Dear EP Momma,
Pumping is not easy. You do it out of love, but it drains you physically, mentally, emotionally, and literally as well. It is one of the rare times in your life when you carry on an intense, love/hate relationship with an inanimate object.
Although pumping presents its challenges, you can arm yourself with the following tips and tricks I learned through nine months of pumping. As long as you’re going to test your limits, you might as well be as equipped for success as possible.
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures.
1. Travel with a manual and electric pump.
Let’s face it, traveling with a new baby is already fraught with challenges. Why create additional stress wondering when and where your next pump will be?
Any time you set out on a long car trip, plane ride, or extended family outing, plan for all contingencies by stashing a manual pump in with your electric pump. It may not be your pump of choice, but it beats sitting on a two-hour flight or stuck in traffic with engorged boobs, cursing the day you thought a vacation was a good idea.
2. Invest in a cute pump/cooler bag.
You will be taking your pump everywhere with you. It might as well be something you enjoy carrying, reflective of your personal style. Something that doesn’t scream look at my pump bag, everyone! Select a dual-purpose pump and cooler bag to reduce the amount of baggage you add to your daily haul, thereby reducing the likelihood you will leave something precious behind unaccounted for.
Moms I spoke with also swore by wet/dry bags for stashing pump parts between sessions and cleanings.
3. Invest in some nursing tops.
Yes, even if you plan to EP. While you will not be putting baby to breast, you will want to pump as easily and discreetly as possible, especially on the go or around friends and family.
4. Replace your membranes/duckbills frequently.
Plan on replacing membranes and duckbills roughly once a month. Have extras on hand. You can try to stretch their use, but inspect them frequently, and consider replacement the first troubleshooting step for a sudden supply dip.
5. Invest in some extra equipment.
Find a way to stock up on at least one extra of every piece you use as part of your pumping routine. Save the pump kit the hospital gives you, if you requested one. Accept hand-me-downs from a trusted friend (be sure to sterilize them). Purchase a compatible generic brand from Amazon.
Consider keeping a set of parts at work because there will be a day you forget something. And then something else. And then something else. It’s just inevitable. You’ve got a lot on your mind, momma! (P.S. – While you’re stocking up, grab a car adapter to keep in your pump bag – you may only use it a handful of times, but you will be grateful you have it. Be sure to research which voltage is compatible with your pump.)
6. Ask for what you need.
You need a place to pump. You need someone to bring you a snack or a glass of water. You need somewhere to store your milk. Yes, there are nasty people out there who will try to belittle you, who just don’t understand or respect what you are doing and why it matters to you. However, there are also so many people who applaud and admire you, and they will do whatever they can to support a new momma who is just doing her best to feed her baby. But you have to ask for what you need.
7. Form a support team.
Connect with other pumping mommas. If you don’t know where to find them, ask me.
Your fellow pumping mommas understand what you are going through. When you are up for your middle-of-the-night pump, they will keep you company. And when you don’t think you can make it to your next pump, or your next goal, they will remind you to not quit on a bad day.
8. Make sure you eat.
Eat like it’s going out of style. Obviously try to eat reasonably well, but do not cut corners with calories, and for goodness sake, if an extra cookie or two is going to keep you smiling while you pump, eat the cookies. You can diet when you’re done pumping. Your supply will thank you.
9. Get help from a lactation consultant or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
If you are struggling or feeling lost, please seek help from a professional. An IBCLC can show you how to use your pump, recommend nutritional supplements to help with milk supply, and help you plan a pumping routine. She can also discuss storage guidelines and provide tips on how to feed your baby pumped milk.
10. Have a plan, but be flexible.
You can only do your best to play the hand you were dealt.
For instance, I did my research. I took notes, and planned out what worked best for me. Having to use formula to supplement took the pressure off a little bit–I wasn’t always racing to keep up with my Little Dude’s appetite. I did everything I could to maintain my supply, but I was also realistic. I only pumped in the middle of the night when Little Dude woke up. If he slept, I gave myself a night to catch up on sleep. If we had big weekend plans, and I had to delay a pump a couple of hours, I would just make sure to sneak in an extra pump or power pump in later on. [Disclaimer: This plan may not be for everyone. I was not prone to clogs or mastitis. If you are, obviously you have to listen to your body.]
You’ve got this, Momma. You’re doing the best you can with the hand you were dealt. And I believe in you!