35 Tips and Tricks For Pumping Mamas

35 Tips and Tricks for Pumping Mamas

Mothers who have experienced the ups and downs of pumping can attest to the fact that it is truly an art form. There is definitely a learning curve to success and, as time goes by, most mamas adapt to find a system that works well for them and their baby.

Three NPN volunteers – Abbie, Gretchen and Shannon – have collaborated on their most loved tips and tricks for pumping.

With over 50 months (and counting!) of pumping experience, they’re excited to give you an inside peek of their pumpin’ lives with details on basic logistics, pumping at work, mama care, milk handling and info for baby’s caregiver.

35 Tips and Tricks For Pumping Mamas

  1. Purchase or rent a pump that meets the demands of your situation. Hospital grade for exclusive or long term pumping or a manual pump for occasional pumping needs.
  2. Learn the proper technique to manually express your breastmilk. This will help stimulate letdown or give you another option to express milk, if your pump is not accessible.
  3. Call your baby and their caregiver before pumping to ask how baby is doing. Are they crying? Sleeping? Did they just have a snack?
  4. Pump throughout the day as close to baby’s feeding schedule as possible, or at least every 3-4 hours.
  5. Aim to pump early in the morning when you have the highest levels of milk.
  6. Then again, some mamas find that they produce more milk after lunch time/a hearty meal. Learn your body and let it work for you!
  7. Take at least part of your pumping break to concentrate on baby. Once your milk is flowing well you can multitask.
  8. Try pumping on one side while nursing your baby on the other. Many moms get the most milk this way. It takes lots of practice and isn’t easy as baby gets older, but it’s worth a try!
  9. Don’t crank the pump up to the highest setting. Start with the lowest amount of suction and go from there. Stronger suction does not mean more milk.
  10. Don’t worry if your baby wants to nurse right after you pump. Your baby’s suckling will stimulate you to make more milk.
  11. Before returning to work, speak to your employer and find out when/where you can express milk, where you can store it, and find out your legal rights about expressing milk for your baby. Seek out other moms who have pumped in your workplace and talk to them about their experiences. Check out this great list of 40 Ways to Support Pumping Moms at Home and at Work!
  12. Arrive early to work and set up your pump in your pumping area if you can. Setting up ahead of time will save you time during your break and reduce your stress!
  13. Purchase and bring extra pump flanges so you won’t have to wash them between pumping.
  14. Stock your pumping area with drinks, healthy snacks, nursing pads, nipple butter and anything else you may need. It’s a good idea to keep a spare shirt there in case of leaks too.
  15. Keep a sweatshirt, sweater or blanket in your pumping area in case you get cold. A pair of yoga pants in case you’re wearing a dress isn’t a bad idea either.
  16. milk for caregiver

  17. Find out what makes pumping a fun time for you! Abbie and Gretchen both fell in love with a series of books and only allowed themselves to read while pumping. Consider surfing the web, crocheting or look at pictures of your child(ren) to rest and relax too.
  18. If pumping feels wrong or strange, cover the pump with a blanket (to dull the sound), close your eyes and think of your baby. You can even bring a stuffed toy that reminds you or your child, a piece of clothing or blanket to hold.
  19. Confide in a friend or two at work, especially if she is/was a pumping mama. Her support and encouragement is priceless.
  20. Learn to pump discretely in your car during your commute to take advantage of another opportunity to pump while away from baby. Don’t forget a hands-free pump, car charger adapter and cardigan. (And if you donate to receive one of our fun Pumping Pixie “Do Not Disturb” door hangers or cards, 100% of your donation will go to buy hands-free pumps for mothers in domestic violence shelters!)
  21. Eat high protein foods and snacks.
  22. Drink plenty of water or hydrating liquids.
  23. Crying over spilled breastmilk is a perfectly acceptable reaction to that experience.
  24. Play around with different flange sizes until you determine what feels best.
  25. Drop in supply? Have a few power pumping sessions (pumping for less time, more frequently).
  26. Snack on lactation cookies.
  27. Track your output, not to induce stress or worry, but to actively manage and track pumping trends. Do you produce more when you drink “x” ounces of water? Or take “x” supplement?
  28. RELAX! Don’t watch the bottles, this definitely induces stress.
  29. Post safe milk handling guidelines around the home.
  30. Remind caregivers that unused milk can be offered to baby during the next feeding.
  31. Swirl milk to mix the separated layers.
  32. Expressed milk can have a white, yellow, blue, green or variation of color and is still normal.
  33. Previously frozen milk may smell soapy but is still okay for baby to eat.
  34. Frozen milk should be thawed before warming and cold milk should be gently warmed to body temperature.
  35. Invest in a deep chest freezer, breast milk can be stored up to a year there.
  36. Label milk with the dates and store with the oldest milk in the front and rotate the milk frequently.

Calling all pumping mamas! We’d love to add some more tips and tricks to our collaborative list, leave your insight in the comments and we’ll compile a follow-up post of additional information.


Photo Credits: The Artful Mama

About The Author: Gretchen

ThatMamaG My NPN Posts

I am a WAHM mama of two from the Pacific Northwest. I began my career in corporate sales and marketing and am now a freelance writer exploring the joys of attachment parenting while trying to find a reason to wear something other than yoga pants on a daily basis :)

7 Responses to 35 Tips and Tricks For Pumping Mamas

  1. Megan Valencia

    I can only get a letdown when I’m completely distracted from pumping. No luck until I brought my iPad and pulled up a light comedy. As soon as I’m “in” the show, down comes my milk.

  2. Sarah Brumberg

    If you have a double pump, pump it up! I found that when I pumped both breasts at the same time, I had more yield. And it’s a time saver too.

    Also, take advantage of nap and bed times. My bitty baby sleeps in four hour stretches at night. When I put him down around 8, I can pump around 10, leaving my breasts time to refill for the midnight feeding.

    I hope these tips help.

  3. Nicki Joseph

    Great ideas. #20 and 24 especially! I will definitely save this post because I will need it later this year 🙂

  4. Lourdes

    I found that drinking MALTA and lots of water has helped increase my milk production more than anything else. Malta is a sugar cane drink and is non-alcoholic. It is found in the Spanish aisle of the grocery store. I also use Mother’s tea from Whole Foods but do not find it as effective.
    My babies did not take the breasts at birth, but pumping 7 or 8 times a day with the Medela Symphony pump from the hospital worked for me. I reduced the numbers of pumpings to 6 a day when I went back to work at 6 months. At 8 months, I dropped to 5 pumpings a day and I am still producing a decent amount of milk.

  5. Chelsea

    Also, put the time of day on the bag bc your breast milk has more hormones to put to sleep at night and less in the morning.

  6. Candi

    I took a video with my phone of my baby crying when she was hungry and when she would latch and start eating. It helped with my let down to watch and hear her. Also just looking at pictures or videos throughout helped. I also purchased a mini fridge I kept in my office to store milk until it was time I I home.

  7. Teresa

    Arrange for ice packs for milk transport to ensure that you don’t have to ask yourself if the milk has shortened expiry due to heating up too much in a hot car. Not to plug a particular product but there are small cooler bags with bottle-contoured ice packs out there that make such logistics a cinch, especially if you follow one of the previous tips (or have an employer-provided mini-fridge) and can re-freeze the ice pack(s) during the workday. No question, no worry.

    Book pumping sessions on your work calendar so people won’t book over them and so you’ll get a reminder.

    Always bring at least one more bottle than you think you need in case it turns out your baby is having a growth spurt and you’re suddenly making more milk.

    Tuck spare membranes into your pumping bag. When you’re away is when you might see you need a new one.

    Keep spare nursing pads in your pumping bag. You never know.

    Keep batteries (if your pump will run on them) in your bag in case you find yourself ‘trapped’ with no power outlets. (Batteries saved me during jury duty. I pumped in a central office in the morning but got stuck waiting for lawyers to argue in a hallway with a bathroom sans power outlets.)