It's no secret that most of us hate pumping breast milk.
Nursing or breastfeeding, sure, but I don't think I've ever heard a mom say,
"Wow, I can't wait to go pump! This is going to be great!" Nope. Pumping more
often feels like a chore. There's all that washing of the parts, the frantic
measuring of ounces and the faintest, unspoken feeling that you have a lot in
common with a dairy cow.
It can be frustrating, boring and difficult to maintain
motivation, especially if what you're producing doesn't feel like enough. After nearly two years of on and off pumping for two
babies, I've gathered a few tips from mom friends, coworkers, doctors, nurses
and lactation consultants that have made pumping a little less
annoying and a little more productive.
1. Bring something that smells like your baby. It works
better than staring at photos!
Looking at photos of your baby, especially as a newborn, can get
those maternal feelings going, but bringing along their onesie or sleeper from
the night before often helps that letdown happen sooner. A lactation consultant
gave me this tip with my first baby, and it works great, especially when you're
at work, stressed out and having a hard time focusing on pumping.
2. Try more than one pump
I nearly lost my mind trying to pump with my very first pump.
Before you declare yourself a pumping failure, try switching
pumps. They do actually work differently with each one producing a slightly
different sucking motion.
I nearly lost my mind trying to pump with my very first
pump. I knew I didn't have a supply issue, because my newborn was growing just
fine, but I could barely squeeze out an ounce with this pump. As maternity
leave came to a close, I started panicking over what my baby would eat when our
pediatrician, very calmly, said: "Try another pump."
I switched to a hospital-grade Medela and then the more
portable Freestyle, and both worked great for me. You can often rent a pump to
test it out from your local lactation/maternity store, Babies R Us or the
3. Wait for the second or even third letdown
Keep that pump humming past the 10-minute mark and indulge
in a few baby fantasies, and you'll likely experience a second letdown before
you get to 20 minutes. You might even get to that mythical third letdown if you
can spare a few more minutes.
4. Store pump parts in the refrigerator between pumping
Pumping takes up enough time as it is. Don't bother
sterilizing all those parts between pumping sessions if you're pumping several
times a day. Just do it once at the end of the day and let everything air dry
5. Beware of cold medicines
When my first baby joined daycare, she brought home one super
bug after another, and I got most of them, too. When one turned into a vicious
ear-sinus infection combo, I desperately downed a variety of heavy-duty cold
medicines. Turns out this is not a good idea for nursing or pumping moms for a
number of reasons, including because they can tank your supply with ingredients
like pseudoephedrine. And tank
mine did. I don't think I ever fully recovered after that one.
The breastfeeding site Kelly Mom has an excellent rundown on
and other medicines are safe, but honestly, if you're worried about
your supply, try to stick to the natural routes with perhaps a dash of
6. Drink more water than you think possible
Apparently it's up for debate as to whether or not drinking
extra fluids aids a mom's milk
supply, but honestly I've never been as thirsty as I am when nursing,
and I've certainly heard the same from friends. I keep a glass of water by my side
at all times. Whenever I don't drink enough I wind up dizzy, especially in the
early days when you're exhausted.
Mix it up with sparkling water, fresh juices and coconut
water if you get bored of regular H20.
7. Avoid dresses
You'll find yourself having to undress completely in a freezing, air-conditioned room and anxiously staring at the door as you sit naked and lactating.
Unless it's designed for nursing, or the top half easily
pulls down like with a wrap dress, a dress is not conducive to comfortable
pumping at work. Otherwise, you'll find yourself having to undress completely in a
freezing, air-conditioned room and anxiously staring at the door as you sit
naked and lactating.
Excited to ditch your frumpy maternity gear? Well, welcome
to the slightly less frumpy, but just as overpriced category of new-mom wear:
nursing clothes. But buying a few nursing items, including a work-appropriate
nursing dress or a hands-free pumping bra, speeds up the pumping
process by eliminating those few seconds or minutes it takes to dress and
9. Keep a package of baby wipes on hand to remove milk
Trust me, you'll splash the floor, the chair, the counter and—well, basically everything, if you're me. Having a stash of wipes on hand
makes cleanup easy.
10. Get a pump that operates on a battery
Hospital grade pumps are terrific, because they're fast and
efficient, but having a lighter, battery-operated pump will come in handy when
you find yourself trying to squeeze in a pumping session in an unfamiliar place
with no electrical socket in sight. Hello, West Elm bathroom.
11. Buy a second set of pump parts to store at work
Invariably you will forget one key piece to your pumping apparatus, like one of those tiny membrane things, and suddenly your boobs are on fire and
you're racing off to the closest Target. If you can, keep an
entire second set of pump parts in your desk drawer to avoid this stress.
12. Squeeze 'em
Yep, just as it works while nursing your baby, squeezing or
massaging your boobs can get the milk out a little faster.
13. Eat mommy cookies and tea
OK, so we all know that the baby can kill a 6- or 8-ounce
bottle (mine have drank 12 ounces!), but many of us are not going to be able to
pump that much in one sitting. This is where the freezer supply or formula
come in, but I also sometimes turn to nursing supplements.
Occasionally, especially in late afternoon when my supply
feels a bit lower, I'll munch on some oatmeal, an oatmeal cookie or sip a
nursing tea with fenugreek. There are many supplements to try (check with your
ob-gyn or pediatrician first, please!), but I have found that I'll get a little
boost in milk output after the tea in particular.
14. Use a funnel to transfer milk from freezer bags to
Although those breast milk storage bags claim to offer
"convenient pour spouts," this is not really the case as anyone who has ever
tried to pour one of these things into a baby bottle knows! Luckily, it's a snap to do with
a cheap plastic funnel procured from your cooking supply store.
A lactation consultant gave me this pumping tip, and at
first I didn't get it. What is she talking about? I need to get a few hours of
sleep in before the baby wakes again! Why and when would I squeeze this in?
But, once your baby is sleeping through the night or falling
into a more regular sleep schedule, this is a great way to eke out a few more
ounces for your freezer supply or to top off the next day's bottles.
Have another helpful pumping tip? Please share it in the