14 Tips for Exclusive Pumping

This is a reprint/update of an article I wrote on Teddy’s blog several years ago. I hope it has useful tips for those of you who pump part-time, as well, though I have no personal experience with that.


I am not an expert. I’m not a Lactation Consultant (though I have found most LC’s to be less than super helpful about the practicalities of exclusive pumping). I’m just a mom who’s been there/done that.

Let’s get something out of the way. Exclusive pumping sucks. It sucks in a unique way. But it’s also giving your child something that is absolutely irreplacable. And, you’re awesome.

Most of this information is stuff I found elsewhere, or stuff that was told to me by others, most notably Megan from All That Hath Life and Breath and Sarah C. This is a random collection of information.

1. Pump overnight. Personally, I had to pump at least once, preferably twice, overnight. Prolactin levels are evidently higher overnight, plus not having those long stretches without emptying my breasts helped keep my supply up. Women who are not constantly tottering on the edge of not having enough milk can probably drop one or even all overnight sessions.

2. Cycle a bit if you have unproductive pumping sessions. If I didn’t get a certain minimum amount during the 3 or 4 AM session, and if my breasts still felt full but nothing more was coming out, I would stop after 30 minutes, sleep for another 30 minutes, and pump again for another 30 minutes. If I needed to, I did it again again.

3. Hand express after pumping to get the rest of the milk out. This was a game changer for me. I could sometimes get as much as 30-50 ml more by hand expressing.

4. Keep records. My detailed records were my best friend. Not everyone has to keep a spreadsheet and make charts with their pumping data, but it would be useful to most people to track when they pumped, how long they pumped, and how much they got. Over the course of a week or two, you can start to notice trends.

My pumping log.

5. Massage your breasts. Massage and compress while pumping, take a break while pumping to massage, and massage before pumping.

6. Pump in the car! I mean, you’re just sitting there anyway, right? I used to hook myself up to the pump before pulling out of our driveway on our weekly drives to the hospital 2 hours away, then once we hit the long boring stretch of highway, I’d turn the pump on. If this is distracting to you, don’t do it, but as I actively tried to keep my mind occupied with anything OTHER THAN pumping, it was perfect.

7. Zone out. Or, as Sarah C says, watch your head space. Don’t look at the bottles, think about how much you’re getting, etc. Sleep if you can. Watch NetFlix, knit. I sometimes read to my kids, or we did some schoolwork. I sat on the bed and played with Teddy. ANYTHING except think about pumping. All the advice you read for Pumping At Work moms is to picture your baby, picture milk flowing, picture water fountains, think about your baby nursing, etc. But most of the EP moms I’ve talked to say that this does NOT work for them. Thinking of my baby, my milk, etc., just triggered deep emotions of sadness over the fact that I was not nursing him, and that didn’t lead to easy let-downs.

8. Try longer sessions. LCs consistently suggest that pumping sessions should only last 20 minutes. As you get accustomed to pumping, you can bump that up and get multiple let-downs. I was a one-let-down-per-session girl when I was just pumping 20 minutes at a time. If I pumped for 50-60 minutes, I usually got 3-4. And my breasts did NOT protest and move to a new state like I thought they might.

9. Get a good pump. Hospital grade. Rent one first if you want, then do the math on renting vs buying. I did not rent one, I just bought what I had used in the NICU because I already knew I liked it, and it was cheaper, over the course of a year, to buy. (With new laws since I was EPing, insurance might have to cover a breastpump, but I’m not sure they have to cover a hospital grade pump. Those Medala Pump N Styles are great for the part time pumper who also has a nursing baby to keep her supply up, but you don’t have that. Exclusive pumpers generally speaking *need* a hospital grade pump.)

This is at the hospital, but it’s my hospital grade pump.

10. Donor milk. If keeping your baby on breastmilk is important to you and you’re struggling, find some lactating friends and see if they’ll pump a bit for you.

11. Embrace the weird nipple shape. It is somewhat normal for your nipples to look swollen and misshapen after you pump. It doesn’t happen to everyone, evidently, but don’t be alarmed at how your boobs look when you take the pump off. They will go back to normal. Eventually. (And I’m talking, a few years after I stopped pumping, I stopped thinking my boobs looked all weird. It was totally worth it, though.)

Yes, I measured breastmilk with my 4 cup measuring cup.


Increasing Supply:

12. Power pumping or cycling. I personally had the most success with MANUAL means of increasing my supply. Pumping more often, pumping longer, power pumping (10 on/10 off for an hour), pumping 10 minutes every 30-60 minutes around the clock for a day or two, etc. When I started having low supply, I STARTED addressing the problem by pumping every hour during the day and making sure to be diligent about getting up at night. I did NOT get discouraged when those pumping sessions don’t yield much milk – they were merely putting in an order.

13. Supplement. Then I added in supplements. Teas never did much for me, even fresh herb teas, but some people do find they make a difference. Placenta pills (from my placenta) were useful. Fresh fenugreek (buy the seed and crush it and put it in capsules). Brewer’s Yeast (same thing – put it in capsules). Goat’s Rue, Milk Thistle.

14. Beer, Oatmeal, and Ice Cream. Most people I know swear by a nightly IPA for good supply. Eating oatmeal and ice cream may or may not help, but they can’t hurt. Lactation cookies (recipes are all over the internet) are tasty and at least something fun to eat while you’re pumping…

I just couldn’t resist including this picture of that little baby foot kicking the pump horns. Which hurt, by the way.


And a bonus tip:

15. Make your pumping space comfortable. You’re to be spending a lot of time there. I stole a rocker recliner from another room. I kept books and knitting and a phone charger there. I bought myself a DVD player with Wifi so I could watch movies or Netflix. I kept a water bottle in the fridge. (OK, not everyone will have a mini fridge near their pumping station, but I had one in there for breastmilk storage, to store pump parts between pumping sessions (ooo, hot tip #16 – wash pump parts daily, store in fridge between sessions), and to store Teddy’s meds and other medical things.


Alternatives to Buying New

One way to avoid bringing so much waste into your home is to buy fewer things new. Used items have generally already had all the packaging (waste) removed. Not to mention that by buying used, you are preventing one more item from being tossed in the landfill, and that’s one fewer item that will need to be replaced on the store shelves with a fresh one from the factory.

So where does one go to get used items? This might seem like the most obvious list ever, but here goes:

  • Garage Sales. Garage sales CAN be tough, because they’re kind of a crap shoot and you could end up wasting a lot of gas. When we decide to hit garage sales, I like to make a list of the ones that sound promising, then mapquest them all. I then select just one area of town to visit, and plot out the most efficient route. We also, of course, visit all garage sales within walking distance.
  • Consignment stores. We’ve found Once Upon A Child to be a great source for clothes for Wally when we don’t have what we need in the box of previously-purchased clothing. I usually buy ahead at garage sales and end of season clearance, so the clothes at Once Upon A Child are actually more expensive that we usually buy, but they are nice, and if he needs, say, a black shirt for some particular reason, it’s a good place to go. Consignment stores are also good places to buy good-quality used toys with a minimum of packaging.
  • Half Price Books. They are pretty stingy on what they pay you for books you bring in, but getting something is still better than getting nothing, and you can buy used books for cheap.
  • Half.com, Ebay, and other auction and used-items stores online. Half.com has been a standby for me for years. The packaging is usually pretty minimal, and almost always previously used, since the items are being shipped by regular people, not stores.
  • Swap websites like Paperback Swap.
  • Freecycle, ReUseIt, CraigsList, etc.
  • Looking for things for your home? Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, as well as local architectural salvage stores (such as West End Architectural Salvage and Found Things), are good spots to try.
  • And, don’t forget that family and friends can be great resources for getting used items. We picked up a nice pasta machine from my sister in law a few years back. She wasn’t using it, and I really really wanted it!

Ways to reduce waste in your home

Reduce the Garbage you bring in:

  • Pay attention to packaging.
    • Buy products that are packaged minimally, or that use packaging that can be reused or recycled.
    • Buy larger packages when possible. Buying one giant bottle of laundry detergent, for example, creates less waste than buying three small bottles.
    • Buy concentrated products if you can. For example, we use one particular cleaner that we dilute 1:10 in a separate (reusable) bottle before we use it.
    • Buy used (garage sales, Craig’s List, Freecycle, Secondhand Stores)
    • Don’t buy single-serving foods. Instead of small bottles of juice for lunchboxes, for example, purchase a larger bottle and then divide it among smaller, reusable bottles.
  • Reduce the number of things you bring into your house:
    • Borrow, rent, or share things you don’t use often. (For example, Randy’s family all shares a carpet shampooer. That means they only threw away the box/packaging from ONE carpet shampooer instead of four.) Saves money, too!
    • Resist consumerism! Do you really need it?
    • Make your own food at home instead of eating take-out in all those disposable packages.
    • Buy milk in glass bottles that can be washed and reused by the dairy.
  • Buy and use reusable goods.
    • Use reusable shopping bags.
    • Purchase reusable products (cloth diapers, cloth napkins, reusable water bottles).
    • Buy rechargeable batteries.
  • Fight Junk Mail!
    • This site has good suggestions.
    • Call the 800 numbers for catalogs you no longer wish to receive.

Reduce the Garbage you put out:

  • Recycle as much as you can.
  • Choose Durability:
    • Buy quality products.
    • Maintain your things. Take good care of your clothes, your appliances, everything.
    • Repair items that can be repaired, rather than replacing them.
  • Sell, donate, give away, or freecycle things you don’t want. (I freecycle my fabric scraps to quilters who make charity quilts.)
  • Compost yard waste and food scraps, instead of putting them in the garbage. (In Des Moines, you can also choose to use the Compost It! program.)
  • Plan meals wisely to cut down on food waste.
  • Reuse:
    • Reuse disposable shopping bags.
    • Reuse other things. Turn old clothes into new clothes, let your kids make art projects from old cardboard, etc.
    • Reuse paper – print on both sides of office paper, or let your kids draw on the back of used paper.

Other things that are Good to do:

  • Purchase items that are recycled or made from recycled products.
  • Purchase items that are recyclable, or packaged in recyclable packaging.
  • Talk to others about reducing their waste.

Use Less Stuff has a fun survey at their website to help you see if you’re a waste-wise wonder or a waste-wise wuss.

Holiday Waste

According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, it is estimated that between Thanksgiving and the New Year an extra million tons of waste are generated nationwide each week. In fact, 38,000 miles of ribbon alone is thrown out each year–enough to tie a bow around the Earth!

Holy cow! I thought you might appreciate a quick list of ways to reduce Holiday waste…

  • Use reusable shopping bags, or forgo shopping bags altogether.
  • Wrap gifts in reusable packaging like fabric or gift bags, or use recycled paper or comic pages.
  • Save the bows and reuse them next year.
  • Give gifts that don’t require much packaging or wrapping, such as gift certificates, concert tickets, etc.
  • Give homemade gifts like cookies, breads, or other goodies.
  • Recycle wrapping paper and cards.
  • Or, save bits of wrapping paper and cards and use them next year as gift tags.
  • Send e-greetings instead of paper cards. Or, call your friends and family instead of mailing cards.
  • Use rechargeable batteries, and consider giving rechargeable batteries and a charger with any battery-operated gifts.
  • Put your holiday lights on a timer and/or cut down on the number of lights you use.
  • If you use a live tree, have it recycled or composted instead of just throwing it away. (City of Des Moines will pick up Christmas trees and recycle them.)
  • Consider, instead of decorating an indoor tree, decorating a tree outside with natural, edible decorations for birds, squirrels, and other little fuzzy creatures to feast on.
  • Don’t buy cheaply-made, easily-broken gifts.
  • Purchase gifts you are certain the recipient really wants, or buy gift certificates or consumables.
  • Take holiday photographs using a digital camera.



California’s Waste Management Board

Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance

Rethinking Childbirth

I don’t often share Christian articles here. I am a Christian, a conservative one at that, and that is essentially the reason why Wallypop exists in the first place. While I am not ashamed of my faith and do not hide it, I know many of you are not also believers, and see no reason to drive you away from the rest of my dazzling blog content (ha ha) by posting a lot of stuff you won’t be interested in.

So please respect that this is one of the few occasions when I WILL post something that is very overtly Christian. And also note that you STILL might be interested in reading it.

I don’t often share articles about natural childbirth here. blah blah, same disclaimer as above. I believe every woman has the right to make her own educated decisions about how she will birth her children, and those decisions should be supported by her caregivers and family. Unfortunately, relatively few women in this country get to experience what that’s like – making educated decisions and being supported.

And now, the link. Rethinking Childbearing, Part I and Part II.

I do not necessarily personally agree with some of the finer points of Christianity discussed in the article. I don’t even necessarily agree that childbirth is or must be painful. (Mine have been uncomfortable, but I associate the word Pain with having a kidney stone – and I’ve passed two. The experiences are nothing alike.) And, last, I find it annoying that the author seems to believe that medical interventions in childbirth are at a mother’s request. Certainly, they are at her approval (as the OB must have consent to treat), but I think the author underestimates the pressure put on women by their care providers and that, as a man, he also lacks a good understanding of the mental status of a woman in labor.

All that said, I liked the article because I’ve not read such a thorough examination of current childbirth practices from a Christian/Bible perspective.

“Many mothers-to-be today buy into modern medicine’s disdain for God’s natural, physiological processes, and in essence agree that God’s design is inherently defective.”

“The so-called “experts” in the field of obstetrical practice desire that families do minimal thinking on their own and submit to the superior wisdom of modern medical science.”

“Because today there is an unrealistic expectation on the part of parents and medical personnel as to how long labor should take, especially a first labor, the many ‘helps’ that are available from the hospital ‘pain reduction’ menu often are the very factors that lead to eventual C-sections.”

And particularly these questions, which I think hit that nail squarely on the head:

“Had adopting the hospital model caused women to lose their innate instincts of how to give birth? Had the shift
in thinking produced a generation of women who wanted ‘natural childbirth’  but found it difficult to proceed because their own perspective (as well as the hospital’s perspective) of ‘natural childbirth’  lacked a full understanding of the process?”