Other than a breast pump – which is obviously the most important thing that you need as an exclusive pumper! – there are lots of accessories and gear that can make your life much, much easier. Here are my favorites.
1. A Hands-free Bra
I use an Easy Expressions Bustier, and I found it life-changing when I started using it for exclusive pumping. The bustier zips up in the middle and holds the breast shields in place so that your hands are free to work on your laptop, play with your baby, etc.
Originally, I bought the Freestyle intending to use its “system” (involving its nursing bra and a bunch of complicated hooks and stuff) for hands-free pumping, but I was so tired and out of it when I got home from the hospital that I couldn’t figure it out. (I don’t know about your mommy brain, but mine could not digest eight pages of instructions FOR A BRA. Ahem.)
As a result, I was spending every pumping session holding the breast shields in place until someone gave me one of these bustiers as a hand-me-down. It. was. awesome! I felt like I had so much time back, because I could multitask. I eventually bought a few more so that I could wash mine, and later so I could leave one at work. It is super easy to use and the three that I have have held up well for over three years (and counting) and three kids.
(Random tip: I don’t really care for having my belly exposed like the lady in the photo above, because I get cold. You can turn any shirt into a nursing shirt by wearing a tank top underneath it. Pull your shirt up, pull your tank top down, and zip the bustier under your shirt and over the tank top.)
Seriously, this is a life-changing purchase. I feel so strongly about it that it is my shower gift to any of my friends that plan to work and breastfeed. It is absolutely worth it if you plan to pump exclusively for any significant period of time.
2. Extra Sets of Pump Parts
I have at least four sets of pump parts. It’s so nice to have extra ones that you can just throw into your pump bag when you’re heading out an in a rush, and it’s easier to wash them all at once, batch-style, versus doing it constantly. Also, I like being able to allow the parts to air dry after I wash them (for some reason, wet pump parts don’t work as well for me).
3. Breast Pads
Breast pads can help with issues with leakage. In the first month or two after having a baby, many women have issues with random letdowns. Without breast pads to protect you, these letdowns give you the attractive look of two wet circles around your breasts.
(Once, shortly after I returned to work, my milk let down when I was out to lunch with my boss. No breast pads, of course. I claimed I was cold and put my coat on so he wouldn’t notice, and then I had to wear it the rest of the day. NEVER AGAIN.)
I have tried a couple different kinds of breast pads, and I prefer the Lasinoh ones (over Medela and cloth). I like the shape better and the double adhesive. I buy these using Amazon’s subscribe and save program (also great for diapers, wipes, and other baby stuff).
4. Extra Bottles (Lots of Extra Bottles!)
When you are exclusively pumping, you need a lot of bottles. If you can swing it, I would recommend buying twice as many as your baby drinks in a day. This gives you one set to use and one set to pump into, and you can do one big batch of bottles a day instead of constantly washing.
One key way to save time when you are exclusively pumping is to try to get your baby to drink out of the same bottles that you pump into. I got lucky and both of my little ones took Medela bottles. However, if yours won’t, try to find one that they will take AND you can pump into. For example, I had success with screwing Dr. Brown bottles that we got as a gift into the Freestyle pump parts. If your baby will only take a type of bottle that will not screw into the pump, then you’re out of luck – but it might be worth it to try again every now and then. Babies change really fast, and you never know!
If you’re having trouble getting your baby to take a bottle easily, one great option is the First Foods bottle pack – it has 5 different kinds of bottles, and once you figure out which one your baby likes, you can buy more of just that bottle (instead of wasting a ton of money on packs of bottles that it turns out your baby hates).
5. Breast Milk Freezer Bags
I highly recommend using the Lasinoh freezer bags. I’ve also used the Medela brand – initially, I thought it would be the best, since you can pump directly into the freezer bags using the adapter. However, the problem that I found with this is that when I poured thawed milk out of the bag, it would always spill out through the adapter hole if I wasn’t careful (and in my sleep deprived state, I forgot … a lot).
Lasinoh also has a lot more storage room in the bag, which becomes important later as babies get older and drink more milk at their “meals.” (The Medela bag stops at 5 ounces.) It’s easier and a timesaver to only have to defrost one bag of milk for a feeding.
6. Nursing (Pumping!) Cover
Even if you aren’t nursing, a nursing cover can come in really handy. In your case, it is a pumping cover! This allows you to pump in public and not be a slave to being home or pumping in a public restroom. I have pumped in a car, on a plane, in an airport gate, in a hospital waiting room, while playing poker (with a bunch of guys), etc., all while using a nursing cover. Other people can’t see anything (unless they are looking down on you), but you are able to see your pumping gear and make adjustments as needed.
I use the Bebe Au Lait cover. However, if you don’t want to spend the money for one, you can also get away with a big t-shirt or towel. It just depends on how often you need to pump out of the house and how long you think you will be exclusively pumping.
7. Other Little Things That Make a Big Difference
When you have to be out of the house for more than one pumping session, Medela Quick-Clean Wipes are perfect – you don’t have to find a place to wash and dry your pump parts. Just wipe them off and put them back in a ziploc bag until the next time.
If you like tea, nursing teas can be a big help in bringing/keeping up your supply. Normally I am not a tea person but Oat Mama’s Blueberry Pomegranate Lactation Tea is really good.
The guideline when you’ve been drinking is that if you’re okay to drive, you’re okay to breastfeed (and pump). Still, making the call on dumping your hard-pumped milk can be tough – Milkscreen can give you a more objective opinion on whether your milk if safe for your baby.
Before your nipples have “toughened up,” lanolin can help. You can also try olive oil.