Hacks for moms who use breast pumps

Medela Pump In StyleSome mothers aren't able to nurse their babies directly, and instead use a pump to express breastmilk into bottles. Jess wrote up her tips, gained from ten months of exclusively pumping, in the hopes they will help other moms in the same situation:

More: Video iPod turns "pumping time" into "Mom time"


  1. says

    Before pumping, massage your breasts from the outside inwards towards the nipple. (Kind of like doing a breast exam.) Then, sounds funny, but lean forward and shake them a bit. Applying heat prior to pumping can also help get the milk flowing.

    If you are pumping and the flow of milk slows or stops, take the horns off and reposition them slightly on your breasts. This can often help you get a second letdown and empty different milk ducts.

    Leaning slightly forward while pumping can allow gravity to help you out some.

    You can make your own “hands-free” pumping set up with 2 hair elastics. Instructions at the link below.


  2. C Brannon says

    I made a quick and easy hack for when my wife was breast-pumping for our preemies. I just took an old bra, cut a slit in the front of each cup (near the nipple area), then she could insert the cones of the breast pumps into the slit, which were easily held in place during pumping. We eventually stitched the sides of the cut area to tighten it up and prevent tearing/unraveling.

    The goal here is to enable hands-free pumping, so she was able to use the phone, even her laptop, while storing milk for the baby. Plus it’s a lot more relaxing than holding the pumps in position for all that time.

  3. Maggie says

    I pumped for both of my babies when I returned to work. I was fortunate to have access to an electric pump at work, and was given a quiet private room to pump. One thing I discovered was that it took a couple of tries before I produced anything. My first two attempts were dismal. I produced something like half an ounce and it took forever. I decided to keep trying, and eventually became more comfortable and my production increased over time. You have to be able to RELAX to get anything to come out and generally your first few times you are so nervous with the new equipment and all that it’s hard to relax.

    For work in the field, or if I needed to attend an all day training away from work, I took a small manual pump and an ice chest to store the milk in. Since there typically wasn’t any place private enough to pump, I just pumped in my car with my manual pump and covered myself with a blanket. I made sure my hands were clean before I went to the car to perform the task.

    By law, in California at least, employers are required to provide accomodations and a place to pump for nursing mothers. But even with a supportive work environment, pumping at work can be a challenge. I say, just do the best you can and don’t stress too much about it. My baby received both my pumped milk and some formula bottles when I was at work. I breastfed when I was home. This worked well for me. There is no magic answer here.

  4. says

    http://www.easyexpressionproducts.com/ Easy Expressions hands free bras are the way to go! Especially, if you’re at work. All you have to do is pull your own shirt & bra up and over your breasts, wrap the strapless “bustier” handsfree bra around you, insert the pump flanges and you’re ready! Yes, I also used a sports bra that I cut holes into – but for work, the strapless method gives you the easiest access and most privacy as you can drop your shirt back over your pump in case someone walks in on you!
    My other advice, if you can afford two of everything – keep one set at work and one set at home. I did this with everything except the pump/motor itself as that was expensive. It made it really easy to just pack my milk and pump into the bag. I left the tubing, flanges, valves, etc. at the office or at home. This did increase my pumping compliance.
    Good Luck!

  5. says

    I love this post!

    I pumped full-time for eight weeks before my son latched on. (He latched the evening after my first day back at work.) After returning to work, I pumped up to four times a day while working.

    Hacks I utilized:
    – Make a ‘holster’ out of an old bra to pump hands free. (this helped me immensely)

    – Drink water out of a straw while pumping. (I’m not sure why this works… but its almost magical.)

    – Close your eyes, take deep breaths in and out and relax every muscle with every exhale.

    – Buy extra parts for the pump. Not having to wash in between pumping sessions was a big help.

    – Steam bags save a ton of time.

    – Keep a bag just for pump stuff.

    – Since I bring my lunch to work, I would store the milk in my lunch box. That way, I wouldn’t forget to take it home and it wasn’t in the view of my colleagues (mostly men) in the work fridge.

    – When freezing milk, group bags of milk (I used the Lansinoh brand with the double zip seal) in bigger freezer bags with numbers on them. Its way easier to find the oldest milk to thaw when they’re grouped by 10-15.

    – Frozen milk is easy to store when bags are frozen while flat. Lay them flat to freeze.

    – I am lucky to have an office with a door. When I pumped, I put out a little ‘Privacy Please’ sign.

    Gosh, there’s so much more, but those are the best hacks that I used.

    My other tip for pumpers is to hang in there. It’s worth all of the effort!

  6. says

    My favourite time-saver was learning that most dishwashers are hot enough to sterilize pump parts and bottles, meaning I didn’t have to wash them all. Most dishwashers or hot water heaters have an adjustable control for this, so if you’re not sure, test with with a thermometer and adjust accordingly. I heart my dishwasher!

    I also made a point of drinking a half-litre bottle of water while pumping every time to ensure I was getting enough hydration – I’m lousy about drinking enough otherwise and this was a way to remind and use the time to good advantage.

    My swing was a lifesaver, too. I could park Pumkpinpie in it sit in front of her and talk, laugh, and sing to her, keeping her happy while my hands were busy.

    And finally, when a year was up the pumping became a helpful thing with weaning. I just mixed my milk with cow’s milk, first 1/4 cow, then 1/2, then 3/4, until she was on full cow’s milk and never even noticed the switch. So there’s an upside to all this hard work, ladies!

  7. Rachel says

    Sounds nuts… but I pumped exclusively for 13 months using this “visualization” technique. I’d often fill up one set of pumping bottles and have to switch mid-way because I had so much milk! Anyway, when I’d pump, I would picture “white-water” rapids of milk rushing and thundering out of me. It never failed to get the milk flowing in a major way!

    I know some folks think that picturing your baby is best, but when your kid won’t nurse, it doesn’t necessarily help the let-down reflex kick in! The rushing rapids of milk worked great for me!

    Also, I can’t agree more with Jess about having multiple bottles, flanges, etc. It’s a must if you are pumping a lot!

  8. Anna says

    When I pump at work I don’t wash or rinse the breastshields in between pumpings, I just put them in a bag in the fridge with the freshly expressed milk. Breastmilk has antibacterial properties, and I’ve never had a problem with milk going bad due to shields used and refrigerated 3 times/day (obviously I wash them at night). It makes for an uncomfortable few seconds before the fresh-from-the-fridge shields warm up, but it’s worth it to me because it saves me a lot of time.

  9. marci says

    i pumped for my preemie for 9 months. one thing that’s not intuitive to everyone is *lean forward so the milk will drain into the bottles when you’re coming off*. if you’re pumping for a hospitalized baby, keep some labels and a pen in your bag to label each bottle with name, date, and time. and lansinoh is good as hand cream!

  10. Julia says

    If you work in a cubicle, like I do, you can create a private space with a tension curtain rod and a old opaque curtain. Assuming the walls are high enough. Works like a charm!

    Also, using post-it flags to date the breast milk – easy to keep handy, write on, and then peel off. They don’t leave a sticky residue on the bottles, which is nice.