Birthing classes, CPR classes, and even breastfeeding classes are virtually a requirement for first-time moms these days—myself included. But what always surprises me is how little attention is placed on breast pumping.
We all know that breast pumping is an option, especially for moms who work outside of the home. According to the CDC, 85% of moms will use a breast pump at some point, 25% will pump regularly, and 6% will pump exclusively. But the best information about successful pumping isn’t available at the pediatrician’s office or in most pregnancy or baby books. The very best tips are passed down from mom to mom, or hidden on private Facebook groups and on forums for moms who exclusively pump.
I’m not a lactation consultant or a physician, but I am a mom who pumped exclusively for my son when his posterior tongue-tie made it difficult to latch. I’m also the owner of Purple Laurel, a boutique that sells hands-free bras made for moms who pump and nurse, and I’ve had a chance to learn from the experiences of many of our fans. Here are some of the best tips I’ve picked up over the years.
Pick a resource.It certainly doesn’t have to be this article, but if you plan on breastfeeding at all, then I would recommend browsing some books and websites that focus on pumping before your baby is born. KellyMom is the standard-bearer for all things breastfeeding, and it’s the first place I’d start. Underneath each article, you’ll find links to additional resources, often written by certified lactation consultants. If KellyMom isn’t your style, you can check out books like Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk: A Guide to Providing Expressed Breast Milk for Your Baby or The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk on Amazon, or check out the forums on La Leche League’s website for great advice from moms in the trenches right now.
Start early.Learn from my mistakes, and don’t wait until your supply has taken a nosedive before you start pumping. For reference, most lactation consultants recommend pumping once every 3 hours for the first 3 months. The more you stick to a schedule, and the sooner your schedule begins, the easier time you’ll ultimately have. If you’re hesitant to give your infant a bottle, like I was, you can freeze the milk from these early pumping sessions and use it as the foundation for your “stash.”
Pick up a hands-free pumping bra.I was about 5 minutes into my first-ever pumping session when I realized that I’d need a hands-free pumping bra if I was going to do this more than once. I immediately cut up my favorite sleep bra to create a DIY pumping bra, but I soon realized that homemade pumping bras don’t hold the flanges as securely on the breast, and that can cause your milk supply to decrease. The money you spend on a high-quality hands-free pumping bra will be well worth it, since you’ll ultimately be able to pump more milk, more efficiently, over a longer period of time. I personally prefer pumping bras that double as sleep nursing bras to strapless pumping bustiers. Although strapless bustiers can hold down flanges just as effectively, I find that they usually aren’t as comfortable or as functional in the long run.
Massage while you pump.Some moms prefer to massage their breasts 5 minutes before they pump, and some (like myself) have more success when they massage at the same time they’re pumping. Either way, lactation consultants frequently recommend massaging your breasts in a circular, downward motion to release more milk during each pumping session. Dr. Jack Newman—a superhero in the breastfeeding world—has some great videos showing different breast compression techniques. As long as you’ve got a hands-free pumping bra supporting your flanges, you can try those same techniques while you pump. For many moms, compression can release more milk in less time, and it can also decrease the chances of getting plugged ducts or mastitis.
Buy plenty of extra parts.If you plan on pumping at work, or pumping for an extended period of time, then you really need to purchase an extra set of pump parts. Nobody with a baby at home has time to stay up washing pump parts each night. Medela, Avent, and most other pump manufacturers sell replacement parts very cheaply only. Buy as many sets as you can afford, and you’ll cut down on how often you need to wash, dry, and sanitize your parts each week. If you’re planning on pumping multiple times within the span of a few hours, you can also store pump parts in the refrigerator in between sessions. Most moms who pump at work will bring an extra set of parts to keep in their desks, as well.
My best advice to working moms who are interested in pumping full time is just to keep going. Every new mom faces breastfeeding obstacles, but we’re lucky to live in a day and age where we have so many great resources accessible online.
I’d like to thank Colleen for giving me the chance to speak to so many great moms today. I hope to hear more about what you’ve learned about breastfeeding and pumping, and also what your experiences have been with nursing and pumping bras. And of course, I hope you’ll check out PurpleLaurel.com for all your post-pregnancy gear, including belly wraps, shapewear, and nursing bras.