Exclusive pumping is a lot of work! Aside from the actual pumping itself, it involves preparing bottles, bottle feeding your baby, washing bottles and pump parts, trying to make sure you don’t get clogged ducts or mastitis, and managing your stash of expressed breast milk. Below are seven things that you can do to make life as an exclusive pumper more manageable, and make pumping easier.
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7 Ways to Make Pumping Easier
Here’s what you need to do to make life as a pumping mom less stressful.
1. Go Hands-Free
This is absolutely the most important thing. If you’re going to be spending two hours per day tied to the pump, you need to be able to do other things at the same time, whether that’s giving your baby a bottle of milk, working on your laptop, reading a book, or playing with your phone.
2. Don’t Be Constantly Washing Pump Parts
In between sessions, some people put their pump parts in a gallon-size zip-top bag in the fridge, and just wash them every few sessions. This is known as the “fridge hack,” and I often did this. However, in September 2017, the CDC issued new guidelines recommending pump parts be washed after each use. Here is my take and more information on how to follow this recommendation more easily.
If you want to follow the CDC recommendations, I would definitely suggest buying extra sets of pump parts. This way you can use clean parts whenever you need them and then wash everything in one big batch. Also, they don’t always work well when they are wet, so having multiple sets allows the parts time to air dry after washing.
Finally, if you have a partner, enlist them to help with the washing! For a long time, I considered the pump and everything that went with it “my thing.” Eventually I realized that since I was doing all of the work making the milk, he could help out by washing everything. (After all – you made the baby’s dinner, so he or she should do the dishes, right?)
3. Pump into the Bottles That Your Baby Drinks out of
If you can, pump into the bottles that your baby will drink out out of – it saves so much time in terms of transferring milk and washing two sets of bottles. If your baby won’t take the bottles that come with your pump, see if you can attach the bottles he or she likes to the it – you might be surprised. Dr Brown’s bottles will screw into the Medela pump parts, for example.
If that doesn’t work, keep trying the bottles that came with your pump every couple of weeks. Babies change all of the time, and you never know when they will surprise you!
You should also make sure that you have plenty of bottles – I would aim for twice as many bottles as your baby drinks in a day. That way you have plenty to store in the fridge, plenty to pump into, and you can wash them at all once.
4. Set Up a Pumping Station
I commandeered a corner of the couch and side table as my pumping station. There I had my pump (plugged into an easily accessible outlet), hands-free bra, baby blanket to put on my lap (in case of spills), laptop or iPad, phone charger, TV remote, glass of water, and (when my baby was younger) a bouncy seat that I could bounce with my feet while I pumped.
When it was time to pump, all I needed to do is get my parts and grab a few bottles. That way, I didn’t get all hooked up and then realize that the remote is on the other side of the room and also, I’m really thirsty.
5. Get Comfortable with Pumping on the Go
One thing that is challenging about exclusive pumping is that you can’t just leave the house without a plan for how and when you’re going to get your next session in. You either need to be careful to get home in enough time that you won’t get uncomfortable or you need to be able to pump on the go.
6. Make Everything Routine
One of the best ways to make exclusively pumping easier is to get into a routine and to have a system in place for things like getting the bottles washed or freezing your milk. This allows you do to things on autopilot rather than constantly having to juggle your to-do list in your (sleep-deprived) brain.
For every task that you need to do on a regular basis, figure out the easiest way for you to do it given everything else in your life. For example, a routine for managing bottles might be that you wash all of your dirty bottles and pump parts during your baby’s morning nap. A system for freezing breast milk might be that you freeze whatever extra milk you have on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so you don’t have to worry you’ll leave a random bottle in the fridge for too long.
Figure out what works for you, and then make it a routine.
7. Have a Back Up Plan
It’s the absolute worst when you sit down to pump at work and then find out that you forgot a crucial part at home. Or when you realize that you left your charger in a hotel, and now you have a day of travel and no way to pump.
It’s a good idea to have a back up plan. A few examples of things that you can do are to learn hand expression (there are videos on YouTube that can help), to keep extra sets of parts at work or wherever you might need them, or have a manual pump in your bag.
Once I figured these things out, life became a lot easier for me! If you have other tips, share them in the comments!