Pumping is a routine but dreaded part of breastfeeding. Many breastfeeding moms must pump as a regular part of their breastfeeding routine. You may have to pump because your baby doesn’t latch well, but you still want to breastfeed or because you must go to work or otherwise be away from your baby. You also might pump because you prefer to bottle feed. Whatever the reason, here are 15 practical pumping tips you can add to your routine to make things go more smoothly.
15 Practical Tips to Make Pumping Suck Less
1. Go Hands-free
First and foremost, a good pumping bra will help you hold the flanges in place while you pump, so you can use your hands to shop online from your phone (this cannot be just me). This hands-free pumping and nursing bra is a great option, especially if you pump and nurse. It makes it very easy to do both without changing your bra.
2. Try This Nursing Bra Hack
If you can’t or don’t want to get a pumping bra, that is okay, too. This hack can turn your nursing bra into a pumping bra. It requires a little more finesse than sticking the flanges into a pumping bra, but it works all the same. This is a must-know tip if you want to pump hands-free. A pumping bra has a hole right over your nipple that allows your flange to fit right in your bra without holding them while pumping. This hack uses the clip and straps on your nursing bra or tank to hold the pumps in place without using your hands.
3. Use the Right Flange Size
Make sure your flanges are the right size for your nipples. An IBCLC in your area can help measure you to ensure you have the correct size. Here is a nipple ruler you can use if you prefer to do it yourself. Having the right size flange for your body will ensure you efficiently express milk.
4. Look for Flange Comfort
Nipples are like any other body part; they can get dry and chapped from overuse. You might want to get a pumping spray like this one or lubricate your nipples before pumping with a coconut oil-based nipple ointment like this one.
5. Give This Breast Pump Fridge Hack a Try
If they cannot thoroughly wash pumping parts between sessions, some women store their pump parts in a plastic bag in the fridge, which can slow the growth of bacteria. The CDC states, “If you choose to refrigerate pump parts between pumping sessions, rinse the parts first to remove milk residue, if possible, and then keep the parts in a sealed bag to prevent contamination. If rinsing is not possible, wipe milk residue off the parts with a clean, disposable paper towel.” Make sure you wash your pump parts at least once daily if you use this hack.1
6. Freeze Bags Flat
You may find yourself with extra breast milk that needs to be frozen.2 Remember, when you bag up your milk to put in the freezer, make sure you freeze your bags flat so you can use your freezer space more efficiently.
7. Keep Your Pumping Bag Stocked
Make sure to have a fully stocked pumping bag. I recommend having the following in your bag: snacks, extra (clean) pump parts, a portable brush set for washing parts and a small bottle of dish soap or pump cleaning wipes, and additional milk storage bags.
8. Get Portable
Even if you have a pumping bra, most pumps that are standard with insurance require that you are plugged into a wall for power. There are many portable pump options of all sizes. My favorite is the Elvie, two separate pumps that tuck inside your bra. Thanks to this pump, I have pumped discreetly at my desk at work, among other places. If you can swing an insurance upgrade or purchase a second pump, I recommend one with a portable option. Some alternatives are the Spectra S1, Spectra S9, or the Willow.
9. Massage Your Breasts
I find it helpful to massage my breasts with my hands while pumping. It can increase the fat content in your milk and help you pump and empty your breasts more efficiently—signaling your body to make more milk. A great video from Stanford (here) will give you more information on how to massage your breasts while pumping effectively.
10. Avoid Clogs
As a breast pump is not as efficient at emptying milk from your breast as an infant’s latch, sometimes we need to add something extra to keep the milk flowing properly. Sunflower lecithin is a supplement that you can take daily to prevent your milk from clogging a duct.3
11. Apply Heat
Another tip to help keep your milk flowing efficiently and to make your pumping sessions go faster it helps to apply heat to your breasts while pumping. Using heat before pumping can help dilate your ducts to remove milk.4
12. Have the Right Tools
It is helpful to have a lactation massager handy if you get a clog. This one is powerful and efficient. It uses heat to help break up the clog, or you can apply this curved lactation massager on your breast with the heat on to help keep the milk flowing.
13. Look at Photos or Videos of Your Baby
Being with your baby helps stimulate milk production. A mom often pumps because she cannot be with her baby. If you must pump away from your baby—while at work, for example—there’s a trick you can use to make your body think you are with your baby. Looking at photos or videos of your baby stimulating oxytocin, which can contribute to a letdown while pumping.5
14. Hand Expression
A pump is not as efficient at removing milk from your breasts as a suckling baby. A way to keep the milk supply up while pumping is to hand express after pumping. This will help get that last bit of milk out, signaling your body that your breasts are ready to make more milk.
15. Know Your Number
Whether you pump, nurse, or both, knowing your “magic number” will help you set the proper schedule for you and your baby. The magic number is the number of milk removals required for your body to maintain, increase, or decrease supply. Thanks to this knowledge, I only had to pump once a day at work to maintain my supply. You can also add extra pumping sessions to boost the supply. It is also helpful when weaning.6
I hope you can use some of these practical tips in your breastfeeding journey to help make pumping suck less for you!