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Tips and Tricks to make Pumping Easier

Pumping can never be truly "easy", but we can do things that make it much more tolerable and less of a chore. You could even say make it "fun"!


I'd like to start off by saying I recently wrapped up my first exclusively pumping journey after 414 days. I weaned unintentionally when I got pregnant again, the hormones from that completely overtook that of lactation. I was also way too exhausted to bother carrying on. I was almost to 14 months, I had originally planned to go two whole years! 10 months shy of my ultimate goal. I will very likely exclusively pump with this baby too, I have very little interest in nursing.


Update: I had the third baby and decided since he was probably my last, I would work hard at nursing to see if I could. I pump at the same time to feed my toddler, because I had not yet met that 2 year goal I had for her. My baby is now 6 months old and I continue to feed them both. Please see my story here on how and why I do that.


Some of the products I mention here I have discount codes available for- scroll to the bottom for these if you're looking for them!


Here are my top tips on making pumping easier!

 

This post contains affiliate links. This means that with any purchases made through my links, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps to support my business and family! Read my full disclosure here.


I am a Certified Breastfeeding Specialist. However, the advice and tips on my pages is not personalized individual medical advice and you should always discuss concerns with your healthcare provider or seek the help of a lactation professional. I do not currently offer consults or counseling, just general information and advice.

 



 

The number one priority is having a pump that doesn't tether you to the wall every single time. A portable pump gives you the freedom to get up and move around if (and when) you need to. If you think of "pumping sessions" as time to hook up the old ball and chain, and be trapped there until you're finished with no way to get up, you're going to hate the sound of it. You'll dread coming to sit down!


My personal favorite portable pumps are the Pumpables Genie Advanced, followed by the Spectra s1 (which is not nearly as small, but has a battery and is considered portable). Some moms lean toward using a wearable pump, one that sits in your bra with no tubing, as a primary due to the convenience and ease of use. I do not typically recommend relying on this, because they're not as efficient as a "real pump" with tubing and flanges. But to each their own! The tempting convenience is a compromise in power and effective milk removal. Some moms swear this works fine for them, but there is a HUGE number of moms who use only wearables and report struggling with their supply.

Update after baby 3: my two new 'main' portable pumps are the Baby Buddha and Unimom Opera! I have found I like a stronger suction and longer pull this time around.


The second most important tip I have is getting a proper pumping bra. You cannot sit and hold the flanges on, it’s just ridiculous. Doing this is not only gonna add unnecessary stress and dreading each session. At the very least you’ll wanna be able to grab something or even use your phone while pumping. What are you gonna do, stare at the wall the whole time? What if you have to sneeze?


I have heard a lot of moms using a "hack" where they fasten the flanges on using the straps of their nursing bras or tanks. I cannot speak to this as I've never done it successfully, but I know it's possible. I personally would rather just buy the proper bra and shove the flanges right in rather than trying to MacGyver my setup together at 4am, but to each their own!


My personal favorite pumping bras are these crop camis by Davin and Adley. I have them in every color, and both of the full length tank colors. Let me just say they're worth every penny, and I'm very glad to not be wrapping some nursing bra straps around my flanges all the time. I do wear these instead of shirts, all day every day. They're even suitable for sleeping in, you don't wake up with boobs falling all over the place like smaller cup style bras. I'm currently pregnant as I write an update to this post, and still wearing both the cami and the tank comfortably!


With the right sized flanges, you can increase your comfort levels and perhaps even output and efficiency. Wearing improperly sized flanges adds unnecessary pain and discomfort to pumping sessions and can even decrease your milk supply over time. That may happen if you're not emptying efficiently- when the flanges are too large, and swelling occurs, milk ducts can be constricted and you won't empty properly. Leaving milk behind often is a signal to the body that it wasn't needed, and your supply may even decrease. This is not a promise that new flanges will "increase your output", however.


The flanges that come stock with most pumps are often too large. This is likely because they can include a large flange that everyone can fit into, but they can't include a small flange that some people can't use at all.


You can download my free printable nipple ruler here to measure your nipples and get proper fitting flanges. A good fit is usually no more than 2-3mm extra space, and a little more snug fit (1-2mm) with silicone if you prefer that material or have elastic tissue. (but everyone is different and the important thing is to use what is the most comfortable for you- not just basing it off of the numbers alone.)


I enjoy the Pumpin Pals flanges, myself. But a lot of moms I've spoken to had issues getting them on and the frustration made them move on to other things, like silicone inserts inside of regular flanges, Lacteck silicone flanges, or Pumpables liquid kits.


lacteck flanges hacked with medela symphony parts


"Fridge hacking" your parts between washes: this is not an official recommendation by any means, in fact the CDC discourages it. Especially in babies premature or under 3 months old. Some people do it by their own discretion. This is where you put your used parts in the fridge until your next session to avoid having to wash them. The temperature of the fridge slows down the growth of bacteria, but it does not stop or prevent it. There is a risk of bacterial growth.

Multiple sets of pump parts: if you’re not comfortable doing the fridge hack, having multiple sets of pump parts will take some of the stress off of having to wash pump parts after every session. However it costs extra money and then at the end of the day you’ve got a ton of stuff to wash. I personally did not do this with my first journey (as I write this I'm on a pumping vacation until my new baby arrives and I start over) but I will ABSOLUTELY be doing this next time. No less than 3 sets. For my favorite setup that will require 3 pairs of my pumpin pals flanges with the wide neck adapters, duckbills, back flow protectors, tubing, and bottles. It's worth the larger batch of washing rather than washing each time you pump or fridge hacking them. I read that putting silicone flanges like pumpin pals in the fridge will actually cause them to absorb oil/grease from the milk and stay greasy. That had happened to mine and I didn't realize why until I read it somewhere else!


Hands on pumping, massagers/warming pads: A lot of moms report that hands on pumping (gentle hand massage to move milk during pumping) can speed up milk flow and decrease pumping time. Alternatively, these are designed to ease the flow of milk and help shorten sessions by getting things going faster. Some moms swear by these and say they absolutely shorten the duration of a pump session, while some say they see no difference. It's truly trial and error and seeing what works for you- as all pump gear usually is! I personally found them to be helpful and comforting. Be patient with their battery life- for such small devices using so much power for heat and vibration, it makes sense that the battery only lasts a session or two! I have been far too lazy to charge them every time so I just use my hands now.


A special pumping treat/activity: something to help you look forward to every session, especially those darn MOTNs. I love 'lactation cookies'! Especially because nobody in the house will eat them if they’re 'for lactation'. I found that while special lactation treats are expensive, you can easily DIY your own if that's a route you'd like to pursue. What I do because I'm terribly lazy is take a log of premade cookie dough, and add chia seeds, flaxseed meal, and oatmeal to it. Those are some of the lactogenic ingredients found in premade cookies, others will also have brewers yeast but I don't always have that handy like I do the other ingredients. I also like to buy "wellness warrior" oatmeal from Costco, it has great stuff in it like chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, dates, and more. I'm unsure of the cost off the top of my head but I know it's more than packets of standard quick oatmeal, which you can just add things to yourself. You can also forgo the entire 'lactation cookie' route and just have ANY food be a special treat, like apples with peanut butter, a hidden bag of candy the kids don't touch, etc. Anything you'd like to have as a special post-pump reward.


If you're not into using food as a reward, you can certainly do whatever makes you happy and brings that joy during pumping. Moms report watching a favorite show, reading a book, or just scrolling the internet to pass the time! Lots of us


Be positive: If you think that you're going to be miserable, or tell yourself how much pumping sucks, it's gonna be a tough time. If you focus on a positive aspect, you can see pumping as more enjoyable rather than torture. I liked to focus on the feeling of letdowns, the sound of drops in the bottle, and the satisfaction of putting milk away in the fridge. I also had pumping time as a version of "me time", where I would try to at the very least sit in one place the whole time, and I found that to be very enjoyable. My kids could be present with me but I wouldn't be chasing them across the house! Lots of moms say pumping "takes away from their kids" but I disagree. If pumping is a part of what you are already doing, it's not taking away. Would nursing be taking away from the kids? Hmmm.

 

Discount codes for the products mentioned:


Pumpables - TEACHINGMOTHERHOOD

Davin and Adley - TEACHINGMOTHERHOOD

Pumpin Pals - TEACHINGMOTHERHOOD Lacteck - TEACHINGMOTHERHOOD


 

Check out some of my related posts for more info on milk supply and exclusive pumping!



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