A hilarious meme by an unknown author is currently circulating the internet. It reads, “Whoever said ‘there’s no use crying over spilled milk’ obviously never pumped 6 ounces and then accidentally spilled it.” Any woman who has ever pumped will likely relate to this sentiment.
Pumping takes time, energy, dedication and more than an little patience. It’s is a new trend sweeping the globe, and a practice that is changing the way many mothers feed their babies. Not only does pumping allow working mothers to continue breastfeeding after returning to their jobs, it helps mothers who, for whatever reason, have not been able to breastfeed have the option of still getting their baby breastmilk by exclusively pumping.
Other women pump because it allows them the freedom to leave their baby every now and then, and gives Dad the ability to take the night shift from time to time: both absolutely wonderful reasons to pump.
As previously mentioned, pumping isn’t always easy. Fortunately, women who stick with it during a rough beginning will soon get the hang of this highly beneficial way of feeding Baby. Before long, pumping becomes second-nature for many women, and helps them to breastfeed longer than they would have otherwise been able to.
Many women who have been able to pump successfully, whether exclusively or just every once in awhile, have shared what has worked best for them in the hopes it will help other mothers be successful with their pumping experiences as well. The road to mastering the art of pumping usually has a few bumps and ruts. Read on for 15 tips to help solve pesky pumping problems.
15 Aquire A Good Pump
Problem: Pumping isn’t efficient. Solution: Acquire a good pump.
Getting a good pump can make all the difference in a mom’s pumping experience. For mothers who plan to pump on a regular basis, the most efficient pump is a double electric one, and one that is able to empty both breasts simultaneously.
In addition, look for a pump that has varying speed and suction settings. This will allow you to personalize your pump so that the settings are as comfortable as possible. Another thing to look for is a pump with a closed system: basically, one that is designed in a way that prevents milk from getting into the pump’s tubing or parts. Finally, look for a pump that offers different sizes of flanges. Flanges are the suction cups that go over the breast while pumping. If they don’t fit correctly, pumping can be very painful and will not be as efficient.
Under the Affordable Care Act, it is mandated that insurance plans cover pumps for new mothers. Speak with your insurance provider to find out which pumps are covered under your plan and where they can be acquired. If the pump covered by your insurance isn’t of high quality, it may be worth it to invest in a better one. Hospitals often rent out pumps for a low monthly payment. This may be a good option if finances are tight.
14 Decide How Milk Will Be Stored
Problem: I have all of this awesome milk, where do I put it? Solution: Store it safely for later use.
Shari Criso, M.S.N., R.N., a certified nurse-midwife and board-certified lactation consultant in Flanders, New Jersey, warns that “Zipstyle bags or other plastic containers are not airtight, leakproof, or sterile.” One option she highly recommends is Sensible Lines milk trays, which are convenient due to the fact that you “Just pull out the number you need and drop them right into your bottle.”
Pumping mom Linda shares, “Store milk in small batches. I learned this the hard way. I froze about 8 ounces of milk in one container for my daughter. Her childcare provider defrosted the 8-ounce bottle, fed my daughter (who drank her usual 3 ounces), and then threw the rest away! I cried all the way home that day. Pumping was so hard for me. It had taken me hours to get that 8 ounces.”
Milk can be stored safely for approximately 72 hours at the back of the refrigerator, as long as the temperature is between 34° F and 40° F. It can be stored for up to 3 months in a standard freezer, and 12 months in a deep freezer.
13 Start Right Away
Problem: My milk supply is basically non-existent. Solution: Start pumping regularly as soon as possible.
Really, moms can never have enough of the good stuff (breastmilk). It’s much better to have too much than it is not to have enough. The best way to ensure a good supply will be obtained is to start pumping right away. At first, you may only get a few ounces, or maybe even less. Keep at it. Working up to a strong supply takes work, but it’s totally worth it.
According to Criso, “Up until about six weeks postpartum, you’re establishing your milk supply and you have just enough to feed your baby.”
New mom Elizabeth advises: “Start pumping early. I wish I had pumped once a day from the beginning to build up a stockpile. That way, if something happened at work and I was only able to pump once instead of twice, or if I didn’t get much milk during a session, I still had plenty of milk.”
12 Make A Plan
Problem: I don’t know how and when to pump, and it’s stressing me out. Solution: Make a plan that works for you.
Every woman is different. Every baby is different. What works for one pumping mama may not work for another. The most important thing to remember when pumping is the more often you pump, the greater your milk supply will become.
Experts recommend pumping 7 to 8 times per day in the beginning if exclusively pumping and pumping before or after feedings, depending on preference, if nursing. When you pump is completely up to you. Some women pump in the car while driving to work, others pump while putting on makeup and doing their hair in the morning. Hop on a pumping forum and find out what other moms are doing to make things work.
Figure out what works for you and create a schedule. Knowing when you will pump can greatly limit stress and, over time, will become a routine that is second nature.
Pumping mother Linda shares, “I’ve heard many women say that pumping in the morning yields lots of milk. I was never able to manage this because my daughter always woke me up to eat right away, and then it was a mad scramble to get to work. So I always pumped one last time at night right before I went to bed. I did this even when I was really tired. Plus, it helped keep my milk supply up after I went back to work.”
11 Create A Pumping Station
Problem: Pumping is so stressful. Setting everything up is a huge pain. Solution: Simplify by creating a pumping station.
Take the stress out of pumping by creating a designated space in your home just for pumping. It should be a place where you feel relaxed and most comfortable. Some women enjoy pumping at the kitchen table while answering emails or browsing the web. Others like to pump in bed while catching up on their favorite Netflix shows. Wherever you choose to pump, keep water, the pump and the remote or your laptop close by. This reduces the time it takes scrambling to get everything ready for a pumping session.
Other tips? Pumping mother Irene shares, “Always keep an extra hand towel with you to wipe up any dripping milk. It’s saved me a lot in dry-cleaning bills.”
Pumping stations can also work as on-the-go options. Another pumping mom adds, “I put together an on-the-road pump kit to take with me. Along with all the usual pumping accessories (tubes, pump heads, etc.), I also have a frozen ice pack to put in the cooling storage pocket of the breast pump, a plastic bag to hold any extra storage bottles, and a little bottle of liquid soap to clean everything after pumping.”
10 Find A Hands-Free Solution
Problem: How am I supposed to get anything done while pumping? Solution: Free up those hands.
Pumping mama Heather shares, “Get a pumping bra. It allows for hands-free pumping by holding the bottles for you. You can pump while working, typing, and talking on the phone. It made my yearlong pumping journey tolerable.”
Can’t afford an expensive state-of-the-art pumping bra? No problem! Make your own. Julie shares, “You can make your own pumping bra by using an old sports bra and cutting holes just big enough for the breast shield flanges to fit through. It works well and is cheaper than buying a pumping bra. Also, a soft cotton sports bra will still allow you to do breast compression, which I usually need to do while pumping to make sure all the ducts are emptied out.”
9 Work It
Problem: I’m stressed out about pumping at work. Solution: Make a plan that works for you and stick to it. You can do this!
According to breastfeeding expert, Kathleen Huggins, R.N., M.S., I.B.C.L.C., a board-certified lactation consultant in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and the co-author of Nursing Mother, Working Mother,“Your overall goal should be that your breasts are emptied at least seven times in 24 hours, whether by nursing or pumping.” She continues, “Be sure not to pump right before going home. You want enough milk that you can plop down with your baby and have him get a full meal.”
Another working and pumping mom shares, “I found the most important thing while pumping and working is to make pumping a priority. Once you decide to pump ‘when I have time,’ you’re sunk. You’re at work – there is no time. You have to make the time.”
8 Know Your Rights
Problem: I’m not sure my boss will be on board with me pumping at work. Solution: Your employer must allow you to pump at work. You should be given adequate break times and a private room that is not a bathroom to pump in. It’s the law.
One working mom shares, “Don’t be afraid to ask for special treatment: Expect to use a room that locks; don’t use a bathroom stall. You wouldn’t make your lunch in the bathroom, so don’t make your baby’s there, either.”
Wendy shares the brilliant way she made pumping at work, well, work: “I work in very close quarters (cubicles) in a predominantly male environment. Before I came back to work, I sat my boss down and told him about my desire to continue breastfeeding. Luckily his wife had breastfed, and he was supportive. I bought a cheap vinyl shower curtain and a spring-loaded shower rod and would put those up in the ‘doorway’ of my cubicle when I pumped. I informed everyone in my office that when the shower curtain was up, they were not to come in. After a while, people would stand outside my cubicle while I pumped and carry on work discussions. It worked beautifully for me because I was not ashamed or embarrassed by what I was doing.”
Problem: Pumping so boring, and it seems to take forever. How will I ever get anything done? Solution: Multi-task!
Cathey shares how she was able to save time by pumping and feeding her baby at the same time. She says, “I would sometimes let the baby nurse on one side and then pump on the other side. The flow was remarkable and I still had enough to feed the baby.”
Exclusively pumping mothers often feed their baby a bottle while they are pumping, saving time and simulating nursing.
Another mom shares how she made time spent pumping pass more quickly: “I would usually pump and go online to check my email. It helped me relax. I wouldn’t be uncomfortable while doing it and before I knew it, I would be finished. So I suggest reading, watching TV, or performing some other activity to make the time pass more quickly. Because if you’re waiting to finish, it just seems like it takes forever.”
6 Use Cleaning Shortcuts
Problem: Cleaning the pump parts takes FOREVER! Solution: Use the following handy dandy pump cleaning shortcuts to save time.
There are a few different things moms who pump often can do to save themselves from cleaning pump parts over and over and over again. First, place parts in an airtight bag or Tupperware container and refrigerate them in between pumping sessions. Breastmilk can be safely refrigerated for up to 72 hours, but we recommend washing parts at least once a day or every other day, depending on how often you pump.
A good rule to follow is to wash parts after every three to four pumping sessions, but you don’t have to wash them, or even rinse them, after every single freaking time you pump as long as they are refridgerated immediately after a pumping session is finished.
Second, consider having two sets of pump parts, and washing those not currently in use in the dishwasher. This saves the time and energy it takes to wash, rinse and wait for pump parts to dry.
5 Pump Up The Volume
Problem: My milk supply isn’t increasing. Solution: Power pump!
What is power pumping? Well, it’s the awesome title given to the practical solution that will most likely increase your milk supply. Power pumping mimics what babies do when they cluster feed.
Find an hour of the day with minimal distractions where you can dedicate yourself to power pumping. Many women have their best milk supplies in the morning, so this may be a good time to power pump, but really anytime will work.
Follow this pattern: Pump for 20 minutes; rest for 10 minutes. Pump for 10 minutes; rest for 10 minutes. Pump for 10 minutes. Power pumping once a day for 2 to 3 days while still maintaining regular pumping sessions is usually all it takes to increase milk supply.
4 Treat Yourself
Problem: All I do is pump and I hate it. Solution: Make pumping fun.
That’s right. Pumping is hard work. It’s also painful at times, especially at first. It’s hard enough to find free time now that a bundle of joy has entered the picture. You may feel that every spare minute you have to yourself is spent pumping, and you may be right.
How can you turn a dreaded pumping session into a part of the day you actually look forward to? Make it a time when you treat yourself.
Jessica shares what she did to get through the grueling months she spent pumping after her baby was born: “I made pumping me-time whenever I could. It was the time I caught up on my favorite show, read a good book or indulged in a decadent treat. I even got pretty good at napping while pumping: when you’re utterly exhausted it’s not impossible. Suddenly, I loved pumping. I was like, ‘Yes! Time to pump and find out what happens next on Orange Is the New Black while eating Cookies and Cream ice cream!'” Crisis averted.
3 Pump n’ Play
Problem: It’s hard to pump while taking care of a baby. Solution: Make pumping time a fun mommy-and-me time.
In a perfect world, Mom would always be able to pump while her baby slept peacefully, or someone else was caring for him. Unfortunately, real life is hardly ever perfect. As a result, a new mom may be overwhelmed with the fact that she’s trying to care for her baby while also finding time to pump.
One possible solution? Make pumping time playtime. How? Make sure Baby is fed and changed. Lay out a soft blanket and some toys. Put baby on his stomach and let him enjoy some tummy time while you pump him some delicious, nutritious breastmilk. Make funny faces at him, sing him songs, tickle his toes. When baby needs attention and you need to pump, make it a time when you focus all of your attention on your little one.
2 Hang In There
Problem: Pumping is exhausting, and I want to stop. Solution: Hang in there: it will get better. If it doesn’t, there’s no shame in stopping.
We aren’t going to lie: pumping is hard work, especially for those mamas who are exclusively pumping ’round the clock. You may start to feel like a milk machine with no other purpose, and the sound of the pump motor may start to make you bonkers. Here’s the good news: if you hang in there for the first few weeks, pumping does get easier.
After about four to six weeks, those who exclusively pump should be able to start dropping pumping sessions without losing milk supply. Eventually, a mom may only need to pump four times a day to yield the same amount of milk she was originally getting in 8 pumping sessions.
For those who pump in addition to nursing, and those who exclusively pump, after a month or so, pumping often becomes much easier to fit into your every day life. Basically, over time, you’ll become a pumping ninja who can produce ounces of milk at the drop of a hat while simultaneously writing a best-selling novel, or pinning cute baby outfits on Pinterest. Trust us. If not, there’s no shame in kissing your pumping days goodbye.
1 Ignore The Haters
Problem: People are hating on my choice to pump. Solution: Ignore them.
Warning: If you choose pump, it’s likely you’ll get negative comments from well-meaning family members, friends and maybe even strangers. They may have the best of intentions, but for some reason, there are people in the world that still fail to understand one simple fact: how a mother chooses to feed her baby is no one’s business but her own.
Some may not understand why you put in so much time and effort to pump when formula is readily available. Others will have a hard time understanding why you don’t just nurse Baby at every feeding instead of going to all the trouble of pumping milk just to feed it to said baby eventually.
Breastfeeding is a touchy subject as it is. Everyone has an opinion, and some people aren’t very good at keeping their opinions to themselves. Here’s the bottom line: If someone makes a negative comment about your choice to pump, ignore them. You are a wonderful mother who is making sacrifices so your baby can have breastmilk and you are amazing in every way.
Sources: FitPregnancy.com, BabyCenter.com, Parents.com, MayoClinic.org, Mommyish.com
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