Since Addison’s first day of life, I’ve been an exclusive pumper (aka EPer). I remember shortly after getting to my postpartum room after my c-section the hospital Lactation Consultant came in and gave me Medela supplies and a hospital grade pump. I had never seen a breast pump other than the display one at Target, and as she put together the pump parts, I asked Mathew to video tape her so I wouldn’t forget how to do it myself. I was a total newbie. I remember wishing I’d had breast pumping tips to guide me into the process, but I didn’t, so I thought I’d post some of my favorite tips for y’all!
1. Invest in a good quality pump. I was able to get a “free” pump from my insurance and they had an assortment of pumps to choose from. I scoured online reviews and finally picked the Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump. It’s great because it can be plugged in or use batteries, has 2 phase expression (like a hospital grade pump), is double electric, and isn’t huge. I have mine by my bedside so I can wake up at night for my pumpings.
2. Pump on a schedule and start ASAP. Your body WANTS to produce milk for your baby once it’s born. That’s why it’s important to start pumping ASAP to help build supply. My hospital told me to pump every 3 hours for the first 12 weeks, and praised me even if I only got a few cc’s or mL of milk. Once your body figures out that you’re pumping on a schedule, the milk will come more easily. I notice that whenever I’m putting together my pumping parts to hook up to the pump, my breasts start to let down because it knows my schedule. The more you stick to your schedule, the better. Don’t miss a pumping if you can!
3. Invest in a hands free pumping bra and tumbler. I am so thankful for my Hands-Free Breastpump Bra because many nights I wanted to just sit up with my eyes closed for those 3 am pumpings. Pumping every 3 hours can be exhausting (and that’s because Addison is still in the hospital!) and my bra really came in handy. I love this particular one because it has a velcro panel in the back so you can adjust it to fit you. You’ll want at least 2, so you can have one handy while the other is in the wash. I also recommend getting a high quality tumbler like this Tervis Water Bottle to keep at your pumping station. Breast pumping can make you thirsty, AND when you’re trying to keep a good supply, you’ll need to stay especially hydrated. Drink, drink, drink during your pumping sessions!
4. Buy extra pump parts and a bottle steamer. Let’s face it- I’m not washing all my pump parts at midnight, 3 am, and 6 am. I wouldn’t be able to keep my eyes open! Buying an extra Medela Replacement Parts Kit has completely saved me. I use my Dr. Brown’s Microwave Steam Sterilizer before bed to sterilize all my parts, and then use them throughout the night (rinsing immediately afterward of course- you don’t want milk building up in your parts). You can also purchase Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam Bags if you don’t want the steam sterilizer. I love them for use at the hospital when I’m with Addison. Once they’re steamed, I just let them dry on our Boon Lawn Drying Rack so they’re ready to grab whenever I need.
5. Eat foods that aid in milk production. Keeping a healthy diet is important when pumping. Oatmeal, proteins (chicken, yogurt, etc.), vegetables, and fruits. If your supply is still low, try lactation cookies. There are TONS of different recipes on Pinterest. Also, make sure to eat about 500 calories more than usual, to offset the calories burned by pumping.
6. Bust out the lanolin. Trust me…don’t pump without using lanolin first. Put a little on your nipples and then pump. The lanolin helps them glide through the pump shields much easier and smoothly. Plus, it helps so you don’t have nipple cracks or bleeding, which are SUPER uncomfortable. I use the Medela Tender Care Lanolin and love it. A little goes a long way, and that tube barely looks like I’ve touched it, and I use it before every pumping.
7. Don’t go crazy on the settings. You would think that the higher the settings, the more milk you would produce, but you would be wrong. Start pumping on the lowest setting and see how you do. If you need to bump it up a little, go for it. You want to be comfortable when pumping, and pumping should NOT hurt. If you are hurting during pumping, try purchasing a set of bigger shields and/or putting the settings down.
8. Get a massage. My LC told me to pump for 15-20 minutes per session, so that’s what I do. Sometimes by 10 minutes, I notice that milk isn’t expressing yet my breasts are still firm. Best thing to do? Massage about 1 minute before pumping, and then massage them while you pump. This is easier with your Hands-Free Breastpump Bra, and just massage in a circular, downward motion towards the pump. You should notice milk coming out faster, it will assist you in not having plugged ducts or mastitis, and you’ll get more milk out per pumping.
9. Follow breast milk storage guidelines. Because Addison is still in the hospital, and initially was on a TPN bag before weaning onto breast milk, I pumped and pumped and got a really good supply set up. So good, in fact, that I ended up having to buy a 7 foot Deep Freezer to store my milk that I pumped at home (I give the hospital what I pump while I’m there, so Addison can have it for her feeds). Kellymom has a great chart for referencing when it comes to breast milk storage. Additionally, if you bought a Medela pump, you should have a chart like the one below in your kit as well. Whatever you do, don’t store your milk on the freezer door, as it can spoil a lot faster from temperature changes when you open and close it.
10. Clean up. It’s REALLY hard to get rid of thrush once you’ve got it. I am so paranoid about this, that I make sure I keep my chest really clean and dry. I use Bella B Nipple Nurture Breast Wipes when I’m done pumping (they have soothing aloe vera and chamomile!) and then put Medela Disposable Nursing Bra Pads in my bra to make sure I don’t leak during the day or night. If you have thrush, make sure you don’t freeze your milk and use it at a later date. You could reinfect your baby, and that would be no bueno.
All in all, these breast pumping tips have REALLY come in handy for me. I’ve helped several friends figure out how to increase their supply, and I’ve been able to give Addison the best nutrition possible while she’s in the NICU. Addie is up to 80 mL per feeding, and is growing like a weed! It’s true- mother’s milk is best!