If your baby is premature or ill and unable to nurse
frequently and vigorously, you will need to pump your
breasts regularly to keep producing breast milk. Milk
production and release are affected by your emotional state,
your physical condition, and your pumping routines. The
following hints should help stimulate your milk supply and
condition your let-down reflex (milk ejection reflex). They
will help you to provide the maximum amount of breast milk
for your baby and to prepare for breast-feeding when your
baby is ready.
- If possible, rent a hospital-grade electric breast pump.
It is best if you can rent a hospital-grade electric
breast pump from a local hospital or pump rental
station. Ask for a double collection system that allows
you to collect milk from both breasts at once. This
saves you a lot of time. To find where you can rent a
pump, call Ameda/Egnell at 1-800-323-4060; Medela, Inc.,
at 1-800-TELL-YOU (1-800-835-5968); or White River at 1-
You can also get small electric, battery-powered, or
hand-operated pumps. Although these pumps are cheaper,
generally they are less effective and less comfortable
than hospital-grade electric pumps.
- Follow a pumping schedule that is similar to a healthy
newborn's feeding schedule.
This means you will need to pump every 2 to 3 hours,
allowing one 5- to 6-hour interval at night (pump seven
to eight times each 24-hour day).
- Pump each breast at least 10 minutes.
Pumping each breast 10 minutes is usually sufficient to
empty the breasts well; however, some women need to pump
longer. If milk is still flowing well after 10 minutes,
pump an additional 5 minutes. Even if milk stops
flowing before 10 minutes have passed, continue pumping
for at least the full 10 minutes. If you pump both
breasts at once you may not only save time but also may
raise the prolactin level in your blood. Prolactin is
the hormone that produces milk.
Relaxing can help trigger your let-down reflex. Sit in
a comfortable position and relax your entire body.
Practice the relaxation exercises taught in childbirth
classes. Think about your baby, play soft background
music, or read a good book or magazine. If milk flow
does not begin after 5 minutes of pumping, stop.
Concentrate on relaxing and then start pumping again in
5 to 10 minutes.
- Massage your breasts.
Gentle massage of your breasts can help start milk flow.
Start at the chest wall and massage with a circular
motion about the size of a quarter, gradually moving
toward the nipple. Stroke your nipple with the heel of
your hand or gently squeeze or roll it between your
thumb and forefinger.
- Warm your breasts.
Taking a warm bath or shower before pumping can enhance
your let-down reflex and improve the flow of milk.
Placing warm compresses on your breasts or immersing
your breasts in warm water also can help trigger the
milk ejection reflex.
- Drink a lot of fluids.
A good rule of thumb is to pour yourself an 8- to
12-ounce glass of water or juice each time you sit down
- Eat a balanced diet.
Try to eat fewer processed snack foods (cookies, cake,
candy, etc.). Instead, eat more fresh fruits and
vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, dairy
products, and other sources of protein. Continue taking
your prenatal vitamins.
- Keep a diary of the amount of milk you pump each time.
You may get different amounts of milk each time you
pump, depending on the time of day and how long it has
been since you last pumped. However, the total amount
of milk you pump in 24 hours should steadily increase
during the first 2 to 4 weeks of pumping.
By 2 weeks after delivery, a generous milk supply for a
single baby is about 24 ounces every 24 hours. (Mothers
of twins or triplets need to produce more milk.) You
should aim for production of at least 20 ounces every
24 hours even if your baby takes little milk now. It is
easier to keep producing a generous supply of milk from
the start than to increase your milk supply later when
your baby begins taking more.
Even if your pumped volumes are lower than desired,
don't give up. Often a mother's milk production climbs
when she is able to put her baby to her breast.
Check your diary to make sure you are pumping at least
seven times each day.
- Be patient with yourself.
You'll need time and practice to get your body used to
- Start breast-feeding your baby as soon as possible.
It is important to start breast-feeding as soon and as
often as your baby's medical condition permits.
Offering your breast to your baby whenever possible
during your hospital visits will get your baby used to
Always pump after nursing to express any residual milk.
This will make sure that your breasts are emptied well
and that you keep producing a generous supply of milk.
Once your baby is breast-feeding exclusively and gaining
weight well, you can begin tapering off the amount of
pumping you do.