Breastfeeding | Postpartum

Pumping Breast Milk: Everything You Need to Know

Tracey Montford

By Tracey Montford

Mar 18, 2019

Whether you are a new mum, just back at work, want to share the load with your partner or need to be away from your baby; pumping may be something you’re interested in.  There are many reasons why you might consider pumping your breast milk, so here are some ways to get you started and pumping like pro.

Why you need to pump your breast milk?

  • You might be going back to work
  • Your baby may not be latching properly
  • You might want to share the feeding with your partner
  • You may have a premature baby and need to keep your milk supply up
  • You may need to be away from you baby
  • Your milk supply may not be adequate
  • Your milk supply may be over what’s needed
  • You may want to donate milk
  • You may have mastitis and need to drain the breast
  • Your milk may have been contaminated with either antibiotics or alcohol

And the list goes on….  

mother handbag

What sort of breast pump to use?  

  • This can all depend on how much you want to spend
  • How much you will use the breast pump
  • Where you want to use the breast pump
  • Whether you want an electric or manual breast pump

If you are only going to use the pump every now and again, then I suggest getting a simple hand pump.  It’s best to start off with one of these anyhow, so you can control the way that you are pumping.

Some women ‘freeze’ when automatically put onto a mechanical pump as they feel very ‘cow-like’.  The best results from pumps are when you are relaxed.

If you were going to be exclusively feeding your baby from a bottle, then I would invest in mechanical pump. This will reduce the amount of overall time that you are pumping.  

If you are not sure if pumping is for you, then try renting one for starters. Most hospitals and good pharmacies have a rental service.

When not to pump:

  • When you are over tired.
  • When you have just fed from both sides
  • If you do not have clean equipment (if you’re planning to use your milk)
  • When you are dehydrated or when you have not had enough water for the day.  When you are breastfeeding, you should be aiming for 3L a day. The normal water consumption for the day is 2L under basic circumstances.  It’s a lot, so go and have a glass now.

If you don’t want to.  It’s all completely up to you.  

So, lets get started….

pumping breast milk


1. Start off in a warm shower or apply a warm compress (warm washer) to your breast.  (If you are nursing your baby on your other breast, the milk may flow easier.

2. Massage your breast with one hand (if you are holding your baby with the other) or two. 

3. Massage from the outside inwards with steady pressure directly towards your nipple

4. Squeeze and press your fingers towards your chest.  They should be on, or on the outside of your areola. 


  • It’s not like milking a cow
  • You don’t’ want to pinch your nipple – keep your fingers a firm distance apart and push towards your chest – not pinching
  • Relax and think about your baby
  • Exhale and release your shoulders
  • Lean forward if you are having difficulty


Remember the tips from hand expressing.  When you first start off using the pump, try from your other breast that you are not feeding from.  Your baby will already have the milk flow happening from his current feeding. Then when you are ready to change breasts, your baby should be able to feed some more from the breast you’ve just pumped from. 

If you don’t’ want to try when you are breastfeeding – it’s understandable.

Start off pumping just before you feed.  This way, you will have a more ample milk supply.  

1. Relax

2. Positioning the cups:  this part is all trial and error.  Try positioning your breast inside the cups so that your nipple is at the center.  Don’t push too much flesh inside the cups – the pump will do this anyhow. Make sure you have a good seal around the edges.  If you need to reposition the cups, break the seal firstly with a finger and then gently remove the cup and try again.

3. Start off with a slow setting – if a mechanical pump and only do this for a short amount of time, 10 minutes for the first day.  

4. Do not pump for longer – even if you are able to!!! If you are having success and can pump a full 150ml – your body will then make a lot more.

This can quickly lead to engorgement and other problems. So, it’s best to do the pumping routine with slow and gentle increments.

5. If a hand pump – slow and steady pumping is ok and once again, only for 10 minutes.  

6. Increase in 3 days time, to 15 minutes.  

7. Increase after 7 days to a full pump and after 10 days progress to both breasts if you need to.  

8. The way that you start pumping should also be the way that you finished pumping.  If you are pumping continually every day and then you suddenly stop, the milk flow can change dramatically and once again, you may end up with engorgements. 

Note:  When you are pumping your breasts may increase in size, it’s best to make sure you are fully supported and wearing a comfortable bra to ensure that you are not damaging your ligaments with the extra weight of your breasts.  Damaged ligaments are the main cause of sagging.

Related: How To Prevent Breast Sagging After Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

How much to pump?

It’s not a matter of how much to pump; (like mL) but how long to pump for. You might get super excited that you are able to and start filling up satchel after satchel, but this is a sure way to over produce and have problems trying to reduce the flow later.


Try to pump only when you would normally be feeding your baby.  If you do want to increase your milk supply then try to do this at even intervals, like you would be feeding your baby.  

Feed from one side and pump from the other.  Then after your baby has finished, you may be able to pump some more from that breast he has just fed from, and vice versa.  

General rule:  Don’t over do it.  

Storing breast milk:

Remember that the longer you store your breast milk, the less likely it will be suited for your baby.  

Your body produces the perfect concoction of milk for your baby whether he is sick, thirsty, hot or hungry; so keep this in mind.  

If you are pumping in summer and feeding this milk to your baby in winter, the milk will taste very different to that from your breast at the same time.  

keeping breast milk

storing breast milk

How often do I pump if I’m exclusively pumping?

New born: Pump every 3 hours

After 6 weeks, pump every 4 hours

After 6 months, pump every 4 hours during the day and not in the evenings.

Overall tip and advice:

Make sure you are getting enough sleep and or rest, enough water (plenty of water) and enough good nutrition.  When you are breastfeeding, you will burn on average an extra 500 calories a day, so make sure you are ready for the journey.

Don’t miss: What You Will Need For Nursing

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