EP’er because you can’t get your little one to latch for whatever reason, please don’t give up hope. If you are persistent you can get your babe to latch and breastfeed. I wish I had tried harder with Munchkin, but I didn’t know. I was so worried about how much he was taking in, I didn’t want to go back to the hospital with him if wasn’t getting enough. So I just kept pumping. There are so many success stories out there if just look and listen. I know an SNS (supplemental nursing system) is helpful in getting your little one to latch. Something I  wish I had tried. Learn from my mistakes! 🙂

Foods and herbs that can potentially hurt your supply:

  • Sage
  • Peppermint
  • Parsley
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine

Foods and herbs that can help boost your supply(Galactogogues):

  • You can find teas specifically for a healthy milk supply at any health food store and sometimes even in your local grocery store.
  • Barley based drinks like Cafix are great as well. It tastes just like coffee.
  • Oats. Steel cut oats are best. They are pretty easy to make and you can add whatever you like to them. Fresh or frozen fruits are a nice addition.
  • Whole, raw nuts like almonds or cashews.
  • Green leafy veggies
  • Grains, like oats, barley, rice and quinoa.
  • Legumes like chickpeas(humus anyone?) and lentils.
  • Healthy oils and fats, like butter, olive oil and coconut oil.
  • Garlic and onions ( I add them to pretty much every dish I cook).
  • Ginger
  • Fenugreek – The most common one that you will hear about is fenugreek. It helps you to produce more milk. You start off taking one capsule, three times daily and then work your way up. The maximum dose is three capsules, three times daily. You will know you are taking enough when you smell like maple syrup. Not such a bad side effect. A not so good side effect is that it can cause gas in you and/or baby. So be on the look out for that
  • Blessed Thistle – Helps with let-down. You take it the same way as Fenugreek and is best when taken with Fenugreek.

For a more extensive list of foods and herbs check out these links:


Stanford University has some really great videos that I found very helpful.

Books I recommend

Mother Food by Hilary Jacobson

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding – LLL

The Breast Feeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk

The Nursing Mother’s Herbal by Sheila Humphrey

The Breastfeeding Book – Sears

I am sure I will add/edit this as I think of stuff I have forgotten(I haven’t pumped this time around).

If you have any questions or suggestions, leave a comment and I will be sure to address them. 🙂

24 thoughts on “Amanda’s Guide to Pumping (Breastmilk)

  1. Thank you! I am EP for my third child who is a micro preemie. It is so much harder than BF which I did for my older two. Now that my daughter is ready to nurse my supply is low but I haven’t given up. I have been EP for 20 weeks now!!!!!

    • Great job mama! 🙂 It is fantastic that you are going to be able to breastfeed her. Remember that your little one will always be more efficient at removing milk than the pump can ever be. ( I forgot to add that to the list )

  2. Thank you so much!! I have been ep’ing for 5 months now!! I was a little concerned about my supply since my son has been eating more. I am going to try the pump in and see if that helps!!
    My son never got the hang of breast feeding so pumping is all I know, it has just become part if life!

  3. WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW! What a great resource. I look forward to sharing it with the mothers I work with. Great job!
    (*unfortunately, Ameda is now no longer WHO compliant either.)

  4. For clarification, Ameda is owned by Evanflo which isn’t compliant. Most people consider a company non-compliant if their parent is. In fact, ILCA recently changed its advertising policy to include not taking money from those that are owned by or own a non-compliant company.

    • Oh, I didn’t realize that Ameda was owned by Evenflo (I knew Evenflo wasn’t WHO compliant). Thanks for the link.

  5. This is such a wonderful resource for all pumping moms, whether they are exclusively pumping or going back to work. Thanks for writing about your experience and sharing your vast knowledge. I can’t wait to share this with my lactation consultation clients and support group mamas!

  6. Excellent post! Wish I would have seen it in December….I am about to start my 6th month in our breastfeeding journey. My youngest, and 4th is my first to have been EBF beyond my return to work. I EBF when home and pump while at work. I am determined to make it to one year pumping, but it is getting so hard to stay motivated. There is always something more desirable to do than pumping, even if that something is nothing. But I understand the importance of what I’m doing so I keep trucking along. What made Medela fall off the WHO compliant list? Just wondering as I have a PISA. Anyway, thanks for the excellent post!

  7. Reblogged this on Welcome to Mommyville and commented:
    I personally have a love hate relationship with pumping. I love to see the milk storage grow, but pumping can sometimes be so………..yeah. Anyway, this post offers excellent advice for fellow pumpers.

  8. what a great resource! i had to pump a lot in the early days (first 12 weeks or so) b/c we had trouble with her tiny mouth not latching properly. but thankfully i have left that behind (such a chore!!), and thankfully am lucky enough to be with my baby all of the time so i don’t have to pump (a luxury that many do not have–i know), but i like to have a little extra.
    pumping now is discouraging. i was trying to rebuild my freezer stash, but it takes me a few days of morning pumping just to get enough for a bottle (5-6oz). i’ll definitely try the massage! i do compressions when pumping, but i haven’t tried this massage technique.


  9. Wow, this is an incredible resource! Thanks so much for putting it together. And AMAZING that you EP’ed for 16 months! You GO!! 😀

  10. Thank you so much for this information. I am currently EBF my second son. He is 6 months old and his brother is 2 years old. I have experienced a huge dip in my supply And I am struggling to bring it back up. Thank you for this. My output is slowly coming back up. I pumped 12oz today which I am very proud of. You can read about it on my blog

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