More often than not, one of the most challenging things about having a newborn is when a new mother feeds her beloved child. It has been firmly established that breastmilk is the best thing for babies, but many new moms have a hard time getting their babies to latch.
Moreover, some moms can't breastfeed their babies due to complications with deliveries or premature births, while others can't breastfeed while they are at work, etc.
One solution to all of these problems is pumping. It's the feeding solution many new mamas struggling with breastfeeding are searching for. Pumping is a way for novice mamas to give their babies precious breast milk when extenuating circumstances prevent them from being able to nourish their babies through breastfeeding.
Many are afraid to pump because they fear it may tie them down or worry it will be too difficult. However, more than a few new moms will attest to the fact that pumping saved them after giving birth. The key to having a successful pumping experience is first, heeding the advice of the wise pumping moms who have come before, and, secondly, avoiding common pumping pitfalls.
Read on for 15 ways to make pumping so much easier and 5 things that can make pumping harder.
20 Start Right Away
One of the best ways to ensure a long-term and plentiful milk supply is to start pumping as soon as possible after giving birth. Pumping mom Elizabeth advises new moms to “start pumping early.”
She continues, “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."
Don’t despair if it takes awhile to increase milk supply. According to Shari Criso, M.S.N., R.N., a certified nurse-midwife and board-certified lactation consultant in Flanders, New Jersey, "Up until about six weeks postpartum, you're establishing your milk supply and you have just enough to feed your baby."
19 Acquire A Good Pump
Another important step towards making pumping so much easier is acquiring an awesome, efficient pump. If a new mom plans to pump often, her best option is an electric pump that has the ability to empty both breasts at the same time.
Additionally, pumps with varying speed and suction settings will help ensure comfort and efficiency. The last thing to look for is a pump that comes with different sizes of flanges (the suction cups that fit over the breasts while pumping). Pumping can be extremely painful and ineffective if flanges don't fit properly.
Most insurance providers are required to cover the cost of breast pumps for new mothers. If the pump provided by an insurance company isn't high quality, it may be worth investing in a better one. For those with limited finances, most hospitals rent out high quality pumps for a low monthly payment.
18 Establish A System For Storing Milk
Breastmilk can be stored safely for up to 72 hours at the back of a refrigerator, and can last for up to three months in a freezer or 12 months in a deep freezer. Storing any excess milk is a great way to maximize the time a new mom spends pumping.
There are many different storage options available to pumping moms. Labeling pumped milk with the date it was expressed can help ensure that stored milk will not be fed to a baby after its expiration date.
Criso recommends using Sensible Lines milk trays to store milk. She explains, “Just pull out the number you need and drop them right into your bottle.” She also warns, “Zipstyle bags or other plastic containers are not airtight, leakproof, or sterile.”
17 Create A Pumping Station
Pumping mother Irene advises, "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 on-the-go? Putting together a portable pumping station can make things much easier. One anonymous pumping mom explains, "I put together an on-the-road pump kit to take with me. Along with all the usual pumping accessories (tubes, pump heads, etc.).
She continues, "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."
16 Formulate A Plan
Another key to a successful pumping experience is finding a routine that works best for you and your family. Every mom is different, and what works for one may not work for another.
Pumping mom 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."
She continues, "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."
15 Free Up Your Hands
Many new moms worry they will never get anything done if they are always tied to a breast pump. Luckily, hands free solutions exist to help remedy this problem.
Pumping mama Heather advises, "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."
Another pumping mom, 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."
14 Make It Work At Work
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 explains, "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 mom who has made pumping a priority at work 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."
13 Know Your Rights
By law, places of employment are required to allow women the time and space they need to pump during the work day.
Pumping mom Wendy shares of her experience pumping at 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."
She continues, "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 awhile, people would stand outside by cubicle while I pumped and carry on work discussions. It worked beautifully for me because I was not ashamed or embarrassed while doing it."
New mom Cathey figured out that she could save time by feeding her baby while she pumped. She shares, "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."
Another anonymous pumping mom used her time spent pumping to enjoy herself. She says, "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."
She continues, "I suggest reading, watching television, 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."
11 Pump Up The Volume
Moms who aren't getting enough milk when pumping can up their output in many different ways. Staying hydrated and eating enough will help with milk supply.
Power pumping is another way to increase milk supply. How is it done? First, Mom should find a time in the day when distractions are minimal. Many women have higher milk supplies in the morning, but any time will work. Mom should then pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10, pump for 10, rest for 10, then pump for 10. This pattern has been proven to increase milk supply in most women. It can repeated once a day every day until milk volume goes up to the desired amount.
Moms can also add an additional pumping session to their routines to increase supply. For example: if a mom usually pumps 6 times in a 24 hour period, she could try pumping 7 times instead.
10 Use Cleaning Shortcuts
There are many things pumping moms can do to save themselves time when cleaning pumping parts. Those who pump often shouldn't need to wash pumping parts after every session.
Place parts in an airtight tupperware container or Ziplock bag and refrigerate them in between pumping session. When refrigerated, breast milk can last for up to 72 hours, but, to be on the safe side, pumping parts should be cleaned well with soap and warm water at least every 24 hours.
Pumping mom Jennie reveals the way she saved time while cleaning her pump parts. She advises, "Have two plastic bags for pump parts: one for clean parts and one for holding the milk-covered parts before you rinse them."
9 Pump And Play
Some moms worry that the time they spend pumping will take away from the time they are able to spend snuggling their precious little ones. Believe it or not, pumping can actually be a great time to connect with Baby.
Lay out a blanket and toys on the floor in front of they pumping station and let Baby enjoy some tummy time while pumping, or place baby on nearby and sing songs or make silly faces while the pump does its job.
Pumping time can actually bring a mama and her babe closer together and even end up being a time that both she and her little bundle of joy look forward to.
8 Ignore The Haters
Everyone has their own opinions when it comes to feeding a baby. Not everyone will agree that pumping is the best way to nourish an infant, and some family and friends may even speak up to voice their disapproval.
It's important to remember that each and every mom must do what is best for herself and her baby. Every mother is different, as is every child.
Some may not support a mom's decision to pump, but they are not the ones feeding her child. If it's working, do what feels and works best and ignore anyone who has anything other than praise and encouragement to share.
7 Treat Yourself
Being a mom is hard. Feeding a new baby is hard. Pumping can be a great feeding solution, but this doesn't mean that it isn't overwhelming and exhausting at times. Making pumping a time to treat yourself may really help on the days when things are tough.
Pumping mom Jessica shares, "I made pumping me time whenever I could. It was the time I caught up on my favorite shows, read good books or indulged in decadent treats. I even got pretty good at napping while pumping (when you're utterly exhausted, it's not impossible!)."
She continues, "Suddenly, I loved pumping. It was like, 'Yes! Time to pump and find out what happens next on Orange is the New Black while eating ice cream.'"
6 Hang In There
The first few weeks a new mom spends pumping may not produce much milk and may feel overwhelming and exhausting. Most moms who are able to get through this arduous period of pumping find that they are slowly able to establish a routine that works for them, and things get much more manageable.
As time goes on, many women find that pumping becomes second nature. Plus, as a woman's supply is established, she will eventually be able to drop pumping sessions while still producing the same amount of milk.
No one will deny the fact that pumping is tough, but those who hang in there through the adjustment period usually find that pumping gets easier with time. Hang in there!
5 Don't Be Too Hard On Yourself
It's easy to feel like pumping is taking up way too much time and taking away from other important tasks that need to get done. It's okay to let things go a bit while figuring out how pumping works best for a new mom and her bundle of joy.
WebMD states, "When you feel good and you're as rested as possible, your body will make more milk. That makes pumping easier! Stay hydrated, nourish yourself by eating well, and take naps when you need to. Stress isn't good for making milk. So take time, even if it's just a few minutes, to relax. What's good for you is good for your baby."
In short, pumping is a heroic task a new mom does for her baby. She shouldn't be worrying about what she isn't doing, but should instead pat herself on the back for all she is doing.
4 Say Goodbye To Guilt
Yes, the guilt that every mom feels may nag at a pumping mama from time to time. Don't let it! Instead, focus on how wonderful it is that pumping makes it possible for Baby to get breast milk when Mom can't be near, or, for whatever reason, can't breastfeed.
As previously mentioned, pumping is not easy. It is a time-consuming and difficult task that moms unselfishly do so that they can give their treasured tots the precious gift of breastmilk made especially for them.
Pumping moms should never allow themselves to feel anything but pride and joy for providing food for their flesh and blood--milk produced by their own amazing, beautiful bodies.
3 Find A Way That Works For You
It's been said above, but we'd like to reiterate the fact that every baby is different, as is every mother. What works for one mama may not be best for another. What is wonderful for one baby may not be what another baby needs.
Some moms exclusively pump, some pump at work, some pump at the end of breastfeeding sessions to express excess milk, etc.
If a current pumping situation isn't working for a new mom or her family, she has every right to adjust things until she finds a way that is best for her. There is no one specific right way to pump. Through trial and error, many moms are able to master the art of pumping in whatever form it takes for them.
2 Don't Give Up
It isn't uncommon for moms to have the urge to throw in the towel during the first few weeks of pumping. It's a time consuming, stressful activity that can really wear on a new mom, especially when sleep is at a minimum and time is precious.
It's important to remember that pumping does get easier with time. Expect that the first few weeks spent pumping are going to be rough and even exhausting.
Moms who can get through the beginning stages of pumping usually find that things get much, much easier and manageable as they find the way that pumping works best for them.
1 It's Okay To Stop
While it is true that pumping often gets easier with time, some moms discover that pumping is not what works best for them. If pumping isn't working, it's okay to stop! Every mom should do what is best for herself and her baby.
One mom confessed on a Baby Center forum, "I understand breast milk is best...but I hate it! I had a C-section, so I found it too awkward to try to nurse...[and] I started pumping exclusively. My son is only 3 weeks and I don't know how much longer I can stand this. I get this horrible anxious feeling in my stomach when it's time to pump again and feel severe anxiety while pumping."
If pumping isn't working, it's okay to stop! Every mom should do what is best for her overall well-being. In short, if pumping is making a mama miserable, it's time to pump the breaks and find an alternative feeding solution.