Alexiyah Coughlin, BSN, RN, IBCLC

Pumping can be a big part of your chest/breastfeeding journey. If you’re pumping for the first time, you may be a little overwhelmed, nervous, or even confused. These are all normal feelings. Depending on your pumping goals, there are lots of techniques you can try to improve your pumping experience. With a few tips, you can become confident and maximize your pumping sessions.

Picking the right flange

The single most important piece of the pumping process is selecting the right flange. While pumps will come with a standard flange size, only a small percentage of moms will fit in these sizes. For this reason, it’s important to accurately measure your nipples and order a couple of sets in your size. When flange size is incompatible, you may experience issues like discomfort, nipple damage, and poor milk output. Rumble Tuff understands that one size does not fit all when it comes to pump flanges. All of our pumps come with 25 mm flanges and 23 mm silicone inserts. We also include a sizing guide with each pump, and offer the widest range of sizes in our online store. Rumble Tuff strives to put the best breast pump on the market, and we think that starts by making our pumps inclusive, with lots of extras to make your experience a good one. 

Sometimes, you may have the right size flange, but still experience discomfort or poor output. Occasionally, moms are either more sensitive, or may struggle with complications, like vasospasm or elastic nipples.  For this reason, we’ve worked hard to make all of our pumps compatible with some of the leading brands of flange inserts, including Pumpin’ Pal. We include soft silicone flange inserts with every pump, and have alternative inserts available on our online store

For more information on choosing the right flanges and inserts, see Rumble Tuff IBCLC Kate Tuttle’s blog here.

Timing of pumping sessions 

This one is important. Pumping sessions should be frequent enough to match your baby’s feeding schedule, especially if your baby is supplementing with pumped milk or formula and when it’s time to go back to work. Your pump should be a substitute for your baby when you’re away.  

If you’re trying to pump to build up a freezer stash on top of feeding your baby, the best time to do this is after the morning feed. It’s best to pump right after you feed your baby so that you are able to nurse your baby for the following feed. You can add a pumping session after any feed, as needed, but milk supply is naturally higher in the morning, so you are more likely to yield a larger amount. 

Using the right settings at the right time

It might be easy to throw on your pump and randomly select settings that are tolerable, but there is actually a system for choosing the right settings at the right time. The goal is to mimic the way a baby stimulates your nipples to encourage a letdown, and then draw milk out. When you begin a pumping session, you will want to choose a stimulation mode: high frequency (more pumps per minute), and lower suction. Once you achieve a letdown (some moms feel letdown, others watch for milk to start flowing into the flange), you will want to switch to an expression mode:  low frequency (less pumps per minute), and higher suction. Remember, pumping should never be painful! In expression mode, suction should only be as high as you are comfortable. During the first few sessions, slowly increase the suction until you reach the highest level where you are still comfortable. Eventually, you will find your comfort zone and be able to save your settings to your pump so that you can easily toggle between your custom stimulation and expression modes, depending on the pump. 

Note that some pumps have less customizability due to less setting choices. Rumble Tuff pumps have a great range of settings for optimal flexibility so that you can fine tune your settings as much as you need to to have the best breast pumping experience.

Power pumping to pump more milk 

Note that you can often elicit multiple letdowns in one session, which can help you pump more milk. This is often called “power pumping”.  During a single pumping session, you would start with stimulation mode, moving to expression mode once a letdown is achieved. Once flow slows down, you can take a break for 1-2 minutes and then re-apply your flanges and start over, moving from stimulation mode to expression mode.  You can repeat this process 2-4 times, as needed. Some moms may prefer to move right from the end of an expression back to stimulation mode without removing the flanges for a break. Power pumping can work to increase output not only for the single session, but may also increase overall supply. For long term results, try power pumping for 24-48 hours and note the results.  Power pumping can be helpful in times where you see your supply dip, even if you don’t utilize this technique in the beginning of your journey.  

Hands free pumping 

If you’re like most moms, you’re busy! We get it. One way to maximize your pumping sessions is to learn how to pump hands free! Pumping without having to sit in one place, holding your flanges, can be a lifesaver, especially if you’re busy at work, with other children, or just on the go. There are a few ways to free up your hands while you’re pumping. Using a pumping bra with your regular flanges is one option.  Another great option is to use cups instead of shields.  

Rumble Tuff offers Go Cups, which fit right into your bra, connecting to your portable pump to allow you a completely hands free experience. These are a discrete option, holding up to 8 oz each, allowing you to pump more milk than other leading brands. We offer the best breast pump packages that include Go Cups with your Rumble Tuff pump. If you have a different pump, check with us about compatibility with most other breast pumps.  This is an affordable way to convert your pump to hands free.

Hands on pumping

Quite the opposite of hands-free pumping, hands-on pumping is a great technique when the goal is to pump more milk or encourage a letdown. This incorporates hand expression, and is often recommended by lactation consultants when moms are pumping during the first couple of weeks after birth. Hand massaging the breasts while using an electric breast pump can increase output and enhance comfort. This is especially important for moms who may be struggling with low supply or having a hard time letting down.  

Hand expression can also be used while nursing your baby, either before a feed to encourage the baby to latch, or to help a baby who is having issues transferring milk. Here is a video that does a great job of explaining hand expression from UNICEF. If you need more help with hands-on pumping, our skilled lactation consultants are available to help.

Relaxation techniques 

Sometimes the key to pumping is relaxation! When the body is tense, worried, or stressed, it is less likely to be successful producing breast milk, so relaxation is important to not only encourage a let down, but also for long-term milk production. In other words, lactation is not necessary for survival, so your body perceives stress, discomfort, or pain as more important. That means that we have to take care of your body for it to take care of your baby.  

There are countless ways to relax during a pumping session. Choosing a private room with comfortable seating is the first step. Other things that may be helpful are music, watching your favorite show, looking at photos or videos of your baby, massage, heat, or even meditation. You can try anything you normally would do to relax. The goal is to reduce stress and allow your body to focus on pumping.

Accessorizing your session

There are many great options for accessorizing to create the best breast pumping experience. Flange inserts are great accessories, as discussed earlier. You might also try adding heat or vibration before or even during your pumping sessions. 

These additions can help encourage a letdown and allow you to pump more milk. They can also be soothing, or even distracting for moms who are more sensitive to pumping. There are many products available that are marketed for heat or vibration, but you can also just try a warm compress right at home.  

Try a manual pump

Electric breast pumps are popular for their convenience and are often referred to as the best breast pump type. They’re great options for moms who want an automated pumping experience.  At times, however, manual pumping may be more comfortable and effective. Although manual pumps can seem archaic, the benefit is that you’re able to be in total control of the suction and frequency, which can maximize a pumping session.  

Rumble Tuff understands that every parent has different needs, and your needs may even change from day to day! That’s why all of our electric pumps come with a manual handle, which converts your flanges to a manual breast pump. That means that you have everything you need, right at your fingertips. 

We know pumping can be tiresome and stressful. We are here for you. Rumble Tuff users have access to FREE pumping consults with one of our experienced lactation consultants. You can schedule with us here. You’ve got this, and we’ve got you. 

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