Learning to pump efficiently, correctly, and comfortably can initially feel overwhelming. Here are sixteen must-know breast pumping tips every new mom should know.
Whether you’re heading back to work, increasing your supply, trying to build a milk stash, or exclusively pumping and bottle feeding, it’s essential to know what you’re doing when using your breast pump.
Keep reading for our tips that every new parent should know.
Jump to a section:
- How do first-time moms pump breast milk?
- How often do you pump?
- Do’s and don’ts of pumping
- 16 breast pumping tips for new moms
- Can I go without pumping overnight?
How do first-time moms pump breast milk?
While every lactating person’s goals for pumping will vary, there are some general guidelines to follow when pumping breast milk for the first time.
First, you can pump shortly after birth or wait a few weeks to start once your supply has stabilized. It’s ultimately a personal choice based on your options and your baby’s needs.
When to pump
If your baby doesn’t take a bottle
Pump about an hour after your breastfeeding session with your baby. This timing will boost your supply and help you build a pumped milk stash.
Another option is simultaneously pumping from one breast while the baby nurses off the other. You could use a manual breast pump for ease of use and fewer pump parts to clean.
If your baby takes a bottle
Pump around when you or someone else gives your baby a bottle or at least every three hours. This timing will help keep your supply on point with your baby’s milk needs.
How long to pump
Aim to pump for 15-25 minutes per session. If you are pumping and nursing simultaneously, you can pump for as long as the baby feeds or continue pumping to hit 15 minutes if the baby unlatches.
How often should you pump as a new mom?
As above, this suggestion can vary based on your and your baby’s schedule. In general, there are some guidelines to follow.
Keep in mind the average newborn baby can nurse anywhere between 8 to 12 times in 24 hours, and you ideally want to either breastfeed or pump every three or so hours to keep your supply regular.
If you are exclusively pumping:
Pump every three hours (or every time your baby takes a bottle).
If you are nursing and pumping:
Pump three times a day – once in the morning, afternoon, and before bedtime. These sessions should fall about an hour after a finished nursing session.
Do and don’ts of pumping
Do: practice safe hygiene and wash your hands before each session
Do: thoroughly clean or sanitize your parts after each session
Do: stay properly hydrated and well-nourished
Do: store your pumped milk properly
Don’t: overpump, as this could lead to oversupply, mastitis, and clogged ducts
Don’t: forget to refrigerate your pump parts after each use (clean thoroughly daily)
Don’t: skip a pumping session, as it could impact your supply
Don’t: ignore feelings of nipple pain or pinching
16 breast pumping tips for new moms
1. Read your pump manual
Make sure to sit down and spend some time reading your pump manual, ideally before your baby arrives. While doing this, spend some time getting acquainted with how your pump parts go together and what you’ll do when it’s time to pump.
Trust us; it’s time well spent. There’s nothing more stressful than trying to figure out a pump while recovering from birth with a crying baby nearby.
2. Make a pumping station and a “go-bag”
Create a pumping station in your house with everything you’ll need to stay comfortable while pumping.
- A phone charger
- A water bottle
- Pumping-friendly nipple cream
- Milk storage bags (we love these reusable ones)
- Extra clean pump parts
Have a hands-free pump?
- Pump storage bag
- Milk containers or bags
- Pump charger
- Quick clean wipes
- Small ice packs
- Pumping-friendly nipple cream
3. Find the correct flange size
Finding the correct flange size is essential to minimize pain and maximize your milk output.
You can start with a print-at-home ruler to find your size or contact an IBCLC to consult your pump and flange size.
4. Practice before you need to pump
Once you’ve completed tip number one, try your pump for a trial run. You don’t have to finish an entire pumping session, but at least get more acquainted with it to see how it feels, works, etc.
Note: if you are pregnant, please consult your doctor before attempting.
5. Have a way to clean parts quickly
It’s a good idea to follow your pump manual for sterilizing your parts before the first use. You can continue this sterilizing method to deep clean your parts every few weeks.
Ultimately, make sure to consult your pump manual for proper cleaning instructions.
Pro tip: You can safely store your pump parts in the fridge between pumping sessions to reduce cleaning time. Just make sure to wash them thoroughly at the end of each day.
6. Create your schedule
You will have to base your pumping schedule on your baby’s needs and your current schedule (for example, if you’re back at work or not).
If you’re away from your baby or exclusively pumping, plan to pump every three hours.
If you’re pumping to build a stash, pump three times a day an hour after a nursing session or pump from one side while your baby nurses from the other.
7. Buy multiples of each part
Pump parts can break, become damaged, or need a wash when you need them most. It’s best to have multiples available for each pump part, so you’re always prepared.
8. Eat enough food
A lactating person requires around 500 extra calories daily to maintain their milk supply. Proper breastfeeding nutrition is critical. Now is not the time to start “trying to lose the baby weight” or restrict your diet.
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9. Make sure to stay hydrated
Aim for around 16 cups of water daily to help you stay hydrated. If you become too dehydrated, your supply will drop. A hydration and milk booster could help if you’re concerned about hydration.
10. Find a comfortable pumping bra
Depending on your pump type, you’ll need a comfortable pumping bra. Most traditional pumps require a special pumping bra, while a Willow or Elvie can use any tight-fitting nursing bra.
11. Store your milk as soon as possible
We share more on proper milk storage guidelines below, but know that it’s best practice to safely store your expressed breastmilk in the fridge or freezer as soon as possible. A freezer organizer for breastmilk may be helpful to keep your stash tidy.
If you’re pumping on the go, you can use a small cooler with ice packs to keep your milk cold until you reach your destination.
12. Learn proper milk storage guidelines
It can feel a little confusing to figure out how long and where to store breastmilk safely. The below chart from the CDC can help.
|Type of Breastmilk||Countertop|
77°F (25°C) or colder
0°F (-18°C) or colder
|Freshly expressed||Up to 4 hours||Up to 4 days||Within 6 months*|
|Thawed, previously frozen||1-2 hours||Up to 24 hours||Thawed human milk cannot be refrozen|
|Leftover from a feeding||Use within 2 hours||Use within 2 hours||Use within 2 hours|
*Note: you can store breastmilk for up to 12 months in a deep freezer instead of a regular freezer.
13. Know how to warm or thaw milk properly
Once your milk is pumped and stored, it’s essential to know how to properly warm or thaw that milk for your baby to consume. Never microwave breastmilk.
If your milk is frozen: place it in the refrigerator to thaw out overnight. You can then gently warm it in a bowl of warm water.
If your milk is in the fridge: carefully swirl (don’t shake!) milk to combine the separated fat and then warm milk in a bowl of warm water.
14. Massage breasts before starting
To help get the most out of your pumping session, gently massage your breasts before putting on your pump. This can help encourage more milk production and boost stimulation.
15. Encourage a let-down naturally
Having multiple let-downs is the key to getting the most (literally) out of your pumping session. Sometimes you can encourage a let-down by thinking about your baby, watching videos of them, or looking at pictures while pumping.
It can also help if you try to relax as much as possible and lean back into a comfortable pumping position.
16. Give yourself enough time (if possible)
While an ideal pumping session lasts 15-25 minutes, try to give yourself as enough time as possible to get settled and comfortable while pumping.
We know this isn’t always a reality, but the more you can relax, your output can improve. Plus, feeling less rushed can feel easier on your mental health, too.
Can I go 8 hours without pumping at night?
The answer to this question depends on a few factors, like how old your baby is and what quantity of pumped milk you require.
If your baby has not yet reached birth weight: we suggest continuing to pump every three hours through the night to help keep your supply up to match their growing demand.
If you need to build a breastmilk stash: it might be wise to pump once or twice throughout the night while your baby is sleeping. You can drop these pumps whenever you wish based on your needs.
Ultimately, if your baby has reached its birth weight and you’re pumping enough milk during the day, it’s okay to sleep eight hours without pumping at night.
Keep in mind there is an adjustment period for your body as it begins to acclimate to the decrease in supply. Keep an eye out for clogged ducts and signs of mastitis.
And no need to worry about a decrease in supply. After a few days, your body will get the message, ramp down production at night, and keep your supply level throughout the day.
Final thoughts on breast pumping for new moms
No matter your reasons for pumping, we hope the tips shared in this article are helpful. Remember, there is no wrong way to feed a baby, only a lot of right ones as long as you and your baby are both safe, healthy, and fed.
If you’re looking for more resources on breastfeeding, check out the below.