Exclusively Pumping: What to Know and How to Survive

April 2, 2018

This post of Exclusively Pumping Tips is sponsored by Aeroflow Breastpumps.
All opinions are always my own. For more information, read my disclosure policy here

If you’ve been following along on my pumping journey, the you know that breastfeeding hasn’t been an easy experience for me. If you’d asked me 11 months ago, if I’d be continuing to exclusively pump for Charlie for her first year of life, I’d call you crazy. Hard pass. Nope. Negative, Ghost Rider. Not happening. Pumping is hard. Too hard, I thought. But here we are. I’ve been pumping for almost a year. The end is in sight! I’ve done it!

Along the way, I’ve picked up a few exclusively pumping tips and tricks to make the whole thing easier, and I’m sharing them with you today, in case you’re a mom who’s on a pumping journey of your own and needs a little (or a lot) of help, like I did!

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Get a good breast pump

The key component to any successful pumping journey is a good breast pump! Lucky for us mamas, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we’re able to get a pump for free through our health insurance companies. Hallelujah! That’s were Aeroflow comes in. Aeroflow Breastpumps specializes in helping pregnant and nursing women get their breast pump through insurance. They take care of the entire process, from filing the insurance claim to helping you choose the right breast pump for your lifestyle and shipping the pump right to your door. All you have to do is fill out the Qualify Through Insurance online form to get started. No calling your insurance company. No transferred calls. No run around. No on-hold wait times. They take the hassle and confusion out of the process so you can relax and prepare for your new baby.

A hands-free pumping bra is a MUST

Mom’s are multi-taskers. We all know this. What mom (especially a mom of a newborn) has the time to sit for 30 minutes and hold bottles on her boobs? Ain’t nobody got time for that! A good hands-free pumping bra will hold your bottles in place while you pump, allowing your hands to be free for other things like tickling babies or typing on a keyboard. Trust me! Buying a pumping bra will be money well spent!

Know your flange size

Most pumps come with flanges in the “standard” 24mm size. Just because that’s what came with the pump, doesn’t mean that’s what size you need to use. It’s important to measure your nipple to make sure you’re using the proper size flange. An incorrect size can cause pain in addition to not draining properly. Our boobs work on supply & demand. If we don’t empty the breast completely, our body thinks it’s oversupplying milk, and production can drop. So we want to drain those puppies thoroughly, and a proper fitting flange will help with that! (Aeroflow has a post on helping you find the right flange size)

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Buy an extra set of parts

I’ve always been they type of person who likes to be prepared for everything. I have an extra set of sunglasses in the car in case I forget mine. I have extra diapers in both cars, the diaper bag, and my purse, because, well, you just never know! So naturally, I bought an extra set of parts to keep my pumping journey running smoothly. The biggest plus for me, having a second set, has been on those extra long days where the last thing I want to do is wash pump parts before bed. I can just leave them soaking in the sink and grab the clean set the next morning. Having multiple sets has saved my sanity many a-night! You can buy extra parts and pump accessories through Aeroflow too! (Talk about one stop shopping)

Store pump parts in the fridge

Guess what! You don’t have to wash your pump parts after every. single. use. Yay! This information has been a game changer for me. I probably would have quit pumping if I had to wash bottles and parts all day, every day! Now, I just toss my parts in the fridge until my next pump session, and wash everything once a day, in the evening, after my last pump. Sanity saver!

Lube your flanges

I didn’t learn this trick until I was several weeks in to my pumping journey and I don’t know how I did life without it! Lubing your flanges before pumping helps prevent friction which in turn can prevent pain (and potential nipple damage). Some mamas use a little bit on lanolin cream. Some use coconut oil. I opted for olive oil. Use whatever you prefer, but do yourself a favor and lube those babies up. Your nipples will thank you!

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Pump 10 minutes past empty

I’ve heard of many lactation professionals telling mamas to pump for a set amount of time (i.e. 15 mins), but in reality, all moms are different, so our pumping times will be different too. The general rule of thumb in the pumping world is to pump 10 minutes past empty. So whenever you notice that no more milk is coming out, continue to pump for an additional 10 minutes. Babies natural suction is much more efficient at emptying the breast than a pump is. So by pumping a few extra minutes, we’re not only ensuring that our breasts are completely empty, we’re signaling for our body that it needs to make more milk, which helps in maintaining (or even boosting) your milk supply. For me, this meant 30 minute pump sessions. But, like I said, every mom is different, so just watch what your own body does.

Power pump to boost supply

If you’re looking to increase milk production, adding in some power pump sessions can be the way to go. A power pump is a pump session that mimics the cluster feeding of a baby. This on again/off again feeding, signals the body that baby needs more milk, so your body needs to ramp up production! It goes like this:

  • Pump for 20 minutes
  • Rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump for 10 minutes
  • Rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump for 10 minutes
  • Done!

When I struggled with low supply and the beginning of my pumping journey, I would use the last pump session before bed as my power pump session and, over time, my supply increased enough that I was able to stop supplementing Charlie with formula. It takes time, but it can definitely help.

Know how to combat clogs

I hope and pray that you never have to experience a clogged milk duct (or worse, mastitis), but if you do, it’s good to know how to help break it up as quickly as possible. I had clogs frequently early on in my pumping journey, so I picked up several different tricks for dealing with them pretty quickly. Here’s what worked for me:

  1. Heat. Before and during pumping. Lansinoh makes hot/cold packs specifically for your boobs. They’re awesome. They can even be wrapped around your flanges while pumping, which is super helpful. Sometimes I would just jump in a hot shower before I pumped. That helped too.
  2. Cold. While heat can help unclog your duct, a cold compress between pump sessions will help reduce inflammation. Inflammation could cause trap that clog even further and that is the last thing you want.
  3. Dangle pumping. It’s just what it sounds like. Pump while leaning forward with your boobs dangling towards the floor. Gets gravity on your side.
  4. Manual pump. I had a manual pump on hand at all times strictly for clogs. The suction on those puppies is way stronger than an electric pump, so they can be better at sucking those babies out. It can hurt a bit to use (because the suction is so strong), but it’s totally worth it to get that sweet relief of getting the clog out!
  5. Massage, massage, massage. It’ll probably hurt like a sonofabitch, but its so necessary to help break that sucker up and move it out! Some mamas even swear by taking an electric toothbrush (or anything that vibrates) to the exact spot of the clog to shimmy and shake it out.
  6. Lecithin. It’s a supplement that can help decrease the stickiness of the milk, letting it flow out easier. When clogged ducts were a regular problem, I took a couple capsules a day to help prevent clogs. If I a clog popped up, then I’d pop a couple more. Lecithin comes in sunflower or soy varieties and both work the same, however, soy can cause gassiness or a bit of an upset stomach for you or baby, so I opted for sunflower. (Fun Fact: Oreos have lecithin in them, so if you need an excuse to eat a bag or two, now you have one!)
  7. Pineapple juice. Pineapple juice is a natural anti-inflammatory, so some mamas swear that drinking some daily can reduce inflammation, and thus your chances of getting a clog. It’s certainly a yummy way to combat those suckers!
Find a support system

Finding a group of women who were fellow EP mamas was instrumental to my success! These groups are where I learned all of the things I’ve shared with you above. They’re a wealth of knowledge and support that’s so necessary for a sleep deprived, stressed, and worried mama, like me. They helped me troubleshoot any and all pumping problems, celebrated with me when I removed a particularly stubborn clog, supported me when I was overwhelmed and frustrated, and always reminded me to “never give up on a bad day” but also that the best baby was a fed baby, no matter what, so if I felt I needed to quit or supplement or whatever, that that was OK too. Find your tribe, ladies! They’ll help you more than you’ll ever know!

I hope this information is helpful to you, especially if you’re a struggling pumping mama like I was. Pumping is hard work and a huge commitment, but totally doable if you decide that’s what’s best for you and yours.  And if you decide that to end your journey, that pumping is not for you, that’s OK too! A healthy, happy mom is more important than who you feed your baby. Fed is best!

If you ever have any pumping questions or just need some encouragement or support, feel free to shoot me an e-mail or comment. You are an AMAZING mom and we girls gotta stick together! Happy pumping!

Want more pumping posts? Check these out:
My Journey As An Exclusively Pumping Mama
Pumping Essentials: 9 Must-Haves Products for a Better Pumping Journey
What’s In My Pump Bag?

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