Making Milk Expression Work for You
Get tips and see how pumping can help solve your breastfeeding challenges.
Expressing milk is an important tool in your breastfeeding journey. Ask your WIC breastfeeding staff about practical tips to help you with pumping and hand expression. WIC staff may also suggest pumping to help you address common issues. These include relieving or preventing engorgement and building your milk supply. Pumping also lets you provide breast milk for your baby when you are apart.
Read more about how you can make pumping work for you when facing challenges, plus other helpful tips.
Relieving or Preventing Engorgement
Emptying milk from your breasts regularly will help keep your breasts from becoming engorged. If they do get engorged, pumping or expressing milk can help by removing some of your breast milk. Here's how you can use pumping to help:
- Hand express or pump a little milk to soften the breast, areola, and nipple before breastfeeding. This may make it easier for baby to latch.
- If your baby is not nursing well, express your milk often to maintain milk supply and prevent engorgement.
- If your breasts are uncomfortably full at the end of a feeding or between feedings, express your milk until it's more comfortable. This will help keep your breasts from becoming too full.
Increasing Milk Supply
Each time you breastfeed or pump, you're telling your body to make more milk. If you are struggling with low milk supply, pumping may help you make more milk.
Try pumping between feedings. Aim to remove more milk from your breasts and/or increase the number of times you empty your breasts.
Supplying Milk When You're Away From Your Baby
Being away from your baby—whether you're returning to work or school, need to run errands, or want a night out with friends—requires planning. Pumping or expressing milk is a great way to make sure your baby gets the benefits of breast milk while you are apart.
- Pump or express breast milk while your baby is napping or when you have help from others to watch your baby. Or try to pump for a few minutes after every feeding. You can store your milk for later.
- If you're back at work or school, try to pump or express milk as often as you would feed your baby. Talk to your employer about scheduling breaks to pump.
- An electric breast pump may be the best way to remove milk quickly when you are away from your baby for several hours.
Other Helpful Tips
- Start early. Many moms mention that their breasts feel fuller in the morning. This may be a good time to express milk.
- Relax. Don't worry if you don't get much milk at first. This is normal. Most moms are able to express more over time.
Staying on Track
- Keep all of your pumping sessions. Skipping sessions may cause your breasts to make less milk. Keeping your sessions will also help prevent engorgement and plugged ducts.
- Check your pump. Talk to your WIC breastfeeding staff if you are not sure if your pump is the right fit or if you think it's not working right.
- Take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest, eat well, drink enough fluid, and let others help you.
- Help your baby adjust to taking breast milk from a bottle. Your baby may be more likely to accept breast milk in a bottle from someone else at first, since baby is used to nursing from your breast.
- Ask for help. Let your partner or family members clean your pump and parts and pack it for your next work or school day.
- Keep extra, clean parts on hand.