A list of the best exclusive pumping tricks, tools, and resources to decrease stress, save time, and set you on track for a successful breastfeeding journey.
Okay, okay… major disclaimer here: This post is sooooo far out of the realm of DIY and home decorating. Like light years away kind of far out. So if that’s what you’re here for, feel free to ignore me today.
Because the ultimate goal of my blog is always to share in an effort to help others. I’ve truly felt in my heart for awhile now that I needed to share this part of my mothering journey for others who might be struggling.
Photo credit: Alisha Rudd Photography
A couple of months ago, while I was filming Instagram Stories, I realized on the playback that some of y’all could totally hear my breast pump in the background. Ha! Oops.
But it forced me to open up an entire conversation about the fact that I had to switch to exclusively pumping for little Regan after a month of breastfeeding struggles due to colic, acid reflux, and an undiscovered dairy intolerance.
At first, when I knew I had to admit defeat with breastfeeding, I felt like a failure. No matter how many times someone says to you “fed is best” (and it IS), that little voice in my head still gave me mom guilt.
With Olivia, we experienced issues after going back to work as a teacher and exclusively pumped until 6 months before switching to formula because I felt like I was totally losing my mind. But I think if I’d known some of my new tricks back then, I would have been less stressed.
(Some affiliate links are provided below. Full disclosure here.)
This time, I swore that I’d share exclusive pumping hacks with any of you fellow EP mamas out there one day, IF I ended up having more success this second go-round, and now that it looks like I’ll successfully hit the 1 year mark of breast milk provision coming up in a few weeks, I felt confident enough to share all of the tricks I’ve used to juggle an active, on-the-go baby while also occasionally traveling with the whole breast pump situation.
And I learned that I actually liked EPing better than breastfeeding in some cases because…
- I was able to let Robert or Olivia or grandparents bottle feed her (sometimes while I napped – woohoo!)
- I was able to see how much milk she was actually drinking and measure her intake.
- Traveling was a bit easier in some ways since bottle feeding in a car seat is less complicated than breastfeeding on the road.
- I was able to donate 1000 ounces to another baby in need. How rewarding is that?!
- I can stop early! Since I have at least a month’s worth of milk already stashed in the freezer, I’m able to stop pumping at the 11 month mark. Yay!
All that to say, EP mamas, stop beating yourself up, if you are. 😉
More disclaimer: I am not a doctor or lactation consultant, but the majority of this information came from lots of research and speaking with lactation consultants who guided me through my journey along with just good ol’ ingenuity out of desperation.
Exclusive Pumping Hacks that Work:
*FYI a list of my favorite tools and resources are all linked at the end of this post.
1. Set up a “cockpit” on the floor.
This was my setup during the first 6 months of Regan’s life before she became mobile and it worked perfectly!
- Sit on the floor with your breast pump (I preferred the Spectra) plugged into the wall.
- Use a hands-free pumping bra so that you can care for baby while you pump on the floor.
- Place a play mat, a Boppy pillow, and a portable changing pad with diapering supplies all in a row so that you can easily prop baby to bottle feed, and move him/her to the diaper pad or play mat as needed so that you can care for all of your baby’s needs without ever having to unhook yourself from your pump.
2. Time your pump sessions.
I hooked up my “cockpit” pump station every 2-3 hours, usually when Regan cried for a bottle so that I was producing as she was feeding to set up a schedule like breastfeeding would have (I started this after she stopped latching at 1 month).
After 3 months, once my supply was established, I could start dropping pump sessions, and at 6 months when she started sleeping through the night (after Taking Cara Babies‘s God-send of a sleeping course), I eliminated my nighttime sessions.
Here’s a resource (above) to help you with setting up a pumping schedule, depending on your baby’s age.
Sessions should be about 20 minutes long.
3. Store your pump parts in the fridge between use.
This one has been HUGE for saving time between pump sessions to wash parts.
I just washed them first thing in the morning and right before bed (if pumping at night in the first several months) and stored them in a gallon Ziploc bag in the fridge.
Buy an extra set of pump parts to keep one set at work and one set at home. *Sanitize parts every time if your baby is still a newborn and/or has immune issues though.
4. Use a car adapter for travel (or a cordless pump… more on that later).
When you have a long commute to work or have a long drive for a trip, get a car adapter for your pump and never look back.
That plus a hands-free pumping bra is worth every penny!
I did this for the first 6 months before switching to a cordless Willow pump for road trips (or for ducking into a nursing room at the airport before takeoff for air travel).
5. Invest in a cordless pump once baby is mobile.
I bought the Willow pump once Regan hit 6 months old and was on the verge of crawling. And while I do have a love/hate relationship with it, I’m pretty sure I would have given up EPing months ago without it.
- Easy to take anywhere and use without a power source.
- Makes chasing around the baby easier.
- Greatly increases my productivity level since I can do chores with it on.
- I feel much more independent and not like a helpless mama glued to a plugged-in machine.
- I can sleep during pump sessions!
- It increased my supply and made power pumping not so time-consuming. (Although I’ve heard the opposite from others so I think that’s different for everyone.)
- A little less comfortable than my Spectra pump.
- Not all that discreet – I look like Dolly Parton with this thing on.
- Wastes about half an ounce of milk when removing the bag.
- You have to remember to keep them charged which can create quite an issue when you’re desperate to pump and realize the batteries are dead.
- The app is glitchy sometimes.
- The bags are expensive at a whopping 50 cents each and only hold 4 ounces (which is roughly $1 – $2 per pumping session and that adds up).
Because of all of those cons, I only use it if I need to be mobile, I’m traveling, or in certain social settings. Otherwise, I still prefer my plug-in Spectra pump. BUT the Willow has definitely been great to have.
6. Hack your nighttime feedings.
This was always a struggle for us since running to the fridge at all hours of the night, spending 5 minutes warming up the bottle, and running it upstairs is quite a process every time the baby screams for a feeding.
But once I figured out this trick, it got way easier…
Keep a bottle of fresh pumped milk on your nightstand ready for when baby cries for it. Fresh milk can stay out at room temperature for up to 6 hours. (Regan always hated cold milk, so this hack was amazing once we discovered it.)
If you’re still pumping at night, it works out so that you don’t have to go back and forth to the fridge either. Just keep an empty clean bottle handy for your middle-of-the-night pump and go back to sleep. And if you are really desperate, you can sleep while pumping with the Willow. Woot!
7. Boosting supply.
Sticking to good pumping habits with a set schedule will help the most with supply, but if I ever got sick or dehydrated and my supply took a dip, this is what I used:
- Power pumping session – pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes
- Lactation Tea
And to prevent plugged milk ducts, I took Sunflower Lecithin when I felt one coming on.
My Favorite Exclusive Pumping Tools to Make the Job Easier:
- Spectra pump – This is the plug-in pump I used this time around and had much better output than with the Medela Pump-In-Style.
- Willow pump – It’s great when you have to be mobile, but I wouldn’t use this pump more than I have to due to cost for bags, some milk waste, and the app is glitchy sometimes.
- Lanolin – MUST have.
- Lansinoh storage bags – I’ve tried them all and these seem to have the fewest leak issues and store flat really well to maximize freezer space.
- Hands-free bra – I definitely never could have made it past a day without this.
- Car adapter – A definite if you plan to road trip or commute with your pump.
- Medela sterilizer bags – These were great when I was a teacher and had to sterilize pump parts with only access to a microwave in the break room.
- Manual pump – Keep one in your purse in case of emergency – like a power outage or if you forgot your electric pump. (Speaking from experience – not a fun situation.)
- Silverette cups – These are magic for healing blisters. After you finish BFing/EPing, send them back to the company to have them pressed into a silver necklace pendant to remember the infant years. So sweet!
- Fenugreek – This was my go-to if I ever had a supply dip (usually after getting a cold or illness).
- Lactation tea – If you can’t tolerate fenugreek, this is a great supply booster too.
- Water bottle – This one is perfect for keeping you on track with hydrating (even if you’re not EPing, actually.)
- Bamboobies – These pads are so much softer than any of the other brands.
- Sleeping bras – Tight, underwire nursing bras can contribute to blocked ducts and mastitis, so these have been my go-to for around the house. So comfy. And they’re pretty!
- Lansinoh 3-in-1 Breast Therapy – This was a life-saver whenever I experienced a blocked duct. Instant relief!
- A bottle cooler bag – Great for storing bottles on the go if you can’t stash them in a fridge right away.
- A cute tote bag – Not a must but just nice to have. If you have to buy a bag for your pump, might as well be a nice one that you’d be willing to use in the future after you’re past the pumping phase, right?
So that’s everything for a post I never thought I’d write. Haha!
But I truly hope it helps any of you who follow this little blog of mine and are in the same baby phase as I am. I know the struggle; I know how isolating and exhausting it can feel. And I’m here to tell you that you will make it!
And if you need to give your body a rest and find other ways to feed your baby with formula, there is absolutely zero shame in that. More than anything, your baby needs a healthy, happy mama.
If you want to see any of my past baby-related posts, you can see them all below. It’s hard to believe we’re only a few weeks of being out of the baby phase and onto the toddler chapter. How?!
- Regan’s Birth Story
- My Top Newborn Baby Essentials
- 30 Postpartum Recovery Must-Have Essentials
- Nursery Organization Tour
- Nursery Closet and Free Printable Closet Divider Set
- White Floral Nursery Makeover Reveal
- 20 Budget-Friendly Nursery Gliders
- 20 Cribs for a Small Budget
- My Maternity Must-Have Essentials Guide
- Bumpdate Confessions
Big hugs, moms! You’ve got this! But next time, I’m back to decorating or painting something. 😉 This mama needs her creative outlet.