As a breastfeeding working mama, pumping was a big part of my every day routine once I returned to work. Between constantly worrying about my supply and time away from my desk, I desperately needed these pumping tips and tricks to make the most of my time in the Wellness Room.
I was very fortunate to have a terrific breastfeeding relationship with my son for 18 months, but it is not lost on me that women struggle with breastfeeding and exclusively pump or use formula to feed their babies.
Everyone’s journey is different and it’s important that I say this: Feed your babies.
Pumping is time consuming and a lot of hard work. I hope this list helps you weed out a lot of the searching I had to do for pumping tips and tricks.
I’ve put together this ultimate list of pumping tips and tricks for the exclusive pumper and for the working mom who finds herself pumping throughout the work day. This list is also a great resource if you are trying to increase your milk supply.
- Water. Water is the first thing on every pumping tips and tricks list. For a really good reason. Breastmilk is mostly water! How can you produce breastmilk if you’re not hydrated?! Get yourself a big cup and fill that bad boy up as soon as you finish each cup. I always preferred my water to be ice cold. Pumping Pro Tip: Get a cup that’s over 24 oz with a straw. My straw cup is 30oz and I still use it daily. Drink and fill your large cup at least three times a day. I have two reasons for a large cup. The first reason is getting up and down 10x a day to fill an 8oz cup can be an unfeasible task. Get a large cup in case you’re glued to your office desk or stuck in a rocking chair with a colicky baby. The second reason is to help you keep track. You’re a mom. You wear so many different hats during the day. Let’s make something easy on you. Fill your cup at breakfast, at lunch, at dinner. If you’re pumping at work, fill the water cup up and drink as you pump.
- Make sure you’re eating enough. A healthy diet is important, and you’ll need to eat enough calories to maintain your supply. I always brought a snack with me to the Wellness Room in addition to making sure my water was full. An excellent way to add in water and healthy calories? Fruit.
- Foods that increase milk supply. I started including oatmeal in my morning routine and I noticed a big difference in my supply if I didn’t have the oatmeal. Like, a few ounces difference. When breastmilk is your baby’s main source of nutrition, every ounce counts. A few more foods that can increase your milk supply are: fish like salmon, fruits, leafy greens like spinach, and nuts.
- Breast Pump. Duh. Through my insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I was able to get my hands on a Medela Pump In Style. It’s a fantastic pump. If you’re able to get a hospital grade pump, awesome!
- Pumping Bra. A pumping bra just made my life easier, though sometimes I could get away with just shoving the nozzles in my bra.
- Buy Additional Parts For Replacement. You’ll want to replace the membranes OFTEN. I’d notice immediately that my supply would dip if something needed to be replaced. Replace the membranes every six weeks to ensure you’re getting the best possible output.
- Milk Storage. The milk storage bags were the easiest for me when building a freezer stash. Towards the end, I ended up just using the bottles for use the next day as I wasn’t pumping as much and he didn’t need as much in the freezer for backup.
- Cleaning Your Pump Parts. Mom Pro-Tip: Get a straw cleaner (like this brush set) to help get in all the nooks and crannies of the pumping nozzle. Use hot soapy water. If you’re pumping at work with no sink, these wipes are also really handy. I used the wipes when I had to travel between offices.
Breastmilk Storage and Handling
- Storage Bags. I hit on this in the last section, but storage bags were my go-to when I was pumping at work and freezing the milk. I’d take the large box and stick it in my “pumping bag” and replace when I ran out. Typically, you can find bags at a local pharmacy if you’re ever in a pinch without storage bags. Something I’ve totally had to do.
- Bottles. Bottles are a great way to just prepare your milk for the next day! I would do this towards the end of breastfeeding/pumping. While my son didn’t use the Medela bottles, I would just pour the milk into the bottles he did drink from and store them for the next day.
- Fridge or cooler. One awesome thing if your job has a wellness/pumping room is the fridge that you will use to store milk in. If you do not have this (I didn’t at my current position), you’ll have to pack a cooler with an ice pack to keep the milk until you get home. If you can, check out what the hospital has in terms of a bottle cooler. My cooler and ice pack came from the hospital because we had to supplement!
- How long can breastmilk stay out? This is a fantastic resource on breastmilk storage! I stuck to the 4-6 hour rule for leaving it out. Breastmilk has no smell, so if you’ve accidentally left the milk out (and I will cry with you if you did) give it a smell. You’ll know if it needs to be tossed.
- Your milk will separate! This will look really odd and probably wrong, but I assure you this is normal! Don’t shake. If you’re using a storage bag, I’d like to basically smush the sides together until the fat was off the side of the bag. With a bottle, gently stir until it’s mixed.
Pumping Tips and Tricks
- Seriously, don’t use the highest setting. Rookie mistake. Painful rookie mistake. Fiddle with the settings! I got my best output a tick past halfway. Pumping on the highest setting will create sore nipples and possibly sores. No bueno.
- Change the membranes on your pump! I’ve brought this up, but it’s really important to change the membranes on your pump every 4-6 weeks for the best output.
- Massage when you begin every pumping session! Not a back massage my friends. Massage your breasts for ten seconds to help start the flow.
How To Increase Milk Supply?
- Check out my post on increasing your milk supply here. This has everything you need to know about increasing your milk supply
Additional Pumping Tips and Tricks
- Support group. You can find your local La Leche League and attend a meeting. Check out websites with community boards and join in. If this isn’t available in your area and you feel like you have no one, email me. Reach out to me. I know how hard breastfeeding and pumping is. I’m here for ya. I was very fortunate to find my community of women through a birth month club. We’re still together and they still keep me sane.
- Short Term Goals. Set short goals for yourself. Reevaluate how everything is going. Think about how you’re feeling. Make adjustments if it’s not working. These adjustments can be anything from pumping for five minutes extra each session to weaning. Do what you have to be happy.
- You’re doing the best you can.
Breastfeeding and pumping is hard.
I won’t sugarcoat how difficult this process can be.
I hope you find this information helpful and I hope it helps you through your journey. It’s a lot to take in at once. Remember to think about how you’re feeling and evaluate if it’s all working. The most important thing for a healthy happy baby is a healthy happy mama. If this is causing too much stress, it’s more than okay to cut back or cut it out.
You’re an awesome mama! Whatever path you choose will be the right one for you, your baby, and your family.