10 things you absolutely need to know about pumping breastmilk
Are you pregnant or have just given birth and considering pumping? Here are 10 things I think you absolutely need to know about pumping breastmilk for your baby, including local San Jose breastfeeding resources! I’ve also included my own experiences in the first year of breastfeeding my baby.
This post contains one affiliate link, which is labeled with “(affiliate link)” immediately after the link.
Who needs to know about pumping Breastmilk?
If you’re planning to feed your baby from your body, you may be wondering if pumping is something you need to learn about. The answer is… it depends. Some birthing people exclusively chestfeed and never pump, while others find that they need to pump occasionally or regularly.
If you think you might want or need to pump, the best time to learn about it is before your baby is born. That way, you’ll be familiar with the equipment and process if you need to use it. You will want to think about how you want your baby-feeding journey to look like. This is something only you can determine is right for you and your family. Think about the dynamics of every person involved, and the resources you want to put into this journey. Who do you have to help you? How often can they help out, and how?
Additionally, in order for you to figure out exactly what you need to know about pumping breastmilk for your family, there are many resources to think about that you will be using to feed your baby:
Most often, time the biggest resource you use is in the form of feeding your baby or preparing to do so. Formula requires preparation and additional equipment. On the flipside, using pumped milk either from frozen, thawed, or chilled, will require time to warm up to a safe temperature for baby to drink. There’s the difference between the time you shop for formula (which can run out of stock) and the time spent actively pumping. Depending on the pump you have, you may be stuck to an outlet and not be able to move much. Most pumps that offer more mobility may still have limitations. There’s also time spent cleaning everything. Your pump parts will require regular cleaning, and depending on the pump, it can get pretty complex. There’s also time cleaning the baby bottles, and letting everything dry.
Your time is valuable and worth preserving. Does your pumping time have to compete with your other children? Your selfcare? Your work? Pumping breastmilk is optimized and most successful when you are relaxed. For me, being under pressure for time was a huge stressor, and I wanted to make sure to elaborate on the value of your time. Likewise, your baby is growing every single day. You’re going to want to make sure there are memories of baby snuggles you can cherish when they are older. Another way to ensure you capture those memories is through a something like the baby-feeding sessions offered through my portrait photography services.
However, even if you don’t plan to pump, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the basics! There’s no need to feel overwhelmed – there are plenty of resources available to help you learn about pumping breastmilk (and breastfeeding!).
Before we go on, there are a few questions I want you to ask yourself:
- Why do I want to pump breastmilk?
- When will I pump?
- How will I store the breastmilk?
The answers to these questions, for me, actually changed over time. I thought I would have more space and ability to remain still, but didn’t. I actually left my day job so that way I could continue to breastfeed my baby (that’s a story for another day). The answers to those questions are going to be personal to you.
Let’s talk about some topics that might be able to help you reach those answers for yourself.
What should I expect with pumping Breastmilk in my first few weeks home with a newborn?
Don’t be discouraged if it takes a few tries to get the hang of pumping breastmilk. It’s normal for it to take your body a few days or even a week or two to adjust to pumping and produce the right amount of milk. I went through three pumps before I found one that worked well not only for my size but also my lifestyle. I highly suggest looking at articles and watching videos online. The YouTube channel New Little Life, is one of my favorite resources; it is so informational and has great demonstrations for fit and pump types.
Should I and how can I set up my pumping schedule?
If you’re like most new birthing people, you’re probably wondering how often you should pump and what the best pumping schedule is. Sadly, the short answer is that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question – every birthing person and baby is different, and what works for one might not work for another. However, there are a few general guidelines that can help you determine what pumping schedule is right for you.
The first thing to consider is how often your baby is feeding. If you’re breastfeeding exclusively, you’ll need to pump about as often as your baby eats – which is typically 8-12 times per day. Plan to pump at least every 2-3 hours during the day, even if you don’t think you have much milk. This will help stimulate your body to produce more milk. If you’re supplementing with formula or solid foods, you may be able to get away with pumping breastmilk less often.
It’s also important to consider your own pumping goals, as well. If you’re trying to increase your milk supply. Again, you’ll want to pump more frequently than if you’re just trying to maintain your current supply.
You can also pump after feedings to empty your breasts. I ended up needing to actually pump before feeding my newborn. I was such an over producer at the beginning it was painful when I woke up in the morning. It took at least 2 or 3 months before this would calm down for me.
What are some tips for getting more breastmilk production?
Ahhh it’s the million dollar question, right? At first this wasn’t a question for me, but after my oversupply started to drop off at around month 4 postpartum, I had to double down on my efforts in order to maintain the production I had before. I am not an exclusive pumper, however, so my needs for pumped breastmilk are different than for someone who is.
Here are a few things to try to give your body a little boost:
- Make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids. I know this seems obvious, but a lot of body-feeding parents think they’re hydrated when they’re actually not! Chestfeeding can be very dehydrating, so it’s important to stay well-hydrated yourself. I noticed a difference in my supply when I did not hydrate – especially if it was during the summer or when I was doing a lot of movement.
- Don’t forget to avoid, limit, and balance out dehydrating beverages. This includes caffeine, alcohol and other diuretics can cause conflict with your supply due to water loss and not staying hydrated.
- Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Oats are especially beneficial, as they contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber that has been shown to increase milk production. I even made my own cookies, froze the dough, and tasked my husband to bake them off in small batches for me to have. Did they help out? I think so. The ingredients were chosen for their nutrition, but I ate them because they were so damn delicious. So the ingredients either helped, or the joy of a delicious cookie did! Either way, I keep making them to this day! Leave a comment below if you’d like me to share the recipe.
- As tough as it might seem, try to relax and let your body do its thing. Stress can have a negative impact on milk supply, so take some time for yourself and practice some self-care. When I was pumping breastmilk at work, I had a notably lower output than when I pumped at home.
- The time of day may also dictate how much you will pump. In the beginning, I had a lot in the morning, then over the summer I produced more at night, and then at the year mark I tend to have more supply in the morning again.
- Nurse your baby frequently and on demand. The more times your baby nurses, the more stimulation your nipples will receive, which can lead to an increase in milk production. It also helps to produce the happy hormones in you as well, and creates a great opportunity for you to bond with your baby.
- Take supplements if you’re interested. I continued to take postnatal vitamins from Ritual (affiliate link) once I had my baby. I also had sunflower lecithin in my daily vitamins as a preventative measure against clogs. This was a suggestion from my incredible midwife, Sunshine Tomlin. When I started experiencing a dip in my supply, I added Legendairy’s Liquid Gold supplement for about a month, which helped me enough to not stress about it. I also had some life changes that brought about some relief as well, which helped at the time.
- Have your baby nearby or look at photos of them! Remember that bit about relaxation? Happiness is a key component for let down, which is the process our bodies go through when the flow of breast milk is actived. If you are not with your baby, see if you can video call the person watching them, or have them send you videos. Don’t forget to check your own library, because I know your phone has to be full of photos by now! Make your favorite photos the background on your phone, your computer, or print one out and frame it. Remember your love for your baby. Bask in that bliss.
If you’ve tried everything and you’re still not seeing an increase in production, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant to see if there are any other options. I had a great experience with Christiane Vermeersch – one consultation left me feeling heard, empowered, and confident in my breastfeeding journey, right when I was feeling the most lost.
Also consider also reaching out for anyone in your area who may be able to donate breastmilk. It’s more common than you think, and I actually donated quite a lot in my early months after the birth of my baby.
What’s the best way to store and transport pumped Breastmilk?
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your hard work:
- Always make sure your pump parts and bottles are clean. Wash them with warm soapy water, then rinse well and air dry.
- Check the date on your milk. Freshly pumped milk can be stored in the fridge for up to about five days. If you’re not going to use it right away, freezing is your best bet. Frozen milk will keep for up to six months in a regular freezer. Just remember to label each container with the date it was pumped!
When it comes to thawing frozen milk, always do so in the fridge, never at room temperature. And when you’re ready to use it, give it a good shake first – freezing and thawing can cause the fat to separate from the rest of the milk.
There are two additional resources I want to share regarding breastmilk storage. The first is the CDC’s recommendations for Proper Storage and Preparation of Breastmilk. There is a PDF included there that you can print out. Additionally, I suggest checking out Kelly Mom’s Breastmilk Storage & Handling Guide, which also includes a downloadable PDF you can print out. I put a copy in my pumping bag and on my refrigerator.
ABOVE ALL – BREATHE
Just BREATHE. (When’s the last time you drank water?) As a new parent, there are so many things to learn and juggle. Pumping is one of those things that can seem daunting at first, but it really isn’t as bad as it seems. By following these tips for pumping breastmilk effectively and increasing your milk supply, I am sure you will be on your way to establishing a successful pumping routine in no time! 🙂 Remember, every one is different and what works for someone else may not work for you. Be patient, find what works best for you and stick with it!