With my first baby, breastfeeding was difficult. I found that using a pump was a great and workable alternative. I pumped for about six months, and with my second baby, I pumped for nearly sixteen months.  I thought I would write this blog post to share my experience and to encourage you to utilize pumping in any way it makes your life easier!

My first delivery was very rough.  I was left in a lot of pain, which lingered for months.  I was pretty uncomfortable, and often downright miserable, and without much available help, it was a frustrating time.  This of course included nursing.  I met with a lactation consultant in the hospital, and we decided to buy a breast pump, even if it was to use as a backup.  However, that turned into my only form of providing milk, because I was in too much pain and too scared to nurse again.

With my second baby, I had a c-section, and I was lucky that my milk came in quite quickly, to the disbelief of the nurses. I requested a hospital pump at the hospital and quickly fell into a routine.

So my first tip is – do what works for you.  I felt like I gave nursing a good try, and I just wasn’t in a good physical or emotional position to follow through.  Nursing may not work for everyone, and exclusive pumping may not either.  Consider a combination of things to find the best strategy.

Here are some more tips for pumping, especially if you are exclusively pumping:

Check with your insurance company. 

Things were different 7 years ago.  I paid for my pump in full, but you may be able to have assistance from your insurance company, which can be a big chunk of money.

Learn about proper storage of milk.

Make sure you know exactly how long milk can be stored at room temp, in the fridge, and in the freezer.  You might be surprised how long milk can be left at room temperature (up to 10 hours depending on room temperature!), which can make storage much easier.  Another big rule – never shake milk, only swirl it.

Stock up on storage bottles and bags.

Make sure that you have a good supply of bottles for pumping and for storage.  You will want some extra – for example, you don’t want to have to sanitize each bottle as soon as you have pumped – so keep some extras on hand.

Pump maintenance.

Make sure you take notice of any issues with your pump, and keep it clean and running.  For example, if you notice any issues with suction, address them immediately.  You don’t want to be stuck with a pump that won’t work and you can’t express your milk.  Make sure you are familiar with the parts of the pump, such as where the tubes connect and the flange.  One item I had to regularly clean and replace was the membrane.  On my Medela pump, it was a small, flexible white piece of rubber, and if it had build-up or wear, I would lose suction.  Even if you are getting weak suction, it can affect your supply, as your body may think that the baby needs less milk and will start to decrease supply.

Maintaining a good supply takes work.

I was blessed with a good supply of milk – yet it still took effort to keep my supply up, especially after the first 3 months or so.  Even then, I noticed dips in my supply, which I think were correlated to my hormones, and there was an overall general slow decline in supply (up to the 16 month mark, when I barely had to wean because my supply had gone so low).  There are many things you can do to help keep a good supply – just a few include: drinking lots of water, eating foods good for lactation (everything from oatmeal to ‘lactation cookies’), and taking supplements such as fenugreek (cheap and easy).

Give yourself credit – pumping is a lot of work.

There were many times I was so sick of pumping.  I had a screaming, hungry newborn and a toddler that was getting far less than normal attention.  I was exhausted, hungry, and frustrated.  I felt like all I did was pump, especially in the beginning.  There were times I cried.  I wanted to call it a day and be done.  But remind yourself, it gets better – and the rewards feel so good.  I had some really low points and I somehow managed to power through them – I won’t lie, the first weeks, the first few months were struggle.

Remind yourself of the good!

When I had my bad moments, I reminded myself of all the great things about pumping!  To name just a few…

~ all the benefits of breastmilk for your baby, and..

~ the benefits of nursing for you!  When I began pumping, every time I used my pump, I had terrible cramps (uterus contracting, a part of the healing process).  There are so many other great benefits for moms.

~ being able to give others a bottle to feed your baby (bonding with daddy, or being able to pass your baby off to a parent who can help out so you can take a much-needed shower!)

~ Having a schedule.  I could pump, then head out to the store with a milk bottle in my diaper bag.  So easy to give the baby a bottle in the middle of Target!

~ Having a routine.  If you start out with at least some pumping, then if you have to pump (such as for being away from the baby for an evening, or returning to work), it is an easy transition.

Hang in there!

Pumping can be tough, but it can make things easy too.  Sometimes it can help to connect with other moms or have someone help out with the baby so you can take a break and recharge.

There are lots of great resources out there, from books to websites.  You can find lots of information online, and I remember hopping online to see how long I could leave milk at room temperature, or checking the manufacturer website for my pump to troubleshoot.

Do you or did you pump for your baby?  Do you have any tips?

Check out Melissa’s guide to 9 Breastfeeding Essentials.

Good luck!

Some products I found useful:
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