Breast Pumping: Tips to make it efficient and manageable
This site contains affiliate links to products. This means, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.
Are you exclusively pumping? Pumping to build a stash? Wondering if you’ll need to pump when baby comes?
When you google “Motherhood,” you don’t often come across pictures of a breast pump with tubing and plastic that connects to your body. Breast pumping, whether exclusively pumping or pumping along with breastfeeding to build a stash, adds a new element to motherhood.
First, as reproductive women, anything in a committed relationship with our breasts brings out an element of intimacy which involves a physical connection, emotional connection, and a mental connection.
There are a number of reasons why a woman may choose to breast pump, and a variety of ways to do so.
There are a number of products that make this journey easier.
There are tips to ensure that it is both effective and comfortable.
Just like with breastfeeding, there are also complications that can creep in and require troubleshooting.
We are going to talk about each of these areas.
As a disclaimer, I am not a medical expert nor am I a certified lactation consultant/counselor (you can find a great one here). I am simply an experienced mother who is wildly passionate about learning and education on postpartum, and I have been both a breastfeeder and an exclusive pumper. My first son was a avid breastfeeder, my daughter was born with cleft palate and unable to breastfeed from the start, so I have found myself in two distinct places in regards to feeding. You can read more about the emotional process of learning my daughter couldn’t breastfeed on this blog post.
Who might choose to exclusively pump?
Mothers of babies with breastfeeding complications.
Mothers who had a tough breastfeeding journey previously.
Mothers who need to be away from baby often (career, travel, etc.).
Mothers who want to closely monitor baby’s milk intake.
Mothers who have adopted and are working to induce lactation (isn’t this amazing!?)
Mothers who just simply want to go this route. (For any of a number of reasons they don’t need to explain.)
Many moms chose to include breastmilk (whether as the sole mean of feeding or as a combination with formula) because of the many benefits of breastmilk. Breastmilk provides natural antibodies to the baby, increases the immune system, and has a number of long-term effects as well. For the mother, breastfeeding can lower the risk of a number of illnesses and diseases.
The amount of breastmilk a mother provides can vary based on the mother’s supply. Some women are over-producers, some are just-enoughers and some are under-producers. There’s no magic equation here. It’s not about what moms do right or wrong, but knowing our bodies are biologically different in many ways, and milk production is one of them. Some women who struggle with production actually have insufficient glandular tissue which limits the capability of milk production. If this sounds like you, please consult a professional and do NOT feel shame!
Maximize your pumping by multitasking. Now, this is not always possible but if you have an errand to run, pump in the car. If you have a paper or blog to write, try to cozy up in a spot where you can pump. Sometimes, you might even pump during lunch or dinner. It’s not ideal, but it’s your reality and by embracing it, you can enjoy it more instead of resent that machine attached.
I have found that it is imperative to have a “team” around you while pumping. This team is made up of products made to support you on this journey. These products help to make multitasking possible and decrease the time spent on the process.
Hands-Free Pumping Bra:
Think about how many minutes you are pumping. If you’re stuck holding flanges, you might go crazy. This time can be spent doing other things and a hands-free pumping bra makes that possible. You may even find you want more than one as these serve different purposes.
1. They get dirty/milky so they need to go in the wash. If you’re like me, 3-4 hours between pumps might not be enough time to get the laundry through.
2. Keep one in the car or your diaper bag. This ensures you’re never stuck without one on-the-go or when you get stuck at an appointment longer than usual.
3. Different bras are helpful for different reasons/times.
The Larken X:
Why I love it: It’s super comfortable and really easy to slide the flanges into. It’s also chic and makes me feel cute! You can pair it with their tank to get full tummy coverage too.
When I use it: When it’s easier to just keep a pumping bra on under my clothes, when I’m sleeping, when I want to be comfortable.
Bonus: Get 15% off at Larken with the code: CHELSEA15 (Shop here)
Simple Wishes Hands-Free:
Why I love it: It has a super snug fit when adjusted to your body size. This makes me feel like I’m getting the best suction to empty my breast. It’s quick to put on and can be put on over what you’re already wearing.
Belibea Nurish Cami:
Why I love it: This tank is unlike any I’ve seen before. It has a double latch feature so that you can breastfeed or pump with it. One snap allows you to fit the pump flange inside for pumping. The double snap opens all the way up for feeding. I also love that you can have the comfort of the full tank (which includes shaping features on the side.)
When I use it: Anytime I want to use the tank as a part of my outfit for the day.
Bonus: Get 20% off your purchase with CHELS20
Clean and mobile pumping
If you spend time in the car, using that time to pump can be so efficient. You may or may not be comfortable with having your breasts and pump out while driving (I recommend staggering your car at the stop light!) but a simple nursing cover will give you the privacy. I personally use my Medela In Style pump in the car so I use this converter (which also comes with a battery pack- another helpful tool! Make sure to grab 8 rechargeable batteries so you can take your pump on-the-go. I use the battery pack and stick my pump in a backpack for walks!) If you use a different pump type, you can find your converter type online.
If you’re pumping on-the-go and can’t wash your parts, sterilizing wipes in the car or diaper bag are very helpful. Give the parts a quick cleaning to make sure bacteria does not build between pump sessions.
Medela Breast Pump Sterilizing Wipes (can be used on any brand of breast pump)
It is recommended that bottles and pump parts be sterilized once a day. Now you can boil a pot of water and do it that way, OR you can pop 2 oz of water into these bags with your parts and put it in the microwave for 2 minutes. Each bag can be used 20 times!
Moxxly Flow System:
Let’s face it- there’s probably going to be a time that you’d like to pump in a space where others will see you… and you’d prefer to not look like you pitched a tent in your shirt. Moxxly flow to the rescue. This was designed so that your pump could fit under any normal bra and lay low-profile under you tops. This means you could pump in a public place without someone knowing. (Works better with a flowy shirt— your tight-fit tshirt might not do the trick). The Moxxly Flow system hooks up to the pump you have and allows you to be even more mobile and discreet. For me, this means taking walks with my kids on the park path while pumping. Hooray!
Bonus: Use CHELS15 for an extra 15% off.
Tips for Exclusively Pumping efficiently:
1. Get your pump!
Most insurance companies offer a free pump. Make sure to call while you are still pregnant and ask about the policy and what is offered to you. They will most often send you a link where you can choose a pump (you can compare pumps here). Try to get your pump before delivery so that you can set it up and learn to use it. If you do not wish to get your own pump through insurance (or if that is not an option for you,) you can often rent the medical grade pumps from the hospital. Ask your medical provider prior to delivery if you’d like to explore this option. Most exclusive pumpers use a dual electric pump. This is going to pump both breasts at the same time and have the electric suction. Not only is this helpful for saving time, but many women report better output when pumping both breasts at the same time.
2. Know your flange size.
Flange is a word you probably only use if you’re a pumper. The flange goes directly on the breast and mimics the mouth of the infant on the breast. It is important to have the correct flange size so that the breast is pumping most effectively.
3. Get your partner involved
Your partner can help you when you are pumping. Washing parts each night/morning and helping with milk storage can help cut down on the time spent on the process. Less time can help lower the stress of pumping for a mother and help her to increase the length of her pumping journey. Another way your partner can help is by feeding the baby while you pump. Think of this as special time to chat together!
4. Know what to look for in breast complications
Just like with direct breastfeeding, complications can arise when breast pumping (or combo feeding.) Mastitis and thrush are two concerns you can be educated about so that you know if you’re being affected and how to address the issue. If you think you’re facing one of these complications, contact a lactation counselor or your medical provider for help. (In Columbus, check these lactation services: Nurture Columbus, Kelli Blinn.
So momma- high five to you. Whether you are an exclusive pumper, a sometimes pumper or thinking about pumping in the future, your commitment is not overlooked! Pumping is hard work, I won’t sugar coat that. Hopefully with this information and these tips you’ll find ways to make it efficient, effective, and a way of life for you and your family.
What questions do you still have about pumping? If you’re an experience mom, what has gotten you through your pumping journey? Let’s keep the conversation going below!