It's midnight, and everyone in my house is asleep except for me. I'm up, doing what I do every night around this time - pumping. I have got to give Exclusively Pumping moms a huge high five / round of applause / pat on the back, I don't know how you do it!
Even though I'm still exclusively breastfeeding H, I used to pump about 4 or 5 times a day after his nursing sessions and at night, but have now cut back to 1 - 2 times per day. I usually pump at least once in the morning and at night, a few hours after H has gone down for the day. I'm still dealing with an oversupply at almost 5 months, but have decided to take advantage of this so that I can continue donating breast milk to little babes and mamas in need. Right now in my deep freezer, I have well over 1,000 ounces of frozen milk, and that's after donating hundreds. Now that I feel more secure in mine and H's nursing relationship, it's easier to donate and not worry about my supply suddenly tanking. The following is a list of a few of my favorite things I've discovered through my J14 BFF mamas and others that make my pumping life easier!
- Lasinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy - around $13 on Amazon. These can be used hot or cold to help with clogged ducts, mastitis, or engorgement, and also help encourage let down faster while pumping, which means less time attached to the milk machine! These puppies go with me on every trip and definitely make a difference in my output and comfort while pumping. While I typically use them hot during pumping, they're also great cold for when your milk first comes in and you're dealing with engorgement. I heat them in the microwave according to the package directions, stick them in my hands free bra, and voila!
- Simple Wishes Hands Free Pumping Bra (or the D Lite version) - $35. The 2" Center Panel's dont come with the D Lite version, so I would definitely go with the standard because they are super awesome and helpful, especially if you have a bigger chest. I thought a hands free bra for pumping was ridiculous, but after the first week of pumping and trying to hold the shields on myself while caring for a month old babe, I decided to give in and have never looked back! While I don't look as glamorous as the women on the packaging do while wearing it, I am able to fold laundry, respond to emails, play with H, read, eat, etc while pumping, which makes it much more bearable when you're feeling like a sedentary cow for 20+ minutes.
- Up&Up 100ct Milk Storage Bags - about $16 at Target.com, but they are cheaper in store and you can use your RedCard to save an additional 5%, plus check your Cartwheel App. There are always extra savings to be found on Target's Up&Up brand, so I can usually pick these up for around $10-12, which is a great deal. I've also used the Nuk, Medela and Lasinoh bags, but these Target ones are the cheapest and my favorite so far! In second place are Lansinoh, and Nuk's are dead last - I can never seem to get all of the air bubbles out no matter what and they don't seem to lay as flat.
- Boon Grass Countertop Bottle Drying Rack - about $13 at Amazon, $15 at Nordstrom, $16 at Target. This was something else I initially thought was a silly purchase. I was going to be BFing H, so I didn't think we needed a bottle drying rack but again after a week or so I realized I needed something more than a dishtowel to dry all of my pump parts on to make sure they were drying properly. Plus, once your babe starts solids, you can use this to dry spoons, bowls, etc - it's super versatile (not to mention ridiculously cute and very modern) and you'd be surprised how many things you can fit on it's surface! This is #1 in baby bottle feeding accessories on Amazon, need I say more?
- Sit Back Breast Pump Shields from Pumpin' Pals - $30 for a set of 3 assorted sizes. Don't think, just click "order" - your back will thank you! Thanks to these puppies I don't have to lean forward to prevent milk from spilling. I'm able to sit back and relax (once again making the pumping more bearable) and with the angle of the Pumpin Pals shields every single precious drop is collected. Did you know that the "standard" size flange that you get with your pump fits such a small percentage of women - a fact not only my lactation consultant confirmed, but also the women I spoke to from the medical company... how does that make any sense? The biggest pro for me with ordering this is that you receive three pairs of different sized shields with the package, ensuring you get the perfect fit - fist bumps to Pumpin Pals for that smart idea. A proper fit will make all the difference, I know it did for me! You can either twist the PPs into your existing flanges, or replace them with these. Lactation consultants stress the importance of a good latch while nursing, and as an added bonus these shields emulate a proper latch which allows for less irritation and restrictions:
A few random tips:
I use the "let down" button several times during my 20+ minute sessions - whenever I feel like my milk flow is slowing down.
Massage your breasts! It's amazing how much more output I have when I massage, not to mention it also helps elicit a let down. So squeeze, compress, massage those tat as!
I would advise against turning the "volume" on your pump all the way up - the suction is much stronger and faster than what your babe would do if nursing, and you can actually end up giving yourself a plugged duct, blood blister,
Olive oil is a great option to prevent chafing while pumping, natural and antibiotic!
When using the Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 heating pads, put them on inside your bra at least five minutes before you start pumping.
I chug a glass of water about 10 - 15 minutes before I pump and try to down another while I'm pumping - this seems to give me extra ounces.
Make sure you have the correct size flanges! A proper fit will make for a much more comfortable pumping session and will be gentler on your nipples (because chapped / scabbed nipples are literally the worst ever).
These Medela quick clean steam bags are a great time saver (and help relieve some of the crazy amount of hand washing you'll be doing as a pumping mama).
Pump at night! Your prolactin levels are the highest between 1am and 5am, so take advantage of it! Pumping (or nursing) during this timeframe is awesome for your milk supply and I definitely always pumped noticeably more during these times - even right after nursing H!
Pump for 5 minutes after your milk flow stops to ensure you're empty. As my LC once told me - "your breasts are like an ice maker - if you only remove a few ice cubes from the ice maker in your freezer, the ice maker will work slowly to refill itself, however if you completely empty it, it will work over time to replenish itself". This is SO true for breastmilk as well. Also, emptying your breasts helps prevent clogged ducts and mastitis - not fun things to go through at all.
If you've pumped enough milk to have to switch bottles, make sure you mix them! Otherwise, you will most likely have one bottle with mostly fore milk and one bottle with mostly hind milk.
After you're done pumping, unhook yourself, but let your pump run with the tubing still attached after removing the connectors to clear out any condensation that may have collected. This will help prevent molding - no bueno.
Ask for help! "It takes a village" to raise a child, and how you feed your child deserves a village of support as well.
There are a million Facebook groups to be there for you in your breast feeding / exclusive pumping / nursing + pumping. Connecting online with other people who have been in your shoes and can provide you with empathetic support is amazing - especially when it's 3am and you're exhausted. My J14 family kept me sane at those early hours when all I wanted to do was cry and sleep because I was exhausted and my nipples hurt from all the cluster feeding and pumping combined.
Check with your delivering hospital / midwife. I actually met most of my friends from a Tuesday morning New Moms support group and Breastfeeding support group at the hospital where I had H! Both of the local hospitals had several groups that met, as did at least two of the local midwiferies. The Breastfeeding support group was especially helpful, as it was run by the hospital's lactation consultant, so it was like a half hour free consultation!
Check out the Happy Home Fairy and Bella Bama for great tips geared towards tips and tricks for Exclusive Pumpers as well!
Do you have any pumping tips & tricks you'd like to share? Let me know in the comments below!