5 Top tips for Expressing Breast Milk from Dr Brooke Vandermolen


Knowing how, when or why to express breastmilk can be so confusing.

You may be attaching your pump to boost milk supply, thinking of building a freezer stash for when you go back to work, or just to allow your partner get involved in the feeding.

In this post Dr Brooke Vandermolen, Obstetrics & Gynaecology doctor and co-founder of The Birth Collective, provider of online birth preparation courses, explains 5 really useful tips to improve your experience of expressing breast milk:

1. Dont panic about volumes. 

You may not get much milk out when you begin so try not to get too disheartened.

Your milk ejection reflex (MER) or ‘let down’ reflex is conditioned to happen when your baby sucks at the breast. It needs to be ‘retrained’ to also let down to a pump.

There is no ‘right time’ to start expressing for your baby, as it often depends on your own situation. The usual recommendation is to wait 6 weeks for breastfeeding to be properly established. By this point r baby is comfortable latching to the breast, and your supply has adjusted to match your baby’s needs. 

Every family is different, and you may be advised to express milk for other reasons. eg; baby is losing weight so you need to boost supply, or if mum and baby are separated eg in the NICU. 

Consistency is key – Pumping regularly e.g. once a day at the same time can help.

Try not to watch the milk drip into the bottle. This can inhibit the MER can be inhibited if anxious or stressed. Cover the bottle with a muslin or baby sock and try to relax, or practice hypnobirthing/ mindfulness tecniques.

Being near your baby or looking at baby pics or videos can help milk to flow

2. Check the fit of your nipple shields!

The nipple should move freely in the breast shield and not rub against the sides. Ensure that little to none of the areola is pulled into the narrow part of the shield.

Pumping should feel comfortable and certainly not cause any pain.

Breasts should feel less full after.

Most companies make different size shields so you should be able to find one that fits.

3. You will probably get best volumes in the morning.

Everyone is different but you may notice certain patterns to the best volumes. Try expressing during nap times or when your baby sleeps for a longer stretch than normal between feeds.

Again …. Consistency is key – Pumping regularly e.g. once a day at the same time can help.

4. To boost supply, try to power pump:

Find 1 hour to pump uninterrupted and use this pumping pattern:

  • Pump 20 mins, rest 10 mins
  • Pump 10 mins, rest 10 mins
  • Pump 10 mins.

Do this 1-2 times per day for 2-3 days to see increased volumes

5. The volume you pump doesn’t reflect how much milk your baby is getting!

Your baby is much more efficient at extracting milk than even the most expensive breast pump. Don’t look at pumped milk volumes to estimate how much milk your baby is getting. 

If your baby is doing the right number of wet and dirty nappies, is satisfied between feeds and is gaining weight then you don’t need to worry.