As a new mom, breastfeeding can be entirely overwhelming and exhausting. Some days it might even feel like you spend more time nursing than anything else. So when you see your pump, staring at you from the corner in your bedroom, you’re probably wondering, “How am I supposed to pump?”
And you questions probably don’t stop there.
Pumping, just like breastfeeding, can feel overwhelming and exhausting. But you are not alone!
Here’s our guide to pumping for new mama’s just like you!
Find out if insurance covers a pump for you, and find out which ones
When it comes to pumps there are lots of options and some insurances will cover them either partially or fully. At the start of your third trimester is a great time to call your insurance company and ask them what they cover under your plan. Then ask them what the process is for getting your breast pump. Typically they will send you to a website where you can order your pump, and then they will send a request to your doctor for a prescription for your pump. Usually, they will have you order your pump about 5 weeks prior to your due date. If you’re not sure, ask! Insurance agents are there to help you!
Do your research
Not all pumps are created equal - and that’s because not all bodies are created equal. What works for one mom might not work for another. Regardless, reach out to your mom friends, ask around in Facebook groups and see what other moms recommend. If you’re going to be pumping frequently you may want to make sure your pump is:
- Easy to clean
When it comes to pumping, you want to make the best informed decision for your body. So do as much research as you can, find out what has the best reviews and go from there.
And know that if the one you want isn’t covered by insurance, you can choose to buy your own pump. However, keep in mind that your pump could easily be over $200.
If you don’t plan to pump often, you can also invest in a hand pump! They are just as effective and easy to transport.
Start as early as you want
You don’t have to wait until your baby is a month old to pump - you can start any time. Some moms have difficulty latching and may choose to pump in the hospital to help establish their milk supply. You can also choose to wait until your milk has regulated if you would like.
The earlier you start, the higher likelihood that you will create a bigger milk supply (although that isn’t always the case). While it’s not the same as a baby latched to your breast, pumping still creates the same sensation and will trigger your body to make more milk.
If you’re planning to return to work and will be pumping, keep in mind that you do not have to have a major stash of milk in your fridge. Just enough for the first day is enough. Each day at work you will pump the milk for the next day. Having a stash of extra milk is great, but not necessary, so don’t stress.
Pump to replace a feed
Unless you are pumping to increase your supply, in which case I recommend adding in a pump session either early in the morning, or after baby goes to sleep for the evening, keep in mind that you want to pump at the same time you would feed your baby. So if you’re due to nurse at 9 am but plan to pump, you would pump at 9 am. The idea is that you want to keep your body on the same routine as when you breastfeed. You don’t want your body to think your baby dropped a feed.
If you are pumping while you’re at work, you will pump the same amount of times as the number of bottles you sent to daycare. So if your baby will eat three bottles at daycare, you will pump three times (again, around the same times your baby would normally nurse).
Easier said than done, but try not to stress while pumping. Stress will inevitably cause a poor pump and then you’ll be more stressed, worried you won’t have enough milk for the next day. Put on a movie, scroll Pinterest, or better yet, watch videos and look at pictures of your baby. Sometimes just watching a video can trigger a let down for your milk. Take deep breaths while you’re pumping, drink lots of water, and shut out the rest of the world. Don’t think about the meeting you have scheduled in thirty minutes. Don’t think about your coworkers, or a project deadline. In those moments your only focus is your baby. Focus on your baby so you can pump well.
Another way to not stress while pumping is to not look at the bottles while you’re pumping. Constantly focusing on how much milk you are (or aren’t) producing can trigger stress which can in turn trigger a decrease in milk. If you’re guilty of watching the bottles while you pump, try covering them with a baby sock!
How to store your milk
Once you’ve finished pumping, you’re probably wondering, “What do I do with this milk?”
Well, you have a couple of options. If your baby is going to be taking that milk to daycare the next day, you can preload bottles and store them in the refrigerator for the next day. That way they are already prepped and ready to go. According to Mayo Clinic, breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days, but if you plan to freeze it, it’s best to freeze it within three days.
If you aren’t going to be sending that milk to daycare the next day, you can pour the milk into a breast milk storage bag, remove as much air as possible, and lay it flat in the freezer. Storing it in the freezer increases the shelf-life of your breast milk and is a great option if you know that milk won’t be used the next day. Breast milk that is frozen and stored in a normal freezer is good for up to six months from the date it was frozen. When stored in a deep freezer, breast milk can be used up to one year after the day it was frozen.
It’s also important and helpful to know that if you had to pull out breast milk for any reason, as long as it still has ice crystals in it, you can refreeze it.
How much milk does my baby need?
When you’re primarily nursing, it’s hard to know how much milk your baby needs when taking a bottle. A general rule of thumb is that a breastfed baby needs 1-1.5 ounces of milk for every hour you’re away. So if you’re going to be gone for a nine hour work day, your baby will need between 9-13.5 ounces of milk. If your baby needs three bottles that day, you’re going to make three bottles with 3-4.5 ounces of breast milk each. To start, it’s better to stick to the smaller end of that range. You can always send an extra bottle of breast milk just in case.
If you feel that your baby is still hungry you can always increase the total amount they receive by ½ an ounce and see if that helps.
Warming up breast milk
Unless you’re serving breast milk directly after you pump, odds are you will need to warm up the milk for your baby. If you stored fresh milk in the refrigerator, in a bottle, you can either take hot tap water and fill a cup with it and put the bottle into the cup to warm the milk, or you can use a bottle warmer. Both work well, depending on your needs.
If you’re working with frozen breast milk, put hot tap water into a cup and submerge the frozen breast milk. You may need to add more water from time to time, but once the milk has defrosted, check the temperature. Make sure it’s warm, not hot. Then you can pour it into a bottle and you’re ready to go!
Pumping can be stressful as a new mom. You’re trying to juggle so much and pumping can feel like “just one more thing.” But we are here to help. You can do this!
Are you a pumping mama? What’s one piece of advice you would share with a new mom? Let us know in The Official Milky Mama Lactation Support Group!
If you are looking for more one-on-one support, schedule a consultation with our IBCLCs or Certified Lactation Consultants. We can answer any pumping questions you might have or do a virtual flange sizing so you can make sure you have the perfect fit when you pump!