Ahh the breast pump, the best and worst thing to happen to breastfeeding moms. I am so thankful for my breast pump, it allows me to work and leave the baby and still provide the best nutrition. But also, it’s the worst. All the pieces, trying to get the pumping bra on right, adjusting the settings, realizing you forgot one pivotal piece at home…. it can definitely be a drag. Now, I am no breastfeeding expert or lactation consultant, but I have read a lot on the subject and made enough mistakes to know a thing or two. I want to share a few hacks with you to make pumping easier and hopefully, get you closer to your breastfeeding goal.
Hack #1: The Plastic Bag
Ladies, this is FOR REAL the best hack I have ever used. I read it in Parenting Magazine with my first, thankfully before I went back to work. After you pump, simply put all the pieces in a sealed plastic bag and place in the fridge! According to the Mayo Clinic, expressed breast milk can be stored in the fridge for up to five days (it is optimal to freeze it within 3 days, you can read more here). So, I simply put all my pumping parts in a bag in the fridge and keep it in the back away from the door. I then clean it once per day instead of after every time I pump. Also, I don’t have time to clean all those pieces with an almost two year old running around so this is a necessity in life.
Hack #2: Start an extra pump session in the morning
You always have the most milk in the morning. I notice, too, that often my baby will only eat on one side at night so there always seems to be excess in the AM. Just start a routine of pumping about 45 minutes to one hour after your baby first eats in the morning. Usually, I feed baby first. Get him changed, make my coffee, get some water, let the dogs out, and then get set up to pump. As long as this is part of a normal routine and done daily you will build up a nice extra supply. I am so thankful for my back up supply. I know that I will have plenty when I go back to work, or if something terrible should happen, I know that I will have a month or so of milk before having to switch to formula.
Hack #3: Use your shield as a funnel
So I honestly don’t remember where or when I saw this, but when I did it was like the heavens opened. I was always so nervous about spilling milk all over the place! Especially at work because that’s just where something as terrible as spilled breast milk would happen. Simply put your breast shield into the freezer bag and then pour your milk through the shield. Seriously – life saver!
Hack #4: Freeze your milk flat for better storage
Again, you guys probably figured this one out on your own….but I am not that bright. If you freeze your milk laying flat it is much easier to store upright and you can fit a lot more in your deep freeze. This also helps with organizing so that you can easily see dates and how much is in the bag without digging through the deep dark crevices of your freezer. Which brings me to my next hack….
Hack #5: Use boxes to organize your milk
One thing that I did not do well the first time around was organize my supply. I ended up throwing a lot away because I didn’t use it in time and that is JUST THE WORST. So do yourself a favor and organize your milk so it can be easily identified and used. My mom had the idea of using shoe boxes, but then we found that cutting our warehouse milk boxes in half was the perfect size for the freezer bags. So I just stick them all in there and then put them in the deep freeze, insta-organize!
Hack #6: Don’t stress
So this isn’t really a hack, but it is really important to remember when you are trying to pump. Being stressed or anxious about how much you are getting or if it will be enough is a sure fire way to limit your pumping. Lots of people recommend looking at pictures of your baby or having something on hand that smells like baby. This never worked for me, but what did work is taking deep breaths and repeating this mantra:
Whatever I can give my baby will be enough; no matter how much I pump I am helping him grow; Every single ounce is a blessing
Taking deep breaths and just being thankful for any amount that I was able to pump is how I made it through those sessions at work – which, by the way , is the worst place to try to pump because you have the stress of the job, the stress of someone seeing something you don’t want them to see, the stress of not getting enough milk, etc, etc. Just remember, the important part is that you are trying and that you want to provide ANY amount of breast milk!
These are some of the top things that have made pumping less painful and go more smoothly, what have other mamas done to help with pumping? What is your number one hack for continuing to breastfeed after going back to work?