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Exclusive Pumping Essentials

As an experienced pumper who has been using breast pumps for over two and a half years, these are some items I have deemed for myself as essentials. Please note not everyone needs or wants these things, this is just what I like to have!


Every mother will feed their baby somehow.

Whether it's exclusively nursing, half nursing half pumping, exclusive pumping, combo feeding, or formula feeding, your baby will be fed. And they will be happy no matter how they're fed, just by the way. I would like to start off by saying that, because some moms don't end up feeding the way they wanted to. I wanted to exclusively nurse all of my kids, but things don't always work out the way we planned. And that's just fine.

With my first baby, I didn't know anything about breastfeeding other than "it comes naturally, you should have no problems at all!" (yeah, riiiight). That didn't work out for us, for reasons I won't delve into right now, and I knew literally nothing about pumping - so when that didn't work either, I fed her formula. She's now 4 years old and has never once said, "mom, why didn't you breastfeed me?" and I don't think she ever will.

When I had my second baby, I was 1000% determined to breastfeed her. I read a ton of stuff about it. I bought a better breast pump. I bought a hands free pumping bra. I bought a new nursing pillow, a new haaka, and a great book called "Lactivate!".

And then I couldn't get her to latch. I was told in the hospital and at her first pediatrician visit that she had no tongue or lip ties, and she "should be able to latch fine!" and to work on it. Well, in the middle of the night she'd be screaming, couldn't latch, and wake up my husband and our toddler. It was either fail my goal on day 3, or get cracking at exclusive pumping. So I got to work. I pumped every two hours, and before I knew it I had an extra bottle's worth in the fridge. Then a whole mason jar. Then two, three, four jars. Somehow, what feels like a million pumping sessions later, I've filled up my little freezer. (that freezer is like 3 cubic feet by the way). I have had mastitis twice, cried more than I care to admit about spilled milk, and fallen asleep pumping a dozen or more times. I made it to just about 14 months before I got pregnant and my supply tanked! Update to that: I've had the third baby and I combo nurse/pump for him and my middle kid gets a bottle or two of milk a day. I worked very hard to protect and establish that supply and also to get him to latch while in the hospital, the best trick I had up my sleeve was manual pumping & cup feeding between latch training to keep him from doing the whole "starving and screaming and can't latch" thing my second baby did. So far so good, we're on week five as I type this update.

In case you don't want to read it all, I'll summarize here! Again these are my personal essentials, you don't need the exact same items.

  1. Breast pumps - I am fond of Unimom Opera, Baby Buddha, Pumpables Genie Advanced, Spectra Gold to name a few.

  2. Measure your nipples, and buy flanges that fit comfortably.

  3. Pumping Bra - I like the Davin and Adley Amelia Cami

  4. Vitamins/etc support yourself nutritionally

  5. Milk Storage for at home and on the go

  6. Travel Bag that protects your pump

  7. Extra things like flange lube, warm/cold packs, massagers etc

  8. Bottle warmer if needed

  9. Drying Rack

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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.


Pumps and parts:

Pumps are very "person to person" and there is no 'one pump to rule them all'. I personally loved the Genie Advanced for my second baby, after having the Spectra Gold I also loved so much but couldn't be portable with.

Now that I've had my third baby, I've found myself using the Unimom Opera the most alongside the Baby Buddha. I have come to enjoy the longer stronger pulls, and those are most often used.

I've also enjoyed some other pumps like the older medela freestyle a friend gave me, and a few portables here and there like the Momcozy s12 Pro and M5. But I certainly don't use those often, truth be told they frustrate me and I hate washing them.

Want to hear more about these pumps? Check out my running reviews here or take a look at my breast pump brand master list for more pump brands.

BEFORE WE GET INTO FLANGES- please download and print my free nipple ruler here! It's so important to wear the right size.

Flanges and parts:

  • Pumpin Pal flanges: These Pumpin Pal flanges are at a pretty funky angle and are very soft, I really enjoy using them compared to standard flanges. I was originally not planning to buy these, but with the supply issues that Pumpables had been suffering (and the cost to frequently replace!) I had to get something when my liquid inserts wore out. I wear the XS size, and I measure at 15mm. You have to have the special collar and adapter pieces to use these, but they're worth it to me. They can be hit or miss and some people really hate them, but you'll never know until you try. TEACHINGMOTHERHOOD saves 10% at checkout!

Pumpin Pals Flanges/Collars on Spectra parts
How to use PumpinPals with the Pumpables Genie Advanced

  • "Off Brand" Plastic Flanges: It is literally SO IMPORTANT to measure and ensure you're using the correct sized flanges! That's another thing I didn't know when I tried pumping with my first baby. Most pumps come standard with 24mm and 28mm flanges, and those are absolutely HUGE. You'd be surprised at the amount of women who actually need a much smaller size like 19mm, 17mm, or even 15mm! When I used the Spectra, I had to buy these Maymom Flanges from Amazon in the correct size.

  • Legendairy Milk Collection Cups: I originally bought these because pumping in the car is super annoying with the whole liquid kit and tubes setup getting in the way. These are the most popular cups on the market and a lot of people like them a lot. (that was originally written in 2022 before a TON of other cup brands came out) Update 2023: I will say that cups are very hit or miss, after using different kinds over the years I've come to realize that they really do not hold a candle to flanges, at least for me, and I struggle with almost all of them. I do not recommend using these as primary collection items, nor do I recommend using them for your first or last pump of the day. If I had solely relied on cups to empty me, I'd be sitting here with an undersupply wondering what I'm doing wrong. Even with expensive, name brand pumps (talking about you, Willow Go) I'd be in trouble if that was all I had. I get literally double or more with flanges, cups just do not do it for me. There are occasional sessions I'll get almost everything out with cups, but it's not nearly often enough.

How to use Legendairy Collection Cups and Pumpables Genie Advanced
How to use Legendairy Collection Cups and Pumpables Genie Advanced

  • Lacteck Flanges: I decided to give these (and pumpin pals) a whirl when the Pumpables Liquid Shields were out of stock in my size, and so far I really love them. You'll need adapter pieces, I use the maymom brand that works with my Spectra duckbills, back flow protectors and tubing. This hooks up to the Genie Advanced perfectly (or any other pump with "universal tubing, i.e Spectra, motif, etc)

How to use Lacteck Flanges and Pumpables Genie Advanced
How to use Lacteck Flanges and Pumpables Genie Advanced

  • Ceres Chill Breastmilk Chiller Bottle: While debatable as an essential for everyone, I personally find this an essential item that I have used time and time again. This amazing bottle keeps up to 24 ounces of milk chilled for around 20 hours, and is a total game changer for having to pump on the go. It can also be used for things other than breastmilk- so it can stay with you long after your pumping journey. They also sell spouts and straws to convert it to a water bottle. I have used mine to transport popsicles on hot days for my kids! They stayed completely frozen all the way to the beach. Update summer/fall 2023: They've released a smaller sized chiller (16 once capacity) called the Demigoddess, which is neat if you don't need a whole 24 ounces or would like it to fit into smaller bags/cupholders!


Pumping Bra & Clothing:

  • Davin and Adley Nursing and Pumping Crop Cami: This is my very favorite bra, it's super comfortable and cute enough to be worn by itself! I like to pair it with high waisted leggings. I have found this bra to hold all flanges, cups, and wearable pumps extremely well. These have lasted a very long time and are well worth the price. I wore them through my entire third pregnancy as well.

Davin and Adley nursing and pumping bras
image from


Vitamins & Supplements:

Always clear vitamins/supplements with your primary care provider! This is not medical advice from me, this is sharing what I personally use.

I will say this- supplements and galactagogues do NOT work for everyone. There is absolutely not a magic pill or snack that will suddenly increase your milk supply. Can these things help some mamas in conjunction with frequent milk removal, adequate hydration and nutrition? Sure! But do not expect to be dehydrated and starving, pumping twice a day and eating a lactation cookie and getting 40 ounces of milk. These are the things I personally consume on a regular or semi regular basis that I enjoy.

A note on galactagogues- Some of these things contain compounds such as beta glucan, for example, which is known to increase production of and circulating prolactin levels, and helps some mamas in that department. This is an example of one of many lactogenic foods/herbs, many of which do not have actual solid science behind "why" or "how" it works, just that it can! A lot of these are even tested in animal lactation as well. Source: Boost Your Breastmilk, Alicia Simpson

  • New Chapter Perfect Postnatal: This is the same brand as the prenatal vitamins I've always used, so I just switched over to the postnatal when I ran out of those. It's got a crazy amount of vitamins and goodies packed into it. I don't eat every food group at every meal, so I want to make sure my bases are covered!

  • Vitamin D3: Your baby's pediatrician will likely recommend you take a little bit extra D3, or get the drops to put into baby's milk. There's some in the postnatal, but the "recommendation" for mom to take is about 6000 IU, the postnatal only has 2000 IU so I like to take a little extra to make sure baby's getting enough.

  • Boobie Superfoods Protein Shake: I want to make it clear I do not purchase this thinking it's gonna increase my milk supply. It does have galactagogues, but again those don't work for everybody. I like to fill gaps in my diet where I may be missing things like protein, which are very important to keep up for your milk supply. Again, this is not a magic potion, but a meal substitute to help you keep up protein and other important nutrients that are crucial for milk synthesis (and just existing as a busy mom) Once more, this is NOT MAGIC MILK POWDER. This is a protein blend specifically safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding. Protein is a very important thing to keep up in your diet. I for one am a terrible eater, anything decently healthy that is. So I like this to fill gaps.


Care & Comfort:

  • Earth Mama Organics Nipple Butter: My all time favorite nipple balm- it's smooth and buttery, not sticky or slimy like some other brands can be! It smells awesome, it lubricates flanges very well, and one jar lasts a very very long time. I've had the same one for over a year.

  • Earth Mama Organics Booby Tubes: At some point in your breastfeeding journey, you may want to have some warming/cold packs. Personally, I wasn't a fan of the kind with the little gel beads inside that seem to explode and pop in the microwave. These are filled with flax seed. These can be warmed for help with milk flow, or cooled for help with engorgement. I also set one on my napping baby once so I could have my hand back!

  • Breast Pads: I moved from disposables to reusables, to save money and landfill space. I like the KeaBabies reusable pads, and Davin and Adley makes special thin liners to fit well in their nursing/pumping bras. The KeaBabies pads are a bit bulky in thinner bras, I've noticed.

  • You can get electric massagers or hand massage during pump sessions, I find a little "umph" during letdowns (gentle but moving milk downward) can make a difference. I never bother to charge my electric ones anymore though.



You have to put milk somewhere!

Lots of moms use the "pitcher method", you combine all of the milk from one day into a pitcher you keep in the fridge. The next day you feed baby from that milk, and continue the cycle. Anything that didn't fit in the pitcher can be moved to the freezer stash. Fridge milk is good for 4 days, so you can keep more than one pitcher if baby goes through it fast enough. I like to use something small enough to fit milk from each 24 hour period so that I don't get to a point where the milk is partially 3 days old and partially 4 days old, for example. All one day is easier.

  • Medela Milk Storage Bags: I bought a few boxes of these before my baby was born. I still have a bunch left! They're very sturdy and freeze well. They're thicker than the Lansinoh or Target brand, I've noticed.

  • Haakaa Silicone Milk Bags: I used these with my second baby when we would drive an hour or more from home and I have to both bring extra milk for baby and pump while we're gone. (I did this because the milk I'm bringing for her to drink is not going to be mixed with milk I'm pumping and putting into the chiller bottle) I don't have enough to freeze them but I'm told they freeze well. They stand up on their own with no issue, and are leak proof! I have tried Junobie bags as well, and they're so much more frustrating to open and close. Great bags, floppy, don't stand up on their own, but surely don't leak. Haakaa is my favorite by far. I can open and close with ease, and not send milk flying.

  • Glass mason jar pitcher with spout- I replaced my Dr Brown's pitchers with these- I sure miss the mixing spinner in the middle but I like glass nicer than plastic and easier to clean. They have a 32 ounce and 64 ounce option.


Feeding & Cleaning:

  • Philips Avent Bottle Warmer (New model): Warming up bottles is great, babies can drink cold milk, but they don't all like to. I like to serve mine as close to room temp as possible, so that she's not in total shock when we're out and about and she has to drink a bottle that's not perfectly warmed. A lot of people say a bottle warmer is one of the biggest wastes of money on baby products. However, the babies that don't like cold milk from the fridge beg to differ!

  • Philips Avent Anti Colic Bottles: I used to have the regular Avent bottles, but they redesigned the nipples in 2022 and they're AWFUL. My poor baby had a terrible time trying to drink out of it and was so fussy for 3 days until I figured out that was the problem. These bottles and nipples are much easier for her! I can also screw them right onto my flange kits if I want to. (Pumpables, Spectra, Maymom, anything wide neck) Note: this nipple design is not well 'rated' for breast to bottle transitions. Some 'better' options for that are nipples such as lansinoh which have a more gradual slope and promote a better latch. I use the Lansinoh now with my third baby because he's combo fed.

  • OXO Tot Space Saving Drying Rack: I like this rack because it saves space, isn't rickety, and has two removable and easily washable trays.

  • OXO TOT bottle brush: I previously had used a sponge brush, and believe me when I say my jaw hit the floor when I learned how much bacteria they hold. I had them for like two months at a time or a bit longer. YUCK! I also tried silicone, and it honestly does not work that well.. it's tough to lather.

Replace your brush often!!



At some point, you'll have to go somewhere. I'll add my usual 'suspects' here, but I have an extensive bag collection and rotate through a lot of them. I have reviewed my favorite 7 here. There's a bag for every budget and size capacity, and you can truly use whatever you'd like to that works.

I like for a vegan leather bag, the Ren Organizer by Mimi and Pal.

Ren Organizer breast pump bag by mimi and pal

For Neoprene, I like the Fiona by Sarah Wells Bags.

Fiona breast pump bag by Sarah Wells Bags

  • Dapple Pump Wipes: You may be thinking to yourself, traveling and pumping? How am I supposed to clean my parts after using them? That's what I was thinking up until recently as well. You can pump in the car and just wipe the parts after! These are not intended to replace washing completely, and it's recommended to not wipe and reuse parts more than 1 or 2 times.

  • If you have a portable pump (like Pumpables Genie Advanced) and walk around with it clipped to your pants.. I suggest you take a look at this bag. I understand the price point is a bit high, but it's also a mom bag you can use far beyond pumping. It's made of extremely high quality materials and I LOVE THIS BAG. Here is a reel I made showing which of my pumps fit inside! Update 2023: That reel is for the 1.0 version, the newly released 2.0 fits more pumps inside. You can always use a standard fanny pack for much less money if you'd like to, such as this very cheap one from Amazon. But I firmly stand behind quality products from small businesses!


Here's a sample schedule to give you an example of how often you should typically be pumping to replace a baby's general feeding schedule. Frequent emptying tells the body to increase the rate at which milk is produced.

Note: this is an EXAMPLE, not by any means a "follow this or produce no milk" situation. Everyone is different.


Are you wondering when to change your parts? This is a general guide for most pump parts, but all brands have different parts and some wear out more quickly.

You can also replace them earlier if you feel that they're wearing out and the pump's performance is affected. Your insurance may cover replacement parts! Always call or check with a DME provider like Aeroflow if you're able to get parts covered by insurance. Note: By silicone flanges, I was referring mainly to Pumpables liquid inserts. Other silicone items do not wear out as quickly, such as Lacteck and PumpinPals. Those you only replace if damaged.

Curious about all the different types of flanges on the market? I've got a post on that too!


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

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