So we all know that exclusive pumping is HARD, I’ve spoken about it now on numerous occasions and it’s never going to change. However, there is plenty of equipment out there to make your pumping journey easier. I only wish I’d known about it sooner! I say sooner, I’ve only been doing this thing for 6 weeks, but those 6 weeks haven’t exactly been plain sailing! In all of the research which I’ve been conducting over those weeks (and believe me there’s been many hours) I’ve found plenty of items which can help and so I’ve put together a list 8 Top essentials for an exclusively pumping Mum which I think will make your journey a whole lot simpler and easier. Okay, here goes..
- A good quality, double breast pump
So you’ve made the decision that you want to exclusively pump, firstly it’s important to invest in a good quality, double breast pump because this is going to make life a whole lot easier! This was the first mistake I made. I only had a single breast pump (A Medela Swing) which was not made to sustain frequent, long term pumping and it broke. I don’t think I have ever cried so much over an electrical item before.. But in the hormone fogged, very early days when I was trying to bring in my milk supply this was far from ideal and at the time it seemed like the end of the world. But, as I have now discovered, there are plenty of good quality double breast pumps on the market for a whole range of prices; so spend some time doing some research to ensure you are investing in the best one for you. And yes, this can seem like an expensive purchase but trust me it’ll be so worth it – it’s changed my pumping journey entirely.
- Extra parts for your electric breast pump
So if you’ve ever had a pump break, like me, you will know it’s the worst thing that could happen to an exclusively pumping mama. It’s literally devastating. You will also probably know that forgetting any single part of your pump will mean it doesn’t work, which is also devastating. So there’s a simple solution to this, have more than one set of parts for your pump! When someone suggested this to me, I had no idea why I hadn’t thought of it myself to be honest. Spares if any parts break or wear out, spares incase I forget a part of my pump (yes, it happens) and an extra set is always handy for rotating the parts to wash and sterilise them after your pumping sessions. I have spoken to so many mums who have sets all over the place, at home, in the car, at work, at parents houses etc. so they never have to worry that they might forget parts because they know they’ve got spares – genius!
- A decent manual breast pump
Okay, so you’ve got your quality double pump, but what about when you’re out and about? Or when there’s no electric to plug your pump into? If it can run on batteries, some people do take their double pump out and about with them, which is fine, but others want something small, light and easy to throw into a handbag for out and about. I have definitely found that having a smaller, discreet hand pump is really useful and I’ve used mine in a number of places already – on a train, in the cinema, at a festival – without people blinking an eye, which for someone who is quite conscious like myself, is good news! I have the Medela Harmony which is so easy to use and I can produce a good amount of milk in a pretty short time, so it was definitely worth the investment. Although I would say, be prepared for hand cramp the first few times you use one! My hands were not used to pumping in a continuous motion for 15 minutes and it took me some time to get used to it.
- Lanolin Based Nipple Cream
A complete lifesaver. Well, nipple saver! In those early days you are going to get sore nipples, it’s pretty inevitable even if you have a decent fitting pump from day 1, because let’s face it you nipples are not going to be used to being pulled around and sucked into a machine. I cannot recommend buying some nipple cream enough, it really will help you at the beginning and throughout your journey to be honest. Also, it’s perfectly safe to use whilst pumping so you can apply it before you start your pumping session to help with the soreness.
- A Hands-Free Pumping Bra
Another complete game changer for any exclusively pumping mama and definitely a worthwhile purchase. I did not appreciate the worth of these until very recently, when I got fed up of having to hold my double pump every time I pumped, or trying to balance the bottles in some way so I could have access to my hands whilst pumping. This can become quite annoying, pretty quickly, especially if your pumping sessions are 30 minutes long and you have no hands to do anything for the whole time. Or if your baby is lying next to you crying and you don’t have a free hand to be able to pick them up and comfort them. Well, a hands-free pumping bra basically allows you to have your hands back, by holding the flanges in place on your breasts, and makes the whole pumping experience more relaxing. Now you can be free to comfort your baby, use your phone or laptop, eat some food and know you don’t need to worry about balancing parts falling everywhere!
- A Pumping Bag
Okay, so this is so important. Obviously you need somewhere to store your pump, parts and milk which is easy to take out and about and access. As I found out in those early days, a grocery store carrier bag is not going to cut it. I also found it so much easier to have a separate bag dedicated to my pumping bits and pieces, than to try and fit them all in the changing bag with the mountain of other bits we needed to take out with us for our babies. As with most baby items, there are a massive range of bags out there, all varying in price so just have a look around and decide which one is best going to suit your needs. I personally went for one which also had an insulated cool section in the bottom so that I was able to store my milk in there with an ice block and keep it cool to prevent it from going off, but some people chose to purchase a separate milk cooler bag for storing their milk. It’s completely personal choice and depends what suits you.
- A Nursing Cover/Scarf
As an exclusively pumping mama, you’re going to need to pump in public whilst out and about. People do not expect you to stay shut in the house forever, so you’re not really going to have a choice. If like me you’re pretty conscious of what other people think then pumping in public is not going to be something you enjoy doing or look forward to (although even if you’re not conscious I’m not sure public pumping is something you look forward to!). However, having a nursing cover does make you feel more comfortable and at ease about the situation, especially when there isn’t anywhere private for you to go and there are going to be plenty of times. So far during my pumping journey I’ve pumped on the beach, in the car, at the cinema, on a train.. there’s been a fair few places whilst we’ve been out and about and having a cover has been a godsend. They’re stretchy enough so that you can move about underneath them and you know they’re secure around your neck. In the earlier days, before having a cover, I was using a coat but you could never guarantee it wasn’t going to slip down, or that the muslin which I had tied around my neck wasn’t going to come loose and slip, so having a proper nursing cover is a much safer bet and all round made me feel a lot more comfortable with pumping in public.
- Breast Milk Storage Bags & Bottles
And finally, being able to establish a storage system for your expressed milk is important, especially if you’re trying to build up a backup supply as well. Incase you don’t know, general professional advice is that breast milk can be left at room temperature for 4 hours when fresh, kept in the fridge for 5 days and frozen for 6 months without any issues. So being able to store and organise your milk is kind of essential and I have found the best way to do this is by using storage bags or bottles and labelling them with the date they were expressed and the amount in them (this particularly helps when knowing how much milk needs defrosting from the freezer). Now, I personally find that using bottles appears more tidy, especially when storing milk in the fridge; bags seem to flop around and make my fridge seem messy, however you need to use bags if you’re going to be freezing any expressed milk.
I also recently learnt that with some breast pumps you can actually pump directly into a milk storage bag, and cut out the middleman of the bottle if you wanted, which is handy to know to save on the washing up if you’re going to be freezing your milk straight away.
So, there you have it. A list of the top items which I feel are essential for making your exclusive pumping journey as easy as possible. I’m sure I will be adding to this list at some point as I get further along in my journey because I’m always discovering new products which I want to share with you guys. What items did you find made your journey easier? Is there anything which you would recommend which isn’t on my list? Feel free to share your ideas/experiences below in the comments, or send us an email from our contact page – we love hearing from you!