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Expressing Breastmilk

By Kaya Thorpe, IBCLC. Revised January 2022

Pumping to build supply

Some families will find themselves needing to establish their milk supply with a breast pump due to a baby who may not be able to fully breastfeed. This can be due to premature birth, a baby who is unwell, a baby struggling to breastfeed for a variety of reasons. For these families using a hospital grade breast pump will be the best way to establish and protect their supply while moving towards establishing breastfeeding.


To establish your milk supply with a breast pump you are looking at pumping 8-12 times per day for approximately 15-20 minutes per breast. This is where the use of a double pump can be helpful to reduce the amount of time spent pumping in the early days when you want to spend time with your baby and caring for your baby.

Pump fit

One of the most important factors about pumping is to ensure your pump fits correctly. You want the flange to fit comfortably around your nipple and for pumping not to feel uncomfortable. When using the pump your nipple should not rub on the tube or be pulled to far into the pump. You should not find much of your areola or breast tissue is pulled into the pump tube while pumping. Our ardo pumps have a fit guide and we have a variety of flange sizes available to ensure pumping is comfortable and effective.

Hands on pumping

The use of ‘hands on’ pumping can be an amazing tool to help increase the amount of milk you pump each session. Here is a quick guide to hands on pumping

  • Applying a warm compress to the breast to start with can be useful. You can fill a disposable nappy with warm water and use this as a compress as it won’t leak, however it will stay hot so be careful of the temperature.

  • Gentle massage of each breast before beginning the pumping session. Gentle sweeping motions around your breasts can help with the release of oxytocin.

  • Massaging during a pump session and using breast compression to ensure maximum milk output. Massaging can be useful if you feel you have blockages that you want to shift during the pump session.

  • When you have finished the pumping session, hand expressing into the pump bottle to ensure that you have removed as much milk as possible.

Power pumping

Power pumping is a tool to help you boost your milk supply while mimicking the cluster feeding a baby can do. Doing one session of power pumping per day can be very beneficial for stimulating milk supply.


















Pumping tips and tricks

Exclusively pumping or pumping as well as breastfeeding a baby who is struggling is a very difficult task and this can mean some families find that their stress levels rise which impacts the amount they are able to pump. Here are some tips and tricks to try and help you manage while pumping in a stressful situation

  • If you are separated from your baby try having pictures of your baby to look at and something that smells of your baby to help you trigger oxytocin and your letdown reflex

  • If you are comfortable to, some parents find having someone else massage their shoulders (or other body part) relaxing which can help stimulate your oxytocin

  • Try and make pumping as hands free as possible. Wearing a cheap crop top and cutting holes for the flanges to go through by your nipples is one tip. If you are wearing a nursing bra you can loop two hair bobbles in a figure of 8 around the flange and slip one loop onto the clip of your nursing bra. This wont make pumping totally hands free but you might be able to eat and drink.

  • Frequency is important! Even if at points you only manage 5 minutes it is still important to pump. Don’t worry if not all your sessions reach the 15-20 minute mark

  • It is really important to have one pumping session between 1am and 5am as this is a really great time to stimulate milk production.

  • Your pumping sessions do not have to be evenly spaced out. If you find you have time to pump twice in a short space of time then have a longer gap where baby needs you then go with it. If you are breastfeeding as well as expressing, the best time to pump is after baby has fed to ensure baby gets milk from the breast before the pump.

  • If you are at home and baby is fit and well you can rinse your pump flange with hot soapy water inbetween feeds instead of steralising each time. Some families store their pump parts in closed sandwich bag or box in the fridge between feeds to reduce time spent cleaning the flanges. However if you are in a hospital environment or pumping for an unwell baby it may be advisable to after every pump session.

  • Try to make your pumping sessions enjoyable. Play your favourite music, watch a TV show that makes you laugh, have your favourite food or drink on hand. Some parents like to reward themselves post pump with a treat of their favourite food. Anything to help you relax.

  • Putting a baby sock over the pump bottle can help if you find you are staring at the milk flow during the session.

  • Eat and drink what makes you happy! Research on foods to increase supply is very limited and actually eating something that makes you feel happy is just as likely to have an impact.

Hands free pumping
Pumping frequently while looking after yourself and a baby can be challenging. Here are some tips to try to help

  • Either using an old bra/sports bra you can make your own pumping bra by cutting slits in the cups. Supporting bras like sports bras or crop top styles are best for this hack

  • There are many pumping bras on the market now for purchase

  • Great hack here to use a hair bobble with a nursing bra - bobble hack



Expressing breastmilk - ABM

To Pump More Milk, Use Hands-On Pumping — Nancy Mohrbacher

Establishing milk supply with a pump | Breastfeeding Twins and Triplets

power pumping.png

Picture shows expressed breast milk in a breast pump

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