Hey all! I know from my own experience, that when I was a new mom, pumping was something that was totally foreign to me. I had know idea how it worked, what to expect, or how I would find the time to do it. Now, that I’ve got a 24 month relationship with my pump under my belt, I thought I’d share some real-life pumping tips that I’ve learned along the way. With experience pumping as a full-time working mom and as a work-at-home mom, I’ve got some great tips to share! Disclaimer: please know that this is my own experience. If something doesn’t work for you, switch it up! Being a mom is all about doing what works for you and your baby.
1. Buy an electric pump if you plan on pumping often.
I know the expense can be a factor, but most insurances will reimburse you for the purchase of one. I got this pump free with my second pregnancy. If you are going to be pumping often, it really is worth it to invest in one, even if your insurance won’t cover it. I bought this one with my first pregnancy. You can even add it to your baby registry. Electric pumps are faster and more efficient in expressing milk than hand pumps and they free up your hands (see tip 3 below) so you can do other things besides hold a pump. If you are a stay-at-home mom and only plan on pumping a few times here or there, a manual hand pump may be sufficient enough for you. Check out this article on babycenter if you need some more info on which pump type is right for you.
2. It doesn’t hurt.
I know it looks like some sort of torture device, but if you have the suction adjusted appropriately, it won’t hurt at all. Start with the suction low, and slowly turn it up until it just feels like a gentle tugging. If it starts hurting, you’ve gone up too far.
3. Start building up a supply of expressed milk.
Start building a relationship with your pump early. That’s when you are producing the most milk. I started pumping right around the 4 week mark. I would only pump once a day (it’s time consuming while trying to take care of a newborn!) right after our morning nursing session. We would finish nursing, I would change his diaper, get him settled into his swing, and then I would pump for 15 min. Try not to get discouraged when you don’t get tons of milk right away. It takes some time, but if you are consistent, your supply will increase and you will get a bunch even after your baby nurses. These morning pumping sessions allowed me to get used to the whole pumping thing before I went back to work and it also started building up a great freezer supply of milk. I liked to freeze using these bags, they are super easy to freeze flat for easy storage. Your freezer supply not only will come in handy for date nights or any other outings without your baby, but it also comes in handy throughout the first year of your baby’s life. The older my boys got, the more my supply would dwindle and if I wouldn’t have that stash, we would have ended up having to supplement with formula.
4. Invest in 1 or 2 hands-free pumping bras.
These things are amazing. They allow you to respond to emails, read a book, mindlessly browse Facebook, eat your lunch, or even book your baby’s one year session 😉 . You can accomplish a lot in a 15 minute pumping session when you don’t have to hold on to your pump! I, personally, didn’t actually wear one of these all day, I just wore my normal nursing bra. Then, when it was time to pump, I would undo the clasps of my nursing bra and put the hands free pumping bra on over my regular one and then just take it off when I was finished. This allowed me to only wash once a week (I worked three 12 hr shifts/week). If you are pumping every day, you may want to purchase two, so when one is in the wash, you can wear the other one. I bought this one and used it through both babies.
5. Don’t waste time washing your pump parts after every use.
It sounds gross, but it really isn’t. Just put your used pump parts in a ziplock bag and throw them in the fridge with your milk! That will keep any bacteria from growing and also saves you time! Then you only wash once a day when you get home 🙂 . Bonus tip : Buy a second set of parts so when one is in the wash, you can use the other set! I did this the second time and it was great!
6. Give your baby a bottle before the first time you leave for a long period of time.
Your baby may not take to the bottle easily. It took a few attempts at bottle feedings to get mine used to it (another reason to have that freezer stash). We had to try out many different kinds of bottles and nipples to get it to work. We ended up using these Avent ones. Don’t buy too many of one type of bottle until you know your baby will like it. Also, be sure that someone besides you is giving the bottle and you are not in the same room.
7. Working mamas – know that you have the right to be allowed breaks to pump.
The Affordable Care Act states “an employer is required to provide a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express milk. The employer is not required to compensate an employee receiving reasonable break time for any work time spent for such purpose. The employer must also provide a place, other than a bathroom, for the employee to express breast milk.” I was very lucky in that my employer and my co-workers were all very understanding of my pumping breaks. I had no problem getting a private spot that allowed me 15 uninterrupted minutes of pumping 3-4 times a shift. One of my co-workers even made me a sign that said “Pumping in progress, do not enter” so I didn’t have to worry about anyone barging in. I hope that you have as great of an experience pumping at work as I did, but if you need to find out more about the law, check out this fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Labor.
8. Buy a battery pack and be flexible.
A battery pack for your pump will come in handy. It makes it super simple to be able to pump wherever you need to and not have to worry about finding an outlet. Which brings me to my next point… There might not always be an ideal private room where you can shut the door and do your thing. Flexibility is key. I got quite good at pumping in the car and in public restrooms. Hey, when a mama’s gotta pump, a mama’s gotta pump 🙂 !!!
9. Don’t stress.
You are not alone in thinking this sucks. Because it does, I haven’t heard of any mom who actually likes to be tethered to her pump. But, if providing breastmilk to your baby is important to you, it’s something you are most likely going to have to do. Especially, if you are headed back to work. It’s important to relax and not stress about it while you are pumping. I found when I was stressed or thinking about how much it sucked, I produced less milk. During my pumping sessions, I liked to look at photos of my baby on my phone, watch a video of him smiling at me, or make a quick phone call to my husband. It helped take my mind off what I was doing and actually had me looking forward to these little “breaks”.
When you go out of town with your husband for the night and leave your baby with your parents 4 hours away, don’t forget your pump at home. Learn from my mistake.
Hopefully my real-life tips will help you out as you start (or continue) your pumping journey 🙂 To get more pumping and breastfeeding tips, be sure to visit the La Leche Leauge. There is so much great info on that site!
If you are a mama-to-be and are interested in a maternity or newborn photography session OR if you are already nursing your little one and are ready to plan your one year family session, please contact me, I would love to tell your story!!!
Follow me on social media