Being a new mother consists of long days, lots of multitasking, and a little bit of chaos. It’s not unusual for sleep to feel like a distance memory or food to be found in new places (like in a head of hair or a favorite shirt). The early days are a beautiful time to always be remembered, but it doesn’t mean it’s always smooth.
Despite whatever new adventure unfolds in a day, it’s important to keep pumping new milk to keep a fresh supply and to encourage new production. Pumping helps to increase milk supply, store milk for days without mom, and alleviate issues around feeding time.
Pumping in the morning is the best time for milk production, according to Ameda. Unfortunately, it can also be the busiest time in a mom’s schedule. How is it possible to keep pumping on track and keep up with everything else?
Hands-free pumping is the perfect way to keep the day moving. Whether it’s an opportunity to just relax, grab a quick meal, or stay on the go, hands-free pumping is a game changer. While it may sound like a luxury, pumping can become a hands-free experience for any budget or lifestyle. From discrete, wearable units to DIY-ing an existing bra, the options are practically endless.
Here are 20 things to know about hands-free pumping before diving in.
Hands-free pumping is appealing because it lets you keep moving and tackle everything that needs to be tackled in a day. This is awesome news for any mom, but it’s also important to not run too quickly with it.
Dedicating pumping time to taking back some “me” time is a great way to avoid burning out. It’s an opportunity to make sure you do something for yourself every day. It can be as simple as enjoying your morning tea, sitting down to have a real meal, catching up on your favorite shows, or sneaking in one more chapter of that book that’s been calling your name.
Remember: taking care of yourself is key to taking care of your family!
Expressing milk is a natural process for most women, but it doesn’t mean it comes without its challenges. It’s common for women to struggle with producing a consistent amount of milk or enough to use for sufficient feeding.
According to a study conducted through the Department of Pediatrics at Stanford University, combining hand techniques with electric pumping increases milk production in mothers of preterm infants. Using a hands-free pump allows you to increase milk flow by gently massaging around the pumps. For some who are experiencing difficulties producing milk, it allows you to play a more active role in solving the issue and can provide some peace of mind until production increases.
When a mother is producing milk, there are a variety of factors that can affect production levels. While hands-free pumping allows you to keep moving with your day, it’s important to be sure levels are not being affected.
When buying (or DIY-ing!) a hands-free pumping system, the fit matters. According to Medela, wearing a bra that’s too tight while pumping can restrict milk flow.
Other ways to restrict milk flow can include accidentally compressing milk ducts by leaning forward on the pumping system, pressing it too hard against the skin, or multitasking in any way that can cause pressure to the front of your chest.
As a mother, multitasking becomes an instinctive talent. If tasks can be done simultaneously, they are usually going to be. It’s no surprise then that double pumping can be appealing.
Double pumping saves time simply because the process is happening at the same time instead of one after the other. But did you know it can help you produce more milk than pumping one at a time?
According to a study conducted at the University of Western australia, simultaneous pumping stimulated more milk ejections and yielded milk with a higher energy content. This means double pumping enables more milk production as well as a higher quality of milk being produced.
You won’t be needing your hands while you pump, but make sure to take the time to set everything up properly. Since you won’t be as involved during pumping, getting your pump on in the right position is key.
Properly lining up the pump will ensure for optimal milk flow and an all-around better experience with reduced chances of leaking or losing milk. Decide what position you’d like to be in while pumping, whether you’re sitting, standing or laying down, and adjust the pump accordingly in that position.
Hands-free pumping technology has come a long way. Designed with working moms in mind, companies like Willow and Elvie have designed silent, discreet, wearable pumps that can be inserted into any existing bra.
These compact wearables allow you to pump milk wherever you go with no one being the wiser. The milk bag is attached inside the device to allow you to pump in any position, and the batteries typically last up to five sessions without needing to be charged. They are a considerable investment, but a life-changing option for those with long hours in an office, constant travel throughout the day, or sensitivities to regular pumps.
Most people don’t drink enough water on a regular basis. In order to stay hydrated when nursing, it requires even more water intake than the average person. According to Ameda Direct, the oxytocin your body releases during breastfeeding is responsible for triggering your thirst. Essentially, your body is trying to let you know you need to drink more water.
Having free hands while pumping is a perfect opportunity to hit your daily water intake. Set yourself water goals for each pumping session based off how much water you need to consume. According to Nutritionist Brad Davidson, without nursing, you should aim to drink half your bodyweight in ounces. This means exceeding that number will keep your body hydrated and healthy while pumping.
With so many hands-free, mobile pumping options, you can pump on the go easier than ever before. The hardest thing with pumping on the go? Keeping the milk cold.
If pumping on the go is going to be a regular occurrence for you, consider picking up a cooler to keep in your car or even with your purse. If you’re pumping at the office you can invest in a mini fridge or bring in your own mini cooler. If you’re constantly on the go, keep it in your car and your milk can sit on ice until you’re ready to head home and stock up the fridge.
Living in a technology-driven world, it’s no surprise you can make your pumping experience digital. Depending on the pump you choose, some now feature apps to download on your phone and track your feeding and pumping journey. Now that your hands are free while pumping, you can check in on the app daily while you pump or visit it at any point you’re on your phone.
The apps provide a variety of information including milk volume, pumping session logs, and even tips to improve your pumping experience. This can be an interesting option for mothers will multiple children, as it can allow you to compare milk production from one birth to the next.
Having a hands-free pump doesn’t always mean you can conquer the world while pumping. Depending on your own comfort levels, the bra you’ve chosen, and your personal experience with pumping, you may be less mobile while pumping with a hands-free solution than you thought and that’s okay.
Get comfortable and stay positive. You may not be moving around town, but your hands are free for anything you need. Take this as an opportunity to breathe and conquer the smaller things like catching up on emails, reading magazines, or even playing with the baby!
If you’re going to be staying in one spot while pumping, set up a caddy of essentials within reach. This can include water, snacks, KIeenex, the baby monitor, TV remote, or laptop. If pumping needs to be a less mobile experience for you, it makes it easier for you to sit back and get the best results without having to constantly get back up for that item you forgot.
Consider keeping the caddy fully-equipped to reduce the time it takes to get set up each time you need to pump. Grabbing these goodies before sitting down to pump can feel time-consuming otherwise, so preparing yourself and keeping it all together lets you stick the routine more easily.
Besides a baby’s ever-changing sleep schedule, the most unpredictable feature of pregnancy can be a mom’s changing size. Spending your hard-earned money on a pumping bra that may not fit next week can be frustrating, but there are ways to work around the naturally changing state of your body.
According to VeryWellFamily.com, the Simple Wishes Signature Hands Free Pumping Bra comes in sizes XS through Large and features a velcro back to adjust your fit as your body changes. Looking for a multi-size solution is ideal for mothers who are still experiencing a lot of changes through their chest and back.
Hands-free pumping lets you multitask while pumping, but don’t forget to slow down and pay attention before removing your pump. While some hands-free pumping solutions have safety features to avoid any milk leakage or dripping, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you’ve taken the time to pump, it’s worthwhile to make sure all the milk available has reached the bottle. According to Baby Bell, keeping yourself well drained means milk can actually be produced at a higher rate.
How do you know if there’s any milk left? Giving your breasts a quick feel before removing the pump is your best indicator. A soft breast usually means an empty breasts, which is exactly what you want.
If you’re struggling to find room for your regular bra, your nursing bra, your pumping bra, and your pump all in one bag, consider trying clip-on accessories for your nursing bra. It means a little more space in the baby bag, but also a little more time saved when pumping in a hurry.
The Bravado Clip and Pump™ Hands-Free Nursing Bra Accessory is one example of a clip-on solution with great reviews. If you want to get creative, there are similar DIY solutions online that involve a hair elastic and some DIY talent!
Note: if you’re going with the Bravado option, most users suggest sizing down!
There are many reasons why mothers turn to pumping: increasing milk production, difficulty for the baby to latch on, storing milk for when mom is unavailable, and pain being experienced while breastfeeding to name a few.
It’s important to remember that while hands-free pumping can make the experience easier during the day, you don’t always have to pump. If the milk simply isn’t flowing or you feel like you could use a break, formula solutions exist as an alternative. Using formula is a personal decision, and it can be a perfect option for those experiencing difficulty with pumping, even when it’s hands-free.
For some women, the biggest pain around pumping is having to change back and forth every time. If this is a point of frustration for you, there are multiple options available.
As mentioned earlier, clip-ons are an option to work with regular bras, but there are also bras available that are intended for pumping and everyday wear. Some nursing bras double as a hands-free pumping bra, providing you with support throughout the day and the ability to nurse or pump as needed.
These bras can also be a great option for nighttime pumping. Throw it on before heading to bed and simply attach the pump when you need it in the middle of the night. It simplifies the process making it easier to fall back asleep when all is said and done.
Luckily we live in a digital age where DIY-ing things for the first time doesn’t have to be so intimidating. From blog posts to step-by-step YouTube videos that can be paused and rewatched, creating your own hands-free pumping solution is within reach.
The DIY options available vary from simply cutting the right-sized hole in an old bra and sealing the edges to creating bra systems that have fabric covering the holes to allow for regular use at the same time. Taking the hands-free experience into your own hands is also a great way to mix up your regular routine. Sitting down and creating something for yourself allows you to not only be productive, but to prioritize mom in the middle of the day.
Without a doubt, choosing to DIY it will prove cheaper than any hands-free pump you can find online. Not only will you be saving money, but you’ll also be able to find a purpose for those old bras you had to toss to the back of your drawer since getting pregnant. If you’ve got the time and the steady hand, it’s a win-win.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can create multiple bras for less than the cost of a single, dedicated hands-free pumping bra. This makes it easier to cycle the bras when they are overdue for a wash, but the pumping has to continue.
From high-end to low-budget, there’s something for everyone with a ton of in between. Hands-free pumping doesn’t have to be a luxury. If your lifestyle requires you to invest in the most convenient solution for on the go, consider allowing yourself a higher budget to invest in the pumping solution that’s going to work with what you need. If you feel a little tapped out on the baby budget, no worries. DIY-ing it lets you save money and repurpose a bra that will otherwise go unworn.
When budgeting a hands-free pump, you can also consider questions like “Will I use this for my next child?”, “Am I having another child?”, and “Where do I stand on my current budget?” This allows you to feel more confident in your decision, and most importantly, avoid buyer’s remorse.
The good news is there are a ton of options when it comes to hands-free pumping. The bad news? There are a ton of options when it comes to hands-free pumping.
It can quickly become overwhelming: Do you need yours to be silent? Should you buy one that goes in your bra or should you DIY an existing bra? When will you use it most? How much are you looking to spend?
Before diving in too deep, figure out what requirements are important to you. Think about your lifestyle, when and how you pump and make a list of your top priorities. Once you’ve got a clear idea of what you need, shopping for a solution becomes significantly easier.
References: Ameda.com, Medela.com, Willowpump.com, Verywellfamily.com