With the birth of my first son, I didn’t buy a pump right away. I was planning on being a stay-at-home mother and wanted to breastfeed on demand. When engorgement set in, my husband brought home a Medela hand pump.1 I pumped a handful of times for my son and even less for my second child, who took only one bottle in her entire life.
When my third and fourth children were born, I was thrust into the world of exclusive pumping (EP). It was a new place to be and it was hard to be strapped to a machine in order to feed my baby. Thanks to tips from fellow NICU mothers, working mothers, and others who, for whatever reason, had to express for their babies, I had a basketful of tips and tricks to make life with a breast pump easier. Here are just a few of them:
1. Get fitted!
Flanges or shields, the rounded part that touches your breast, come in different sizes and materials. A proper fit can ensure you pump the maximum amount of milk for your baby. This will also reduce the potential for soreness or plugged ducts. A Lactation Consultant can help you find the best fit for your breast.
2. Get the best!
Buy the best pump you can afford for your needs. Are you pumping during the day so your baby can have a bottle while you are at work? Or are you pumping for a baby who cannot nurse from the breast? Typically, the more sessions you need to pump (versus pumping and nursing), the higher grade pump you will need. Hospital grade pumps may be cost prohibitive to buy but affordable to rent. Call a local hospital, La Leche League Leader or Lactation Consultant for information about where to rent one in your area.
3. Go Hands Free!
Being hands free while pumping allows you to multi-task. Buy a hands-free nursing bra or master the hands free pumping trick on KellyMom. Petra, a working mother of two, also suggests making your own pumping bra by “. . . using an old bra (doesn’t need to be a nursing bra) and cutting [about] one inch slits at the nipple. It’s best to put the bra on and mark it with a pen to make sure you cut in the right place. Next, feed your pump parts through the slits before attaching the bottles.” Not only will hands free pumping allow you to eat, drink, and play with your older children or even drive the car (although I’ve never done it, I have friends who have pumped and drove!), you can . . .
4. Get Distracted!
Many mothers find that sitting and waiting to finish pumping can be boring and stressful. Have your pumping station placed where you can watch TV, surf the Internet, or read a book. This can come in handy for those middle of the night pumping sessions which may seem especially endless. I also found having a receiving blanket over my chest kept me from worrying about how much milk was coming out, which could possibly hinder my supply.
5. Treat your nipples well.
Pumping can be very drying on your nipples. I took a very small amount of olive oil and “greased” my flanges to avoid chafing. Lanolin works well for this too. If you are pumping for a premature infant, ask your hospital’s Lactation Consultant if lanolin is approved for your baby.
6. Treat yourself well.
Get as much rest as you can. Drink water or supply-boosting herbal teas and eat a well-balanced diet. It’s not easy to take care of yourself, a baby, daily life, and pump, but neglecting yourself makes it easy for your supply to take a hit. Let some things go. The house doesn’t need to be perfectly clean and your older children may watch more TV than you would like, but that is simply part of the “give and take” of having a new baby in house.
7. Get a system going.
Create pumping stations around the house with all your pumping needs within reach: extra flanges, bottles, storage bags, burp cloths, the remote, etc. Have a routine for storing milk, carrying milk to and from locations and, if needed, pumping when you are away from the home. Streamlining these processes to fit your needs will allow you to take care of your needs fast and lessen the chance of you forgetting something.
8. Set small goals.
Amy, a working and pumping mother of two boys, says, “Set little manageable goals – 6 weeks, then 3 months, 6 months, 9 months – before you know it you can do a year.”
9. Remain connected to your baby.
If you can, pump near your infant. If you need to pump away from your baby, bring an article of their clothing, a blanket, or a photograph with you. These reminders can help increase milk production and facilitate a let down. Ann-Marie, another working and pumping mother, also suggested calling the day care before pumping, as the baby noises helped her respond to the pump. At home, co-sleeping, breastfeeding on demand, and baby wearing will help you remain connected with your child.
If you have a hospitalized baby, pumping can help the baby remain connected to you. Place a burp cloth or blanket under your breasts when you pump. The cloth can catch any drips or leaks and will smell like your milk. Place it with your baby and, the next day, take it with you while you pump, placing a new cloth under your breasts. The constant smell of you and your milk will be comforting to your baby and may help increase the likelihood of success when you being to breastfeed.
10. Get support!
Visit a La Leche League group that is home to other pumping mothers. Speak with co-workers who pump, and find a forum where you can share tips, tricks, successes, and gripes. Emotional support can be key to keeping up with the (milk) flow.
Is pumping hard? Yes, it can be. But any milk you pump to give your baby is a wonderful success!
Photo credit: archhale2008
- The product recommendations in this post are the opinions of the author alone and are included for information only. They are not sponsored, and no advertising or affiliation earnings will be generated from this article in order to comply with the WHO code of marketing of breastmilk substitutes. ↩