10 Tips for Easy Pumping

(Hipster Mom, you asked if I had tips for pumping, and then we got distracted and I never answered. So this is for you.)

I have learned quite a bit about the art of breast pumping. After all, I am a recovering pumpaholic. I have read a number of books, articles, and blogs on the subject, and I have tried many different techniques. Here are a few tips I’ve come up with to help other pumping mamas:

Medela FreeStyle Breast Pump

Medela Pump in Style

1. First and foremost, use a good pump. Hospital-grade ones are best, if you can get your hands on one, but otherwise, a solid double pump will work well too. I use the Medela Pump in Style, which I highly recommend. A friend of mine has the Medela Freestyle, which looks amazing, especially if you need to tote it around with you, pump at work, or anything else that would require a battery-run, hands-free pumping experience. Double pumping makes the most sense — you’ll get double the milk in half the time.

2. Pump early in the morning. Even if you’re breastfeeding through the night and to your tired self there doesn’t seem to be a difference between morning and night, your breasts can tell when the sun starts to come up and begins doing heavy milk production for the long day ahead. When I was pumping ’round the clock I was getting my best yields at about 3-4am. But you’ll get amazing results even as late as 7-8am.

3. If you are pumping to replace a feed, then WHEN you pump is obvious — i.e. at the time of the feed. In such a case, you’ll probably pump the amount that your baby consumes in a single feed during your single pumping session, though some women will pump more than that and some will pump less.

4. If you’re pumping to create a bottle for later, then when do you pump? You have a few options here. First, you can pump on one side while you nurse from the other. It’s not the most comfortable experience, but it is effective since nursing encourages let-down in the pumped breast. And even if your baby usually eats from both sides, the pumping won’t totally drain your breast and your baby will still be able to nurse, especially if she got the majority of her meal already. When your baby switches to breast number two, simply switch sides with the pump as well. Alternatively, you can pump after a feed — you likely won’t get a full bottle’s worth, so you may have to pump after a few feeds in order to get the desired amount.

5. Lean forward a bit. Once you start pumping, this will become obvious to you. If you don’t lean forward, the milk won’t flow down into the bottle, but up against the edges of the flanges (or horns, as I like to call them). Then it’ll spill out and you’ll get wet.

6. Go hands-free. If you don’t have a hands-free bra, you can try and make one yourself. If you’re wearing a nursing bra/tank, you can simply close the bra/tank OVER the flanges to hold them in place. I did this all the time. Alternatively (and I read about this but never tried it), you can cut two holes into a sports bra and use that to hold flanges in place.

7. Drink a ton of water. One source I read said to drink three times the amount that you pump. So if you pump 90ml in a pumping session, then you should be drinking 270ml.

8. Take a break…and then pump some more. Sometimes your baby takes a break to burp, doze off, or get her diaper changed. Give your pumped breasts the same courtesy. You’ll see that it may help encourage another let-down. After it looks like no more milk is being pumped out of you, turn off the pump, take it off completely, and spend a few minutes relaxing, drinking more water, and massaging your breasts (starting from the top and then making your way down gently to the areola). Then continue pumping again for a few minutes.

9. Don’t look at what you pump. As I read somewhere (can’t remember where) — A watched breast never pumps — or something like that. And here’s why: You’ll get anxious — waiting to see how much you pump out or waiting to see how long it’ll take can be nerve wracking. And anxiety while pumping is never good. And that brings me to my final tip…

10. Relax. Pumping isn’t fun, but it doesn’t need to be miserable. Watch some TV, read a book, talk on the phone — distract yourself from the powerful suck of the plastic flanges and you’ll be done before you know it. Some say you should look at a picture of your baby while you pump (like if you’re at work and your baby isn’t around), but some women may find that that just causes more stress and anxiety (either because being away from Junior is stressful or simply because Junior is a pain in the neck that stresses you out), so either do that or don’t do that — whatever works for you.

Good luck!

5 thoughts on “10 Tips for Easy Pumping

  • July 17, 2011 at 7:36 am

    Thanks for this post Sarah, it's really helpful! Question though: when should I drink the water? Should I down like 270 ml and then pump after a feed? Should I drink and wait a couple of minutes or will it help right away? Thanks again!

  • July 17, 2011 at 8:08 am

    I guess when you call yourself an expert (not that I actually went that far…) people expect you to know the answers to their questions. But, in response to yours…I have no idea. I just drink while I pump (and while I nurse, because in essence it's the same thing), because I get super duper thirsty. And I don't actually measure what I drink. I think the key is to stay well-hydrated throughout the day. I don't think that the water you drink at a particular pumping session will immediately affect what you pump out. I think it's probably more cumulative throughout the day. I'd ask a lactation consultant if you're concerned.

  • July 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    11) Have a full bottle of water ready when you start pumping so you don't have to ask your husband to go get you a water every single time you pump

  • July 18, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    theres another trick for making a handsfree pumping bra – because using your tank or bra itself might stretch it out. place a rubber band around the bottom of the (piece? i don't remember…) and then hook it up to the hook on your nursing bra/tank. this works if you are wearing the sort that has a hook, and not the lift-up kind. this worked for me…even while driving.

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