Pumping breast milk is hard. Being an exclusive pumper is even worse.
For those of us that have either chosen this life, or had it chosen for us, there are so many more things that we have to deal with that nursing mothers just don’t. We have to worry about scheduling time to pump, making sure that we bring enough milk for outings, remembering all of our pumping supplies for trips, and don’t even get me started on the bottles to wash. So many bottles…
Thankfully there are some things that we can do to make the whole process just a little bit easier. Hopefully these pumping hacks will help you as much as they have helped me.
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Refrigerate Your Pump Parts
Probably the most helpful pumping hack that I ever learned about pumping, was the fact that you can refrigerate your pump parts between sessions. My mind was blown when I learned this. This one trick kept me from having to wash all of those stupid little pieces after every single pump. Total game changer!
Just take your parts and put them in a plastic bag or container in the fridge during the day and wash everything at night. This saves so much extra time.
If you have a very young baby, like less than a month old, or a baby with immune issues, then I would probably wait to start this. Though breast milk is amazingly good at not growing bacteria, there could be something that gets on your parts that you may not want passing along to your little one.
Once he is a bit older and healthier though, go for it! This is also a great way to store parts when going back to work.
Get a Car Adapter
Depending on what kind of pump you have, you should be able to get either a car adapter or a battery pack for it. These items are definitely worth the money.
I have the Medela Pump in Style Advance and having the car charger has made my life so much easier. (I know that there is a battery pack for this pump, but I’ve heard mixed reviews about the suction. If you’ve used it I would like to know your thoughts.) I can hook my pump up in the car and use my hands free bra (definitely get one) to have some quiet time while I pump.
You can do this traveling back and forth to work, trips to the store, really any time that you’re going to be in the car during a pump session. If you have a long commute, you can even take this time to squeeze in a power pump. This is how I spend my time in New York traffic. I just throw a cover over me and go.
Protect the Nips
Pumping can be rough on the girls, especially in the beginning. Using a little coconut oil on your breasts before each pumping session can really help. Don’t worry, the milk is totally safe for baby.
After pumps, you can also use a little nipple cream to help as well. Just don’t use it before pumps. It’s sticky so it’ll stick to the plastic of your flanges and just pull on your boobs. Trust me, you don’t want that. I like the Motherlove Nipple Cream personally, but the Lansinoh Lanolin works great too.
Using heat before and during your pumping sessions can really help to get the milk flowing. I have a big king sized heating pad that I just love for this. I just get my pumps all set up and drape it over the girls and go. Having the bottles covered also keeps me from paying too much attention to how much milk is coming out. You can drive yourself crazy staring at those bottles all day long obsessing over your output. Don’t do that.
If you’re on the go, I would suggest carrying around some of the Medela Quick Clean Wipes. They’re great for wiping down your pump parts when you aren’t able to do a full clean. I always keep a pack in my pump bag.
If you have access to a microwave, then you can use the Medela Sanitizer Bags to do an even better job. These are great for sanitizing parts at work, or if you’re traveling and staying in a hotel.
Pump While Feeding
I know women that will feed their baby and then go pump. To me that just sounds exhausting and time consuming. If you have a hands free bra (I’m not kidding, get one), then you can do both at the same time.
I normally prop J up on his Boppy nursing pillow for this. It’s great because not only will you guarantee that your baby will be distracted (hopefully long enough for you to finish your pump), but it will also help insure that you are pumping on his eating schedule, which you want to do.
This also means that once you both are done, you will have the next couple of hours to do other things rather than having to worry about milk.
Beat Night Time Feedings
Night feedings suck for exclusive pumping moms. It’s not like nursing where you can just whip your boob out and the milk is the perfect temperature. A little extra work is involved. You have a few options though.
- If your baby still wakes up multiple times a night, you can leave out the bottle for the next feeding. That way it’ll be room temp by the time your baby wakes up. Freshly pumped milk can stay out for 6 hours. Always do the smell/taste test if you’re ever worried about it though. (It will smell and taste like spoiled milk. You’ll know, trust me)
- If your baby will take cold milk, then just feed him the bottle straight from the fridge. Easy peasy.
- If your baby’s night time feeds are a bit sporadic (like mine were) then do what I did and use a thermos for hot water. I have the Tommee Tippee travel warmer and it’s AMAZING! I would just boil some water before bed and fill up the thermos. When and if my baby woke up for the night I would put the bottle in the still hot water and let it heat up while I was doing the diaper change. By the time I was done, the milk would be warmed. So easy!
Get the App
If you’re going to be freezing milk, you’ll probably want a way to keep track of it. There’s an app for that! I have an Android and love using Baby Log. (I believe it’s called Pump Log for iPhone) It is awesome!
This app can track my freezer stash, even telling me how long it will last and how long I need to pump to make it to my breastfeeding goal. It will also track pumps, feedings, diaper changes, your water intake, pretty much anything that you would want to track. It is so worth it.
Pump at Night
I know that sleep is a precious commodity these days, but if you’re really wanting to get your milk supply up, or well established, pumping at night can help. Prolactin, the hormone that promotes milk production, is the highest between 1am and 5 am. Pumping during that time will give you a boost for the rest of the day since you’ll be empty while those prolactin levels are highest causing your body to make more milk faster.
I would suggest having a pumping session during this time at least until your milk regulates, which is around 12 weeks. That way your supply will be well established. I would do one of two things. I would either pump after feeding my baby when he woke up at night, or I would have my husband feed J so that I could pump.
It really is up to you, but I would suggest the latter of the two. That way your time awake is cut in half so that you can get back to bed. Having the extra sleep will do you good. If your baby manages to start sleeping through the night before 12 weeks, I completely understand not wanting to wake up. I’d suggest doing an early morning pump to compensate.
Clean Your Nipples
All of that milk your pumping out leaves residue on your nipples. If it gets left, it can build up and block the duct openings and lead to milk blebs. An easy solution to this is to gently rub on your nipples in the shower with your finger. This will help break up all of that dried milk.
Are you an exclusive pumping mom? What hacks have you found to make your pumping journey easier? Leave me a comment below or join the conversation in our Facebook group.
Until next time!