My first baby came one month early. While he was born healthy, he lacked the stamina to nurse and had to be tube-fed during a short stay in the NICU. The NICU nurses helped me learn to pump and develop a pumping/feeding schedule. At the time, I didn’t know “exclusive pumping” was even a choice; I never imagined myself NOT directly nursing. I would eventually embrace this newfound style of breastfeeding and became empowered by my choice to exclusively pump. It worked so well for my family, I chose to do it again with my second baby. I started my Instagram page @pump_momma_pump in an attempt to provide the education and support I so desperately needed when I began pumping. The following Top 10 Tips for Pumping Moms are designed to help any pumping momma, exclusive or not.
1. Build Your Supply
Milk supply depends on regular and frequent milk removal. Building a decent milk supply begins within the first few hours after birth. If you can’t or won’t be choosing to nurse directly, make sure you begin to pump every 2-3 around the clock to build your supply. If you have to supplement with formula, don’t stop pumping- just supplement and keep on pumping regularly to build your supply.
2. Protect Your Supply
If your priority is to feed all or mostly breastmilk, it’s going to be crucial that you regularly remove that milk, either by directly latching or pumping. Pay attention to your daily total output and baby’s daily total intake. The goal is to pump as much as the baby eats. Baby will eventually take in around 25-30 ounces a day so that’ll be your goal, too! Infrequent removal of milk may cause a decrease in supply. If you aren’t making enough for the baby, and need to supplement- that’s okay! It’s not all-or-nothing… any amount of breastmilk is incredibly beneficial.
3. Get Support
Mothers with support breastfeed longer. I encourage you to attend a live or virtual support group for new moms, follow pumping pages or join groups on social media, talk with other moms in your family, neighborhood, or at work, and find one solid cheerleader. If you’re not getting the support you need, ask for it. Communicate to your partner or support person how important breastfeeding is to you and how they can help support your journey.
4. Educate Yourself
It’s a GREAT sign that you’re reading this, because it means that you are already educating yourself about how to make the pump life easier! So what else can you do? Sign up for a breastfeeding or postpartum course, read some books from the library, listen to a podcast, watch video tutorials, and follow educational social media accounts… like mine! There’s a lot of info out there on exclusive pumping, you just have to dig for it!
5. Parts and Pieces
Get a quality pump. In the U.S. you should be able to get a pump from your insurance. Read reviews. Try multiple pumps if possible. Every woman’s body responds to pumps differently. If possible, try electric and manual. Find your correct flange size and style! Replace your parts if you use them frequently, especially the valve, which controls the suction. (Replace this part every month for exclusive pumpers, every 3 months for occasional pumpers). Learn how to properly wash, dry, and sterilize your parts and bottles.
6. Get Hands-On
Many mothers benefit from applying heat before pumping and hand massage or vibration during pumping. Why heat and massage BEFORE pumping? Massage and heat gets the breast primed to have a quick letdown and release milk! It’s especially helpful for those women who are prone to clogged ducts. Using warmth and massage during pumping can actually assist you in emptying more efficiently.
7. Go Hands-Free
This might seem contrary to tip number 6, which was to “get hands-on while pumping.” If you don’t need to do compression or massage while pumping, I highly suggest getting a hands-free pumping bra. It allows you to multi-task. Better yet, get mobile! Getting a portable pump helps you get stuff done without being tied to a chair or a wall socket.
8. Discover Hacks
There are so many hacks for pumping mommas that help make the pump life suck less! Follow pumping moms and educators on social media, follow IBCLCs, join FB groups, watch YouTube videos etc etc… Learn the hacks and try them out for yourself! They just might make your life a whole lot easier! Do what works for you and makes your pump life easier!
9. Practice Self-Care
Self-care is so important for pumping mothers! Self-care is anything you do purposefully and intentionally to care for your physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing that enables you to care for your family. It can be stereotypical self-care like bubble baths or manicures, but honestly, self-care for you right now may be seemingly small but necessary things like making sure you’re eating and drinking enough, getting sleep, showering and changing into clean clothes, and not losing your dang mind. Take care of your mental health, too.
10. Positivity and Gratitude
Gaining a positive perspective as a pumping mom makes a huge difference. You may be angry and grieving the nursing relationship you thought you’d have with your baby. That’s ok. Feel your feelings. Then, try to shift that mindset into a positive, can-do mindset about pumping. Honor your journey and the hard work and sacrifice you’re making for your sweet baby. Journal, list, or meditate upon the wonders of the female body and what it can do. Start noticing the silver linings- write them down if you need to. Practicing daily gratitude can help you turn guilt and grief into an empowering journey!