The Best Breast Pumping Hacks for New Moms
Whether you’re a once-per-day pumper or pumping several times in a 24-hour period, we know you have a lot going on these days! We’ve rounded up some great-to-know tips to help busy mamas like yourself get the most out of their pumping sessions.
Pump Basics: What You Should Know
- Pump quality matters! Effective pumping sessions start and end with a high-quality breast pump, along with helpful guidance and education from your care team. Which pump you choose depends on your needs. Are you pumping just occasionally? Will you be away from your baby for full days or extended periods? Is hands-free flexibility important to you? The great news is that there’s something for every mama out there. Use our ultimate guide to learn more about which pump might be best for your unique needs.
- Always review your pump’s instructions carefully. After selecting your go-to breast pump, get familiar with its parts and how it operates. If anything seems unclear, be sure to refer to your pump’s instructions to avoid damage or misuse.
If you’re experiencing suction challenges with a pump, here are some key things to check first:
- Are all your connections to the kit and pump secure?
- Are your breast shields fitted correctly and sealed around your breasts?
- Is the membrane lying flat and snug against the valve or connector? Be sure that all your pump parts are clean and not damaged!
- Is your tubing securely connected? Be careful not to kink or bend your tubing too sharply, as milk can’t flow properly if the tubing is pinched.
Effective Pumping Sessions
- Frequency. As you begin to integrate pumping into your already-established breastfeeding routine, you’ll typically need to pump every 2 – 3 hours. If you’re not expressing enough milk, check your pumping frequency – You need to pump more frequently early on, as breast milk is produced on a supply and demand basis. Once you’ve established a solid pumping routine, you can experiment with dropping the occasional session or slightly extending the time between.
- Encouraging your let-down. The let-down reflex happens when suction – from your baby or breast pump – triggers the release of hormones prolactin and oxytocin, which then causes milk to be produced and expressed. Stress can have a powerful effect on your ability to let-down during a pumping session. Here are some let-down tips to consider:
- Find your baby if he or she is nearby – That’s a great way to encourage let-down!
- If you’re away from your little one, having a photo or video of your baby on hand is also helpful.
- You can gently massage your breasts or place a warm compress on them to stimulate milk flow.
- Read a book, watch a favorite show or anything else you find relaxing. Try not to fixate on how much milk is flowing – That may backfire by stressing you even more!
- Fully empty your breasts. Whether you hear your older kids arguing in the background or the ding of a new e-mail on your laptop, it can be tempting to wrap up a pumping session when milk flow has slowed. However, it’s important to fully empty each breast to support a strong milk supply. Doing so sends a clear signal to your body to continue producing milk.
You’ll know you’re nearing the end of your pumping session when milk slows to a drip, your breasts feel lighter and you’ve experienced 1 – 3 let-downs during the session. A helpful rule of thumb to remember is to keep pumping about 2 – 3 minutes after you see the last drops of milk.
Top Breast Pumping Hacks
We’ve rounded up some of our favorite hacks for getting the most out of that precious time spent collecting your liquid gold!
1. Double or Single Pumping – Your Choice!
A double-electric breast pump is a popular choice for U.S. moms to serve as their primary pump. Still, there are times when you might want to only pump one breast. For example, single pumping is a great option when you want to feed your baby on one side and pump on the other. Or, perhaps you have a clogged duct on one side and it makes sense to only pump the affected breast temporarily.
If you have a double-electric Medela breast pump, you can easily use it to pump just one breast at a time. When using a Medela double-electric pump, simply insert the unused tube into the tubing holder if opting to single pump for any reason.
2. One Pump, Two Ways to Pump
Nothing says efficiency and flexibility like having your hands free while pumping. The list is tantalizingly long of what you can accomplish with this new innovation in pumping. Checking e-mails or scrolling through your social platforms? Sure! Sitting down for a meal or catching up on the book that’s been collecting dust on your nightstand? Why not!
With the introduction of our Freestyle Hands-free, we answered moms’ demand by designing ultra-lightweight Hands-free Collection Cups. These cups are also available to purchase separately as they are engineered to be compatible with other Medela breast pumps too, including the Pump in Style® and Swing Maxi™.
How do the cups work? It’s super easy. Insert the cups into your bra and attach them to the short tubing connected to your pump. They’ll fit snugly but comfortably and feature an enhanced o-ring for an even better seal. This gives mamas like yourself two convenient ways of pumping with just one breast pump. Enjoy the flexibility to multitask, pump hands-free and decide how you want to pump on any given day – without compromising performance* or function.
3. The Harmony® Manual Breast Pumping Hack
Our Harmony Breast Pump has long been a top pick for moms who want a reliable back-up option to their go-to double-electric breast pump or simply don’t pump frequently. This beloved manual pump even inspired a viral hack on social media, where the mom shared how she’s able to express milk faster with her method.
Here’s how it works:
- In the viral video, the mom holds down Harmony’s handle for about 7 – 9 seconds during a let-down. When she releases the handle, milk is released into the storage bottle.
- By using this method during let-down, she shares that she substantially reduces her usual 20-minute pumping session to just a few minutes – while still yielding the same amount of milk!
Keep in mind:
- This hack is a great example of someone personalizing their pumping experience by understanding her let-down and adjusting her technique to maximize it accordingly. When trying the Harmony hack, listen to your own body to determine what works best for you!
- The value of these long holds on Harmony’s handle are only beneficial during the let-down phase.
- Pumping shouldn’t hurt, so the strength and duration of the suction (when you’re holding Harmony’s handle down) should be comfortable and safe for you.
- As with any pump, make sure you have the right breast shield size. Our PersonalFit Flex™ shields work with all of our pumps, including Harmony.
4. Add Lubricant to Your Breast Shields
You might think of our organic breast massage oil as something to apply only if you need to soothe soreness. Did you know it can also be an effective lubricant when applied to your breast shields for added comfort while pumping? Just add a tiny amount to the inside of your shield where your nipple rests (not the outside, which would make it too slippery!). You can also apply the oil directly to your nipple before pumping if that works better for you.
As a reminder, Medela's breast massage oil is also all-natural and 100% organic so you can rest – and pump – assured that it’s safe for you and your baby.
5. Work Smarter, Not Harder!
Are you a data-driven breastfeeding mama? Good news – There’s an app for that! Our award-winning Medela Family app seamlessly connects to several of our pumps for real-time tracking to help you achieve all your breastfeeding goals.
You can personalize your dashboard to track things like your baby’s growth and details about your latest breastfeeding and pumping sessions. You can even track your breast milk storage with a smart milk inventory system and get notifications when your reserves are running low.
As a helpful planning, tracking and educational tool, Medela Family even includes a vast knowledge center with expert-written content covering topics like pregnancy, establishing breastfeeding routines, introducing pumping, going back to work and so much more.
6. Consider Alternative Power Sources
We get it, mama – Life happens. And sometimes that means you have to pump in a less-than-ideal setting. Pumping while parked in your car because you got stuck somewhere later than anticipated or while someone else finishes the drive to the family vacation destination? Many on-the-go moms love the option of being able to pump while traveling. Be sure to research which car adapters will work best with your pump.
If you’ll be away from electrical sources often – whether you need it for charging purposes or a good old fashioned outlet to plug right into – consider selecting a pump that comes with a battery pack so you can use your pump anytime, anywhere.
* Gridneva Z et al. Clinical Nutrition Open Science. 2023; 49:28-36.