So it’s World Breastfeeding Week. And if you’re a mom like me, you might have, well, mixed feelings about the extravaganza. After a great experience breastfeeding my firstborn, I had to pump exclusively for #2, and so far, for #3 as well. Between the two, I’ve racked up a total of 8 months of exclusive pumping. I have an extravaganza of thoughts and feelings about all of that, considering it’s not at all how I planned things…but that’s a post for another time.
Today, I just want to share some of my best tips to help you
survive thrive as a pumper, whether it’s occasional, while you’re working, or around the clock like me. Earlier this year a lactation consultants in the NICU called me “the super pumper.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, nor is it a title I was vying for. I just wanted my preemie to grow! But I HAVE learned a few things with all this pumping—much more than I knew while feeding my first baby.
So, here are my tips for becoming a super pumper…or at least just surviving this season.
[Note: I am not attempting to offer medical advice and I am not a lactation consultant. These are just ideas to help make pumping more manageable for you and your family, and wisdom shared with my by consultants themselves.]
1. Get your pump through insurance.
If you aren’t aware, the Affordable Care Act now mandates that your insurance cover a breast pump for you if you’re expecting. So don’t run out and buy a pump till you’ve checked your benefits first.
2. Store pump parts in the fridge.
3. Make your own pumping shirt.
Don’t want to spend $35 on a hands-free pumping bra? Find an old cami with a built-in bra, cut holes where you need them, and you’ve got a DIY pumping shirt that frees up your hands for other things. It makes an interesting fashion statement…but it does the job.
4. Use an app to track your pumping times.
I use Baby Connect, but lots of great apps are available now to help you track all things baby-related. I use the timer function to track how long I’ve pumped, since my Medela pump doesn’t have a digital interface. If you pump for too long, you many end up producing too much milk; too short a time, not enough…and both of these scenarios can be a nuisance. The timer helps me keep things steady. My app also shows how long it’s been since the last time I pumped or fed baby, which I especially find helpful now that I have three kids and my brain feels like it’s on overload most of the time.
5. Get smart about storing your milk
Kellymom.com is my go-to when I need a refresher on safe milk storage. A couple specific things I’ve just figured out with baby #3:
If you have a fairly standard pump, you can probably either pump into your baby’s bottles or get an adapter that will let you do so. This can really simplify things: fewer containers to wash, less money spent on storage bags, and less milk transfer from one place to another.
Store bags in the freezer flat. This is probably obvious, but if anyone out there besides me missed the memo, lay them flat. Thanks to Pinterest, I now fill an old wipes container with flat bags of milk until they’re frozen for space-efficient storage.
6. Extra parts are totally worth it if you’re pumping exclusively.
There is nothing worse than packing up your small children for an outing, arriving at your destination and realizing you’ve left one of those little yellow valves on the drying rack at home. That’s all I have to say about that.
7. Make it easy to pump on the go.
This one is mainly for exclusive pumpers. To avoid feeling like you’re on a plastic tube leash, get a car charger and/or battery pack so you can at least pump on the go. Bring a nursing cover along if you’re comfortable pumping in front of friends. And remember, fresh milk is good at room temperature for up to 6 hours, so don’t stress about finding a fridge right away.
8. Consult a great source for help.
Kellymom.com is an extensive resource lactation consultants have recommended to me. Their mobile site works great, too, so you can easily search from your phone. It’s primarily a breastfeeding resource, but it includes a lot of information about pumping as well.
And in Central Florida, our main hospitals have great breastfeeding resources.Winnie Palmer and Florida Hospital for Women both offer support hotlines and luncheons/teas to help us, and they can connect you with a lactation consultant to work with you one-on-one, too.
9. If your baby can’t drink your milk, you may be able to donate it.
When my daughter developed a dairy protein allergy, I ended up donating unused milk to Get Pumped, a non-profit that gives milk to babies in need. Winnie Palmer also accepts donations now at their milk depot. These are safe, legal ways to share your milk that protect you from liability risks and go to babies in great need.
10. Quit when you need to.
This, too, is a word mainly for you exclusive pumpers. Few of us set out to pump for months at a time, but sometimes it’s the choice we make to provide what we believe is best for our babies in spite of extra challenges we may be facing. My daughter was very difficult to feed and her first months were emotional. My two-year-old didn’t understand the time I spent pumping and I felt helpless trying to pump while caring for two little ones.
My lactation consultant was actually the one to help me see that it wasn’t necessarily in the best interest of my family’s health to keep it up for a long time, given our family’s whole story at the time. I’m not saying you should quit. This time around, I’m still pumping…and now I have three kids. I’m just saying that breast milk isn’t always the holy grail. Exclusive pumping may not be worth it if it costs you your emotional health or makes it too hard for you to be a mom in other areas. Any time spent exclusively pumping is a great sacrifice and something to be proud of.