How to Fully Empty Breasts with a Pump

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How can you tell if you have fully empty breasts after pumping?

Not being able to fully evacuate your breasts regularly may quickly lead to milk supply troubles and serious problems, such as clogs.

In this read, I’m going to share with you some pumping tips and resources that helped should help you feel more confident about fully removing most of the breast milk from your breasts at every pumping session.

After all, knowing how to fully empty your breasts with a pump can be crucial to your breastfeeding health and success!

An image of a cell phone with a free pumping schedule on the screen.
Three FREE pumping schedules to help increase milk supply or build a freezer stash. Download and print or keep on your phone.

The Dangers of Not Fully Emptying Your Breasts

Did you know that your breasts are never truly empty of breast milk? This is because your body is always in milk-making mode.

However, it is still important to remove as much sitting breast milk from the breasts as possible.

Having said that, what happens if you aren’t able to fully empty your breasts of breast milk after you pump or breastfeed?

Let’s start with answering that question before we move onto the breast emptying tips and techniques I would like to recommend to you.

Not fully emptying your breasts could lead to Clogs

Say what?!

A clog is no fun and you know what it can lead to, right ladies?

Mastitis?

Yep, unfortunately that’s right. Mastitis, the three syllable word all breastfeeding moms fear!

I myself have never suffered from mastitis, but I do know it can be very common and also very painful!

I hope you can take away some pumping tips form this section below to avoid this awful breast infection!

What is mastitis?

Mastitis is inflammation of the breasts that cause pain, swelling, redness and sometimes an infection. (source)

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Warmth
  • Redness
  • Thickening of breast tissue
  • Pain
  • Burning Sensation 
  • Fever 
  • Feeling flu-like symptoms

Causes

  • Clogged Milk Duct

Mastitis can be caused by backed up breast milk that sits too long in the milk ducts, causing a nasty clog that lead to an infection. (source)

  • Bacteria

Bacteria can enter the milk ducts through contact with baby’s mouth, pump parts, and not fully emptying breasts leading to a breeding ground for bacterial growth.

How do I Prevent Myself from Getting Clogs while Breastfeeding?

  1. Fully drain the breast milk from your breasts.
  2. If nursing, allow your baby to drain one breast before switching and make sure your baby is latching on properly.
  3. Use lactation tools (LaVie discount code) to help loosen and warm sticky milk ducts. 
  4. Sunflower Lecithin is known to help keep milk ducts lubed and more easily drained.

Now that we’ve covered what can go wrong by failing to fully drain your breasts properly, let’s jump into the other tips I promised to share with you today!

How Do I know When My Breast is Empty When Pumping?

Before we get too deep into the topic, I have to help you fully empty your breasts first!

I think we should make some notes on how to tell when your breast is empty when pumping.

The Signs of Empty Breasts

  • Your breasts will feel flat and flaccid (floppy).
  • It has been over 10-15 minutes since your last letdown and the milk has stopped flowing.
  • Hand expressing is getting little to nothing extra out.

How to Initiate a Letdown

As bulleted above, the lack of letdowns while pumping is usually a pretty good indication that you have successfully removed the most amount of breast milk from your breasts during that particular pumping session.

Here are some ways you can initiate a letdown:

  • Breast and nipple stimulation 
  • Hearing, seeing or smelling baby
  • Breast massage
  • Breast vibration 
The formula of a letdown infographic
Click the upper left-hand corner to pin this for later.

10 Tips to Help Fully Empty Breast with Pump

In this section, we’ll address each tip thoroughly to help you best empty your breasts with a pump.

I was able to come up with ten tips based on the expertise of many exclusively pumping moms, as well as my own experience.

1. Hand express while pumping

This tip is a must learned skill for pumping moms! A good pump can do a lot of the work for you, but they still need our assistance. 

Hand expressing is a superb way of manually forcing breast milk out of sticky and stubborn milk ducts.

It is a good idea to always massage while pumping and finish with hand expressing.

In fact, using a breast massaging tool like the Lavie Lactation Massager will help make this task much easier.

This is a good place to recommend the added help and expertise of an online course that will guide you through all of these pumping techniques. 

Milkology’s course, The Ultimate Exclusive Pumping Class is where I would recommend you begin building up your pumping and lactation confidence. 

P.S. If you enroll in this course through the link provided, I’ll send you my Pumping Pro Course for free! Contact me once you have made your purchase. 

How do I hand express while I pump?

To use this tip to ensure you are fully emptying, simply apply massaging pressure and work your way down your breasts toward the nipple as you pump.

I find that this method works best if you are pumping one breast at a time without a pumping bra getting in the way.

2. Use a manual breast pump

The usefulness of a manual breast pump is sometimes overlooked, but don’t disregard it as an afterthought.

A manual breast pump is actually really good at getting out clogs too!

If you feel like you may still be full after the use of your everyday pump, bust out the manual pump for a few minutes and see what happens!

Medela harmony manual breast works great to fully empty the breasts or get out a clog.
Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump

3. Change Positions of the Flange

This is a really effective pumping tip when you see milk ceasing to flow, but you think you could still drain your breasts some more. 

Simply begin to move the flange around your breasts and apply tension to different sides where you feel like you could possibly pump more milk from.

I can attest to this tip, as it worked every time for me and I could not go a pumping session without performing it.

4. Dangle Pump

What is dangle pumping?

Dangle pumping is pretty much as it sounds. To perform, you literally dangle the flange from your breasts as you pump – using gravity to empty the breast.

This technique takes some practice, but once you have it mastered, it will be one of your favorite tools in your pumping tool box to use!

Related: How to Exclusively Breast Pump: Exclusive Pumping 101

5. Add Heat

Using moist heat especially, helps to loosen up the milk ducts and create a smoother flow.

You can use heat therapy packs, a warm moist wash cloth or take a hot shower.

Remember to pump directly after using heat for maximum results.

6. Nurse On One Breast Until Breasts Empty

If you are nursing, let your baby fully drain one breast before offering the other.

Your baby’s ability to empty your breasts is more effective than any other method or tool. After all, that is what they were designed for!

Have you noticed when a newborn latches, it’s like lock jaw?

I almost thought I could have stood up, let go and she would have still been attached me! OUCH! 

Another tip for new moms hoping to breastfeed is to grab your seat in the BEST online breastfeeding course there is!

The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class is a first time mom’s must-have milk supply and breastfeeding guide!

P.S. Also get my Pumping Pro Course for FREE when you enroll from this link. Contact me when you finish your purchase and I’ll send you the other course straight to your inbox! 

Suggested: Productive Things to do while Pumping that Don’t Suck

7. Supplements can help

I’ve written about the power of sunflower lecithin a lot of times before, but that’s because it really was a game changer for me!

It’s not uncommon for milk to become a little sticky at times. This could be a result of your breastfeeding diet or hormonal changes.

Sunflower Lecithin helps to prevent sticky milk ducts that can make it hard for breast milk to flow as easily. 

Always consult with your doctor before taking any type of supplements or medications while breastfeeding.

See Also: How Many Calories Does Pumping Burn? – The Formula

8. Dry your pump parts

While pumping, it’s normal that your flanges will begin to accumulate some moisture.

If you notice the seal between your breasts and flange isn’t quite solid and there is a loss of suction, try wiping down the parts and starting again. 

I had to regularly do this throughout my entire pumping sessions. It’s a super simple task that can have a big impact!

My pumping course (free when you purchase any course from this site) has a complete guide with printables on how to properly clean and care for all of your pumping parts and equipment.

This information is so nice to know without having to scourer the whole internet looking for it or doing it wrong and leaving room for potential dangers! 

Related: Breast Pumping 101: When to Start, How Often and How Long

9. Change your breast pump parts

If you are not fully emptying during your pumping session, your breast pump parts may be causing the problem.

You should be changing out your pump’s parts regularly to keep your breast pump performing optimally

In these reads, I take you through everything you need to know about managing your breast pump parts:

10. Maybe You Need A More Powerful Pump

If you are consistently changing your pump parts, but are still having a hard time feeling fully empty when you pump, it may be that your breast pump is not performing well.

To help you determine if you are missing out on a better milk supply, see these thorough reviews on the best breast pumps of 2019.

You may be using the wrong breast pump! 

A powerful pump doesn’t have to mean a big pump either!

If you are looking for a compact, quiet and extremely powerful pump – you must give the BabyBuddha a look!

Here is an exclusive discount code for BabyBuddha products!

How to get a free breast pump

If you haven’t yet, you should be applying for a free breast pump and supplies through insurance.

It’s a quick and easy process that could save you big money! Use this link to get to where you need to go.

See Also: What to Pack in Your Breast Pump Bag: 12 Essentials and A Free Breast Pump Bag Checklist

An image of a cell phone with a free pumping schedule on the screen.
Three FREE pumping schedules to help increase milk supply or build a freezer stash. Download and print or keep on your phone.

Final Words on How to Fully Empty Breasts

In summary, fully emptying your breasts must be dealt with after every feeding or pumping session.

Not doing so often enough can potentially lead to a serious breast infection.

To check if you have properly emptied your breasts, feel for any remaining fullness. 

Finally, try out the pumping tips I suggested and do them often.

Not only will these practices keep you from acquiring an infection, but regularly performing them may help increase milk supply as well!

Here is another quick glance at the breast emptying tips we went over above.

  1. Hand express while pumping
  2. Use A Manual Breast Pump
  3. Change positions of the flange
  4. Dangle pump
  5. Add heat
  6. Nurse on one side until empty before switching 
  7. Supplements can help
  8. Dry your pump parts off
  9. Change your pump parts

Friendly Reminders Before You Go!

Once again, I want to remind you to head over to Milkology and take a look at the wonderful resources they have for breastfeeding and pumping moms.

PS: Don’t forget to grab your discount codes!

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Read Next: Frequently Asked Pumping Questions

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The content of this website is for informational and entertainment purposes only. This isn't medical advice and if someone relies on it to their detriment, I am not liable.

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