How to Increase Breast Milk Supply by Pumping

It's common for breastfeeding parents to wonder how to increase their breast milk supply. In addition to frequent nursing, it can really help to pump to boost breast milk production.

In fact, the regular and frequent use of a breast pump to remove breast milk from your breasts can help you create, maintain, or increase your breast milk supply. This is because breast milk production is based on a supply and demand system. So, the more breast milk you remove, the more you will make.

Whether you're pumping in addition to breastfeeding or exclusively, fully draining the milk from your breasts and the stimulation of the breast pump encourages your body to make more breast milk. Learn more about how to increase breast milk supply by pumping.

Breast Pumping Tips

Verywell / Cindy Chung

How Pumping Affects Milk Supply

Pumping can be a very important strategy for increasing your breast milk supply. These tips may help improve your odds of seeing an increase in your supply.

  • Use the right breast pump
  • Use the pump correctly
  • Prepare before pumping
  • Pump often
  • Try skin-to-skin contact
  • Apply warm moist heat
  • Pump for 10 to 15 minutes on each breast
  • Use galactagogues
  • Keep your equipment clean
  • Take care of yourself

Use the Right Breast Pump

Use a hospital-grade pump or a high-quality electric breast pump. A pump that's operated by hand or a small electric or battery-powered pump is OK for occasional pumping, but it is not strong enough to build, maintain, or increase a healthy supply of breast milk. A double pump may be a good investment, especially if you're pumping exclusively, since it's a great time-saver.

Use the Pump Correctly

For the best results, follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to use the pump correctly, and make sure the pump is good working order. If you have questions, contact the manufacturer or ask a lactation consultant.

Be sure that the pump flanges (shields), the part of the pump that goes over your breasts and nipples, fit you properly. Using breast flanges that are too big or too small can lead to breast issues such as sore nipples or damaged breast tissue.

Prepare Before Pumping

Before you start to pump, wash your hands and choose a breast milk storage container that fits your needs. You'll be pumping for 20 to 30 minutes, so get into a comfortable position.

You may feel thirsty or hungry while you're pumping, so place a glass of water or juice and some healthy food next to your pumping spot before you begin. It will be easy to grab a snack and sip a drink if it's within your reach. Your body needs lots of fluids and some extra calories to produce milk.

Pump Often

If your baby will take the breast, breastfeed first and then pump after each feeding. You may not get much at first, but if you consistently stimulate your breasts by pumping, your body should get the message to make more milk.

If you're exclusively pumping, express your breast milk as often as possible to stimulate the production of breast milk. Aim for every 3 hours if you can.

Try Skin-to-Skin Contact

Research shows that kangaroo care, which is spending time in direct skin-to-skin contact with your baby, can increase the amount of breast milk that you're able to pump. If your baby is in the hospital and cannot breastfeed, talk to the hospital staff about using kangaroo care as often as your baby can tolerate it. 

If possible, pump while you're near your baby, or even holding your baby. When you're pumping away from your child, try to relax and think of them. Looking at a picture of your child, listening to a recording of their coos or cry, and holding a piece of clothing or a blanket that carries their smell can help stimulate your let-down reflex and get the breast milk flowing.

Apply Warm, Moist Heat

Before you pump, place warm, wet washcloths on your breasts. The moist heat can help bring about the flow of your breast milk. This is especially helpful if you have difficulty with let-down.

Pump for 10 to 15 Minutes on Each Breast

If you are pumping one breast at a time, switch back and forth between breasts whenever the flow of breast milk slows down to a just a few drops or stops completely.

If you're pumping both breasts at the same time, you can pump until the flow slows or stops, rest for a few minutes, and then start to pump again. As you pump, massage or stroke your breasts to help remove more breast milk.

Use Galactagogues

Ask your doctor or lactation consultant about galactagogues. Pumping along with the use of certain medications or herbs can help to increase your supply of breast milk.

The use of medications and herbs on their own will not help very much. Breast stimulation and the removal of milk from the breasts is necessary to see results from galactagogues, so make sure that you keep on pumping frequently.

Keep Your Equipment Clean

After each use, follow the manufacturer's instructions for wiping down and cleaning your breast pump and tubing. Wash your breast flanges and breast milk storage containers in hot, soapy water. Then, rinse them well and allow them to completely dry so they'll be ready to use when you need them next.

Store Your Pumped Breast Milk Safely

After you finish pumping, properly store the breast milk that you've collected. Breast milk can be left out at room temperature, refrigerated, or frozen. In the right container, and at the right temperature, breast milk can be stored for six months or even longer.

Take Care of Yourself

When you're taking care of a little one, and there's always so much to do, it's easy to put yourself last. But if you don't take care of yourself, it can affect your breast milk supply. Try your best to eat a well-balanced diet with extra calories, drink plenty of fluids, and get some rest.

When to Pump to Increase Breast Milk Supply

There are many situations in which you might need to boost your breast milk supply by pumping. These include:

  • Low milk supply: Many things can cause a low breast milk supply. Breastfeeding more often and pumping after and between feedings can help.
  • Delayed start to breastfeeding: If your newborn is premature or requires special care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for another reason, you may have to be separated from your baby after delivery. Pumping allows you to begin building your breast milk supply until you can put your baby to the breast.
  • Adoption: When your body does not go through pregnancy and delivery, it doesn't know that you need breast milk. Creating a milk supply to breastfeed an adopted baby can be a challenge, but it is possible. Pumping along with the use of medications or herbs will give you better results.
  • Separation: If you need to be away from your baby for a few days or more, you should pump to maintain your breast milk supply until you can breastfeed again.
  • Relactation: If you stopped breastfeeding and then decide that you want to begin nursing again, pumping can help you to rebuild your breast milk supply.
  • Hormones: Health conditions that affect your hormones, such as hypothyroidism or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), can cause a low breast milk supply. See your doctor for the proper treatment of these conditions and use a breast pump after or between nursing sessions to stimulate your body to make more breast milk.
  • Breast issues: If you have hypoplastic breasts or if you've had previous breast surgery and you want to try to produce as much breast milk as you possibly can from the healthy breast tissue that you do have, pumping may be helpful.
  • Returning to work or school: When it's time to return to work or school, you don't have to stop breastfeeding. You can breastfeed in the morning and again at night. During the day, pump to maintain your breast milk supply.

Where to Get Help

If you have any questions about your breast milk supply, breast pumps, or pumping, talk to your doctor, a lactation consultant, or a local breastfeeding support group such as La Leche. These resources can help you decide on the pump that is right for you. They can also provide you with additional help and support as you work on building and maintaining your milk supply.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. KidsHealth. Breastfeeding FAQs: Supply and demand.

  2. ABM Protocol #9: Use of galactogogues in initiating or augmenting the rate of maternal milk secretion (first revision January 2011). Breastfeed Med. 2011;6(1):41-9. doi:10.1089/bfm.2011.9998

  3. KidsHealth. When your baby’s in the NICU.

  4. Cruz NI, Korchin L. Breastfeeding after augmentation mammaplasty with saline implants. Ann Plast Surg. 2010;64(5):530-3. doi:10.1097/SAP.0b013e3181c925e4

Additional Reading
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books.

  • Lawrence RA, Lawrence RM. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession 7th edition. Mosby.

By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.