Pumping Essentials and The Ins and Outs of Using a Breast Pump

Most women will pump at some point during their postpartum journey, and there is a lot more to pumping than one might realize.  From flanges and proper storage of breastmilk to nipple sizing, you need to know all of the ins and outs to use a breast pump and pumping essentials.  Get the most out of your pumping sessions and protect your breasts with these helpful tips and information you need to know.  

What is Involved With Pumping

Pumping Essentials And The Ins And Outs Of Using A Breast Pump

In concept pumping should be “easy”, and it is, but there is a lot more involved and pumping essentials you need in order to be successful when pumping.  There are the pumping essentials and then the items that make your life just a little easier during your pumping journey.  

Pumping Essentials

A good quality pump-you may get a free one through your insurance, some insurances offer amazing pumps and some are not as great.  Go for the highest quality pump and if unsure of which one to get, reach out to a mommy group and what they recommend, as they will have the best up-to-date knowledge of what is the best one that is available to you.

Hand Pump-Great for on the road, if you don’t have access to electricity or just need a little bit of relief when feeling engorged. 

Pumping Bra-If you plan on pumping consistently a pumping bra is high on the pumping essentials list, worth the small investment as you will want to be able to be hands-free while pumping.  Not just to be able to do stuff, but more importantly to not have to hold the pumps in place.

Storage Bags-You will want to have milk storage bags to be able to store and freeze your milk. Pro tip-Lay flat when you first put it in the freezer to create flat bags of milk that are easier to store.

At least 2 sets of bottles on rotation, 3-4 are actually ideal because 1 set will be with you while you are pumping, one will have milk in it for your baby and then backups mean you don’t have to hand wash the bottles every single day.  

Having a second set of flanges-for the reason above having a backup set of flanges so you don’t always have to hand wash them is very helpful!

Cooler with ice packs-Get the ones that are designed for breastmilk, the cooler is a perfect size and the ice pack fits the bottles for maximum use.

Pumping bag-if you are bringing your pumping essentials to and from work or other places.

Pump parts bag-ideally a reusable one that you can wash and use over and over again. 

READ MORE: Facts About Your Period While Breastfeeding

Ins & Outs of Using  Breast Pump 

Pumping Essentials And The Ins And Outs Of Using A Breast Pump

A breast pump is supposed to mimic your baby’s sucking to get the milk from your breasts.  Even the best pumps are not as efficient or effective as your baby, so be patient when you pump.  If your pump comes with a flange sizing guide use that or you can easily find one on the internet.  Getting the proper size flange is super important, if it is too small or too big it will not give you the output you need and can leave too much milk in the breast and cause other issues such as infection (think mastitis), low milk production, and discomfort. 

It can also cause chaffing, pain, discoloration, or even cause breast tissue damage.  Pumping as with breastfeeding should not be painful, if it is painful there is something wrong that needs to be addressed.  You can even look up videos on the flange size to make sure you are using the right size, the visual is really helpful to most new moms!

When you first start a pumping session you will need to get your body to let down.  This is often activated when your baby latches and suckles quickly to get the milk to flow.  Or it can happen before you are able to get to your baby which can cause you to leak.  With a breast pump, you will need to mimic this to get the letdown to happen.  Most breast pumps should have a letdown function, a button that sucks quicker to help the letdown happen.  

Once the milk starts flowing it will flow for about 10-15 minutes, sometimes you might have another letdown during that time.  To make sure your breast is empty you can hand express afterward to make sure you got out as much as possible.  If you feel the flow slowing down you can push the letdown button mid-pump to get your milk flowing easily again.

The morning is the best time to pump, even after the first feed you still might be able to get a full bottle’s worth of milk.  As the day goes on there will be less milk in your breasts and you will also notice the milk is a bit thinner as well.  Know that you might have to get different flange sizes throughout your pumping journey.  In the beginning, your breasts will be very full as your body regulates the milk supply needed for your baby. 

Eventually, you will not get as full and your breasts will get to a more manageable size, which means you might require a different size flange to make sure it fits correctly and is providing you with the most output possible. Also, it should not hurt, it may feel uncomfortable at times, but there should not be a pain. If you have pain while pumping you need to make sure you have the proper size flanges, this is a great in-depth flange guide by What to Expect When You are Expecting.

READ MORE: Can you breastfeed with implants? The Facts and Helpful Truths You Need to Know

Tips for a Successful Pumping Journey

Pumping Essentials And The Ins And Outs Of Using A Breast Pump

Pump as much as you can during your maternity leave, you will be more relaxed when you are not as worried about your baby’s next meal since you are right there to feed on demand. The more you can stock up the better, your supply can be affected by so many things from your stress, your menstrual cycle, colds, and work or other outside obligations.  Your future self will thank your pumping in the beginning, plus your supply will be plentiful then and super easy to pump or use a Haakaa at this time to assist in capturing and storing the extra milk.  

When pumping, focus on your baby, and don’t be distracted by other things, easier said than done, but pumping while working or dealing with stressful items can inhibit your letdown and flow.  It can help to look at pictures of your baby and even have a piece of clothing that was recently worn as the smell helps your output.

READ MORE: Breastfeeding vs Bottle Feeding: I Breastfed From A Bottle

Pumping is definitely a marathon, not a sprint, be prepared for ups and downs and know that you are in it for the long haul. Don’t be afraid to ask for help while pumping or get any additional supplies to support your pumping journey. You don’t necessarily need the gimmicky items but extra supplies will go a long way so you are not always having to hand wash pump parts. Pack your bag the night before so you are not stressed out about getting one more thing done before rushing to work

When pumping try not to do a ton of other things, easier said than done for most moms who need to pump.  It is better for your output if you can try to relax, focus on your baby, and not be distracted by work, cleaning, or other outside obligations.  Pumping is definitely a labor of love, nothing short of remarkable, and even during the trying times always remember that.

Check out Extended Breastfeeding: How to Confidently Wean and Keep the Amazing Bond With Your Baby.

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Pumping Essentials And The Ins And Outs Of Using A Breast Pump

Photo Credits: UnsplashPexels

SOURCES: Healthline, Whattoexpect



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Sabra Ritter
Sabra Ritterhttp://www.mybeautifulchaosblog.com
Part event planner and marketing guru, part stay-at-home mom, and part blogger. Mom of two toddler girls, who are always keeping her on her toes. On the weekends you can find her at Southern California beaches or hiking with her family. Sabra loves to cook and is always creating something new!