Breast pumping is a new experience for many moms with a newborn who already have a lot on their plates. At Pumps for Mom, we want to serve as a resource for all things pumping. We offer guidance throughout the process of getting a free breast pump through insurance, and our blog features helpful information on pumping. Here’s a quick, all-in-one guide for your most pressing breast pumping questions.
Below, find more information about topics like:
- Benefits of Breast Pumping
- How to Choose a Breast Pump
- How to Use a Breast Pump
- Our Top 30 Tips for Pumping Moms
- What to Eat and Drink While Breastfeeding
- Frequently Asked Questions
Benefits of Breast Pumping
Before we get into breast pumping tips, we have one overarching recommendation: try breast pumping! If you’re breastfeeding, it’s a great way to keep the milk flowing and store extra milk. Pumping helps you express milk on your own time while ensuring that your baby has the nutritious food you want for them. It’s also an excellent alternative for moms who want to breastfeed but have difficulty latching.
Breast pumping allows moms to be more active, whether that means going out, traveling, or returning to work. Pumping also helps when a partner or another caretaker needs to feed your baby, as you don’t need to be present. Finally, it allows you to build a supply in case of emergencies.
How to Choose a Breast Pump
When it comes to choosing a breast pump, it’s all about personal preference. You can’t go wrong with the most highly-rated pumps on the market. You’ll want to find the right pump that ensures a comfortable, successful experience. Below are some of the top qualities to consider when choosing a pump.
Electric vs. Manual
Electric pumps are commonly used today due to their strength and convenience. They allow moms to pump without holding the device the entire time. Without insurance, though, they are often more expensive than manual pumps. Manual pumps still get the job done efficiently and are easy to tote around, though they require you to hold the pump and operate it with your hands. We recommend the Lansinoh Smartpump 2.0 Deluxe for a classic electric pump or the Medela Harmony Hand Pump.
Hospital-grade breast pumps are usually only covered by insurance with notable exceptions, like if your regular pump doesn’t do the trick. They are often only available as rentals. Many pumps on the market offer “hospital-strength performance,” meaning they operate at more intense levels that make for more efficient pumping.
If you’re an active mom always on the go, you’ll want a pump with a rechargeable battery and lightweight design that can be carried anywhere. Fortunately, this is a standard feature in many pumps, offering improved mobility for the modern mom.
Closed- or Open-System
A closed-system breast pump provides a milk barrier that keeps it from overflowing, which ensures hygiene is kept intact. Closed systems also allow you to pump comfortably and involve less tubing cleaning. This being said, there’s nothing wrong with an open-system pump, and you should choose based on your needs.
How to Use a Breast Pump
Many moms don’t face this one question until they have a pump in hand: “How do I actually use the pump?” While it depends on your specific pump, we have a few helpful tips on using both electric and manual pumps below.
The first step with any pump is to ensure the pump and your hands are adequately washed. From there, assemble the pump according to the specific directions. Position the breast shields over your breast with the nipple at the center. Try to relax as you turn on the pump, increasing intensity until you find a comfortable setting. After use, clean your pump parts again.
Just like with the electric pump, always wash your hands before using a manual breast pump. Gently massage each breast, squeezing and pulling it out, before centering the nipple in the pump flange. Pump the handle to mimic your baby’s natural suckling and repeat as necessary on both breasts. As always, wash your pump after use.
Thirty Breast Pumping Tips from Pumps for Mom
One of the most effective ways to produce the most milk for your baby isn’t super technical, but it can be difficult. Try to relax! We recommend sitting in a comfortable position while looking at pictures of your baby or perhaps smelling a piece of their clothing. Make sure you’re warm, not distracted by too many stimuli, and physically trying to relax your shoulders and breasts. The more you can wind down, the more your letdown will flow freely.
Pump Often and Effectively
Frequent pumping encourages more breast milk flow by stimulating your breast, plus it provides as many opportunities to feed your child as needed. Moms with newborns should try and pump every two or three hours, though that frequency tends to decrease as the child gets older. Cluster pumping is a technique that entails pumping quickly every five minutes for maximum production and flow.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Breastfeeding mothers need about sixteen cups of water to stay extra hydrated for their baby. Extra water is needed since so much comes out through the milk release. It’s helpful to drink a large glass of water every time you breastfeed to stay hydrated.
In addition to drinking fluids, eat plenty of protein, fruits, and vegetables while breastfeeding to ensure that your milk is packed with the nutrients it needs to sustain your little one. You’ll also want to eat more calories while breastfeeding. Light to moderate exercise is also recommended, though it’s important not to overdo it right after giving birth. Stay healthy, eat many nutrient-rich foods, get your rest (easier said than done with a newborn), and drink up.
Stock Up on Milk Supply
You can prepare and stock up on milk supply in advance if you have plenty to pump out. It’s safe to keep extra breast milk in the refrigerator for up to four days before freezing it. If you’re exclusively pumping, switch between breasts during a session to stock up.
Pump While Breastfeeding
Switching between pumping and breastfeeding is natural. If you want to breastfeed but haven’t considered pumping, know that it can increase your milk output, provide backup options, and help with discomfort by clearing out your milk ducts.
Have Extra Equipment on Hand
While not necessary, having extra equipment around will help you in case of emergencies or if you want to switch things up. It will be much less stressful if you prepare from the start. In addition to backup or replacement parts, you can also shop with Pumps for Mom for accessories like storage bags or collection cups to make the entire experience more manageable. Some moms even like to try out different pumps or switch between electric and manual.
Establish a Routine
Breastfeeding typically starts off “on-demand,” meaning it needs to be done every few hours following your baby’s hunger pattern. However, as your baby gets older, you can likely establish a more predictable schedule. Starting a routine may take around four to six weeks. It depends on the individual, and babies who are more sensitive to timely feeding tend to show signs early on. Some babies tend to have a less rhythmic schedule throughout the breastfeeding period.
Pump with Both Breasts Simultaneously
Try pumping with both breasts simultaneously about a half-hour after breastfeeding sessions to help increase milk supply. Double pumping can lead to more milk produced at higher volumes and a higher fat content, which can be helpful for babies who need additional energy to grow. Double pumping also saves time since you can produce more milk in one sitting.
Along the same lines as setting a routine, it is also helpful to schedule your pumping sessions. You’ll want to pump between eight and ten times a day on average. If you’re mostly breastfeeding, pump 30-60 minutes after nursing. Otherwise, stick to pumping about every one to three hours. In a typical session, pump at least 20-30 minutes at a time.
If you’re able to breastfeed in addition to pumping, do it often in the same vein as constantly pumping to keep the milk flowing.
Practice Good Hygiene
While breastfeeding, keep up with your regular hygiene routine to stay clean. Some additional tips include rubbing a small amount of breastmilk into your nipples and allowing it to air dry, keeping nipples dry otherwise, changing breast pads often if you use them, and wearing breathable fabric like cotton. Also, make sure to wash your hands often.
It may take some adjusting to get used to breastfeeding, but don’t get discouraged! Sit or lay down with pillows to support your back as you pump and move your baby around to get a feel for what works for the two of you. Try a comfortable nursing bra, stay hydrated, and keep your skin soothed and clean.
Get Your Pump Early
To help soothe any stress, get your pump during pregnancy to ensure it arrives before your baby does. On average, most moms order a breast pump around the 30-week mark. It can be a lengthy process, especially if you need a prescription to receive a breast pump through insurance, so we recommend you start looking into getting your pump before the third trimester.
Try Out a Manual Pump
While electric breast pumps may seem like the most efficient and comfortable way to pump, some moms swear by manual pumps. Some say they get more milk out of their manual pump. If anything, it’s easy to use and carry around, so it’s not a bad idea to have one on hand for emergencies. If you’re paying out of pocket, manual pumps are usually cheaper than electric ones, so that’s another pro.
Use Flanges that Fit
You’ll want to pump with a correctly-sized flange to avoid any issues. Milk can escape, or nipple damage can occur with an improperly-sized breast flange. If you are experiencing any pain, too much tissue is filling the breast pump tunnel, or if your nipple is not centered in the flange, your flange may not be the correct size.
Clean Your Pump Parts
To keep your milk sanitary, thoroughly wash your breast pump parts by simply using dishwashing soap or putting dishwasher-safe parts in a dishwasher. Use hot water and a heated drying cycle or sanitizing setting to keep your pump germ-free.
Try a Pumping Bra
Hands-free pumping bras come with openings where you can conceal your breast flanges. These openings allow hands-free pumping with the pump sitting comfortably in the bra.
Try Nipple Cream
Breast pumping should not hurt! If it does, something is potentially wrong. However, if your nipples are swollen, dry, or sore, you might want to try nipple cream. Nipple cream will help heal your nipples and keep them healthy while pumping away.
Massage Your Breasts
Massaging your breasts will help with milk release and flow. Relaxation is a major key for breast pumping, and massaging helps you sit back comfortably. Plus, it stimulates milk production and makes it easier to pump.
Drive and Pump
As long as you can safely do so, pumping while driving is an effective way to take care of your milk on the move. You’ll need an electric breast pump since a manual pump would require you to take your hands off the wheel. We recommend placing the pump on the passenger’s seat, wearing a pumping bra, and keeping your cupholders empty for bottle placement.
Storing breast milk is a great way to pump on your schedule and keep your baby fed. It will only last a few days in the refrigerator, but freezing your milk is a longer-lasting option. Use storage bags specifically for breast milk or food-grade containers to keep your milk safe in the freezer. Label the milk, store it in small amounts, and leave some room at the top since breast milk expands. It should last between six and twelve months.
Find the Right Breast Pump
An essential part of pumping is finding the right breast pump for you. At Pumps for Mom, we offer various pumps, from hospital-strength electric ones to manual ones. They come in different shapes and sizes, with multiple features and settings. Some moms may love a pump for its small size or powerful pumping capabilities. It’s okay if you need to try a few to find the right pump, but we recommend doing your research first and asking your doctor or our Pumps for Mom experts any questions you have!
Read the Instructions
Nobody expects you to know how to pump right away, but trial and error may lead to frustration. Fortunately, though it may take a few tries and is different for everyone, the pumping process is pretty straightforward! Read the instructions specific to your pump to ensure that you use it correctly and avoid any pain or lost milk.
Set Realistic Goals
Getting used to breast pumping and breastfeeding can be difficult. The best approach is to set small, realistic goals. Celebrate regularly, stay positive, and don’t compare yourself to others. Remember you are pumping to give your baby healthy breast milk. Keep your head up—you got this, mama!
See a Lactation Consultant
Lactation consultants are helpful for breastfeeding moms. Even if you’re exclusively pumping, you aren’t on your own. Lactation consultants can help guide you through discomfort, clogs, and maximizing your supply.
Try Power Pumping
Power pumping is a great way to stimulate your milk production. Power pumping mimics cluster feeding, meaning that you pump on and off every few minutes. The constant pumping will indicate to the breast that it’s time for milk expression, and it helps if you need something to jumpstart your milk release. Check out our blog on power pumping to learn more.
Use a Pumping App
Many popular breast pump brands have released apps compatible with their pumps. They often include features like tracking your pumping or looking up information relevant to your specific pump. You can also constantly note things such as the duration of pumping or pain levels.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
One of our biggest tips is to not be too hard on yourself! Breast pumping, like breastfeeding, is different for everyone, and it can take a while to get the hang of it. The most important thing to keep in mind is trying your best to keep your baby healthy. Stay positive, and remember that there are always alternatives if pumping isn’t suitable for you.
Get a Free Breast Pump through Insurance at Pumps for Mom
One last tip is to see if you qualify for a free breast pump through insurance! Most insurance plans include breast pump coverage due to the Affordable Care Act, but we at Pumps for Mom can help you make sure you have all the information you need. We’ll guide you through the process.
What to Eat and Drink While Breastfeeding
We’ve covered this topic before on our blog. To keep it all in the same guide, though, and make it easier for you to get all your breast pump advice in one place, we wanted to include some tips here on what to eat and drink while breastfeeding/pumping.
Nutritious food is the best way to go when breast pumping. Eat plenty of protein, fruits, and vegetables. Remember that you need a lot of nutrients, and don’t settle for less food by trying to lose baby weight too quickly—in fact, you need to eat more calories during this stage!
As far as fluids, try to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated while breastfeeding. While you can drink caffeine, it’s advisable to drink less while breast pumping, as it gets in your breast milk. And some alcohol is okay, though some moms choose not to drink while breastfeeding or pumping. In every case, make sure to check with your health care provider to go over the best diet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Our site lists the questions moms frequently ask about using Pumps for Mom as a breast pump provider. Below, however, we feature the questions that moms often have about the actual pumping experience. Read on to learn the answers to some breast-pumping uncertainties you may have.
When is the right time to start pumping?
There isn’t a “right” time, especially if you have other methods of milk supply. Many moms start pumping directly after their baby is born to help increase milk supply and stock up on milk. Some breastfeeding moms prefer to wait and get their baby accustomed to breastfeeding first. Waiting too long might hinder moms from returning to work or cause bodily confusion when responding to the pump. Overall, the best advice we have is to start pumping soon after your baby is born, but don’t sweat it if you aren’t getting the hang of it right away.
How long is the average breast-pumping journey?
While every mom is different, many moms who breastfeed do so exclusively for six months and then introduce other foods while breastfeeding for up to two years. The same goes for pumping.
How do I store breast milk?
If you need to leave your breast milk out at room temperature, it will last up to four hours. Breast milk stored in the refrigerator will last for a few days at a time. The sooner you can freeze it, the better, and it can stay in the freezer for a recommended time of six months. In cases where you need to use ice packs, milk can last for up to 24 hours.
Is it okay to go with a used breast pump?
While many hospital-grade pumps are approved to be used by multiple mothers after proper clearing, we generally recommend getting a new pump. Pumps need to be incredibly sanitary to ensure healthy milk for your baby, so it helps to know exactly where the pump came from and that it’s immaculate upon arrival.
How long should each pumping session take?
Breast pumping sessions depend on how you are trying to pump and if you are power pumping to stimulate expression. Typically a session lasts about 15-20 minutes, but it may take 30-40 minutes every few hours.
How do I keep my breast pump clean?
There are several steps to take to ensure that your pump and milk remain clean. The first thing you need to do is store milk safely. After that, take apart your pump and rinse thoroughly. Either wash it in a basin by hand with soap or add it to the dishwasher if the manufacturer instructions say it is safe to do so.
What should I pack in a breast pump bag?
Some breast pumps come with accessory bags, which is excellent! You may choose a pump that does not come equipped with a bag, though, or you may want to add in a few items into your pump bag. We recommend spare parts, a photo or clothing from your baby (reminders increase stimulation), a washcloth, a pumping bra, an extra shirt, and something to cover bottles (such as baby socks).
We went over a lot of information here! We hope this helps you get started on your breast pumping journey, but if you have any more questions about pumping, please reach out to our team at Pumps for Mom. And if you’re interested in qualifying for a free breast pump through insurance now, simply fill out our online form to get started.