Pumping Breastmilk and What You Need To Know

By Amy Peterson, IBCLC

This article made possible by the generous support of Earth Mama Angel Baby.


Not every mom needs to pump. When baby is with mom for feedings and transferring milk effectively, there is no need to pump. But there are times when pumping breastmilk is important:

  •      Baby needs more milk (a supplement for one or more feeds)
  •      Mom wants to increase her supply
  •      Mom and baby are apart for feedings, such as when mom is at work or school
  •      Mom wants to have someone else participate in feedings
  •      Anytime mom will miss a feeding

In these circumstances, using a breast pump helps maintain or increase the milk supply for future feedings, and the pumped milk offers the perfect food for baby. This article touches on choosing between the different types of breast pumps, general pumping guidelines, and tips for increasing milk supply if necessary.

When possible, choose a pump that meets your unique situation. If you’ll only miss a feed or two each week, a manual pump or single electric is plenty. If you need to pump for several feedings a day, a high quality, double electric pump is a better choice.  If your baby is hospitalized or you need to dedicate time to increasing your supply, a hospital grade/rental pump is the best choice.

You can get a breast pump from many different places: box stores (Babies ‘R Us, Target, WalMart, etc.), online, a friend, thrift store, or possibly through your insurance company. Buying a used breast pump or borrowing a pump is usually not recommended. Most brands are considered single user items. These pumps do not control for the transfer of bacteria or germs between the pump motor and the milk, putting the baby’s health at risk. If you know the pump brand has a closed system, you could consider purchasing a new collection kit with tubing. Even so, you may not know if the pump is working less effectively than when purchased new, potentially putting your supply at risk.


It is also important to note that not all women respond well to pumps and not all pumps work equally well for every lactating individual. This is why we have options. There are various contributing aspects that may impact how well a pump performs such as flange size, suction strength, type of suction, etc. If a pump is not working well for you it is possible that another would. Some breasts prefer one pump over another and some breasts prefer manual expression.

Most breast pumps have two settings. One button controls the vacuum, and the other button controls how fast the pump cycles (sucks). These settings let you fine tune the pump to mimic your baby’s suction and rhythm. For maximum milk production, use the highest comfortable suction. Use a fast cycling rate until your milk flows, then adjust to your comfort level; this mimics how your baby sucks before and after a let-down. A few brands of breast pumps have a built in feature that begins with fast cycling and adjusts slower. Some moms find they have better milk flow when they reset the button and continue with fast cycling.

Here are some general pumping guidelines to get you started:

  •      Pump for any feeding you will miss. Your milk supply is based on supply and demand, and pumping for each missed feeding tells your body to keep producing milk during that time.
  •      Pump the amount of milk your baby needs.  For example, if your baby takes 3 ounces of milk, pump 3 ounces total (1 ½ ounces from each breast).  If you pump what you need in 4 minutes—you can stop pumping.
  •      Pump between feedings to build a bottle. You can combine the milk from several pumping sessions to make a larger bottle of milk.
  •      Pump at night or in the early morning hours when your supply is highest.
  •      A gentle breast massage routine, called hands-on pumping, has been proven effective in increasing the amount of milk a mom can pump. Check it out here.

For moms who are not able to pump enough milk and who want to increase their supply, there are additional pumping tips:

  •      Pump until your milk stops flowing, and then pump two more minutes. This limited extra pumping is enough to tell your breasts to make more.
  •      Pump more often. Leave your pump set up (where your toddler can’t reach it!). Pump for 5-10 minutes once or twice an hour.
  •      Use the hands-on pumping technique listed here and above.
  •      Know that pumping alone may not increase your milk supply. Work with a breastfeeding helper who is knowledgeable about other targeted methods to boost supply.
  •      While you work on increasing your milk supply, feed your baby. You can combine your breastmilk with donor milk or formula to be sure your baby is getting enough. Some moms choose to feed breastmilk separate from formula to avoid wasting any breastmilk if baby doesn’t finish the bottle. As long as your guestimate is cautious, it is safe to mix; the milks will mix in baby’s belly anyway.

While pumping is an important aspect for many families in reaching their breastfeeding goals, how much is pumped is not a reliable sign of milk production. As with most areas of parenting, take your cues from your baby. When baby is growing well and reaching milestones within range then how much you pump doesn’t need to be a concern. If you see signs of dehydration or poor weight gain, speak with your child’s healthcare provider.



Happy pumping mamas! You’ve totally got this and we’ve teamed up with Earth Mama Angel Baby to support you in your pumping journey with a giveaway of Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Milk-to-Go kit for Leakies in the USA. A $40 retail value, this kit includes:

One pair of Booby Tubes® (one pair) for cold or warm therapeutic use, 1 box of Organic Milkmaid Tea (16 tea bags) a fragrant comforting blend that supports healthy breast milk production, safe Natural Nipple Butter (1 fl. oz.), Happy Mama Body Wash (1.67 fl. oz.), one Eco-friendly Reusable Insulated Bag, and a tasty recipe for Organic Milkmaid French Vanilla Chai.

Use the widget below to be entered!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Amy Peterson is a mom of 4, IBCLC, Early Intervention coordinator, and retired LLL Leader. She works alongside a speech-language pathologist, and together they co-authored Balancing Breast and Bottle: Reaching Your Breastfeeding Goals. They have also written a series of tear-of sheets available through Noodle Soup: Introducing a bottle to your full-term breastfed baby, Pumping for your breastfed baby, Pacifiers and the breastfed baby, and Bottle pacing for the young breastfed baby. Amy’s passion is helping others find fulfillment and confidence in parenting, regardless of feeding method. Visit Amy’s website at breastandbottlefeeding.com.



A Quick Guide to Breast Pumps

By Sarah Wells, CEO & Founder, Sarah Wells Breast Pump Bags  & Megan O’Neill, CLC, Acelleron Maternal Health & Wellness


Think you might use a breast pump along your breastfeeding journey? Here is a quick guide for getting a pump and using it effectively:


Breast Pumps and Insurance

The Health Reform law (Affordable Care Act or “ACA”) requires most health insurance plans to provide moms with a breast pump. The type of pump (double-electric, manual, etc.) and whether it is a rental or for you to own, is up to the insurance plan.

Insurance plans in place prior to the new law are “grandfathered” in. This means they can follow the old rules. They do not have to provide you a pump free-of-charge. But, do not give up. They may still offer you a pump with a co-pay.

You will need to work with an approved durable medical equipment (“DME”) supplier who can bill insurance (and in some cases, retailers, hospitals or lactation practices can also do this for you). Call your insurance for a list of approved suppliers or do a quick online search for “DME and breast pump” and you will find several websites providing supplier lists by insurance type. These suppliers can be of great assistance to you by communicating with your health plan directly on details such as reimbursement level, timing of when you can get the pump and more. Many even offer free and expedited shipping of your pump.

A special note for military moms: Tricare, the military’s health care program, is exempt from the health reform law mandate for breast pump coverage; Tricare only covers hospital-grade pumps in some cases of premature birth. Legislation to require Tricare to cover breast pumps is working its way through Congress now.


Choosing the Right Breast Pump

If you are using insurance coverage to obtain your breast pump, speak with the supplier providing your pump (several have lactation consultants on staff!) to learn which brands and options are available to you.

Good questions to ask yourself in choosing a pump are: how frequently will I pump (a small hand pump might be just what you need if you will pump infrequently, whereas a double-electric pump with effective suction and well-fitting flanges will make a big difference for successful frequent pumping); and do you need portability (if yes, look for lighter weight pumps and buy a battery pack)?


Tips for Successful Breast Pumping

In addition to getting a quality breast pump that has the right features for you and fits well, here are a few of our favorite tips for successful breast pumping:

  1. Get spare parts.

As a busy new mom, it can save you time and energy to have spare parts (flanges, bottles, tubing) around for when you need to grab your pump and go, while other parts may still be on the drying rack or waiting to be cleaned. This also can go a long way in avoiding situations where you forget a part and really need to complete a pumping session!

  1. Store your dirty parts in the refrigerator in between pumping sessions, within the same day.

Rather than trying to thoroughly clean your pump parts in an office sink, bathroom or during the middle of the night, store them in a clean container in the fridge. Thoroughly clean the pump parts after a day of use.

  1. Look at a picture of your baby, and listen to baby, while you pump.

Not only will looking at a photo, or listening to your baby (record your little one on your smartphone!) help remind you of all positive reasons you are on your breastfeeding/pumping journey, but it’s proven to help with let down, for faster and more efficient pumping!

  1. Start back at work mid/late week.

If you are headed back to work at a Monday-Friday job, and will be pumping, try scheduling your return date at the middle or end of the week; this will give you a few days of practice for your new pumping routine, with the relief of a weekend break to make any adjustments needed and to be back in touch with your little one.

Please take the time to congratulate yourself on your pumping efforts; for many moms, pumping can be quite the undertaking of time, resources, and energy. Pumping is an awesome thing you are doing for you and your child(ren); for many moms, pumping is an integral part (or the entire experience) of their breastfeeding journey. Finally, seek help if something is not right; if your pump is not working well, contact the manufacturer or supplier who provided it to you. If you are having issues with supply or with the pumping process in general, seek support from certified lactation consultants and from the breastfeeding community.


To get your pumping journey off to a great start, Sarah Wells and Acelleron are partnering with a few other great companies to offer you a chance to win a bundle of products with a value of over $700 in the following giveaway!  

The Dairy Fairy Logo

mhw-logo2 Milkin Cookies

Sarah Wells Logo

PrintMilk it


Prizes included are:

Sarah Wells Maddy Breast Pump Bag

Sarah Wells “Maddy” Breast Pump Bag (Value $145)


Milkin Cookies Cookies

Milkin’ Cookies Gift Certificate for a 2 week supply of Milkin’ Cookies (14 cookies) (Value $21.99)

1. Black Tank pink bra

Two North American made, Luxury Bamboo or Classic Cotton Naked Nursing Tanks (value $80). Midsection cover-ups for breastfeeding women -worn underneath your regular wardrobe, it transforms every shirt into nursing wear! Winner to choose size & colour from our selection of Naked Tanks.

Milk it Kit and Onesie

Milk It Kit – back to work survival kit for breastfeeding moms; 80 pack of waterproof breast milk labels; a “Will Cry Over Spilled Milk” onesie (Value: $48)

The Dairy Fairy Arden Bra

Arden All In One Nursing and Handsfree Pumping Bra in Blush, winners choice of size. (Value $68)

Acelleron Freestyle or Pump of Choice from Inventory

Medela Freestyle Breast Pump (or other breast pump of winner’s choice from Acelleron’s inventory) (Value $350)


Good luck to everyone!  Please use the widget below to be entered.  The giveaway is open from November 4, 2014 through November 11, 2014.  A big thanks to Sarah Wells Breast Pump Bags, Acelleron, Milkin’ Cookies, Naked Nursing Tank, Milk It, and The Dairy Fairy for their support of TLB and all breastfeeding and pumping women; please be sure to look them up on your favorite social network platform and thank them for their support of TLB and this giveaway opportunity!

This giveaway is restricted to U.S. residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway