Are you planning to pump breastmilk after your baby is born? What should you do to prepare for pumping while you’re still pregnant, and what can wait? Here are seven things that I wish I had done to prepare for breast pumping before I had my first baby!
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1) Get a breast pump
Obviously, the first thing that you need to do is get a breast pump!
If you live in the United States and have health insurance, you should be entitled to one breast pump per pregnancy at no cost.
I thought that dealing with my health insurance to get a breast pump would be a giant hassle with a lot of red tape, but the process is actually super easy! You don’t even have to talk to your insurance company at all. In most cases, you can just work directly with a medical device company.
With Aeroflow Breastpumps, all you need to do is fill out a short form, and they will do everything else – find out what you’re eligible for, contact your doctor, and send you the pump. Super easy.
All you have to do is pick out the pump. So which pump should you get?
It obviously depends on what your options are. Here are a few posts I’ve written that go into more detail on various options that might be helpful: Medela Pump in Style vs Spectra S2, Spectra S1 vs S2, Elvie vs Willow.
2) Learn how to use your breast pump
In some cases, your insurance company won’t provide you with your pump until after your baby is born. But if you do get your pump while you’re still pregnant, I would recommend doing a few things before your baby is born – especially if you haven’t used a breast pump before.
(I found trying to figure out how to use mine a little challenging in the newborn phase when I was running on two hours of sleep.)
Here’s what I would suggest doing. This should take no more than 15-30 minutes.
- Turn the pump on and off, and try putting it in different modes (letdown/massage and expression) and increasing the suction.
- Learn how to take all of your pump parts apart and put them back together. (For the first week I pumped, I didn’t know that you had to take them apart to wash them.)
- Sterilize your breast pump parts. There are a bunch of different ways you can do this – here is an overview.
Finally, if your pump has a rechargable battery, plug it in to charge.
Now you’re all set!
3) Get a few pumping accessories
In addition to your pump, there are a few other things that I would get for pumping before your baby is born.
(There is a ton of pumping gear out there that can be helpful and make your life easier, but most of it can wait until you actually start pumping and figure out what you need. This is what I would want to have on hand up front.)
- Wash basin – The CDC recommends washing breast pump parts and bottles in a dedicated wash basin rather than directly in a sink.
- An extra set of pump breast parts – Having a spare set can be really helpful if the set that came from your pump needs to be washed, or if you lose a piece
- Hands-free pumping bra – If you’re going to be spending any real amount of time pumping, being able to do other things while you pump is key! A hands-free pumping bra will hold your breast shields up so that you can do other things while you pump.
4) Invest in nursing tops
If you’re planning on breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to have a few nursing shirts on hand when you get home from the hospital so that you have easy access. Just a few t-shirts will work – you can wear a hoodie or sweater over them if it’s cold out.
If you’re not able to invest in nursing shirts, that’s totally fine. What I would recommend is doing the “two shirt method”, where you wear a tank top over a baggier normal shirt. Then, you lift the baggy shirt up and pull the tank top down when you need to pump or nurse.
This keeps your stomach covered but allows easy access.
5) Practice hand expression
Hand expression is a way of using your hands to express breast milk, rather than a baby or a breast pump. It is an extremely useful skill to have as a breastfeeding mom.
(Once, I forgot my charger in a hotel room and had to go 12 hours without a functioning pump while flying home. It was awful and knowing how to hand express – and not trying to learn while extremely stressed out – would have been super helpful.)
You can find videos that will show you how to do this on YouTube. Make sure to ask your provider first before practicing hand expression while pregnant. Nipple stimulation may induce labor in women at term.
6) Learn as much as you can about the first few weeks of breastfeeding
I struggled so much with breastfeeding in the first month or so of my first baby’s life. I stressed out over his weight loss, different nurses showed me how to latch my baby on in completely different ways, and it seemed to take forever for my milk to come in.
I also thought I was a total failure at nursing, when everything that was happening was actually not uncommon.
It’s a good idea to learn everything you can about what to do and what’s normal in those first few weeks. I’d recommend the following:
- If you plan to exclusively pump, check out this post on exclusively pumping from birth and Exclusive Pumping 101.
- If you plan to nurse and pump, consider taking the Ultimate Breastfeeding Milkology class, which will walk you through everything in about 90 minutes. (Use the code EPUMP10 for 10% off.)
7) Make a plan for getting help in case you need it
When I was flailing around trying to figure out breastfeeding, I spent a lot of time trying to find someone who could help in person via search engine. Again, on two hours sleep, I wasn’t at my best for trying to figure out what lactation consultant would take my insurance and whether or not a given one was close enough to a home visit.
I would suggest finding a few options and having the information written down before you give birth. A few ideas for how to do this:
- Ask the hospital you deliver at if there a lactation consultant or breastfeeding support group available for moms who deliver there.
- Find out from your insurance if there are any lactation consultants that take your insurance (you can usually log in and do a provider search).
- Look for breastfeeding clinics in your area (I went to one that was held once a week in a baby clothing store, for example).
Hopefully this helps you prepare for pumping while pregnant! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!