12 Common Pumping Mistakes that can be Easily Avoided

This post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosures here.

Pumping problems and mistakes come in all shapes, sizes and frustrations.

Some common pumping mistakes are so detrimental that they can completely derail your valiant plans to breastfeed altogether.

However, today is the day you will learn how to avoid these pumping mistakes and preserve your victorious pumping voyage!

Woman making a pumping mistake while looking at her cellphone.

1. Skipping Pumping Sessions

This first common pumping mistake may be made the most by new-to-pumping moms. Obviously it’s understandable why.

This is especially true if you are exclusively pumping.

The daunting demand of maintaining a rigorous pumping schedule around the clock is exhausting and can feel impossible at times.

The most common pumping session moms tend to skip are those dreaded middle of the night pumps.

This is a big mistake.

Especially because pumping at night tends to help promote the best supply and demand market regarding your breast milk supply. 

This is because prolactin levels tend to rise late at night and early in the morning. Probably due to how much more relaxed you are at those times.

What if I Miss a Pumping Session?

Missing pumping sessions is sending a strong signal to your body’s supply and demand market that the demand is no longer as crucial to maintain.

Therefore, your supply will regulate to meet the new demands set in motion.

Thankfully, this equation also works both ways.

How Long can You go Without Pumping?

It is strongly recommended to go no longer than 5-6 hours without pumping during the first few months. 

This not only is to protect your milk supply, but to also avoid clogs that could lead to breast infections.

Such as Mastitis.

Will I Lose My Milk if I Don’t Pump at Night?

If you continue to skip pumping sessions at night within the first few months postpartum, your supply will gradually reduce and you could risk not producing enough.

Instead, wait to wean from your night time pumping session after baby has been sleeping through the night regularly.

This is a natural signal that you can eliminate at least one of the two middle of the night pumping sessions. 

Do this with care and if you notice too steep of a decline in supply, resume pumping at night as you did before.

2. Not Keeping A Schedule

The second pumping mistake to avoid is being negligent about sticking to a pumping schedule. 

This may be that you are regularly skipping sessions, as we discussed above. This could also mean that you dramatically lack consistency from day to day.

Not keeping a pumping schedule can result in bad pumping habits that can lead to serious consequences.

One result from being lazy about your pumping schedule, may be an increased chance of getting clogged milk ducts. Another side effect is a drastic loss in milk supply.

If you are not quite sure how to set up a pumping routine, see the chart below. This will help you determine about how often you should be pumping per day based on how many months postpartum you are.

Exclusive pumping schedule from birth to 12 months

Download three FREE pumping schedules to avoid the mistake of not sticking to a pumping schedule. 

3. Wrong Size Flanges

Unfortunately using the wrong size flange is a very common pumping mistake even veteran pumping moms can make.

It can be hard to determine if the size flange you are using is the correct fit.

Most native pumping kits will include two flange sizes, small and large. Flange sizes can range from 19mm-36mm. 

Usually, the strongest indications that your sizing is off includes pain, friction, poor milk output and discomfort.

See the visual diagram below that displays incorrect and correct flange fit.

Correct flange fit diagram for exclusive breast pumping

How to Get the Best Fitting Flanges

Thankfully, there are a few pumping tools you can use to help you get the best flange fit. Getting the right fit will hopefully correct elastic or flat nipples and improve your milk output with each pumping session.

For women who have elastic nipples, Pumpin’ Pal Breast Pump Flanges would help to correct this problem.

Pumpin’ Pals are silicone flange inserts that dramatically help to eliminate the extreme elasticity women with this problem have.

Another product that helps women get the best flange fit are BabyMotion Flanges by Lactek. These flanges are extremely innovative, as they mimic a baby’s nursing motion.

They are superior in comfort and they also help remove the most milk with the way they compress the nipple during pumping.

If you’d like to shop for Babymotion Flanges or any other amazing Lactek product, please take this 10% off discount code to use toward your entire purchase.  

10% off Lactek products with code LOVEOURLITTLES1

4. Using the Wrong Breast Pump

As we determined above, using the wrong size flange can be a big pumping miscalculation.

Likewise, using the wrong breast pump can also be a huge pumping mistake.  

The breast pump you use for your breast pumping needs has a very important role to play. This machine is responsible for 90% of the work when it comes to the achievements and outcome of your pumping sessions.

Moral of the story, do not go cheap.

The saying, “you get what you pay for” is especially true when it comes to breast pumps. Follow the pink text if you would like extra guidance in how to choose the best breast pump for you.

Quickly fill out this form to see if you qualify for a FREE hospital grade breast pump!

5. Wrong Pump Settings

Let’s voyage in to pump settings and how using them in error can end up being a big pumping mistake. 

Now, I do realize that if you are new to pumping – understanding the many different functions of a breast pump is confusing.

In like manner, discovering the right settings for you may take some trial and error.

However, in the hopes to speed up a pumping session, some moms make the mistake of increasing the suction and or speed too soon.

This can cause inflammation, which could lead to inhibited milk flow and pain due to damaged breast tissue.

Instead, start out with a low suction and quicker speed. This should not feel like a strong tug at all. The purpose of a low vacuum and quick speed is to stimulate a letdown.

Once the milk is flowing, you can gradually experiment with turning up the suction and down the speed. This should help fully empty your breasts.

If you notice the milk has stopped flowing, return to the first “letdown” setting.

Below I have placed a helpful “how to pump on Spectra” card for you to print out or save for later.

Pump icon for how to pump on a spectra

How to Pump on a Spectra Breast Pump

Yield: A better pumping experience
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: None
Estimated Cost: None

This is an example of how you can pump on a Spectra Breast Pump.

Materials

  • Spectra Breast Pump
  • Pumping Kit

Instructions

  1. Start on 70 cycle/low vacuum for 2-3 minutes
  2. Once milk starts flowing, switch to 54 cycle/medium vaccuum for 15-20 minutes
  3. Finish with 38 cycle/high vaccuum for 3-4 minutes
  4. Contiue pumping until milk stops flowing.

Notes

To initiate a letdown, a faster and quicker cycle speed is prefered at the beginning of a pumping session. Once milk begins to flow, the speed can be dialed down and the vacuum increased to a get a deeper pull. In addition to this, ending a pumping session with another faster cycle and lower vacuum may result in additional letdowns.

These Spectra pump settings are based on how a baby naturally likes to nurse.

If these sample pump settings don't work for you, keep adjusting until you find your rythm and flow.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

6. Not Using Your Hands

If you think you only need a mechanical breast pump to get the job done effectively – think again!

Your hands and other lactation tools can be hugely beneficial in expressing breast milk, unlike a breast pump can.

Before you begin pumping, apply some gentle massage to both breasts to help increase and stimulate blood flow, trigger hormones and loosen up sticky milk ducts.

You can also use a lactation massager, like this one from Lavie (use code LOVEOURLITTLES10 for 10% off).

While you are pumping, you can also use your hands in a gentle downward motion to help stubborn milk move out of your breasts.

When you are finished pumping, end the session with more hand expression.

Check out the infographic below to see how the Marmot Technique can be used to express more milk.

Pump more milk infographic.

7. Not Changing Your Pumping Kit’s Parts

The seventh mistake you do not want to be making as a pumping mom warrior is neglecting to change your pumping kit parts. 

The parts I’m mostly referring to are the valves, membranes and tubing.

These breast pump parts are crucially important to the functionality of your breast pump’s ability to properly suction.

As an example, the valves are the little duckbill shaped pieces that attach to the end or your flange that is inserted into the bottle.

This little part plays a HUGE role in how well your breast pump will perform.

If the valves becomes compromised, you may notice a decrease in milk output – which could lead to a loss in milk supply over a short period of time.

Keep your parts regularly changed with fresh pieces and you will be avoiding a major pumping mistake! 

An infographic for when to change pump parts to help increase milk supply.

8. Not Pumping Long Enough

As you may know, breast pumping is a much different experience for your body than nursing a baby. Which means, it’s going to be less efficient at removing breast milk than a baby would be.

Therefore, allowing yourself enough time on the pump to evacuate as much milk as possible is important.

So now you’re wondering, how long should I be pumping?

A time span of at least 15-20 minutes is generally recommended for each pumping session. However, some women may take up to an hour to feel like they have removed all their milk.

A good rule of thumb is to continue pumping for at least another 5 minutes AFTER the milk stops flowing. 

And remember, you can always hand express after your pumping session as well. 

If you feel like you and your little one deserves the BEST pumping education there is, have a risk-free seat in the Ultimate Exclusive Pumping Class by Milkology. It’s a treasure chest of pumping gold!

P.S. As an added gift, after you join the course above. Or The Ultimate Back to Work Pumping Class through a link on this site – I will enroll you in the Pumping Pro Course for FREE! Simply contact me once the task is complete.

9. Stressing About Your Supply

Yes, stressing over your supply is a big mistake that can cause serious emotional harm. Not to mention, stress is horrible for your milk production.

Stress is the killer of the happy hormone Oxytocin, that your body uses to make lots of milk.

It’s understandable that you may feel like there’s a lot at stake – when it comes to giving your baby the best. There is also so much pressure put on moms today to “do it all”.

Moral of the story, if you are avoiding all of the common pumping mistakes you can – than you are doing enough and you shouldn’t worry.

There is only so much we can truly control in our lives. Some women are overproducers, some are under-producers and some are just-enoughers.

Wherever you fall in those categories, may just be how the cookie crumbled into the milk this time around.

Download three FREE pumping schedules 

10. Taking too Many Lactation Supplements 

Since we just discussed the mistake of stressing over supply, this next pumping blunder is also applicable.

Taking too many milk-enhancing supplements can sometimes has the opposite effect you want.

Many new-to-pumping moms jump on the band wagon of a quick milk supply fix and end up over-doing these lactation supplements.

This can be a problem because there may have been damage done to your milk supply before you know what happened or what exactly caused it.

For instance, many lactation supplements have Fenugreek.

Some moms swear by Fenugreek as an effective milk-booster. However, other moms curse it for the opposite reason.

Other lactation supplements may react poorly with your milk, causing painful gas and colic for your baby.

The best way to avoid experiencing these complications, is to be cautious and light-handed with the lactation supplements. 

This is not to say you should NEVER try them – because some do work wonders for some moms! Start with one at a time and document any changes so you can determine if it’s providing you with the outcome you were seeking.

Read: An Ultimate Guide to Power Pumping and Milk Supply

11. Forgetting Your Liquid Intake 

Hydration is KEY.

There is nothing more essential to making milk than staying hydrated. As a tried new mom, it can be easy to realize that it’s  7pm and you have yet to drink even one glass of water.

A great way to remember your water intake is to get in the habit of drinking a bottle of water every time you pump. If you need to keep fancy bottled water in the fridge to make this less of a chore – DO IT!

Maybe water is your least favorite way to get in your daily liquid allowance. If so, try these drink ideas for breastfeeding moms that are a little more creative than just plain H2O.

Read: How Many Calories Does Pumping Burn? Calculations Included

12. Not Wearing the Right Clothes

Whether you are pumping at work or at home, the pumping gear you wear can make or break the effectiveness of a pumping session.

You may have seen those breast pumping hacks that teach you how to make your own hands-free pumping bra?

Well, this is a DIY and pumping mistake I would urge you to not to try. 

A hands-free pumping bra can be a crucial asset to you while you pump. It allows you the freedom to multi-task and even pump on the go.

A good hands-free pumping bra should be double layered for extra support and security when the flange is inserted. You would not achieve this with a DIY pumping bra using an old sports bra.

If you are pumping at work, the clothes you wear can play a huge role in the function of your entire day. You want to wear clothing that has easy accessibility for you to input your pumping kit effortlessly.

The last thing you want is for a co-worker to catch you topless while pumping because the trendy blouse you wore left no room for your pumping kit.

Here’s a gift of two FREE pumping in progress signs for work.

Final Outcome

You have reached the end of this epic common pumping mistakes novel.

You now have a trust-worthy guidebook to refer back to of what to avoid while pumping to solidify your success as a mother pumper/milk maker.

Please do yourself a favor and save this article for later. There is just way too many golden nuggets of pumping treasure in here not to horde it for yourself.

And If you still feel like you and your little one deserves the best pumping education out there, I recommend you have yourself a digital seat in the risk-free online course, The Ultimate Exclusive Pumping Class.

Please Share!

FREEBIES!

✔︎ Pumping schedules

✔︎ Milk supply solutions

✔︎ Pumping signs

...and so much more!

Free breastfeeding and pumping resources

  This is just what I need!