Like many breastfeeding moms, once I figured out how to breastfeed comfortably, I adored breastfeeding. But I h-a-t-e-d pumping. I was lucky in that I pumped relatively infrequently, only for the occasional date night or for my very part-time work, which only amounted to a few hours a week.
But those once or twice a week rendezvous with my pump made me literally want to throw the thing across the room.
I know I'm not alone. Whether they pump full-time for work or on a more part-time or occasional basis, almost all breastfeeding moms have to do it at some point, and the experience can run the gamut from totally annoying to painfully stressful. Almost all moms will agree that babies just milk the breast better than pumps, and that pumping itself can feel like a tedious process, especially if you feel under pressure while doing it.
But there are definitely some ways to make the experience easier, more efficient and a bit more pleasant. So I did us all a favor and crowd-sourced some tricks of the trade among my veteran pumping mom friends. What better way to get important info like this than from the mouths of moms themselves, right?
1. Making your own pumping bra is super easy.
There are a lot of different kinds of pumping bras on the market, but Brenay tells me it’s just as easy to make one yourself. Fashioning her own pumping bra saved her time and money, even if the looks she got while driving were sometimes less than desirable.
"My favorite was cutting holes in an old bra and using it as a pumping bra while driving with a nursing cover over it," says Brenay.
2. Set yourself up with special TV shows, videos or books that you only partake in while pumping.
Valerie exclusively pumped for her first child for a few months and said that the monotony of the experience was awful. Her solution?
"I had books and TV shows on DVR that I only let myself watch or read while pumping," she shared. She says that having them to look forward to "brightened things up and generally made it all less terrible."
Well, fist pump to that!
3. Keep a picture of your babe with your pumping kit.
Being able to let-down for your pump is definitely partly psychological, so having sensory reminders of our baby can be really helpful. Plus, it can distract you from other possible stressors in your pumping location and help remind you why you are pumping in the first place.
"I kept a picture of my baby in my pumping kit so that I could focus on her sweet face while pumping," shares Marna, mom of two, who pumped during the brief breaks she had while teaching.
4. Try a hand pump.
Most moms like the convenience of a double electric pump, but Farah tells me that she actually preferred a hand pump. Farrah pumped at work for most of her son’s first year. She never found the electric pump comfortable and didn’t produce much milk with it. Plus, the noise level drew too much attention to what she was doing.
"In an effort to not make so much noise and have to leave the room, I got a small hand pump, cheap from the drug store, and started using that under a nursing cover while at work. Most of the time, people didn't even notice I was pumping," Farrah shares, adding that she felt like she could control the pressure and rhythm better and ended up pumping twice as much milk with it.
5. Pump your other side while your baby nurses.
My friend Laura gave me this tip when my first baby was an infant, and oh my goodness, does it work! Again, it can be hard for mothers to "let down" for their pump, so this method takes advantage of how much easier it is to let down for your baby. It can take a little bit of ingenuity to set up the pump on just the one side, but it can be done and is so worth the effort.
6. Toss your pump parts in the fridge between sessions.
This is a little secret many working moms are aware of. As long as you don’t have a preemie or medically vulnerable baby, most lactation consultants agree that placing your pump parts in the refrigerator between sessions is totally fine.
As working mama Erin explains it: “If you pump multiple times during a workday, just throw the milky parts in a zip-lock and toss them in a fridge. No need to rinse between sessions. Saves a ton of time.”
7. Try leaning forward a little.
Jennifer had six kids before she stumbled on this trick. She says that with normal pumping, she was hardly able to get any milk. But once she slouched forward a bit and let her breasts hang down, it was a whole different game.
"I couldn’t get a thing,"Jennifer says. "So, I leaned forward to try gravity, and mother of Jesus.”
All jokes aside, Jennifer says she went from getting barely anything to 4 to 6 ounces every session. (Side note: Make sure to be mindful of how much you slouch forward—don’t hurt your neck or back.)
8. Invest in some milk collection cups.
Carrie, a doula, shares a tip for collecting milk when you’re not even pumping. Try out some handy milk collection cups (Milkies are one popular example).
"I know a lot of breastfeeding people like the collection cups as a way to collect the milk that leaks when you feed from the other side," says Carrie. "It's a way to collect milk without actually pumping."
Some moms actually wear cups like these when they’re not even pumping or nursing to catch any leaks in between and add to their stash.
Awesome tips, huh? One of my own best personal tips is to stop looking at the ounces you are collecting. Most of us are hoping to collect as much milk as we can in the shortest time possible, and I know that kind of stress totally inhibited my milk from flowing. So, I would pump with a towel or receiving blanket thrown over my pump and only check after a good amount of time went by. I also found that hand expressing and massaging after pumping almost always yielded an extra ounce or two.
So, I guess pumping doesn’t have to suck (pun intended!) all that much. I mean, I’m pretty happy that I will probably never have to do it again, but it sounds to me that there are definitely ways you can make the whole experience a lot more pleasant than I remember it being. Now, if only I knew that back when I was ready to set my pump on fire.
When Sarah Beaulieu became a working mom who didn't have a dedicated room to pump in, she realized there was a piece missing in the dialogue of women going back to work so soon after having a baby — the reality-check of all the completely ridiculous places they have to pump. Hence, the Boston native's brilliant Tumblr page, Places I Have Pumped, was born.
Case in point — in the car right after an off-site meeting.