Help & Advice – Pumping / Expressing To Increase Milk Supply

Breast expressing is one of the best ways to help encourage and boost your milk supply in the first weeks to months of breastfeeding. It will also help you understand your personal supply and maintain that later on, when you are not using your breasts at night and your baby sleeps through.

It’s an opinion that expressing can interfere with your natural milk supply – this is true – but in a positive way. With supply and demand the demand comes first and supply a few days to weeks later. The first six weeks of your baby’s life is the fastest rate of growth, which means your growing baby will increase milk intake on a weekly basis with some babies reaching their maximum intake of milk per feed at 6 weeks. To help keep up with this rate of growth, a combination of plenty of rest, good diet, active feeding, lots of fluids and expressing at the right time of day (so as not to interfere with feeds) will help your breasts to keep up with your newborn’s increasing demand.

Expressed milk in bags and breast milk express machine

Finding the right breast pump can be a little tricky as one size or suction doesn’t fit all. Electric pumps are best. My rated pumps are the Lansinoh double, which has the added benefit of a timer, or Medela Freestyle. The Dog’s of all pumps, which is the best for efficiency and stimulation, is the Medela Symphony hospital grade, which is available for rental only in the UK.

There are a few pumps which are popular which I wouldn’t recommend and I’m sorry to name and shame but… the Elvie won’t help boost your supply, won’t fully drain or stimulate your breasts and has a history of breaking. The Hakka, which is handy when you need to release a little milk ahead of a feed is also not a stimulating milk boosting pump. The Medela swing also isn’t great at extracting.

It’s important you use the right size funnel (or flange as they call them in the States…what!). As your breasts grow you may need to change the size of funnel. If you have friction around the nipple then you could be using the wrong size. Try smearing a little Vaseline around the inside of the funnel.

Expressing at the right time of day is important. Express straight after or within twenty minutes of finishing a day feed. This tricks your breast into thinking your baby is still demanding more milk during the feeding period and will stimulate the breast to produce more milk, draining your breasts reactivates, which will increase milk supply. Expressing during the day helps your breast get into a routine of supplying more milk during the day than at night. Yes, your breasts can get into a routine and you may find they automatically start to fill with milk and you feel the let down just before, or at the time of, your scheduled feed.

In theory, having slept at night, fed less frequently and stored milk while you were sleeping, you are at your highest point of supply in the morning. I encourage Mums to express after the first two morning feeds only and in the evening just before they go to bed, once their baby is sleeping for a period of five to seven hours during the first part of the night. This is to keep the milk supply tip top and ensure Mum can sleep comfortably, undisturbed by bursting breast until baby naturally wakes later through the night.

Baby Looking at an expressed bottle of milk

Expressing No-No’s…

  1. Do not express before or between a feed as you will be extracting milk produced for your baby’s next feed.
  2. Do not sit pumping for hours on end. Focus on when and how much you are expressing so you can use the pump efficiently for the minimal amount of time. How your breasts work with milk flow and supply is personal to you so getting to know your breasts is crucial. Pump for 10 minutes with a double pump or 20 minutes with a single pump, the time taken to express speeds up as the weeks go by. At around week 4 to 6 the milk thins and expressing takes less time. By week 12 it may take you as little as 5 minutes!
  3. Do not over express. If you have the supply of a dairy cow, express only after the first morning feed, just before you go to bed around 8-9pm, unless your second breast is rejected then you need to express the second side.

For successfully establishing a good milk supply, expressing is only part of the plan.

Active feeding.

Make sure your baby sucks well at the breast and doesn’t comfort suck and fall asleep. Nothing will stimulate your milk supply and drain your breasts like your baby can but unfortunately newborns tend to fall asleep easily when feeding!

1. Rest and sleep when your baby sleeps and go to bed early while you are still getting up for night feeds.
2. Eat and drink well! Eat between each breastfeed and drink at least 2 but ideally 3 litres of water a day.
3. Skin to skin nap.
4. Drink Fennel tea

For more information on breastfeeding and milk supply grab a copy of my book, 7pm to 7am Sleeping Baby Routine where you will find much more advice from establishing lactation, milk flow and breastfeeding.

Happy Parenting!

Hi I’m Charmian Mead, author of the best selling parenting book 7pm to 7am Sleeping Baby Routine, parent coach and lactation consultant. I offer lactation and breastfeeding support to new Mums. As a breastfeeding councillor / Consultant I can help you achieve a breastfeeding routine.

For all consulting options and weekly bookings, please check out my consultancy page or contact me via my contact page.

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