Be patient with yourself, this is a new skill.
A good time to start pumping breastmilk is at 3 weeks postpartum, once your milk supply has regulated. (If you’ve started before 3 weeks and are having any problems with engorgement, maybe rest a while and start again once milk has regulated a little more. If you’ve started pumping to boost supply check the post below this.)
When starting pumping, a great way to start is once a day after your early morning feed (between 4am-8am). Let your baby breastfeed and take all the milk he needs. Then pump off the rest of your milk, from both breasts, until your breasts feel empty. For most this will take 15-20 minutes using an electric double pump.
Pumping should not be painful, if it is painful or you notice bruising around the nipple or areola there are lactation consultants or facilities that can help you with the appropriate flange size. A local resource is Seattle, WA is Nurturing Expressions.
Your pump is not as efficient as your baby at expressing breast milk, be patient with yourself you re teaching your body a new way of doing things. Up until now, your body has understood that milk production was solely related to your newborn’s cues and breastfeeding. For some it will take a little while to find your rhythm and routine. For others, they will pump many many ounces the first time. There is no right way. It’s important to empty your breasts entirely (especially for those with LOTS of milk), the combination of fore milk and hind milk will be best balanced if breasts are empty and your baby’s sensitive tummy will appreciate that.
Check out this website for a GREAT resource on trouble shooting pumping and supply: https://kellymom.com/category/bf/pumpingmoms/
Pumping to increase supply
For those who need to boost supply, there are a number of herbal supplements and foods, called galactogogues, that can help with milk supply and foods. This post is focused on the pumping portion.
When working to increase supply in the early postpartum period (the first 6 weeks) pumping after every breastfeeding session (except the middle of the night feed) can help your body increase supply. For some they will need to also give their baby the pumped milk in addition to breastfeeding. When doing this, it can be helpful to give the baby the pumped milk from the feeding before for efficiency. If there are two parents or a second caregiver (friend, sibling, postpartum doula) it is helpful for the non-breastfeeding parent (or other person) to give the bottle while the breastfeeding parent pumps. Only pump for 15-20 minutes per breast- or at the same time if using a double pump. Continue this combined with herbs and foods to increase supply. DRINK LOTS OF WATER!!! You body is using a lot of your fluids to make milk and it is really important to stay hydrated.
For those trying to increase supply or maintain supply AFTER 6 weeks postpartum:
Pump 3 times per day MINIMUM. Add 1 pumping session for each bottle your baby takes (not always at the same time but within the same 24hr period).
HYDRATE!! Aim for 3 liters of water daily.