Being a mom is about growth. We end up doing many things that we’ve never done before, and suffice it to say…#momlife is a lot to handle.
Breastfeeding and pumping is one of these difficult things we must learn to be proficient at. I wanted to find you some of the best pumping tips from moms that have been there.
PERSONAL PUMPING TIPS
First I wanted to give you a couple of tips of my own, then you’ll see what other moms have to say.
There are affiliate links in this article. Please see my disclosure for more information.
GET EDUCATED ABOUT PUMPING
There’s actually a pretty awesome pumping course if you’re thinking of making the switch to exclusive pumping. The course creator (who’s a lactation consultant) also has a back to work pumping course if that’s more fitting for you.
I recommend this because she goes into great depth and detail, leaving NO questions unanswered. Seriously. Not to mention, it’s affordable for almost everyone.
I prefer video based learning, so I found her courses extremely helpful.
CHECK THE SIZING OF YOUR FLANGES
I learned about this the hard way. I was using an incorrectly sized flange for my first few weeks pumping with my oldest, and I was miserable.
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I almost quit pumping those first couple of weeks because I was not producing a lot of milk (actually I was producing fine, I just was using incorrectly sized flanges) and pumping was just soooo painful.
I found this nifty guide and as soon as I switched size of flanges, pumping became much less painful, and I was able to pump a lot more milk.
PUMPING SHOULDN’T BE PAINFUL
To add on to that last tip, remember that pumping breastmilk should NOT be painful. Surprisingly, there are still many women who state that their pumping sessions are painful. There’s a couple of considerations to make if you’re experiencing discomfort while pumping.
- Check the flange size (again and again and again)
- Check for signs of mastitis or a milk blister
- If your nipples are dry and cracked, use something like Lanolin (seriously – it’s a lifesaver!)
- Check your suction. Too much does not necessarily mean more milk, but it CAN mean more pain. Do what feels comfortable.
- If you aren’t struggling with any of the above but are still experiencing pain, talk to a lactation consultant.
MAKE A DIY PUMPING BRA
There’s nothing I hated more than sitting there and pumping while not being able to do anything else. They do sell pumping bras (you can find one here), but honestly it’s much easier to create one yourself.
I think many of us have an old bra or two sitting around. To make your own pumping bra, do the following.
- Grab your flanges (you will need them to measure)
- Take an old full-coverage bras and put it on.
- Take a flange and tuck it between your bra and your breast in the position you would have it for pumping
- Mark the area where your flange presses out on the bra (make sure it’s sitting as naturally as possible for the best fit)
- Cut a hole through the pad. You don’t need to make this hole very big, you just need the skinny end of the flange to fit through it.
And vwa-la! You’re done. 🙂
PUMP INTO THE BAG
Most of us generally pump into a bottle. While this is the norm, it’s not the fastest way of getting the job done. Personally, I found it much easier to pump straight into the breastmilk BAG.
Most breast pumps have their own branded bags that can hook up to your pump attachments. You’re going to have to put the milk in a bag anyway – so pump straight into it and save yourself the trouble of cleaning the bottles.
PUMPING TIPS FROM OTHER MOMS
I asked some of other blogger moms that I trust and got their best tips and advice that helped them in their pumping journey.
HERE’S A PUMPING TIP FOR MANUALLY EXPRESSING MILK
A breast pump is big and heavy, and we are not even talking about all the accessories you need to carry around with it. Instead of using a pump, you may find it easier to express milk by hand.
I know, WHAT? That’s my first reaction too when my sister in law told me that’s how she “pumps” for her baby. But don’t knock it until you try it!
Here are some tips for expressing by hand:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Cup your breast about 1” behind your areola. Your hand should form a “C” shape.
- Push your breast back toward your body with your thumb and fingers.
- Gently roll your thumb and fingers forward toward your original starting position (1” behind the areola).
- Collect the milk with a container (storage bag, bottle, etc.)
- Repeat steps 3-4 until there isn’t any more breast milk coming out
If you have not done this before and need help getting the milk flowing, try looking at pictures of your baby while you express. Or you can gently massage your breast beforehand to encourage the milk flow.
Applying a warm, moist cloth to your breast could help as well.
Expressing milk by hand takes practice, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t get much milk the first time. After I got the hang out of it, it took me less time to fill up a bottle by hand than if I had used a pump.
The best part is I don’t have to lug around the pump to work and back every day – all I need are bottles!
-Betty from MomBrite
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT A MANUALLY OPERATED PUMP?
Regardless of the amount you plan on pumping, purchasing a manually operated pump (like this one) and having it on hand can be a life-saver!
Manual pumps are very affordable and perfect for those times when you just don’t want to deal with the machine, or you only have a few minutes to pump. They are also great to have on hand for road trips or power outages.
Related: Strange but Normal Newborn Behaviors
Manual pumps are small, can easily be tucked into a tote and are less of a hassle to clean. This one I used with my first few babies was surprisingly efficient.
While I did get an electric breast pump through my insurance when my third baby was born, I rarely used it.
When I had a four- and two-year-old, finding time and privacy to use the electric pump was nearly impossible. I always defaulted to the manual pump for its speed and efficiency. I could also pump on breast while the baby fed from the other side.
Because they are so affordable, I advise new moms to add one to their Amazon baby registry. That way you can purchase it at a discount later, making it even cheaper.
You can find the one I used and highly recommend HERE. Some reviewers noted that it was painful, but that was never my experience. You do not need to squeeze the handle completely (which may have caused the pain), and you can completely control how hard the suction is.
-June from The Experienced Mama
NUTRITION PUMPING TIP
The foods you eat can really affect breastfeeding – increase or decreasing supply, changing the flavor, giving baby gas, or energy for hours (one cup of tea for me at 7pm and my daughter was up until 3am!).
Focusing on the positive part of those impacts, eating food to increase your supply is an easy win!
While I enjoy oatmeal for breakfast (and would eat it without prompting most of the time), I found it really helped boost my supply. My lactation consultant recommended adding some nuts or peanut butter to it to up the protein, which is also important for milk production (and general health, especially when your boobs are stealing away a good chunk of the protein you’re eating to give to baby!).
According to KellyMom, oatmeal is a source of iron and can help lower cholesterol, but should be eaten with caution if you have a gluten sensitivity. The relaxing ritual of preparing oatmeal (I’m a fan of stove-top quick oats, which have more texture than microwaved, but are ready in less time than toast) can also calm you, and a calm mom has an easier time letting-down.
Related: Ultimate Newborn Checklist
If you don’t like oatmeal, try oats in homemade (or store-bought, there’s only so much time in a day and showers come before granola in my world!) granola bars, or lactation cookies (homemade or you can grab some here).
A friend told me a great story of being given some lactation cookies and munching on one in the afternoon, another that evening, and one the next morning. When her two-year-old was nursing that afternoon she said “Lots o’ milkies!” – the cookies were doing their job!
-Jenn from Meria Inspired
HEARD OF A HAAKA?
Use a Haakaa (check it out here) with your breast pump!
A Haakaa is basically a silicone breast pump that suctions on to your breast. The suction applies a slight amount of pressure to the breast, which in turn draws out your letdown and collects it for you.
It also doubles up as a manual breast pump, which is awesome if you want to pump from both breasts at the same time.
If you don’t want to use it as a pump, you can use it totally hands free by letting it suction to your breast. Whether you breastfeed or breast pump, the opposite breast always produces some amount of letdown, which can come out while the other breast is beings stimulated.
By putting the Haakaa on the breast that isn’t being used to pump, you ensure that not a drop of your breast milk is wasted! When I first started pumping milk, I would collect an additional 3-5 ounces of milk in my Haakaa. Once my breast milk levels evened out, I would collect anywhere from 1-3 ounces.
That adds up to SO much extra breast milk that was able to be frozen for bottles! It was such a game changer because when I would pump in the afternoon and evening I wouldn’t produce nearly as much, so it ensured I could still fill a bottle with milk. It was super inexpensive but such a lifesaver!
The Haakaa is SO easy to clean when you are finished, and is small and easy to pack in your diaper bag. Grab one here and try it out!
-Breanna from Messy Buns and Mom Jeans
HEARD OF FREEMIES?
My hands-down favorite pumping tip is to use the Freemies pumping system (see it here).
Freemies were invented by a busy working mom who needed to pump on the go. With the Freemies system you can actually pump discreetly with your shirt on! With my second, I needed to get back to work quite quickly.
I was able to use the Freemies system to pump in the car, at work and even in the middle of Starbucks! The Freemies system is compatible with most pumps, including my favorite pump, the Spectra S1.
You simply insert the cups with built-in flanges into your shirt and then plug them into the pump system. Milk is collected into the built-in cups and each cup can hold up to 8 oz. I didn’t find any change in my production with the Freemies and the convenience of this system was amazing.
I would highly recommend Freemies (here on Amazon) to any working mom who is planning to pump!
-Kate from Tear Free Travel
WORKING MOM PUMPING TIP
Pumping while being a working mom is quite the task. You find yourself trying to balance work, yet still make time to meet the needs of your baby. Before becoming a stay at home mom, I was a teacher.
Besides pumping at lunch, which is only about 15-20 minutes, by the time I dropped kids off and picked them up, and my “plan period”, which is about 30 minutes, I had to find more time. I had to make the most of the time I had and still be able to eat quickly or get my work done.
I figured out how to multi-task by setting my chair so that my desk would be at the height of my chest. An adjustable chair is an absolute must! Then, I would put my pump parts in place and scoot right up to my desk. I would situate myself so my desk would hold my pump parts which freed up my hands.
This would allow me to pump and continue to work. I would pump before work, once in the morning, again at lunch, during my plan period in the afternoon, and then again after school if I had a meeting, which I always did twice a week.
If you find yourself in a similar position of trying to work and eat AND pump, hopefully this pumping tip will help you continue to meet your baby’s need for breast milk and your employers need for you to get your work done.
-Lisa from Cheerfully Simple
A PUMPING TIP TO SAVE TIME AT WORK
As a working mom with a full schedule during the day, every second counts.
As important as it is to pump enough for my baby’s nutritional needs, it’s also important that I be present for all of my meetings.
In trying to have the best of both worlds, I reached out to other working moms to see how they accomplish what seemed an impossible task. The greatest response that I got was from a nurse.
She told me to put my pump parts in the fridge in between sessions. That’s it – just stick it in the refrigerator right next to the milk that you have pumped (you can place in a Ziploc bag first to reduce the chance of contamination as well).
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This reduces pump time dramatically because you don’t have to worry about taking additional time to sanitize and clean all of your parts. Doing this after every session (for me it was at least three per day!) takes valuable time no matter what method you use to do so.
With it going into the refrigerator, the cold keeps any breast milk residue that is on the parts at a safe temperature. When the next session comes along, you grab the parts and start pumping again. At the end of the day, you can clean as you typically would.
Do remember to place the parts immediately in the refrigerator after a session with very little lag time to avoid exposure. After being given this advice, I put it into effect immediately. I was able to add a few extra pumping minutes where I needed it and still get to all of my meetings on time.
-Kristyn from A Human in Training
PRIORITIZING TIME PUMPING TIP
When I returned to work, I was surprised at how challenging it was to keep up my milk supply and pump enough milk for my baby. It’s a huge commitment to pump successfully as a new mom and I learned that every little tip can make a big difference!
My number one pumping tip to help you be successful once you return to work is to prioritize and treasure every single pumping time.
Once you jump back into your work, it is super easy to get caught up in a project or stuck between meetings. But as soon as you start to push back or skip your pumping sessions, you risk bigger problems!
Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. Anytime that you skip a nursing session, you tell your body that your baby doesn’t need milk at that time and you start to decrease your supply. And once your supply dips, it can be challenging to increase your supply again!
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Even worse, once you start to skip pumping sessions, it’s more and more tempting for you to squeeze in extra meetings or rearrange your schedule even more. It becomes so easy to lose your focus and stop prioritizing your pumping sessions.
It takes a lot of time and dedication to pump successfully as a new mom. But you will help yourself immensely if you prioritize your pumping sessions and make sure to always stick to your pumping schedule.
-Danielle from Piece of Cake Parenting
PUMPING TIP FOR LETDOWN
Pumping can feel impossible for some mamas because it can be really hard to let down without your baby on you! With my first baby, I never knew these tricks and was never able to pump because of it.
Related: Newborn Hacks
The second time around I was able to build up a nice little freezer stash once I was able to apply these pumping tips!
If you have trouble letting down without baby on you know that a lot of the letdown reflex is actually mental. So there are 3 tips to help let down so you can actually pump some of that liquid gold!
- Close your eyes and picture your baby, or keep an actual picture of them on hand.
- Keep something with you that smells like your baby. Much like baby having something that smells like mom helps them stay asleep in their beds longer, smelling your baby helps them be more present in your own mind. This can help if you’re at work or if baby is just napping in the other room!
- Think deeply about your hungry baby and nourishing your baby, How special and wonderful your milk is to your baby, how hungry your baby is for it, and how it is going to nourish them and help them grow healthy and strong.
Conquering your mind can really help make let down and pumping much easier!
-Allie from Vigor it Out
A COUPLE OF GENERAL PUMPING TIPS
My main tip when it comes to pumping for a new mum is not to panic if, at first, it feels like you’re putting in a lot of effort for not much reward!
For new mums especially, it can take a while for your milk production to settle down – I’m talking several weeks! I can remember trying to pump as soon as possible: firstly with a hand pump and then with an electric one. But neither yielded much more than 50ml for about 20 minutes of work (10 minutes on each breast).
After about 6 weeks though, breastfeeding had started to become easier and when the opportunity came to try pumping, I got a much better supply of around 200ml! I’ve since been able to pump almost 250ml from one breast when the supply was particularly built.
Another idea that an expectant mum might be able to discuss with their midwife is collecting colostrum. As I had gestational diabetes, I was advised to hand-express colostrum from 37 weeks onward to build up a supply for the birth.
This was in case baby’s sugar levels were low and if, for whatever reason, I couldn’t feed him myself there would be a supply of all-important colostrum ready for him.
Hand expressing took a bit of getting used to (you have to squeeze harder than you think!) but it did allow me to ‘get to know’ my boobs in their new role. If it’s something you want to try, speak to your midwife first to make sure it’s a safe option for you.
-Coralie from My Life as Mum
COMMON PUMPING QUESTIONS
Here are some common questions that I’ve heard from moms that are beginning their pumping journey.
WHEN SHOULD I START PUMPING?
Most medical professionals will recommend that you get your milk supply established (usually around 4-6 weeks) before you start pumping. While I agree that this is sound advice, some situations are a little different.
For me, I knew I was going to be returning back to work fairly soon after giving birth, so I started sooner.
I KNEW that the environment I was going back to work in (a fast-paced ER department) may make it difficult to keep up with pumping, so I wanted to create as much of a supply as possible.
Related: Breastfeeding Hacks
I began pumping as soon as we came home. If you choose to do it this way, be sure that you’re careful. Since your milk production works on supply and demand, if you make your body think you need more milk than you do, you’ll have a much higher risk of becoming engorged.
Not to mention, your baby is going to be eating frequently after birth, and you definitely don’t want to risk running out of milk because you just got done with a really successful pumping sesh.
Ideally, wait until 4-6 weeks, or a few weeks before you return to work before starting to build your supply.
HOW MUCH MILK SHOULD I BE PUMPING?
There’s a couple of factors to consider here, however for simplicities sake, if your baby is between one and six months old, your baby is taking in between 19 and 30 oz of milk a day.
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If you’re half breastfeeding/half bottle-feeding your little one, do the math here. The above can give you a great starting point.
HOW LONG TO PUMP MILK?
Figuring out a breastfeeding and pumping schedule is kind of tricky, and I certainly remember struggling with the same thing. Typically, I would pump right after feeding my baby, as I wanted to make sure she was full before I emptied my breasts.
Experts recommend pumping 30-40 minutes total once your milk has come in (although sometimes I cut my pumping sessions much shorter).
HOW TO INCREASE MILK SUPPLY WHILE PUMPING
Here’s a post on increasing your milk supply. While not ALL of the tips relate to pumping, most of them do. Specifically with pumping, power pumping is one of the best ways to increase your milk supply while pumping.
WHAT IS POWER PUMPING?
Power pumping is a short-term solution that can help you increase your milk supply. This involves pumping for a short period of time (10-20 minutes) then taking 10 to 20 minutes off.
You can power pump for an interval of an hour. I wouldn’t recommend doing this for more than an hour a day, because it’s easy to get burnt out from this, and you don’t want your milk supply to become unmanageable.
WRAPPING UP PUMPING TIPS
I hope you found some of these pumping tips helpful. I think the best advice I can give you is to keep going with it. It’s hard, it’s frustrating..but it’s definitely worth it!
Feel free to leave me a comment below if you have additional pumping tips you want to share! Good luck mama!