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Breast Pumping Tips From a Mom Who's Been There

I'm a wife, mother, secondary school counselor, and writer. Combining my 20+ years in the health/wellness and counseling fields, I have found my passion in inspiring other women to be the best version of themselves. I have a B.S. in Exe...

Make life with a breast pump a little easier

When I set out to nurse both of my children after they were born, I thought breastfeeding was going to just “magically” happen. Lay back, put baby to breast, and voila — all is right in the world. Well, unfortunately for me, I had insufficient growth tissue, which prevented my body from producing enough milk to exclusively feed my babies with breast milk. I quickly discovered that feeding at the breast was causing anxiety for me and creating a situation that led to my baby not getting enough milk.

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Knowing that I still wanted both of my children to receive the benefits of breast milk, I turned to pumping (almost exclusively at times) in order to keep any supply I still had flowing. After two babies and a combined 19 months of pumping and nursing, I’m pretty sure my experience taught me a thing or two about life with a breast pump.

Whether you are pumping exclusively or only when you’re away from your baby, there are some valuable tips and tricks to make this job easier. But before you even start, it is essential that you purchase or rent a quality pump to match your needs. If you are only occasionally pumping, a lower-cost basic pump is probably all you need. However, if you are pumping daily, it’s worth looking into a hospital-grade or retail-grade pump.

Once you have purchased (or rented) a pump, it’s time to get down to business. The following tips and tricks — which focus more on an electric pump rather than a manual pump — will help you become a master at pumping.

Supplies

  • Most moms find it handy to have a “hands-free bra" if they are using an electric pump. This frees up your hands from holding the bottles and keeps the flanges secure to your breasts.
  • With summer approaching, it’s also a good idea to have an extra bra since they will get pretty sweaty. If you don’t want to purchase another one, many moms have luck making their own by cutting holes in an old sports bra.
  • Extra pump flanges and bottles can save a lot of time so you don’t have to wash them between pumping sessions. It’s important to note that there are various flange sizes, so try them out and see which one fits your breast the best.
  • Don’t forget the car adaptor for those times when you have to pump and drive!
  • It makes sense to have an extra set of tubing (remember to clean these out frequently).

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During pumping

  • Get comfortable, because pumping can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. Find a space at home or work that you feel the most relaxed — this will help with letdown and potentially the amount of milk you pump.
  • If the flanges seem to irritate your skin, consider coating the inside with the ointment or cream you use on your nipples for nursing.
  • Multi-task! The beauty of a hands-free pump and bra is that you can get a lot of other things done or just simply rest and take a nap. Pump while you drive, work at your computer, watch television, read a book, knit... the possibilities are endless.
  • Pay attention to the settings — it’s not necessarily better to have the pump operating on the highest setting in order to get the maximum amount of milk. Experiment to see what works best for you.
  • If you are pumping during the warmer months, have a fan close by to help cool you down and have a few towels to help absorb the boob sweat that trickles down your stomach.

After pumping

  • If you pump several times a day, put your pump parts in a plastic bag and place them in the fridge for the next use. This allows you to only have to wash the parts at the end of the day — a tip I didn't learn until my second child.
  • When washing at the end of the day, place the parts in a bowl of soapy water and let them soak overnight.
  • Wipes are a great way to clean parts when you are away from soap and water or you just don’t feel like washing another dang thing! Also consider steam bags (used in the microwave) for your parts if you need to do some quick sterilizing.
  • Change the membranes if you notice decreased performance from the pump.
  • If you plan to feed the freshly expressed milk to your baby within four to six hours of pumping, it’s safe to leave it out on the counter at room temperature.
  • Storing milk in the refrigerator and freezer are both options. Label milk with the dates and store with the oldest milk at the front. Freezers are great because breast milk can be stored for up to a year there. Make sure to put the milk in an appropriate storage bag before putting it in the freezer. When you're ready to use it, remove it from the freezer and thaw before warming.
  • Swirl the milk before serving and get ready for the next round of pumping!

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Make life with a breast pump a little easier
Image: Getty Images/Design: Ashley Britton for SheKnows


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