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How to Increase Milk Supply When Pumping

By Sarah Harding ; Updated June 13, 2017

Both mothers and babies can struggle with breastfeeding. A common concern is milk supply. La Leche League International advises to nurse frequently to improve milk supply. A baby will increase the frequency and length of each nursing session when she requires more milk. This is often seen in the form of cluster feedings during a growth spurt. For mothers who opt to pump instead of or in addition to breastfeeding directly, the benefit of cluster feeding is missing and the milk supply may decrease. Preventing a low milk supply when pumping is possible, but it requires a few extra steps.

  1. Purchase a high-quality breast pump. Electric, dual-pump models are the best. Not only will these models be more efficient, they also will have higher powered suction. Rent a hospital-grade pump from your local medical facility if possible.

  2. Ensure you are eating, sleeping and drinking well. Taking good care of yourself will have a positive impact on your breast milk supply.

  3. Create a relaxing environment where you plan to pump. Put up a photo of your baby and focus on it while pumping. According to La Leche, visualizing your baby can help stimulate your letdown reflex while pumping. Get comfortable and try to relax while pumping. Stress can make it more difficult for your letdown reflex to begin.

  4. Pump both breasts until they seem to have stopped producing any milk, then extend the pumping session by another five to 10 minutes. By pumping beyond the normal time, you will stimulate your breasts to make more milk. When a baby is breastfeeding, she does the same by nursing longer and more frequently. Pump every half-hour to every two hours. As your baby goes longer between feedings you can do the same between pumping sessions. For example, if your baby eats every four hours, you can pump every two to three hours to boost the milk supply.

  5. Take a "nursing holiday," if possible. Sometimes it is necessary to put your baby to the breast to get your milk supply going again. A nursing holiday describes two or more days where the pump is not used but instead, the baby is breastfed as often as she demands. Many moms find it helpful to do nothing but stay in bed with baby and nurse. A baby is more efficient at stimulating the breasts than a breast pump. By stimulating the milk supply this way for at least two days you will increase your milk supply.

  6. Tip

    If your baby cannot suckle at the breast, try holding her on your lap while pumping to stimulate your milk production.

    Even babies with a weak suck can stimulate the breasts to produce milk. Allow your baby to suckle the breast while you pump the other side.


    Mother's Milk tea, fenugreek and other herbal remedies to increase milk production should be used only under the advice of a health care professional.

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