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Using a breast pump

How to get the most breastmilk when using a breast pump

mother pumping

Many mums have a breast pump, but not all mums know how to use their pump to get the most breastmilk. This information will help you to get started with expressing using an electric breast pump.  It will also be helpful if you are using a hand pump. 

A breast pump is not the same as the sucking action of a baby. If your baby is feeding well, they will be better at getting all the milk from your breasts. Because of this, expressing breastmilk may take a little longer than breastfeeding your baby. 

Preparing to pump

  • Wash your hands before any expressing.  

  • Assemble the clean milk collection kit using the maker's instructions. 

  • Set the pump to the lowest suction setting and adjust to what is comfortable. 

  • Make sure your nipple is in the centre of the flange and not being rubbed.  

  • Make sure that the breast shield (also called a flange) is the correct size and has good skin contact all around to stop air entering. 

  • Warming the flange can help your milk to flow. 

Starting out with pumping

  • Some warmth on your breast and gentle massage may help your milk to flow

  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions on the settings for the pump.  

  • Start with short sessions and the pump on lowest suction setting. You can increase the suction once you’re more comfortable with pumping. You’ll get the most milk when the suction is on the highest level that is comfortable. 

  • If you’re using a single kit, you may find it useful to change breasts several times during the session. This gives each breast a rest but also triggers a new let-down each time. 

How to pump more milk

  • Using a double pump kit will remove more milk in a shorter amount of time. 

  • Use breast compressions to get more milk from each breast.

  • Finish off each session with a few minutes of hand expressing. This will help to empty your breasts further and increase your milk supply.  

  • Using a technique called ‘hands-on pumping’ can help a mum to produce more milk over several expressing sessions. 

If you're trying to increase your supply

  • Your baby is better at getting milk from your breast than a pump. If you’re trying to increase your supply, feeding baby at the breast will achieve this more easily than extra pumping.  

  • You may need to increase the frequency of your pumping.

  • Try some short pumping sessions close together, to mimic a baby cluster feeding. Pump for 5 to 10 mins at a time but repeat this several times over the course of an hour or two. 

Troubleshooting with the pump

  • Check that your milk collection kit is put together correctly and correctly attached to the breast pump. 

  • Keep the milk collection kit upright while you are expressing to prevent milk from going into the tubing.  

  • Some pump parts wear out and need replacing. Check your manufacturer’s instructions. 

Cleaning your pump

Learn about cleaning your pump

Hired a hospital grade pump from ABA? 

When you hire a breast pump from ABA, the breast pump hire officer will show you how to put it together and use it. Keep in regular contact with them to let them know how you are getting on and whether you still need the pump. 

Contact your hire officer if any of the following happens: 

  • The pump is not working (check the instructions first). 

  • You feel the pump is not helping you. 

  • You want to return the pump early. 

If you need help with expressing or you are concerned about your milk supply, speak with a breastfeeding counsellor.


© Australian Breastfeeding Association April 2022

Read more about expressing and pumps

Quick links to articles for every expressing situation

Using an electric breast pump - leaflet

mum pumping