Useful Tips for a Great Pumping Experience

I found this great post on Happy Home Fairy, which covered the MOST Frequently asked questions about pumping, increasing milk production, etc. A very good & useful read. I will add more to this post in another post. Meanwhile, post your questions here so I know what you are looking for! 🙂

Extreme Pumping – Confessions of an Exclusive Pumper

My son, the Happy Baby, was born full-term, via C-section in April of 2012.

He was in respiratory distress and required oxygen support immediately.

One of his main health issues is a condition called hypotonia.  Hypotonia is a muscle weakness that effected everything from his breathing to his ability to suck.  His suck was particularly weak and uncoordinated and feeding became a big issue.  He even ended up needing a feeding tube for several months (you can read more about him and our journey HERE).

Because of that (and after several unsuccessful and emotional attempts to nurse), I decided to pump for my boy.

And I ended up pumping exclusively for him for 14 months!

You can read more about why I chose to do that HERE (as well as see some pretty funny photos of my family and me having a funeral for my pump once I finally stopped).

I got pretty good at pumping after all that time and thought I would share some things I learned along the way in case you ever find yourself hooked to a Medela!

Diet/Lifestyle

  • If you’re going to nurse or pump, you’ve got to drink a TON of water to keep up your supply.  Buy cute straws – it makes drinking water a lot more fun.  I kept a glass of water next to my pumping chair at all times.

  • Eat a healthy diet.  Take advantage of all that awesome food people are bringing you and your newborn.  Do not worry your pretty little head off about losing baby weight.  God made it so that your body burns a ton of calories when it is busy producing milk all day.  But you need to balance that burn with enough calories in your diet so that your body doesn’t start eating away at your own reserves – eek!
  • Eat oatmeal.  If my supply ever dipped, I went to Starbucks and got myself a cup of their Perfect Oatmeal – it is perfectly named, in my opinion. 🙂 Or, I simply made some of the old-fashioned kind (not instant) at home.  I also ate a lot of THIS KIND of granola.  I honestly don’t know the science behind this little bit, but it always seemed to help my supply get back on track.
  • SLEEP.  I know it’s hard to do this with a newborn in the house, but if you have an opportunity to sleep, do it.  Seriously, nobody cares if you haven’t vacuumed in 4 months.  You need your rest.  I read somewhere that your body actually needs at least 3-4 hours of sleep in order to produce milk.  And if you can’t get that much, ask your Happy Hubby to help.  And if you’re still struggling to find a few hours of shuteye, call a friend for help.  Your whole Happy Home’s sanity depends on it.
  • Stress effects your milk production.  This one is easier said than done.  I set up a nice, cozy chair in our living room as my pumping chair.  I tried to do most of my pumping there because it helped me to relax, but that was not always realistic, so on the times when I had to pump while at the dinner table (yes, I did that) trying to wrestle broccoli into my crazy 3-year-old, you can bet I didn’t produce as much milk.  But I produced awesome amounts if I sat with my computer open to Pinterest. 🙂  Another good tip is to pump with a photo of your baby in front of you (or better yet – at crib side).  My precious mom framed a photo of the Happy Baby and brought it to me in the hospital the day after he was born.
  • Don’t wear tight-fitting bras, certain underwire bras, or super supportive sports bras.  I had this one tank top that was really fitted around the chest area.  It took me awhile, but one day I finally made the connection that whenever I wore that tank top, my milk supply went down.  The same thing happened if I spent an extended amount of time in a tight sports bra.  I really loved wearingTHIS BRA at night.
  • Keep off your tummy!  If you thought just because your baby’s out of the way that you can go back to stomach sleeping – think again {so sorry!!!}.  This type of pressure on your breasts all night long can also effect/slow down milk production.
  • Check out THIS ARTICLE for other hidden hindrances to a healthy milk supply.

Pumping

  • If you are going to exclusively pump, you will need to buy an AWESOME pump.  They are expensive, but just think of the radical amounts of money you are saving in the long run by not having to buy formula (I have even heard of some health insurances that will actually cover a pump purchase, so check that out for sure!!!).  I have the sweetest, most generous friends who knew my pumping predicament and bought me THIS PUMP (1) while we were in the hospital.  I loved its size – perfect for on-the-go.  You can’t get away from the obnoxious woh-woh-woh-ing sound, but if you hide the mechanism under a pillow it helps.  My 3-year-old got pretty good at mimicking the sound and I would hear him doing it in his room at night while trying to fall asleep.  Ha!
  • After about 7 months of using that pump, the mechanism started to make funny sounds and occasionally would spontaneously shut off mid-pump session.  As soon as this started happening, I called Medela (you can get their info HERE) and they sent me shipping labels to send them my old pump and they overnighted me a new pump.  All free.  It was awesome.
  • If you want to establish a good supply, you will need to pump every 2-3 hours for the first 3 months – even through the night.  I know this sounds crazy, but it was a really important key to my success.  Plus, when you think about it, this is usually how a baby would be nursing during that time.  Once I got past the first 3 months, I was able to slack off a bit and let myself skip a pump or stretch some to 4 hours between pumps.  At night my routine eventually became pump at 9 pm, skip the midnight pump, then wake up at 3 am to pump.  I kept pumping at 3 am even after the Happy Baby was sleeping through the night because it is a really important pump.  Your body produces the most milk between the hours of 1-5 am, so try to pump in that window, if you can!  (I once fell asleep while pumping and woke up to a lap covered in milk.  Not kidding.)
  • The nurse I had in the hospital told me to pump for 30 minutes.  So that is what I did.  And it was LUDICROUS.  I literally spent 4 hours of my day pumping.  I later found out that 15-20 minutes is actually what is recommended/necessary for pumpers.  That is much more realistic with a busy mom’s schedule!
  • Pump for an extra 5 minutes after your milk stops flowing.  This will elicit a second let-down and tell your body to produce more milk.  Sometimes I would have 2 or even 3 let-downs in a pumping session.  At my peak, I was producing about 16+ oz of milk per session.  But once my supply evened out (after about 7 months) my average was about 7 oz per session (10-12 oz at 3 am since that was my longest stretch) – which was just what the Happy Baby needed.  If you are concerned about your milk supply, read THIS ARTICLE and if you want to understand what is normal when it comes to pumping output, please read THIS ARTICLE.  I also think that THIS ARTICLE has helpful tips for increasing your milk supply.
  • When you’re done, wait 1 minute after milk stops flowing so that it is good and empty.  You DO NOT want a clogged duct or mastitis – take it from me.  NOTE – If you’re reading this post and do happen to have the ‘m’ word (ouch, I am SO SORRY, sistah!), check out THIS ARTICLE.
  • Massage your tatas while pumping.  This really helped to stimulate let-down and milk production.  Sometimes even just shifting my position in my chair would help me produce more milk.  Squeeze those things like lemons, ladies!  Also, if I was really having a hard time getting another let-down, I would increase/decrease the suction setting for a few minutes to stimulate it before going back to the setting I was most comfortable with.  NOTE – Setting your pump to the highest suction does not always guarantee more milk (as one would think).  What it does guarantee, however, is a blood blister on your nipple.  I am not even kidding about that. #speakingfromexperience
  • You will get awesome at pumping in random places.  I pumped in public restrooms (ick), closets, on the floor while playing with my 3-year-old, in the car coming home from date nights, in the first aid station at Disney World, and I even got to be a pro at pumping while driving (you can buy one of those awesome hands-free pumping bras HERE to help with this.  I always got a giggle out of wondering what an officer might think if I ever got pulled over while I was hooked up to my pump.  I am also sure I made many a truckers’ day – or scarred them for life – when they drove past me).

pumping accessoriesCleaning/Storage

  • You will probably go a little nuts at the absurd amount of cleaning that happens for the exclusive pumper.  Just getting that out there now. 🙂
  • If you can, invest in a few sets of pump parts so that you can alternate and not have to clean as often.
  • Here is a neat trick that another pumping friend shared with me that she was tipped from a gal in the La Leche League – place your pump parts in a Ziplock bag after rinsing with hot water and then put it in the fridge between pumps.  You only have to wash the parts once a day if you do this.
  • I had a system where I kept a big bowl by the sink that I filled with hot, soapy water and tossed my parts in it after pumping and rinsing them.  I also had a big bowl that I used for cleaning the bottles (I use Dr. Brown bottles).  NOTE – I noticed that if I used colored/scented dish soap, my pump parts started to smell like it (which I naturally assumed might alter the breast milk’s taste), so I began buying dish soap that was free and clear of fragrances/dyes.
  • You will want to buy a cute drying rack to help ease the pain of all the cleaning.  I used THIS ONE (2).  NOTE – Your pump parts need to be completely dry before you put them back together and use them again.  If they are still wet it messes with their performance.
  • You will also want to buy a cute bag for your pump whenever you need to go out with it (which will be always).  The cuter the better.  This will help you feel better about having to take it with you everywhere.  I had an adorable personalized bag from thirty-one (3) that worked great.
  • You will love these quick clean micro-steam bags from Medela HERE (4).  NOTE – If you are using the Medela Freestyle Pump, do NOT put the backs caps in these bags (these are the clear plastic parts that clip over the membranes to the breast shield bodies) as I found that it causes them to warp and disrupts good suction when connected to the pump.
  • You will also love these quick clean breast pump and accessory wipes found HERE (5).  I kept a thing of these in my traveling pump bag at all times.
  • DO NOT SHAKE BREAST MILK.  I read somewhere that it damages the breast milk’s composition.  If you are using a bottle of breast milk from the fridge where the fat has separated and is clinging to the side of the bottle, in order to remix the fat you will need to gently swirl the bottle around until the fat has come off.  I hope that makes sense!
  • Breast milk storage guidelines – go HERE.  For me, one of the most convenient things about breast milk is that it lasts for at least 4-6 hours at room temperature.  A nurse friend of mine said that she heard that it’s good up to 10 hours!!  I loved that I could pump, put the milk in a bottle and head out without having to put it on ice.  I also loved that I could pump at 9 pm and leave the bottle out until the Happy Baby woke up a few hours later and I didn’t have to spend time in the middle of the night trying to warm it up (the Happy Baby does NOT like cold bottles).  It was all ready!  NOTE – Even with these guidelines, I still took care to SMELL the breast milk if it had been sitting out for a few hours.  Breast milk does not have a smell, so if it didn’t smell like anything, I knew we were good to go.  You will know if it’s gone bad.  Trust me.
  • Call me crazy, but I never froze my breast milk.  I always tried to give the Happy Baby fresh, or something that I had pumped a day or two before and put in the fridge using one of these containers.  One major reason for this is because I literally cannot even remember to take meat out of the freezer in time to thaw and prepare.  I simply didn’t trust myself!  So if my milk ever went into the freezer, it never came back out.  This site and this site have some good storing and freezing tips.  **And this lady has some excellent advice on building up a breast milk freezer stash as well as a whole pumping series that I found INCREDIBLY helpful!**
  • I also created a whole Pinterest board for pumping information and articles HERE.
  • When you are ready to stop pumping, slowly start cutting back the amount of time you pump.  Then you can gradually start dropping pumps.  The first pump I dropped was that 3 am one.  Holy cow was I doing a happy dance when I got to sleep through the night for the first time in a year!  My body was so thankful it didn’t even make me get up to pee – practically a miracle!  Next to go are your mid-day pumps.  Your morning and night pumps will be the last to go.  I stopped pumping rather abruptly.  One night I just said, “That’s it!” and I put it away.  I was down to pumping twice a day before that point, so for the next 5 days I was walking around with the greatest breasts ever.  I was all like, “Move over, Dolly Parton.”  My girls finally started to settle after the 7th day of burying my pump.  And now I do not even know where my boobs went.

exclusive pumping tips and tricks at happyhomefairy.com

You will get in your own rhythm and groove if you stick with it!

If you have any questions for me, feel free to comment below.  Or if you want to toot your own horn about how much milk you are producing – join the convo! 🙂  Also, if you simply want some encouragement to keep on pumping, I’d love to cheer you on!

But, as always, before you make a huge commitment like this, please make sure that you consult God and your husband first.  Marriage always needs to remain a top priority, ladies.  Sometimes I think the whole societal push to breastfeed/pump can cloud our judgement in this area and we end up neglecting our sweet men in our efforts to ‘do what’s best’.  So make sure you are doing the right thing for the entire family.  And the second things start getting stressful and you want to throw your pump in a canal or you’re exhausted or you haven’t made dinner for your family in weeks or you find yourself saying no a lot to playing with your older children because you have to pump or your intimate life with your husband is no longer existent – re-evaluate.

In the end God’s not going to ask you how long you pumped (or even if you pumped) for your baby.

What matters is how you reflected His love and joy and peace and patience in your Happy Home. 🙂

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