It used to be that if a mama couldn’t nurse her baby directly, her only option was formula. But these days? Plenty of moms turn to pumping to provide the milk their babies need without ever running to the grocery store for a canister of formula.
But pumping isn’t easy—and any mom who says it is might just be lying! Whether it’s not enough milk or too much milk, it’s usually a delicate balance between living life and living the pumping life. With all the supplements and special techniques and unique timing that pumping involves, there’s so much to figure out from the moment a mama decides to begin pumping.
Of course, tons of moms are totally rocking pumping, even to the point of exclusively pumping for months or even years! So what makes pumping so much easier for younger moms? It’s the tricks they use to get things done without making pumping more difficult than it has to be!
From finding the right equipment to getting the schedule just right, there are a ton of hacks younger moms use to make pumping simpler than ever. Of course, technological progress doesn’t hurt, either. But here are 20 ways new mamas are finding to make pumping not quite as bad as they thought it would be!
20 Buying A Hands-Free Pump
It used to be that moms who needed to pump had to hold a flange-valve combination in each hand while pumping, but these days, that’s a thing of the past. There are a few different pumps that don’t have all the bulk of a traditional pump but are still effective for getting the milk out while you do other things with your hands. The newest one fits into your bra without any tubes, but there are other adapters for your pump (like Freemies) that make your regular pump into a hands-free one. Basically, young moms are doing their research from the outset to be prepared!
19 Making A DIY Hands-Off Solution
While some moms may wind up with a bulky non-portable pump because of insurance or other reasons, they’re still not going to take this whole pumping thing sitting down with both hands in use. Instead, they’ve figured out DIY ways of making a hands-free pumping bra. Whether it’s cutting holes in a sports bra that fits or using hair ties to hold the pump in place (this one is amazing and so simple—a handful of hair ties saved my pumping experience!), young moms are not averse to trying unconventional things to get their pump setups to work for them.
18 Purchasing Spare Parts
Although being tempted to buy more stuff is sort of a curse of the younger generations, it’s also super convenient to buy the things we do need right away. So younger moms are helping their pumping experiences by making sure they have a stock of spare parts. Not only does this make pumping easier as you don’t have to wash everything every single time you pump, but it’s nice because if something breaks or gets lost, you’ve got backups. Clearly, pump parts used to be harder to find and therefore replace, but these days there’s no excuse for not having a stockpile of spares, even if they’re off-brand.
17 Catching Extra Milk With Ease
Another way young moms are making pumping easier is by not just pumping and then forgetting about their milk. They’re using milk collection devices—either hard plastic shells or silicone “pumps”—to make sure they save every drop of milk that comes out. Whether it’s while they’re nursing the baby on one side or just hanging around at home before a shower, today’s young moms know that grabbing an extra ounce or so of milk can help boost their baby’s stockpile of milk. They also know that just because it’s not pump time, that doesn’t mean their bodies aren’t still making milk—and they take advantage of it.
16 Flanges As Funnels
This one is so simple but for some reason, I never thought of it as a first-time pumping mom. Just take a spare flange (or the one you just used), drop it in the mouth of the bottle you’re pouring the milk into, and pour! Make sure you’re holding onto it, though, since we all know that spilled milk is totally a reason to cry when you’re a lactating mom who just worked really hard to get those few ounces! And when you’re trying to pour into a narrow-mouth container—or even a bag—it’s sometimes tough to keep a few drops from escaping.
15 Pumping While Driving
First-time mom me back in 2010 would never have thought this was possible, but second-time mom me a few years later had it down pat: it’s totally possible to pump while driving, and it can make the difference between a decent pumping experience and a really negative one! If you’re exclusively pumping, especially, it’s hard to schedule your entire life around when you need to pump. But if you learn how to pump in the car—safely—you can still make milk while you get where you need to be. It just takes a reliable hands-free option and either a portable pump or a power inverter for your AC/DC pump.
14 Not Caring Who Knows (Or Sees)
This one’s not so much a hack as a state of mind, but not caring what people think is a huge part of being successful with pumping (and basically anything else in life). Moms shouldn’t be embarrassed by pumping or be intimidated at the thought of having to ask for a place to pump. Fortunately, with today’s laws about pumping while on the clock—not to mention insurance covering a pump in most cases—mamas just need to know their rights. That’s the most important thing about pumping: knowing that you’re doing your best and getting it done no matter what.
13 Snoozing On The Milk-Making Job
Moms used to say that it was impossible to pump while sleeping, unless you could sleep sitting up. But one mom figured out a hack that let her relax a bit while pumping. It’s been years since I saw the image showing how she managed it, but basically, you just have to lie on your side at the edge of your bed or the couch. Then, you turn the flanges so that the bottles and the valve part is positioned correctly. When you start pumping, the bottles will be sideways to you, but they’ll be in the right position to keep milk from leaking!
12 Prepping A Pumping Station
Back when I began pumping, and even by the time I was finishing up, there weren’t as many portable battery-powered pumps as there are now, and pumping was still pretty time-consuming and required sitting in one spot. But now? There are all manner of portable pumps—some even have Bluetooth to connect with your phone—and moms can have multiples depending on what they need to accomplish. Plus, moms are getting creative with these pumping “stations”—everything they need to pump arranged so that it’s accessible and simple to sit down and start pumping. And, the best pumping stations have wheels so you can move them anywhere in the house and still get the job done.
11 Pumping More Often
This one might not be a hack either, strictly speaking, but young moms these days are pros at multitasking. And that includes pumping while doing other things—remember the mom who pumped while running a marathon? It’s often born of necessity for any moms, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still really good at pumping on one side while nursing the baby on the other or prepping a meal for a toddler while lugging around a pump. Basically, if there’s a way to get in both an extra pumping session and everything else that needs to be done, these young mamas figure it out.
10 Meshing Mechanical Parts
It used to be that there were only a handful of pumps to choose from, and the parts didn’t really mesh no matter what you picked. But moms didn’t let that stop them—and young moms these days are pros at hacking their pumps to get the fit they want with the features they need. Whether it’s splicing tubing to get your favorite flanges to work with a differently branded pump or devising a way to pump directly into milk storage bags without an adapter, today’s lactating moms are all over the engineering required to make the whole system work.
9 Asking For Help From The Pros
Another not-so-hack that is something that seems to be unique to young moms. Many mamas these days don’t care about being embarrassed or asking for help—they just go get things done. And that includes being in close contact with a lactation consultant to get all the support they can—including awkward things like getting measured for the right fit with your flanges or getting a hands-on demonstration of how to hand express milk. Because once these young moms learn the ropes, they can pass that info on to other new moms, and that’s a great “hack” for keeping pumping in the spotlight.
8 Stocking Up On Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has been touted as the new-age solution to every problem, or at least a few hundred household ones. And although many moms swear by it as a healthy skin care tactic, others say it’s too oily and pore-clogging to be good for that. What’s not up for discussion, though? Using it as a pump lubricant! Seriously, pumping “dry” without any lubrication is uncomfortable and even painful until the milk starts flowing. So many young moms have figured that out and stock up on coconut oil—or another food-safe ingredient—to prevent chafing and discomfort. It also helps if you’re feeling a little dry!
7 Pretending They’re Not Pumping
Although most young moms are pretty in-your-face about being proud of themselves for making milk for their babies (however they manage to do it), they’re also pretty good at pumping without being noticed. That’s where new technology comes in handy and helps moms hack their way through the pumping schedule each day. Instead of sitting in a closed-off space for half an hour while they pump, many moms are choosing wearable pumps so they can go about their business while making milk. In many cases, the pumps are quiet enough that these mamas can pretend they’re not even pumping.
6 Knowing Your Bod (& Milk Makers)
Another hack young moms have figured out is how to get their bodies to cooperate! Gone are the days of plugging into the pump and waiting for it to work its magic. Moms these days are figuring out how to maximize their milk output and get things done more effectively and efficiently. That means knowing their body’s tendencies and learning how to get the milk to start flowing fast. Whether it’s massaging while pumping or putting pressure on a specific milk duct, young moms have it locked down when it comes to understanding the biology of lactation. They know how to optimize pumping position, manage food and drink intake, and leverage the timing of their pumping to get the most milk.
5 Selecting The Right Settings
Since times have changed so much—and pumps have changed, too—it’s up to young moms to figure out the best way to actually use their pump to express milk. And one of the “tricks” to pumping effectively is to get the milk flowing the same way that the baby does. So instead of using whatever generic pump setting has the highest suction, young moms know to mimic their infants’ nursing with a gentle and fast suction setting first. Then, they switch it up to mimic their babies’ long and deep suction to get the fattier milk out. Because mom’s body isn’t a machine, even if she needs to use one to get milk out!
4 Having Heat For Help
Although it’s possible that a guy invented heating pads for moms to use while pumping, we kind of doubt it. After all, the rounded ice and heat packs that fit around mom’s appendages and her pumping apparatus are just too perfect for the ladies to have had a guy test drive them. If you haven’t tried heat while pumping yet, young moms have the right idea with these microwaveable, gel-filled packs—it can help the milk flow faster and even help unclog milk ducts. You can use them while pumping or before or after, and you can even freeze them for cold therapy, too.
3 Facetiming Baby For Help
Lactation consultants used to recommend that moms look at a photo of their babies while they pump, to help encourage letdown and get the milk flowing well. The older Medela pumps—the ones in a carry bag—even had a little spot to hold a photo. These days, though? You probably have hundreds of digital images on your phone that you can look at! But young moms do one better—they Facetime their tots while pumping when possible so that they can get a real-life glimpse of their babies if they have to be away. See, technology isn’t all bad!
2 Enlisting Herbal Help
Another hack that’s somewhat surprising is young moms’ use of supplements to help with milk supply. Sure, there are the tried and true galactagogues like fenugreek and oats, but there are also newer concepts like using lecithin to help get the milk flowing faster! Lecithin, which often comes from sunflowers, is used to keep ingredients from caking up in recipes—you’ll see lecithin on the packages of many shelf-stable products these days—so the idea is that it helps “smooth” the milk’s exit. That’s not the only supplement young moms use, though, and it’s not the only effective one, either.
1 Power Pumping For Increasing Supply
If you’ve pumped before—or are just starting a pumping journey—this is the number-one hack you need to know to make it productive and help get you out of a low-supply rut! Power pumping is something you’ll hear about in every single nursing mom forum and every single exclusively pumping social media group! Basically, it just means a longer and quite focused pumping session. You’ll need about an hour to do it “right,” and you’ll pump for a set number of minutes, take a break, and then pump a few more times with breaks in between. The idea is to completely empty your milk makers—thus encouraging a larger supply of milk—something every pumping mom can get behind!