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Tips for pumping

Pumping at work

If you are like many others and will be pumping at work, please check out our Employers page for more information on how to talk to your employer, what your employer is required to provide you under the Federal law, and ideas on how to make time and space to pump at work.

Pumping at home

There are many reasons people pump at home: 
  • working part-time or from your home, 
  • occasional time away from baby, 
  • exclusively pumping, 
  • need to supplement feedings at the breast, 
  • weaning from the breast, 
  • donating milk,
  • increasing supply,
  • separation from baby for medical reasons,
  • inducing lactation or relactating, and
  • building a freezer "stash" for later use.
Whatever your reason for pumping, here are some tips to maximizing your pumping output, efficiency, and comfort.

Stay hydrated by drinking water to satisfy your thirst. (Too much water makes you have to pee more!) Whenever you feel hungry, start with drinking some water. Carry a good quality, washable, water bottle so you can easily sip water throughout the day. Getting bored of plain water? Try seltzer water, water with fruit, or a splash of juice. Some people love coconut water or tomato/veggie juice. Sports drinks do contain electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals, but also contain lots of sugar and other ingredients you don't need. Some teas are beneficial, while others contain herbs or other ingredients that may negatively impact your supply. Read the ingredients list and choose carefully.

Eat quality calories. In general, the less processing a food goes through before it get to your stomach, the better. Commercially processed foods tend to contain more additives that are difficult for your body to digest and use. This is not advising you to eat or avoid any particular food, or to follow or avoid any particular diet. Even women in starvation conditions can produce milk.

Learn how to use and maintain your pump. Read the manual. Know how to properly clean and maintain your pump. Find the resources you need to troubleshoot when you have problems. Ask for help if you are concerned about low milk supply. It may be that your pump is ineffecient at removing milk. (No pump can match a well-latched, hungry baby!) Demand for milk drives milk supply, so frequent use of an ineffecient pump may reduce supply over time.

Focus on what's most important. Include photos of your baby, a small clothing or bedding item belonging to your baby, music, a comfortable seat, or something to read or do while you pump. Try not to worry about the quantity you are pumping. Instead, think about your baby. Some moms find that closing their eyes and imagining a scene (like milk flowing out like a waterfall into their hungry baby's mouth) can help. Others find that being distracted from work, baby, and other responsibilities by reading, doing a crossword puzzle, or watching tv is what works best for them. Try different things and find what works best for you.

Reduce your stress on a daily basis through yoga, meditation, exercise, an enjoyable activity, or just taking time to breathe and relax. Stress hormones can temporarily reduce your body's ability to produce and release milk. Fortunately, hormones produced by your body while lactating can help you relax.

Organize your pumping space. Have the things you need easy to reach. Develop a routine for how you clean and store your pumping supplies so you don't have to search for them and, hopefully, prevent forgetting a part you need. Washing parts can be a pain, but is an opportunity for loved one to help you out.

Talk to others who have pumped in your situation. Pumping is not easy. A kind word or funny story or just someone who is willing to listen to you can really help. Having support from others is one of the keys to success.

This section was written by an experienced mom, La Leche League leader, CLC, and Breastfeeding Champion who pumped while working full time and now pumps at home for tube feeding. It is NOT meant to replace advice from a medical professional. Questions about the evidence-based research behind what you see? Email lehighvalleybreastfeeding@gmail.com for a full list of references.