Before jumping in, a small disclaimer: I kinda fell ass-backward into exclusive pumping. I am not one of those wonderfully disciplined moms who tracks output and feeding volume and wet diapers in a tidy Excel spreadsheet (partially due to my complete and utter ineptitude at Excel).
I started pumping as a temporary solution to some breastfeeding issues, and just kind of… kept doing it. I think I was secretly hoping that I wouldn’t succeed so that I would have a “legitimate” excuse to quit, but my boobs had other plans. I also started pumping after 6 weeks of exclusive and *cough* enthusiastic breastfeeding, so my supply was already well established when I switched to the pump. There is a ton of great information about how to establish a milk supply, but that’s something I don’t have any experience with, so seek ye wisdom elsewhere on that.
This is the corner-cutting, time-saving, energy-efficient, ain’t-nobody-got-time-for-that guide to pumping, so proceed accordingly.
Do this stuff:
DO find a schedule that works, and stick to it. By “a schedule that works,” I mean figure out what times are best for you, and train your boobs to accommodate. I refused to wake up more times than my baby, so I taught my body early to slow down at night—I still had to pump twice a night at the beginning, but that was better than every two hours like I was doing in the daytime. On that note…
DO adjust your pumping frequency as your baby adjusts his or her feeding frequency. My son was 4 months old and I was still pumping every two hours (and slowly going insane), before my mom pointed out that I was still on a newborn feeding schedule, whereas he had actually slowed down quite a bit. I gradually spaced out my pumps to more closely mimic his feeding, and settled on every four hours during the day (less at night). Much happier mama!
DO have backup pumping options on hand. When Ben was about 8 weeks old, we moved from Louisiana to Virginia and had to do a 14 hour drive with him. I discovered about 2 days before leaving that I had no way to use my pump in the car (I have seen the future, and it runs on USB ports. You know what doesn’t run on USB ports? A double electric breast pump). I ran to CVS and picked up a manual pump, which I used in the backseat while someone else drove, and then I was able to bottle-feed him in the car seat. Major time (and boob) saver. I also just discovered that they sell battery packs for pumps. That would have been a better idea, but stress and sleep-deprivation maketh me dumb.
DO use toys/silly faces/books/bouncers to entertain your babe while pumping. Ben loved hanging out in his bouncer with me while I pumped, or now I sit on the floor next to him on a blanket and play peek-a-boo or other games with him. He’s happy and calm, I don’t feel like I’m neglecting him, and pumping still occurs. Win-win.
DO let your pump run for a few minutes after you finish, in order to dry the tubes out. I also twirl the tubes around in the air to knock most of the condensation out and then let it run for a minute. Otherwise, mold can start growing in the tubes, and that’s just no good all around.
DO feed your baby, not the freezer. Don’t get all stressed about how many bags you have stored (unless you’re planning a trip or to go back to work, then see the next point); just pump as much as you can on the schedule that works for you. Even if that’s just enough to keep up with your baby’s appetite, it’s plenty. If it’s not, then see below:
Not this stuff:
DON’T view formula as the enemy. This was SO HARD for me, especially in our uber pro-breastfeeding culture, but if you want/need to use formula, it’s totally okay! It’s not baby poison! Pick a good brand, and then say, “ Ee-vil spirit of mom guilt…GET OUT!” (Spoken like a passionate Southern minister, of course.) Major bonus for pumping mamas: since your baby is already eating out of a bottle and you’re the one determining your pumping schedule, using formula won’t jeopardize your supply or breastfeeding relationship! It’s simply another tool to decrease your stress and make sure your baby is well fed. Formula is your friend!
DON’T pack up your pump between sessions. Realize that for the next few months, it’s just going to be a part of your décor, and leave it out. You’re using it 5+ times a day, so save yourself the time of setting everything up for each pumping session. Make a little station in a comfy spot, and leave it there. You can put it away when friends come over, or make it a nice conversation piece (doesn’t everyone enjoy talking about boobs as much as nursing women??).
DON’T get a pumping bra. Totally unnecessary. Instead, get 4 hair elastics and make your own bottle holders to hook to your nursing bra. Cheap and easy peasy! I just leave mine attached to the pump bottles when I stick them in the fridge. Speaking of…
DON’T wash your pump parts after every session. This is the #1 time-saving trick I learned early on. In fact, I’m not sure I would have been able to EP for 5 months without this one. Breast milk is good in the fridge for 3-8 days, so pump parts can easily go unwashed for 24 hours without growing bacteria. As soon as you finish pumping, empty the milk out of the pump bottles, and then stick the bottles (with the flanges attached) in the fridge. Viola! Ready for the next pump when you are. You can put them in a Gallon Ziploc if you’re worried about them getting touched by grimy fingers, or just have a designated spot for them where they won’t be disturbed. I toss mine in hot soapy water to soak every morning after my first pump, scrub and dry them, and then reuse throughout the day. Game. Changer.
There, I’ve shared all my lazy secrets with you. Hopefully this will make your own pumping experience a little easier!
My biggest do’s apply to any pumpers (lazy or not): DO appreciate the advantages of pumping! 1) You’re in control of your own schedule, and you never have to worry about popping a boob out in public to feed a hungry kid—just whip out a bottle and you’re good to go (also, breast milk is fine at room temp for 4-6 hours, so no need for bottle chillers/warmers for errands). 2) Weaning is so much easier from a pump, because again—you’re in control of the schedule. 3) You’re not the only one who can feed your baby! My husband and son have a wonderful feeding routine, which means more bonding time for them and more free time for me. That’s a win all around!
Lastly, DO give yourself credit for every ounce you pump, but DON’T kill yourself for it. Even a few ounces a day gives your baby a ton of health benefits, so it’s worth it to keep going if you can. However, if those few ounces a day are making you miserable or resentful or just too damn annoyed, your baby will be happy and healthy and loved on formula too. We live in an amazing age of options, and formula is just one of many.
Do what works for you and your family, and be proud of yourself for being such a good mama, whatever you choose to do. Happy pumping/weaning/nursing/formula-feeding!