When you pump you may find it helpful to select a place that is as comfortable and relaxing for you as possible. Choose a chair that will provide good back and arm support, or use a nursing pillow. Prop up your feet if possible, perhaps with a nursing stool or stack of books. Make sure that you are not too cold or too warm. Get yourself something to drink and eat if you like. Soft music and a picture of your baby or an item of his clothing may help with eliciting letdown as well.

Before you start you may want to apply heat to your breasts. This can be done with a warm washcloth, heating pad, or hot water bottle. You may even choose to take a shower or bath prior to pumping. Hot/cold breast packs, such as the Baby Your Breast Packs, also work well and will mold to the breast and can wrap around the pump flange/breastshield. As you apply the heat, massage your entire breast with your palm and fingertips. Stimulate your nipples by gently rolling or tugging on them. It may also be helpful to apply a little lanolin to your nipples/areolae and/or to the inside of the pump breastshield in order to provide lubrication and promote a tighter seal around the breast. Moistening the breastshield with water will have the same effect. Take several deep breaths, close your eyes, and begin pumping. As you pump continue the massage if possible. Once the initial flow slows down or stops, take down the breastshield and massage your breast for a few more minutes. Begin pumping again. If using a single pump, switch sides as soon as the flow begins to slow and back and forth again as needed. Some mothers have found the homeopathic remedy known as Rescue Remedy to be helpful in aiding the letdown response both during pumping and nursing.

Some moms find pumping is easier if baby is nursing on one side at the same time. You also may have better pumping results in the morning hours when milk supply is greatest. A lot of moms pump about an hour or so after baby's first morning feeding. Should your baby want to nurse soon after pumping do not be afraid to put him to the breast. There will still be plenty of milk for him as he actually causes you to produce more milk as he nurses!

Never pump longer than 20 minutes at a time. If pumping is painful, something is wrong - either you are using the pump incorrectly or your pump is an inferior one. See "Breastpumps101" for more on choosing an efficent pump, cleaning your breastpump correctly, and what to do if pumping hurts.

Pump yield is NEVER a reliable indicator of milk supply. The baby will always be able to get more milk than you can even with a high quality pump because he not only suckles but also compresses your breast tissue with his gums. With letdown, more milk is released. When nursing a health baby with an effective suck, most mothers experience multiple letdowns during a feeding even though they may not be aware of all of them. When pumping, eliciting more than one or two letdowns is more difficult.

Written by Becky Flora, BSed, IBCLC

Last revision: November 9, 2001

2010 Breastfeeding Essentials