When I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I took a class and researched and learned what I could so that I would have a positive experience. I didn’t even realize that exclusive pumping was a thing.
However, when she was born, I wasn’t quite prepared for how exhausted and run down I would be postpartum. I tried breastfeeding in the hospital and ended up supplementing with formula because she wasn’t latching and I was too tired to try.
Fast forward a little bit and we never ended up really breastfeeding, but I did end up pumping milk for her for about 4 months. This is when I learned what exclusive pumping was.
I feel like breastfeeding is talked about quite a bit but pumping isn’t talked about as often. That’s why today I wanted to share all the tips and tricks I learned on my pumping journey.
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Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and don’t claim to be one. The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The author does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any message and will not be held responsible for the content of any message. Always consult your personal physician for specific medical advice.
Products for Pumping
The most important thing is obviously your pump. I started out with an Ameda pump from my insurance and after a couple weeks I realized that it just wasn’t working out.
I did some research and heard about Spectra. People raved about how great it worked and it was also affordable. I ordered this one and I loved it.
Everyone’s body is going to respond differently to different pumps so you may have to try different things. I never tried a Medela pump but I’ve heard great things about them.
Your pump should come with tubing, flanges, duck bills, and bottles. Most will come with different size flanges and you need to use the right size, but we will talk more about that later on.
The Spectra comes with wide mouth bottles but you can buy adapters so that regular bottles fit on the Spectra parts.
If you are going to pump then you will obviously need bottles for your baby to drink from. We tried several different brands before we found one that Braelynn really liked.
We ended up going with Playtex bottles. I will say though that these were a pain to clean because there were a lot of parts to them.
You will also need bottles to pump into and most pumps or pump parts come with those.
To store breastmilk you will need breastmilk bags. I didn’t find that a certain brand was better than the other, I just used whatever was the cheapest or on sale.
You could also use glass bottles or mason jars to store your milk if you didn’t want to use plastic.
A tip that I’ve found for storing milk is to freeze it laying flat that way once it’s frozen you can store it in kind of a filing system. In order to do this we used a 12 pack soda box and just cut the top half off long ways and filed the milk in it so the oldest was in the front and got used first.
Some babies like cold milk, some like warm milk, and some just don’t care either way. Braelynn didn’t like ice cold milk but she could care less if it was warm or not.
We never used a bottle warmer, even though you could. We just took a glass and put hottish water in it and then stuck the bag of breastmilk in it and let it thaw and warm to room temperature.
You do not want to warm breastmilk or formula up in the microwave. It heats unevenly and could burn your baby’s mouth.
How often should I pump?
It is recommended at first to pump every 2-3 hours so that you establish a milk supply. You even need to pump in the middle of the night.
For the first 2 months I pumped every 3 hours, even at night. It was a pain but worth it in the end.
Then I went to pumping every 4 hours during the day and once at night and then I eventually just cut out the night session. Honestly, I probably shouldn’t have cut out the night sessions so early because my supply definitely went down when I did.
Once again, everyone is different and everyones body will respond differently so just play around and see what exclusive pumping schedule works best for you.
I’ve made a free printable pumping log that you can use to keep up with when you last pumped and how long. Check it out below!
How long should I pump?
This is going to be different for different people. Some people can pump for 10 minutes and be done, others need to pump for 30 minutes. You just have to figure out what time period works for your body. I would say you need to pump at least 15 minutes each time so that your body knows that you still need that much milk.
What are all those buttons on the pump?
On most pumps you can adjust the suctions strength and speed. At first you want to pump faster and not as strong so that you cause a let down.
After the milk starts flowing then you want to slow down the speed and up the strength.
While you’re pumping if you notice that the milk has stopped flowing then you can try for another let down. You would then speed it up and lessen the strength and then repeat the other part if the milk starts flowing again.
There are YouTube video tutorials out there for most pumps so if you are having trouble figuring out how to use your effectively then just hop on YouTube and type in the name of your pump.
Using the Right Pump Parts
So I mentioned earlier that you need to make sure you are using the right flange size. This is super important because using the right size is going to help you produce more milk.
Each flanges has a smaller or bigger hole. If you use one that is too big then it is pulling in too much of your nipple and will cause pain and not get good suction.
If you are using one that is too small then the pump can’t suction properly and thus won’t produce as much milk.
There are plenty of tutorials online about how to figure out what size works best for you. Just google it if you have questions!
Also you want to make sure that you duck bills are still in good shape. From time to time you have to change these out so that you continue to get good suction.
You want to make sure that there are no openings on the end of the bill. This causes less suction and thus can cause you to produce less.
Cleaning Pump Parts
You need to keep your pump parts clean obviously. There are also different opinions on how often you need to wash your parts.
I washed my breast pump parts after each pumping session. There are some people who say you can just put them in a bag and put them in the fridge and use them again without washing. I’m not sure how sanitary that it is though.
Also you are going to want to sanitize your parts every now and then. To do this you can boil the hard plastic parts or you can use the Medela sanitizing bags that go in the microwave.
I used the bags and loved them, it made it a whole lot easier and faster.
How to Increase Milk Supply
I feel like one of the most common questions when pumping is: How do I increase my milk supply while exclusively pumping?
RELATED: 6 Ways To Increase Milk Supply
I’m going to list some of the most frequently suggested things to help with milk supply and just a little bit about them.
This is when you pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10, pump for 10, rest for 10, pump 10. This is said to help increase milk supply because it imitates baby nursing and cluster feeding. The idea is that the more you demand milk from your breasts, the more they will make.
This is a little controversial. Some people say that fenugreek helps your supply and others say it hurts it. I didn’t notice a difference either way so you may just have to play around with this one.
Body Armor Drink/ Pink Drink from Starbucks
The secret to these drinks is the coconut milk/water. This is said to help increase your supply. They can also help keep you hydrated which also helps with supply.
This company has all kinds of supplements to help with your breastmilk supply. They even have one called Pump Princess that is for helping to increase supply when pumping. I’ve used several of these and liked them.
I got advice from a lactation consultant to use Fennel oil on my breasts (not on the nipple) after each pumping session. Fennel is said to help increase breast milk supply.
I know everyone has heard of this and some people rave about it. I never could get past the taste of it but it might be worth a try.
Coconut milk, Ovaltine, lactation cookies, etc.
There is so much information out there about breast pumping and it can definitely get overwhelming. Just remember that you know your body best and try not to get stressed as this can cause a drop in your supply.
Also lactation consultants are super helpful and can make sure that your pump flanges fit correctly. They can also recommend a better pump and supplements and things that might help you specifically.
It’s also important to remember that some women just don’t respond to a breast pump and won’t ever produce a lot of milk that way. Listen to your body!