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Ten Ways to Encourage a Let Down While Pumping

If you're a pumping mom you know that getting your milk to let down is the key to getting a good volume of milk.  We know that pumping is probably not any mom's idea of a good time, and that it's particularly frustrating when you can't get your milk to let down. 

So we'd like to offer some tips to help you get your milk to let down, making your pumping sessions as productive as possible!

Flange fit.  Using the right size flange for your nipple size will help with let down and also prevent injury. 

Pump speed.  Research has demonstrated that mothers produce more milk when their pumps simulate the sucking pattern of babies, going from a rapid speed (simulating the speed babies use at the beginning of a feeding to stimulate a let down) to a slower speed (simulating babies' slower suck-swallow pattern when milk has let down). Some pumps automatically cycle in this pattern, but if your pump doesn't you can manually adjust the speed setting in this pattern, starting with a fast speed and switching to a slower speed once you sense that your milk is starting to let down.

Pump suction.  Finding the right suction is another key to getting a let down.  It's best to use a suction that is mild enough to not cause injury and strong enough for you to feel the stimulation.  For most moms it requires some experimentation to find the right setting.  If you're concerned that your pump's suction is inadequate (defects do occur, and older pumps do wear out), ask a lactation consultant to check the suction on your pump.

Double pump.  The higher level of stimulation involved in pumping both breasts at the same time may make it easier to produce a let down It also shortens your pumping time!  Hands free pumping bras or bustiers can be helpful for double pumping.

Breast massage.  Some gentle breast massage prior to pumping may help stimulate a let down, since it's the nerves in the breast and nipple that send the message to your brain to let down milk.  Massaging the breast or applying a compresses during pumping may also help.

Hands-on Pumping.  Research has shown that hand expressing before and after using the pump stimulates more milk.  This is known as “hands on pumping,” and Breastfeeding USA has a good guide to how to do it.

Think about your baby.  Conjuring the feeling of being with your baby - whether it's with images, sounds, or scent - may increase your oxytocin levels and help you achieve a let down. Many mothers find it helpful to have their baby's blanket near by for its scent.

Relaxing and visualization.  You may find some deep breathing, soothing music, or other comforts which relax you also help to produce a let down.  

Warmth.  Some mothers find warmth, in the form of compresses on their breasts or a warm bath or shower, helps them relax and more easily get their milk to let down.

Get help.  Remember that there are many people, from other nursing moms to lactation consultants, who can help.  Don't hesitate to call on the support you have available!