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Though women have been breastfeeding their babies since the dawn of time, our roles have changed dramatically. We’re working outside the home (as well as working hard from home).
I recently read nearly 25% of married women are the primary bread winners in their households (you go girls!). Also, 40% of divorced or single women are bringing in more money than their male counterparts. In addition, women make up half of today’s workforce.
Working outside the home requires A LOT of pumping to make sure our babies receive the best. In fact, I’m pumping right now as I write.
Moms who work outside the home aren’t the only women consistently attached to a breast pump, though. Women who choose the exhaustive, under-appreciated work of staying home with their children pump just as often, so they can enjoy time away when they would like, or so dad can feed baby from time to time.
Pumping, like breastfeeding, comes with a learning curve. Plus, there’s just so much to keep up with when it comes to pumping.
So, here is a list of pumping hacks that have made my pumping experience easier.
Make sure your breast shields fit properly
First and foremost, make sure your breast shields fit properly. It may not seem like such a big deal if your pump shield is a little big, but it can impact how much milk you pump, and make pumping uncomfortable or painful.
The standard shield size that comes with your pump is 24mm. However, this doesn’t mean they will necessarily fit you (because you ain’t no standard woman). You can buy them in smaller or larger sizes. To tell if your breast shield fits or not see how your nipple moves while pumping.
Only your nipple should enter the flange. If you areola enters the flange along with your nipple, your breast shield is too big. If this is the case for you can purchase a smaller size. Or if you fall on the other side of the scale you can purchase a larger flange to better fit you.
This is my favorite blog post about well-fitting breast shields. Rina breaks it down in great detail.
Pump straight into your milk storage bag
Pumping itself isn’t so bad. What makes pumping so tiresome is all the other steps that go along with it such as: transferring the milk into storage bags or containers and washing and sterilizing all the parts.
By pumping straight into storage bags you eliminate the transfer of milk from the pumping bottle to the bag and eliminate having to wash the bottles (major score).
It’s easy to pump straight into the storage bag. Just place the flange in the bag and tape the bag closed around the top of the flange.
I find Lansinoh milk storage bags are the best for this because they aren’t too stiff and the tops are cut in the perfect shape.
Related post: How To Maintain Your Milk Supply After Returning to Work
Use flange as a funnel
For those times you don’t pump straight into the storage bag, use the flange as a funnel to easily pour your milk.
I didn’t think of this until after I spilled half of what I pumped all over my kitchen counter. There’s the saying, “No crying over spilled milk.” However, if that’s spilled breast milk, cry all you want!
Use a hand pump
I thought, “Why do I need a hand pump? I have a dual electric pump.” I didn’t realize all the places I could be pumping but wasn’t because my electric pump wouldn’t allow it.
A hand pump allows you to pump while:
- on long car rides, not while driving
- out at a function away from baby and need to release some milk
I love my hand pump. For Christmas my husband, daughter and I drove down to see my husband’s family. They only live two and a half hours away from us, but I knew we would be driving during the last time my daughter breastfeeds for the day.
Instead of preparing a bottle of milk I had frozen like I’ve done in the past, I pumped while we were in the car. Then when she woke up ready to feed I gave her the bottle of freshly pumped milk.
I use the Avent Hand Pump, because I own a lot of Avent bottles and I can pump directly into them.
However, I have also used the Medela Hand Pump and highly recommend that one as well.
Leave pump parts at work
Purchase multiple sets of parts for your pump. This will allow you to leave parts at work and have other parts at home, so you don’t have to constantly take them back a forth.
I purchased this set of extra parts for my Medela Pump in Style pump, and they are great!
Use Medela Quick Clean Bags
Cleaning is the WORST part of pumping, but cleaning your pump parts has never been easier with these bags
I recently started using Medela Quick Clean Bags and my world has changed. I love these bags. You rinse off your parts put them in the bag with two ounces of water, and place it in the microwave. After a couple of minutes your parts are sanitized!
Plus, each bag is reusable up to 20 times.
Massage boobs right before pumping
Another great way to pump more milk is to massage your boobs before you pump. Start from the base of your boob and work your way towards your nipple.
Visualize yourself pushing the milk out.
Freeze your milk in small batches
Freezing your milk in smaller batches cuts down on how must breast milk you waste. Once thawed your breast milk is only good for about 24 hours. If you don’t use it all in that time you are left pouring precious breast milk down the drain.
Another benefit of freezing in smaller amounts is that it thaws faster. Every once in a while you may find yourself needing to thaw milk in a hurry. Bigger batches of milk will take longer to thaw. However, you can thaw the same amount of milk more quickly if it’s frozen in multiple smaller batches.
I find four ounces is the magic amount for me. It’s a big enough amount that I don’t have hundreds of bags or bottles in my freezer, but small enough if I’m only needing a few ounces I don’t have to thaw a nine ounce bottle.
Set the mood
You pump the most milk when you are relaxed. To achieve ultimate relaxation play some soothing music and lower the lights to your office or home. Take some deep breathes.
Slow your heartbeat down, and feel calm.
Warm bottles on-the-go with a large mouth thermos
Sometimes you want to go out with your baby and feed her from a bottle. Or you don’t want to disrupt a long car ride to feed your breastfed baby. However, breast milk, unlike powdered formula, needs to be kept cold.
Then when it comes time to feed your baby you need to warm it up, because if your baby is anything like mine, she will not drink cold breast milk.
The easiest way I’ve found to warm bottles on-the-go is with a large mouth thermos. A large mouth thermos keeps water hot for hours, so you can carry it with you for a long time before warming your bottle. Once you’re ready to warm your bottle you just pop it in the hot water in the thermos.
Pump more often for shorter amounts of time
Pumping for long periods of time is a good way to damage your nipples.
If you are struggling to produce enough milk, shorten your pumping sessions but increase the number you have. This will stimulate your milk ejection reflex.
In general, keep all your pumping sessions to a 20 minute maximum.
Set an alarm on your phone to remember when to pump
Pumping at the same time everyday is a good way to maintain a healthy supply. It is easy to get distracted in your work, however, and look up and see you missed your pumping time.
The best way I find to maintain a pumping schedule while at work is to schedule my pumping sessions on my calendar and set a reminder to them.
Utilize all your senses while pumping
Speaking of milk supply. One of the best ways to pump the most milk while away from your baby is to remind your brain of your baby.
To do this you want to engage as many of your senses as possible. Watch a video of your baby with the sound on. Preferably, make it a video where your baby makes some kind of noise (coos, laughs, babbles). Also, bring along a something that smells like your baby (i.e. the onesie she wore yesterday).
This will trick your brain into thinking your baby is there, and you will pump more milk.
I find it fun to start pumping without watching and listening to a video of my daughter, then start playing the video and watch my flow become harder as I pump (I know it’s super weird, but we have to entertain ourselves somehow).
Use the power of visualization
You’re mind is a very powerful thing. You possess the ability to increase or decrease your milk supply simply by your thoughts.
So while pumping visualize the milk flowing out of your boobs freely. Picture a breast milk waterfall cascading down into a breast milk river flowing rapidly.
Utilize these tips and I promise pumping will be less of a drag. Plus, you will pump way more milk!
What pumping hacks have you used? How have they worked for you?