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You glanced at your watch.
It's been 30 minutes. But you have not done pumping yet.
The milk seems to slow down, yet your breast does not feel empty. You are screaming inside your head," I couldn't possibly spend my day doing this all the time. Tied to a pump for 30 minutes or more. I have a lot of things to do! Oh, how I wish I could pump breast milk faster and be done."
Have you been in that situation before?
I bet you did, and so did I. Most of us have a busy life and hence we want to be able to finish our pumping session quickly. Not only that, we want to make sure that we empty our breast thoroughly, Because as you know, more milk out, more milk produced.
That's why in this article, we'll discuss in detail how to speed up your pumping routine and have your breast emptied thoroughly, so that you can have more time for your life.
This post is part of PUMPING 101 Series. You may check other articles in this series:
Choose a good quality breast pump
It may sound cliche, but quality matters. A mediocre breast pump may be cheap, but will cause you trouble in emptying your breast. When time is of the essence, choosing a good pump will help you pump more quickly, sometimes even half the time compared to a normal breast pump. Every mom has different preference, but some of moms' favorite breast pumps (such as Spectra S1 and Super Genie) are popularly known to get pumping done fast.
Change your pump accessories regularly.
Even a good quality breast pump needs a good maintenance. If you pump frequently and has not changed your pump parts for a while, it may affect the pump's performance (particularly the suction) and makes it empty your breast slower than it should. Check out the table below for how often you need to change specific pump accessories.
WHEN TO REPLACE
Duck bill valve
Back flow protector
6 months (or as needed)
Check for moisture / damage
For a more complete guide, do visit Pumpables article on how often to replace pump parts (they differentiate how often to replace based on your pumping frequency, very useful!)
3. Get rid of any discomfort.
Discomfort is an enemy for pumping mothers because it may hinder you from getting your let-down or slow down your pumping process. If you feel any pain while pumping, this is time to investigate what causes the pain? A few possible solutions may include:
- Changing the flange size. Smaller flange causes friction that leads to nipple pain
- Applying some lubricant. Pumping is totally a different experience compared to nursing. A baby feels soft and warm. A flange is hard and cold. Applying a little lubricant such as coconut oil to the flange (including inside the cone) may reduce friction and discomfort.
- If you are currently using hard-plastic flange and feeling bleh, switch to a silicon flange that feels softer. This can be:
- adjust your pumping setting. Remember, you don't need to use the highest setting to get most milk out. High vacuum may create pain and discomfort, and who wants finish pumping with swollen nipples anyway. Always choose breast pump setting that feels comfortable for you.
5. Master your let-down
Some moms simply cannot let-down as fast as when they are nursing their babies and that's completely normal.
But do you know that you may get faster let-down other than using let-down mode from your breast pump? Here are a few tips for getting quick let-down (you can combine some of them to get optimal result):
- Apply warmth. Warmth can make you feel relaxed and stimulate oxytocin (the hormone responsible for activating let-down). You can apply warmth in various ways. It could be a cup of hot drink right before pumping or placing warm pads (such as Therapearl) right onto your breast while pumping. If you feel that manually heating a reusable pad is a hassle, getting Lavie warming massager would be a good alternative. PS: I've written a detailed review about how to use Lavie Massager to speed up your let-down and overall pumping time. Click here to read the detailed Lavie Lactation massager review.
- Get to know yourself. Do you feel excited for every streams of milk coming out from you breast? Or do you feel stress looking at the milk altogether? If you are the later, don't look at your pump flanges and bottles at all. You can cover up your bottles with baby socks so that you won't feel intimidated with the amount. Then distract yourself while pumping by watching your favorite videos or scrolling through your social media feed. Remember, you need to be relaxed and happy.
- Give your breast a massage and gently roll your nipple using your thumb and index finger. This mimics your baby's suck when latching and helps your brain thinking that it's the baby latching, and thus stimulates faster let-down.
PRO TIP: do this simultaneously as you use let-down mode from your breast pump. Hook one flange to one side (and start on let-down mode), and roll your nipple on the other side. Once let-down occurs, you can quickly hook the other flange and pump as usual.
For more tips, check out the following article for the complete lists on how to stimulate let-down reflex while pumping.
6. Speed up the milk flow.
Now that we have optimized our let-down routine, let's try to speed up the milk flow.
- Have you tried using breast compression while pumping breast milk? By massaging different parts of your breast, particularly when you feel some knots or hard lump, you may be able to help the milk flow faster. Not only that, it can also double your milk output. If you feel tired doing breast compression by hand, this handy massager may be useful.
- Pay attention to how your milk sprays when the pump applies vacuum to your breast. Does the spray stops halfway during the vacuum cycle? Or, does the milk spray is still pretty strong at the end of the cycle? If your answer is the former, you may try increasing your cycle speed to speed up pumping. If yours is the latter, you can use slower speed to help the pump empty your breast quicker.
... More on pumping strategies....
7. Get more let-downs.
Does your milk flow tremendously slows down after certain period of time then continues to drip veery slowly?
You can switch back to let down mode again to initiate a new, faster milk flow. Getting the subsequent let-down will take slightly longer time than the first let-down, so please experiment how many let-down combo gives you the most optimal result in terms of pumping output and time.
8. Use multiple pump settings
Some moms also have better pumping output by using variable pump vacuum strength. For example, once you get your let down, use a middle vacuum strength, medium speed for 5 minutes then followed by high vacuum strength slow speed.
9. Use a manual pump afterwards
Seems that your pump cannot extra any milk anymore? Let’s try hand expression or manual pumping afterwards and see if there’s more milk that you can collect. I remember, when I was still pumping with Medela Swing, my electric pump was unable to get any more milk after a few minutes. But this did not mean my breast has been emptied. I took out my manual pump right away and was able to get 1 more ounce of milk.
Do you feel that you can’t get enough milk with your electric breast pump? Perhaps you responds better with a manual pump or hand-expression. Don’t worry if that’s the case! You can speed up your manual pumping time by combining your manual breast pump with a silicone breast pump such as Haakaa. Hook your manual pump on one side and Haakaa on the other side and pump away. Switch side a few times when the milk flow slows, and don’t forget to initiate at least two let-downs. Some working moms do this because apparently this method is most effective for them.
10, What about hands-free pumping?
I don’t have time for hands-on pumping! Perhaps you are screaming like this. Just give me a handsfree way to empty my breast.
Well, of course, if you have no problem pumping enough milk with handsfree option, a wearable breast pump would be a good option for you. But sadly, not all mothers responds well to this type of pump. Sometimes, they do get some milk when pumping but not emptied thoroughly. In that case, you may need to:
- do more frequent handsfree pumping sessions to compensate for not emptying your breast thoroughly
- combine a few handsfree pumping sessions and some hands-on pumping sessions (say, do hands-on ones twice a day, e.g. early morning and one last pump before bed).
BONUS: If your breast milk has thick consistency, consider consuming lecithin. FYI, lecithin has been recommended to combat recurrent clogged ducts. It works by decreasing the viscosity (stickiness) of breast milk by increasing percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the milk. In terms of pumping, this will help you pumping faster because the milk flow is improved due to decreased viscosity. You may read other moms' experience in consuming lecithin here.
So, these are the 10 tips that you can try to speed up your pumping routine so that you can empty your breast faster. Personally, tips no 5,6 and 9 are my favorites and these tips have helped me maintain a good milk supply, too.
Have you tried some of these tips to pump breast milk faster? Which one is your favourite? Feel free to share your personal experience in the comments.