Pumping Tips and Tricks for the Breastfeeding Mom
I have a love hate relationship with my breast pump, as I’m sure all breastfeeding mothers do. I love it because it affords me the opportunity to leave the house without my baby, have a drink when I want to, let daddy take over the night shift, and it’s even allowed me to donate over 1,000 ounces of milk to other babies. On the other hand, I cannot stand washing all the pump parts, dragging it with me when we travel, and the time it takes to hook myself up to a machine and wait. For many moms, pumping can be extremely frustrating. Our babies are so much more efficient than that man-made machine, and the amount of milk that comes out can be very disappointing, and even scary if you’re never sure how much your baby is actually consuming. (TIP: Never assume the amount of milk you pump is the same amount your baby is eating in a session. Some breasts don’t respond well to pumps and our babies are pros at getting the milk out. Don’t think you aren’t making enough milk just because you aren’t pumping much.) After nearly a year of hooking myself up to my best friend/arch enemy, here are my favorite pumping tips and tricks for breastfeeding moms!
Pumping Tips and Tricks for Breastfeeding Moms
Getting your Pump
Most insurance companies allow you to get a breast pump for free! The easiest way I’ve found to get your free pump is through Aeroflow. They have breast pump specialists that take care of everything for you. All you have to do is fill out a short form online (less than 5 mintues), and your specialist will do the rest. They contact your insurance company, get the prescription from your doctor, complete all the necessary paperwork, and send your free pump to your front door! They couldn’t make it any easier if they tried.
When to Start Pumping
It was recommended to me that I don’t start pumping until Weston was at least four weeks old. For those first couple weeks, your body is working hard to figure out how much milk it needs to produce. It’s all about supply and demand; therefore, if you start demanding more than your baby needs by using the pump, you can cause an oversupply. Trust me, this might sound great, but it has its own set of issues. Obviously, this isn’t a perfect world, and there are tons of reasons why you may need to start pumping before then. Issues like prematurity, jaundice, and a poor latch are just a few reasons why you might need to break out the pump early. Listen to your doctor or talk with a lactation consultant to see what’s best for you and your baby.
One of my best pumping tips is to have realistic expectations. The average momma pumps 1.5 to 2 ounces per session. However, there are many factors that affect how much you are pumping. You can learn more about all these factors here. Remember, pumping is just like anything else in life, it takes practice. Your likely to only get a small amount of milk in your first few sessions, but don’t let that discourage you.
Breast Milk Storage Guidelines
Once you start pumping that liquid gold, you need to know what to do with it! This chart makes things pretty simple, but I’ll add a few tidbits. I usually pump and then immediately put it in the fridge. I keep it in the fridge for up to five days or until I’m out of bottles to pump in (so 3 -5 days). Then I put it in the freezer where I use it within 6 months (it’s recommended that you have it in a deep freezer if you want to keep it up to a year).
Pumping at Work
Pumping at work is hard, but don’t let that discourage you. After I had Weston, I returned to work part-time, in the evenings, waiting tables. Trust me, a restaurant office is the last place you want to find yourself pumping breast milk. It was hard for me to find time to take a break being that I was always had guests to take care of and almost everyone I worked with thought I was “weird” and “gross” for pumping at work. However, I was determined to exclusively breastfeed, and I made it my mission to make sure I pumped for any missed feedings. Pumping at work can be extremely stressful. If you want to continue to breastfeed as a working mom, I highly recommend The Ultimate Back to Work Pumping Class. It’s completely online and teaches you everything you need to know about producing enough milk, creating a plan with your employer, building a freezer stash, and more. Going back to work is one of the main reasons I hear for women quitting breastfeeding. If you’re stubborn like me and want to make it work, I can’t recommend this class enough!
Pumping Tips and Tricks to Help you get the Most out of Every Session
- Pump first thing in the morning. Our bodies are making milk on overdrive throughout the night and babies typically aren’t eating as frequently.
- Nurse and pump at the same time. This takes some skill, but it’s a time saver and milk maker! Your baby is way better at getting your milk to letdown than your pump is. If you can manage to do both, you’ll likely see a bigger output from your pumping session. Edit: Since writing this post, I’ve discovered the haakaa manual breast pump. Although its called a manual pump, it does most of the work for you. All you do is suction it on to your breast and it will collect the milk from your letdown!
- Massage your breasts. Give those babies a little squeeze and make sure they are completely empty before you turn off the pump.
- Think about your baby. You can look at pictures, watch videos, or just daydream about your little one to help encourage a letdown. I used to watch a video of Weston crying and it never failed to get the milk going.
- Relax. The more stressed or uptight you are, the more stressed and uptight your boobies are gonna be. Breathe momma!
- Experiment with different speeds on your pump. Sometimes less is more. Cranking up your pump to the maximum strength and speed isn’t necessarily going to make more milk. Do some experimenting and see what’s most comfortable and most efficient.
- Try different flanges. Did you know that there are different types of flanges out there! Don’t assume that the standard size that came with your pump with what’s going to work best with your body. Flanges come in many different sizes. You can also try silicone flanges (I have a friend that swears by them).
- Pump both sides at the same time. If you’re away from your baby or your baby is sleeping longer stretches at night, break out the hands free pumping bra and pump from both sides.
- Try using a manual pump. Yes, it’s a lot more work, but I’ve heard many women say they have better results from a manual pump.
- Bagging – I’ve always pumped into bottles, then bagged several days’ worth of milk up in these breast milk storage bags. But, there are so many options. You can pump straight into the storage bag with these bags (total time saver)!
- Always label your bags with the date and amount. If your child is going to daycare or a babysitter, you’ll want to put their name on the bag as well.
- Freeze flat. This is a huge space saver if you want to get a good freezer stash going. An empty wipe container is a great place to lay them flat to freeze.
- Store your milk in order from oldest to newest.
Other Helpful Products
Breastmilk Cooler Set. I have this exact set and its a must if you ever plan on traveling.
Milkies Milk Trays. Another solution to freezing and storing your milk are these milk trays. They’re basically like an ice cube tray. Each tray makes 8 “milk sticks” that are 1 ounce each. The milk sticks fit into all bottle openings. (These can also be used if you make your own baby food.)
Milkies Milk Savers. When I was pregnant with Weston, I saw an ad for these and I thought it was insane to put a little cup in your bra all day. Then I realized how valuable that liquid gold is. If you have frequent letdowns or even just want to wear these when you’re nursing (on the other breast), y0u’re going to save a lot of precious milk from going to waste.
Breastfeeding isn’t easy and neither is pumping. There’s so much to learn when it comes to producing, feeding, pumping, and storing our milk. I hope this helped at least a tiny bit!