The Ultimate Breast Pumping Guide

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to nurse my baby. I was very hopeful things would go well and this would be a great bonding experience between my baby and me. However, we had a rocky start and this led to supplementing with formula and almost exclusively pumping for 11 months. With my second and third children, I pumped when I returned to work. Throughout these experiences, I compiled this guide to help fellow moms with breast pumping tips. 

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When do you start pumping?

I did not expect to have to start pumping so soon with my first child. They rolled in a pump to my hospital room hours after giving birth because he had to do bolus formula feedings.

When you start pumping may depend on several factors.

    • Baby’s health
    • Mother’s health
    • Latch issues
    • Job requirements
    • Increase supply

Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. You will need to pump as often as your baby eats to keep up with supply. Sometimes this will mean pumping 8-12 times a day with a few sessions in the middle of the night. Pumping can have its challenges, but these tips and items have helped tremendously.

This is my personal experience and should not be taken as medical advice. Please discuss with your doctor or lactation consultant if you have questions.

5 Tips for Pumping at Work

breast pump guide

1. Have a Reliable Pump with Carry Bag

breast pump and carry bag

With each pregnancy, my insurance covered a new pump. Depending on the brand and style, some required an upgrade fee. Check with your health insurance to see if they cover the cost of a pump. You may also need a prescription from your healthcare provider.

I used a Medela Pump in Style with my first two kids. I really liked it, but I didn’t realize how huge and bulky it was compared to some newer pumps and technology. Lucky for me, the motor went out on my Medela after I had my 3rd kid and I parted ways with the clunker.  After a very good review and recommendation from a friend, I decided to get a Baby Buddha pump.


The most important part of pumping, is getting the correct size flanges to avoid soreness. Most will come with size 24mm, but if you need a different size, you can order them.

If you pump often, I recommend buying a few extra pump parts to make your life easier. At minimum, have two sets of flanges and 4 bottles to collect milk. Pour the milk into storage bags for easy refrigeration and freezing!

While you pump, you will want to squeeze your breasts and massage from your armpits. This will help express all of the milk. Your milk ducts go pretty far back and into your armpits. I had the unfortunate experience of a clogged duct that developed into mastitis. After that experience, I always squeeze and massage!

Pump Bag

I LOVE this cute pumping bag. It has a cooler section in the bottom and I use freezer packs to keep milk cold when I travel. The top part is large enough to hold a small pump, flanges, bottles, nursing pads, charger, milk storage bags, and sterilizing bags. If you have a larger pump like a Spectra S2 or Motif Luna you will need a larger bag.

I also keep a nursing cover/small blanket in my bag just in case. If you pump at work, your employer is required by law to provide time and a place to pump. Although I have a private room, I prepare just in case someone accidentally walks in on me. One day, our maintenance man and fire marshal did not knock or pay attention to signs before unlocking my door.  I am thankful I had a cover with me so we avoided what was already an awkward situation being even more revealing.

2. Establish a Routine

Sometimes pumping can be stressful and time consuming. When you have a routine, it will go quicker and you won’t have to think about every detail. If I am away from my baby, I always look at a picture of him when I start to pump. I feel like it helps the letdown process go quicker. It might take a couple days to get into a good routine, but once you establish your routine, it won’t seem like such a daunting task.

Pumping tips from my routine
    • Lean slightly forward when you pump
    • Squeeze and massage
    • Aim for 15 minutes for each side
    • Change your pump mode to expression after your milk lets down
    • If it takes a while for your milk to let down look at your baby or close your eyes and imagine your milk flowing
    • Take deep breaths and relax
    • Drink a glass of water before, during, or after you pump

3. Use a Hands Free Bra or Milk Collection Cups for More Freedom while Breast Pumping

If your breast pump uses flanges, this hands free bra from Kindred Bravely is really comfortable. With its dual clip, it can be used for nursing and hands free pumping. It is my go-to bra for work days because of its support and comfort.

For discrete milk collection and the ultimate freedom, check out milk collection cups. These cups sit in your bra and you can cover them up with your shirt. Several of these can be hacked to use with various models of breast pumps.

I did not use a hands-free bra or milk collection cups (were they even a thing in 2014??) with my first child and pumping for 10-15 minutes seemed like an eternity. Now, I walk around, drive, work, etc. while pumping and it goes by so fast!

4. Refrigerate Pump Parts Between Pumping Sessions

The idea of having to clean pump parts at work every time you pump can be overwhelming. I pumped at work with all three of my children and the best recommendation I received was to store the pump parts in an air-tight container in the refrigerator between sessions.

If you have access to a sink where you pump then you can rinse the parts, but I just dried mine with a paper towel. I put the collection bottles and flanges in a wet bag to place in the refrigerator so they stay clean. These wet bags are also nice if you store them in a shared refrigerator or have to walk down the hall with pump parts. I keep a few wet bags on hand so I can always use a clean one.

**Disclaimer: Check your pump parts to make sure they will work properly when cold. You might have to change out diaphragms or other parts. Also, if you have a preemie or immunocompromised child then you might take extra precautions to stop bacteria growth and always sanitize your parts between uses, so this might not work for you.

5. Sterilize and Dry Pump Parts

All pump parts and bottles should be sterilized to decrease the risk of bacteria. I usually boil my parts when they are new and if I feel like they need a good cleaning. However, the easier methods are to place them in the dishwasher on a sterilize rinse or use sterilizing bags.

You should always let your pump parts air dry. I love this drying rack because it doesn’t take up a lot of space on my kitchen counter.

How to Increase and Decrease Your Milk Supply

It is common for nursing mothers to worry about their milk production and wonder how to increase your breast milk supply. We find ourselves asking…Am I producing enough milk? Why am I not getting a lot of milk when I pump? Why do my breasts feel less full and more soft? Rest assured, you are not alone. Check out my tips for increasing and decreasing your breast milk supply.

Clogged Ducts and Mastitis

Let me tell you, clogged ducts are NOT fun. They can come on gradually and you might feel a little soreness or a knot in your breast. It is very important to free the clogged milk so you do not develop mastitis. If you have a fever, body aches, and flu-like symptoms please contact your health care provider as soon as possible to be treated.

After having two really bad experiences with clogged ducts and one that led to mastitis, I found several ways to prevent and remove clogged ducts.

  • Massage your breasts while you pump and nurse
  • Use a warm compress or take a hot shower to help with milk flow before you pump
  • If you are prone to clogged ducts, take Sunflower Lecithin to loosen your milk
  • Nurse/pump often if you develop a clogged duct
  • Soak your breast in warm water with epsom salt. A perfect hack to doing this is filling a Haakaa with a teaspoon of epsom salt and warm water until dissolved and using the suction to soak your breast. Never again will I lean over the sink soaking my breast in a bowl.

Know Proper Storage Guidelines

Breastmilk storage is important to keep your baby healthy and avoid spoiled milk. I use the guide below from the CDC’s recommendation for human milk storage.

Do you have any other tips? I’d love to hear them in the comments. I hope these help you!

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