10 Pumping Tips from an Exclusively Pumping Mom

As an exclusively pumping mom for 2 kiddos, I learned a lot in my 2 years of pumping. Yes, 2 years (not consecutive) of pumping. Below are just some tips and tricks I’ve learned from other blogging pumpers, like myself, and from my own personal experience.

I’m so thankful I could pump. I personally knew a few mamas that were not so lucky in their journey and couldn’t produce milk when pumping. Everyone’s body responds differently to the process. Some, like mine, respond tremendously well. I was blessed to be able to pump not only for my little ones, but for another baby each time as well. I was happy to bless that mother with my extra milk supply so she could feed her babies human breast milk. Whether you can produce milk or cannot, look up Human Milk for Human Babies on Facebook. See if they have a chapter in your area.  This is a way to give and receive donated milk from other mothers. It’s purely donation based, women are not allowed to charge for their milk. If you want something a little more vetted, you can look for local milk banks.

dairy-cow-milking-agrilandPumping is hard work. You feel like a cow in a dairy farm. People think you just sit there, maybe watch some TV, scroll through some social media, and let your breasts do what they were made to do. Us pumpers know it’s not that easy. You have to prep your mind and your breasts. I usually would video my kids and then replay those videos in the few minutes before I started pumping. I would also use warm washcloths on my breasts to help increase milkflow and loosen any possible clogs.

Pumping is not for those that want sleep. You pump when the baby eats. Sometimes you pump while the baby drinks from a bottle you’re feeding it. This is if you’re lucky. Most times, baby eats, then you pump or vise versa.

Next, if you’re an over-producer like me, you can’t walk around with a battery operated pump, because your bottles weigh so much from the milk they lose suction (even with the pumping bra). The equipment sticks out a good 3 inches beyond your breasts, so it’s not easy to do anything directly in front of you anyway. There’s tubes that dangle everywhere and get caught on every knob known to man.

Last, you have to make sure you’re working your breast, massaging it, keeping it warm, and adjusting your pump speeds/suction as needed. You DO NOT want a clogged duct. That can lead to mastitis. As someone who had mastitis 3 times in 5 months, you DO NOT want it!

So, are you ready for this pumping journey?

  1. Utilize your insurance and invest in quality pumping equipment.  Do your research in to what you’re looking for in a pump. There are so many options these days. There are the standard pumps, like Medela, Spectra, and Ameda. Then there are newer pumps that actually sit on the breast, inside a nursing bra, while pumping like Willow, Freemie, and Elvie. It really depends on your need.
    • Here’s my experience. I like Ameda and Medela the best for full-time pumpers. Their motor lasts and they have good suction. I was also a large producer, so Medela has 8 oz bottles I could hook up to either the Ameda or Medela pumping equipment. Pumps like the Willow pump are great for working moms because you can “hide” your pump under your bra. DO NOT believe it when they say they’re silent. They’re not completely silent. So avoid meetings during a pump-time if possible. They are restrictive in the amount you can pump. So if you’re a heavy producer, this may not be the best choice for you – sadly you won’t know that early on. Also, if you have larger breasts (mine were a 40 I when I was pumping), this is also not an ideal choice as it doesn’t do a great job covering all the parts well.
    • Your place of work must provide you with a quiet, isolated place to pump. Each state is slightly different, so be sure to look up your state’s specific laws on pumping privacy.il_794xn.1452736609_64zpThis place cannot be a closet or a bathroom. It must be a completely separate room that provides you with privacy. The nursing bra pumps are much easier to use all around because you’re not dealing with hoses and wires and a lot of moving parts. Great for an on-the-go mom!
    • Whether you pump at home, in the car (see below) or at work, do not feel guilty about pumping! I think this is mostly true of working moms. They want to be sure they’re giving their employer their all, but when they take a 30 min break to pump every few hours, it can make them feel as though they’re taking advantage. Don’t worry! This is a temporary thing, and most employees don’t even notice the absence. They eventually get used to it and know the schedule.
  2. Get a second hand-held pump or another electric pump for emergencies.
    • This one is a biggy. I would keep a pump in my car for those just-in-case scenarios. There was one time I really, really needed it and was thankful I had one. There was an accident on the freeway and no way for me to get off. I was truly stuck! I was still able to pump to relieve the immediate pain and pressure while waiting for the accident to clear.
    • It can also work if you forgot your pump on your way to work.
    • I rented a hospital grade pump for my home, but used my insurance provided pump at work. I only had to bring fresh bottles each day.
  3. Buy extra equipment.
    • Many of these pumps have so many parts that can break, it is a good idea to buy an extra set of everything!
    • In most pumps, the flanges (the trumpet piece) won’t break, but may be the wrong size. Be sure to follow sizing instructions with these pieces, otherwise you can do some damage to your nipples and your flow could be inhibited.
    • The breastpump_valvesvalves are the most likely piece to go first (these are the duckbill looking pieces). They get soft right at the small opening. Try to avoid washing these too harshly as this will increase their possibility of tearing or weakening. I would keep 8 total and rotate them throughout the day. This allowed me to only have to wash them once a day once I was down to 4 pumps a day.
    • Extra equipment means that you can also leave certain pieces at work, like the tubes and diaphragms. This offers you less items to pack and also less items to forget.
    • Buy extra bottles too! For the same reasons listed above. Most bottles will work on another brand’s equipment. If you’re not sure, just look at other’s posts.
  4. Use a hands-free pumping bra.
    • This is such a huge life-saver! This allows you to do so much, but also just gives you your hands back to do something other than hold pumping equipment to your boobs.
    • There are so many options, but I found I like the Simple Wishes bra best because it suited my size well and had an adjustable Velcro back. Again, I had 2 of these also!
  5. Get a car adapter.
    • This goes to my above story about needing to pump in traffic. If you have a long commute, you could easily get your pumping done while in the car. If you’re a bit squeamish about the idea of pumping while driving, that’s understandable. Use a nursing cover or nursing top to help cover up.
    • This is also great for road trips and camping trips. No need to stop to pump, just pump along the way.
  6. Pump straight into storage bags.
    • This is a life changer! A life changer people! This idea was fantastic and one of the biggest reasons I chose my Ameda through insurance. It came with bag adapter piece and bags with the pump. I also loved that the Ameda Store’N Pour bags had a little pour spout for their milk, so less was spilled when pouring into a bottle!storen-pour-with-2-adapters-1000x1000
    • If you know the milk you are currently pumping will be getting stored anyway, why waste the time of pumping in to a bottle that you will then pour in to a bag and then have to wash the bottle?
  7. Refrigerate your equipment after a pump.
    • Wait, what?! Yes, refrigerate your equipment. This way you do not have to wash your equipment every time you pump. Any small drops of milk left is refrigerated and won’t go sour.
    • I would rinse my equipment, then seal it up in a 2-gallon bag and put it in the fridge. I only washed my equipment with soap and scrubbing brushes once a day.
  8. Take care of your nipples!
    • Pumping is rough on your nipples. It’s not like a little one’s mouth. Your nipples are being pulled and released and pulled and released in plastic vacuum. Ouch! Still, it shouldn’t hurt and if it does, this can affect your ability to produce milk.
    • I used simple coconut oil on my nipples prior to pumping. It would provide a more lubricated conduit for the pumping.
    • If I started to notice little tears in my nipple (yes this does happen), I would immediately ice and put nipple cream on right then and there. I would reapply multiple times a day. I would also use a more gentle speed/suction at my next pump.
  9. Create a pumping station
    • Make sure you have a place in your house you can use as a pumping station.
    • Mine was in our living room on the couch, because it’s comfortable! We set-up a table next to the couch and I kept all of my pumping equipment there.
  10. Set a schedule and be willing to modify it!
    • This one is kind of big. In the beginning (the first three months or so), you will be so out of it from lack of sleep, you may forget to pump! If you’re mixed BF and pumping, this may not be a big deal; however if you’re an EP mama, this is a huge problem.
    • Set a schedule. I put one on my phone to go off every 3 hrs for the first month, then tapered off from there. Which leads me to the second part – modify as your supply demands.
    • I was so so blessed ladies! I know I was. I had the supply of a hormone infused cow. However, if I missed a pump, my next pump was typically affected, negatively! It can happen that quick, so make sure you stick to a schedule until you think you can modify it and adjust pumping.
    • Below is a general pumping schedule, but it’s pretty accurate to how I pumped with my first. My second, I broke a lot of rules that I don’t recommend until you’re comfortable with your milk production. The schedule is not for the faint of heart, because they don’t mention FEEDING a baby on top of this.1d7529a57118f0afd435c7ee02022837
    • You will usually get your best production in the morning, so don’t waste or skip that time.
    • Also, pump until you feel empty. For most women, this is about 20-30 mins. For others it can be shorter or longer. You will be told a lot of things, but I have found that if I pumped until I felt empty, my supply was always great.
    • Do not over pump. This does not have the effect you think it will by producing more. It actually causes your production to decrease and can do some serious damage to your nipples.

So why do all this? There are a lot of people (including doctors) who would discourage you from doing this. A lot would say, “Just go to formula, it’s just as healthy.” Although the idea is true, there’s something about being able to provide my little one with my milk. Also, this is another fact to throw out there. Formula is anywhere between $20-30 per tub. When your kid gets up to consuming 24-32 oz of formula PER DAY, that’s 2 tubs per week. That’s anywhere from $160-240 per month in formula. Pumping, though laborious, provides FREE milk. This was the biggest reason for me pumping. We didn’t want to spend the ridiculous amount of money on formula (our kids required soy formula, since they’re allergic to cow’s milk).

This is a task before you. It is one that you have to decide is right for your and your family. You are not wrong to go to formula. You’re not wrong to breastfeed and pump. You’re not wrong to exclusively pump. You need to keep your sanity so you can be a good mama to your little one. For some, sleep is a major part of your sanity. For others, costs are a major part of that sanity. It truly depends on you and your child’s needs. Do not listen to the naysayers who would discourage you from your intentions. Do your research, make yourself aware of all the pros and cons, and do what you know is best.

I wish you good luck on this journey.Cry Breastmilk Meme

To breastfeed or not to breastfeed? That is a question?

Ok… this one is personal for me. Breastfeeding. I absolutely love the idea of breastfeeding. The actual actions and process is a whole other story. Because of many different issues, I was never able to breastfeed either of my children. It’s one thing I’m still sad about. But why?

DISCLAIMER: There are many ways to feed your baby – I completely support all types of feeding! Some are due to medical issues, some are because of personal choice. I am just sharing my personal story. You do you, mama! Your baby is fed, well cared for and growing, so you are doing it right! The type of food that goes in them doesn’t have to come directly from your body and doesn’t necessarily go in to their mouths. I have always supported women’s rights to take care of their child how they see best. So please do not take this as me disavowing anything other than breastfeeding. It is far from it. This is just my personal story and hopes with my children.

So, why did I get sad when I couldn’t breastfeed my children…. Disappointment. In the hospital with my first, the pediatrician made it very clear his stance on breastfeeding to me. We had to formula feed her in the hospital because my supply was being stubborn and she was crying incessantly. He was so adamant that I do not continue bottle feeding my girl or I would never be able to breastfeed. This stuck with me. And in my vulnerable state, it really made me feel like a failure. I remember the second he left just sobbing, full on sobbing because I was failing my child already. Thankfully we had great nurses and they comforted me and let me know I was doing everything right.

My babes both had tongue ties and lip ties. My first wasn’t diagnosed until 6 weeks. It was corrected at 10 weeks and by then she loved her bottle. We tried for four months to breastfeed. By the end of our attempts she had such a strong nipple aversion that anytime she even got close she screamed! I was devastated! I was already suffering from postpartum depression and this just sent me in to a downward spiral of self-loathing and self-hatred. I would regularly think: How could I screw this up? It’s supposed to be completely natural. How am I such a failure at something that’s supposed to be easy? And the even more unreasonable… Why does my baby hate me? She won’t even come near me without screaming.

It was hard! I had started pumping early on and had a decent supply by this point. I decided to pump from then on out. There were early mornings I would be pumping alone in the dark and just crying. Just crying at the connection I was missing out on with my little girl. Eventually, with some time and support from my husband, I was able to accept our circumstances. I wasn’t going to be able to breastfeed her, but I was at least providing her with my breastmilk.

20180916_074331Pumping is hard! I typically had to pump longer since I wasn’t breastfeeding. I would usually pump for about 30 mins. As I wanted more sleep, I cut back how many times I pumped in a day and increased my time to 45 mins per pump. The “let-down” wouldn’t happen until about the 10 min mark (sometimes later) and because of my infrequent pumps, I had to make sure it was all out to avoid blockages. It was an involved process. Don’t think that women who pump just sit there. If this is their only form of extraction, it was a lot of mental preparation, physical massage and warmth. We couldn’t just lay back, because the liquid would be working against gravity to get in the bottles, so we have to lean forward – not comfortable.

The bonus to pumping, especially when I was able to sleep 8 hours between pumps, is that my husband could do night feeds while I slept! Or he could feed her during the day, or whenever I was too tired, or just needed some me-time. It was good for him too. He was able to connect with her while feeding her. I pumped for 11 months and with my oversupply, she was fed breastmilk exclusively for one year. After that she had formula, but was mainly eating solids and other drinks.

Cry Breastmilk Meme

Then my son came. I thought, this is it! This is my chance to finally breastfeed. He latched ok, but after the first feed, he would start unlatching within a minute of latching on. He would not stay on for longer. Noticing this, and with my previous experience, I brought my pump with me to the hospital and started pumping. I still tried to breastfeed him, worked with the specialist at the hospital, and just couldn’t do anything. He lost a lot of weight for a newborn. The pediatrician almost didn’t let us leave the hospital, but since he knew we were going to our provider the next day, he let us go. He had a much more prominent tongue tie and with his major weight loss, we got him in for a revision right away. It didn’t seem to help his latching on and off. We saw a few IBCLCs and they noted that he wasn’t sucking as hard as he should.

20181002_142832If you have read any of my other posts, you would know that we discovered he had hypotonia (low tone). This affects every aspect of his body, including his mouth, jaw and neck muscles. After about 2 months of attempting, and failing for different reasons, we resorted to the bottle and me pumping again. Another disappointment. I wasn’t devastated like the first time, but I was still saddened to know that this wasn’t going to happen. We also knew he was my last (due to my age and health). It was bittersweet. This time around, I didn’t pump nearly as long, stopping at 8 months. After my over supply wore out, we used formula.

When you set it up in your mind how you want something to go and then it doesn’t go that way at all, you can be heart-broken. And I was! This was a personal goal I had and failed. But looking back, I’m so happy I was able to pump. This gave family members and close people in our life a chance to also feed our babes from a young age.

I salute all those mama’s out there who are able to breastfeed. I salute all the mama’s out there are are not breastfeeding, for whatever reason! Having a child and caring for that child is difficult. There’s so much information out there and it contradicts itself over and over again. Us mamas have to do the best we can with the information we’re given. This includes how to handle breastfeeding or not breastfeeding our child. DO NOT let anyone tell you that the way you’re choosing to feed your child is wrong!