Breast pumping … enjoyable? Not so much, but knowing what you are providing to a baby makes it worth it. I have exclusively breast pumped for 7 months. What does that mean? 3 hours after baby was born, I had a pump attached to me, and it hasn’t stopped for 7 months. I started out and am now at 8 pumps a day to help build my supply. It’s very time consuming. Pumping every 2-3 hours for at least 30 minutes to make sure you are telling your body to make milk. Once my supply was built around 2-3 months, I started to drop a pump by extending my time in between pump sessions. I eventually got down to 6 pumps and now at 8 month postpartum, I am at 5 pumps per day, and that is including one at 2am … every … day! Talk about dedication.
Where does it all go?
My supply of milk goes to moms that have babies with medical conditions, moms that need milk while they are waiting for their own supply to come in or have supply issues, and also a milk bank that provides nutrition to preemies. To date, I have provided almost 8,200 oz of milk, or 64 gallons. Throughout my pumping “journey,” I have come to find things that work … and some that don’t work as well. Everyone has their favorite products to use and below are mine. I hope that by providing you with this information it will help make your pumping journey a little easier and less stressful!
My favorite pumping products
It’s always recommended to use something that is hospital grade and a closed system. Most hospital grade pumps, though, will break the bank. The exception to that is the Spectra. The Spectra S1 and S2 are hospital grade and the same price as most other pumps on the market. A lot of health insurance companies will also cover most of the cost, if not all. I used AeroflowBreastPumps.com to receive my pump. I provided them with my health insurance information, and they did the rest of the work for me to see what would be covered. The S2 was fully paid for, but for an extra few dollars, I upgraded to the S1. Both pumps are the same except for the S1 being battery operated. Trust me, you will want one that’s got a battery and is a closed system. Another great thing about this pump is when you need to purchase replacement parts. NeNe Supply on Amazon has their own version of spectra parts at half the price. This pump is a definite winner in my book and is my numero uno to turn to.
My other pumps are built for travel and size. They are not hospital grade but will get the job done if I am at any sort of event and need to pump or would just like to walk around the house and do laundry or cook dinner. The 2 best options (again because of them being super small and battery operated) are the Spectra S9 and the Baby Buddha.
Talking about travel …
Yes I pump EVERYWHERE! And I mean that. Pumping should be just as accepted in public as breast feeding. If I am pumping with flanges, I always wear a hands free bra (my recommendation will be below) and I have a great cover up by Boppy that also turns into a scarf. I’ve pumped on a plane next to a priest, on rides at Disney World, my sons football game, and all the time when in the car. When the boobs scream at ya, you have to listen. They really are just like toddlers; they will whine until they get what they want.
So what do I do if I’m not really in a setting to use the normal flanges? That’s when the magnificent Freemie’s come into play. These are a great invention. The pump is not the greatest by Freemie so I don’t recommend you purchase that but definitely get the Freemie cups. These amazing cups slide into your normal bra and hook up to your pump. There are hacks available to make the cups work for any pump. You pump directly into these cups and once done, just slide the cups out and pour your milk into a milk bag or bottle. I have never had anyone even notice I was pumping before when I used my freemies. They hide very well behind your shirt/bra. Some moms have said that the Freemies don’t empty their boobs as well, but again … when you need to get the job done, it’s better than nothing. Also, if you have a very strong let down that sprays a lot, some women have said that it’s caused some milk to get into the freemie tubing. This is ok because if you use the hack correctly, it’s a closed system and you can just wash your tubing out with hot water and some alcohol. Swing the tubing around like helicopter propellers to help air them out; I know … weird … but I promise, it works.
There are SO many options, how are you going to know what works best? It really comes to trial and error. I have 2 favorites, but keep in mind I am a full B cup. For a true hands free bra that requires nothing extra, I LOVE the Rumina classic bra. It’s comfortable and I can wear it as my every day normal bra. I own 3 of these. Secondly, I do own some basic nursing bras as well, they are cheaper and very easy to come across at Walmart, Target and on Amazon. Again, the nursing bras I can use as an everyday bra. But how do I make it into a hands free bra? Bravado has a wonderful product called the Clip and pump. It clips directly onto the hooks on any nursing bra, essentially turning it into a hands free bra.
What about your very very sensitive nipples?
I have a fix for that as well. Invest in really good nursing pads. My favorites are by bamboobies. The washable pads are extremely soft, so much so that I cannot even feel them when wearing them. Bamboobies also makes an all-natural nipple ointment. It’s better for you than lanolin and feels a lot better as well. Just remember, any time you use a product like lanolin that’s thick, try to remove what’s left of it before you pump, it can cause quite a bit of friction in the flanges and end up doing more harm than good. Bamboobies cream is a lot softer and thinner than lanolin. Another fix to the friction in your flanges is organic coconut oil. Rub some on the inside part of the cone to allow for a smoother glide for your sensitive nipples. I promise, you will be thanking me.
We’ve talked about being comfortable and the actual pumps, but what about cleaning?
I’ve always used Dapple bottle soap. It’s proven to be the best for me to get out milk residue in all the pump parts. My lifesaver is what I use AFTER I clean my pump parts though. I want them to stay clean and sanitary, and when you set them on an external drying tree on your countertop, all of the bacteria in the air is getting right back in them and you have defeated the purpose of cleaning your bottles and parts. Wabi is the fix to this. They have 2 different versions. I first started out with their original product which is the Wabi Steaming Sterlizer. This machine sterilizes and dries your parts. Keep them in the machine until you are ready to use them. I eventually moved up to their next product though which is the UV Wabi. It’s a little larger in size but saves me so much time. I can fit 3 sets of bottles, flanges, duckbills and my backflow protectors. It sterilizes with a UV light and dries as well. This allows me to only have to wash bottles and run them through my Wabi once in the morning and once in the evening.
Your bottles are clean and sterilized so now we need to transport them. Sarah Wells makes quite a few different bags/book sacks made specifically to hold your pump and all parts with easy access. I use her bag any time I travel. I was able to pump and walk around Disney and ride rides with this bag. She also makes a wet parts bag that I use so I can put my pieces in there after they’ve been used. I turn it inside out once a week and throw it in the washer to clean it. Make sure you also have a good hard plastic ice pack and small cooler. It too, fits in my Sarah Wells bag with everything else.
Lastly is storage.
The greatest piece of advice I can give you in regards to storing your breast milk is to ALWAYS freeze flat. The best way to do this is to place your milk bags in between 2 cookie sheets and put in the freezer. This will guarantee a flat bag for you to easily store your milk in the freezer. My favorite bags to use are the NUK brand. They are a tad bit more expensive, but I’ve had the least amount of problems with them in regards to leaking. My next brand to choose would be Lansinoh. As with all brands of bags though, you will most likely run across a pack that leaks. If that happens, the companies are very nice about providing replacement bags for you as long as you can provide them with the product number on your original box and place of purchase.
Exclusive pumping is definitely a full time job but in the end, is worth all of the hard work you put in. I would love to hear your comments about favorite things you’ve used. I wish you all the best on your pumping journey’s and hope that my pointers above are able to help assist in making your pump life a little easier. Happy Pumping!
Tamara is a Treasury Management Officer for a large financial institution. She has been happily married to her husband for 12 years and they have one beautiful son. She enjoys competing in obstacle course racing and volunteering for local non profit boards she serves on.