You may want or need to express your milk for a variety of reasons, including to protect the milk supply or to provide milk for someone else to feed to the baby.  

Choosing a Pump

Both manual and electric pumps are available and there are a number of brands to choose from. Everyone responds differently to different products. In general, the most effective pumps are hospital-grade, double, electric pumps. You may choose to buy or rent a pump, depending on your needs.

Use caution when buying a used pump as many pumps are intended for a single user. If you choose to buy a used pump, be sure it is a "closed system" pump. This type of pump keeps particles of milk from entering the pump mechanisms (which cannot be cleaned). 


Generally, pumping is done to replace a feeding at the breast or right after breastfeeding. Avoid pumping between breastfeeds. 

Consult the manual that comes with your pump for instructions on how to use your specific brand and model.

In general, your nipple should be centered in the flange. While the pump is on, the nipple should move easily in and out of the flange tunnel without rubbing. The areola should not be pulled into the flange tunnel. Flanges come in a variety of sizes - consult the retailer or manufacturer if you think you need a smaller or larger flange.

Set the suction of the pump to the lowest setting that draws milk. A higher suction does not mean you will express more. Continue pumping as long as milk is flowing, to a maximum of about 15 minutes.


  • Pumping should not be painful (nor should breastfeeding)!
  • The amount of milk you are able to pump is NOT a good indicator of how much milk you have.

Increasing Expressed Milk Volume

To increase the amount of milk you can express, try some of the following:

  • Apply a warm compress before pumping.
  • Gently massage the breasts before pumping.
  • Try to relax. If your baby is not with you, look at a photo of him/her.
  • Use compressions while pumping (easiest if you have a single pump or a hands-free pumping bra to hold the flanges).
  • Hand express for a few minutes after pumping (see below).

Hand Expressing Breastmilk

Hand expressing is an easy (and free) alternative to pumping and some find it more effective than pumping. Hand expressing after pumping can result in more milk being expressed in comparison to pumping alone.

Hand expressing technique:

SOURCE: Toronto Public Health

SOURCE: Toronto Public Health

Breastmilk Storage

Click here for information about how to store your pumped breastmilk. 

©2017, The Breastfeeding Collective

The information presented here is general and not a substitute for personalized treatment from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant or other qualified health professional.