Exclusively Pumping: Making It Less Miserable

May 6, 2015



Flashback photo from Ainsley’s first week of life, when we were still figuring out the whole pumping/bottle feeding thing.
Eeek! Can you believe how little she is there? Be still my momma heart. 

I think one thing everyone who has ever breast fed can agree on is this: pumping is absolutely the worst. Anyone with me on that one? Although Ainsley is only two months old, I have already put my pump to good use since I’ve been exclusively pumping since she was four days old. Seriously, I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Since Ainsley had a small gap in the corner of her lip it was clear from the first few horrible days in the hospital that breast feeding just wasn’t going to happen for us. I lasted a couple more frustrating days at home before I made the switch to bottle feeding breast milk, and I can’t tell you the wave of relief I felt when the doctors confirmed that Ainsley’s lip gap was probably a big source of our lack of success at breast feeding.

Of course there are a number of reasons that women pump: to keep up their supply, because they’ve returned to work, because breast feeding multiples is just not working, etc. And I think that the universal opinion on pumping is that it’s just plain miserable. So, if you’re in the same boat that I’m in, I’ve brainstormed a few things you can do while pumping to make it less miserable…

1. Embrace Pumping in the Car
I thought this was so strange when my friends told me that they pumped in the car driving places. But after one too many days scheduling my life around being home to pump, I decided to just embrace pumping while driving. I bought a set of Freemie cups (which are WAY more discreet while driving and easier to use) and a car adapter and my world was changed. It’s great to be able to multitask while driving and it’s even better not to feel chained to getting home in order to pump or to sneak away to a bathroom somewhere in the middle of an event or activity.

2. Blog!
How do you think I made time for this blog post?! But seriously, sitting down with your computer to blog, do bookwork, catch up on e-mails that you never have time to respond to and other semi-productive tasks is a great way to get your mind off pumping and get caught up on those things you say you never have time to do. I usually keep my computer next to my pump so it’s always within arm’s reach.

3. Blow Dry Your Hair, Do Your Makeup
Every now and again when I’m really crunched for time, I set up my pump on the bathroom sink and do my makeup or blow dry my hair while I’m pumping. Finding time to do your hair or makeup as a new momma is hard enough, so this is sort of an easy excuse to take a little time to yourself.

4. Refrigerate Your Pumping Supplies
I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this, but when a new momma friend told me you can take your pumping supplies and store them in the refrigerator for the day it was a game changer. Refrigerating your supplies for the day eliminates the need to clean them every time, and those extra minutes can be used for more important things – like napping!

5. Pump and Feed
This isn’t meant to be an advertisement for Freemie, but I’ve loved the cups so much and they’ve been a game changer for pumping. It’s not easy, but I have figured out that I can pump with the Freemie cups and feed Ainsley her bottle at the same time. I don’t do it often, but when she wakes early and needs to eat and I need to pump, it can be done!

Mommas who have exclusively pumped, do you have any other tips to share? 

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  • Reply Andrea May 7, 2015 at 12:21 am

    I EPd all three of my children for a year each. I actually enjoyed pumping, I liked the freedom it gave me to have anyone feed the baby. I used my time attached to the pump as me time- watching YouTube videos, reading magaznesc etc.

    • Reply MadisonMayberry May 7, 2015 at 6:26 pm

      Oh I really do love the freedom, don’t get me wrong! Something about the actual pumping sort of makes me cringe every time, though! 😉

  • Reply Andrea May 7, 2015 at 1:08 am

    I have pumped more with my second baby and sometimes I love that it gives us a little more freedom, but I do hate the cleaning and pumping! I’ve heard of Freemie cups, maybe I will have to invest in a pair! Here’s a great podcast about pumping and plans to redesign the pump! http://longestshortesttime.com/podcast-40-hackathon/

    • Reply Urban Wife May 7, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      Love this podcast and heard this episode last summer. It was an eye opener!

    • Reply MadisonMayberry May 7, 2015 at 6:25 pm

      Thanks for passing this along, Andrea! Excited to listen to it. And yes, do look into the Freemie cups; they’ve been a game changer for me!

  • Reply Valerie May 7, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    This is such an interesting post, thanks for sharing! I am breastfeeding my 3 week old, and to be honest, not sure if I will continue and really want to attempt exclusively pumping for him. Can you tell me a little bit more about what a “day in the life” is like doing this? I’m trying to understand what I’m signing up for if I switch over. Do you feed Ainsley a bottle first, then pump afterwards? How long are your pumping sessions? Did you ever feel like you were close to running out of bottles for her? Thanks in advance!

    • Reply MadisonMayberry May 7, 2015 at 6:25 pm

      Hi Valerie! Great questions!

      There are some really great things about exclusively pumping and bottle feeding. I love that I know exactly how much milk my LO is taking at each feeding and that I can make sure that she really is getting a good, full feeding each time. That way when she fusses an hour after eating, I know it isn’t because she is hungry. Also, it’s great for flexibility because I can go out and about and my husband or mom can help with feedings or night shifts!

      That said, it’s also sometimes more work. For me, pumping sessions only take about 10 minutes, but I’ve heard some people who need 20-30 minutes to get a full pumping session/enough milk each time. I think everyone is different! I’ve also been able to bank a little extra milk in the freezer and fridge this way so I am never really close to running out. Hopefully I will be able to extend the amount of time Ainsley gets breast milk once I want to be done pumping; right now I have a few weeks worth in the freezer.

      Usually I try to pump right after she goes down for a nap so that I have milk ready for the next feeding no matter when she wakes up and usually I find that I can stay 1 or 2 bottles ahead of her. Thankfully milk can be left out at room temp for 4 to 6 hours so I just take the next bottle out of the fridge when I need it to be ready for the following feeding.

      Once in a while I get my timing off and end up really needing to pump when Ainsley really needs to eat, which is a pain. On those occasions I will use the Freemie cups and pump while I feed her. Not ideal, but it can be done!

      Overall, I would say it’s a little bit more work, but the trade-off for the freedom to go anywhere and be able to have others help with Ainsley is invaluable. Although we were forced into pumping because of A’s feeding issue, I am actually really pleased with how it all turned out.

      • Reply Valerie May 7, 2015 at 7:06 pm

        Madison- thank you SO much for the prompt reply. This is SO incredibly helpful to me. I am having such a difficult time with breastfeeding despite multiple meetings with lactation consultants, youtube videos, etc. and your experience really makes me feel better about deciding to exclusively pump. So thank you 🙂

        And that Freemie looks AMAZING! I am literally about to order one from Amazon but just have a couple questions. I have Medela Pump in Style Advanced…so all I would need to order are the Collection Cups that correspond to it, right? Did you also buy a car adapter separately so you could pump while you drive? Any other parts/pieces that you’ve found to be helpful to go along with it?

        • Reply Julie Robinson May 12, 2015 at 1:04 am

          I bought my freemie through Amazon, though I ended up needing the 32mms size and had to order that through freemie itself. I normally use the L (27mm) of the medela flanges, but the 28mm that came with the freemie just wasn’t big enough and I had some hard spots on my breasts where the milk wasn’t emptying fully. I too pump in the car, and actually pumped while pumping gas today which was amazing in my eyes. No crazy looking uncomfortable flanges sticking out of my clothes. I also bought the car adaptor from Amazon. One thing I’ve realized with the medela pump, instead of using the medela tubing AND the tubing/connectors to join the two (will probably make more sense once you get the system) I just connect the tubing that came with the freemie and hook it up to the medela pump. It makes for a shorter reach from cups to pump which eliminates the need for stronger suction. The longer the tubing the more suction you will need to get the same suction power. Good luck!

  • Reply Julie Johnson May 7, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    While I think either way is by no means fun (let’s face it-it’s not a massage or a pedicure-it can be painful, it’s time consuming, and a lot of work), I feel like I had a better experience exclusively pumping. As your babe gets bigger, I didn’t have to pump every time my son ate, so it was nice to always have another serving ready to go for the in-between times. It was also great for my supply, I was able to freeze milk so that when I dried up, I was still able to give my son breastmilk for a few months. It helps that when they start eating real food they don’t need as much milk too. My husband and other family members also enjoyed being able to feed our baby, and it was great bonding time for them as well. I am ready for #2 any day now, and I have ordered the Freemie cups, so I’m excited to try them out with this little one. I also really appreciated knowing how much he was eating every time, instead of not knowing how much was really inside me, and did I get all the way empty, etc.

    Something else I did to stretch my supply a bit was if my son was at the stage of eating 4 oz in a sitting, but maybe I was able to pump 9 oz- I’d split my pumping into 3, 3 oz bottles and mix in an once of formula to each. I got a lot of free formula and samples by registering on the similar and evenflo websites, so I used that. When the samples run out-they send great coupons, so I’d use those too. We really didn’t have to buy much formula at all though.

    I guess for me what it came down to was did I enjoy it-not really, but more than anything, I wanted to do what was best for our son. I was very blessed and thankful I was able to produce for him, and while it wasn’t fun to experience at the time, I look back now and think-man, that really wasn’t that big of a deal. As with so many other parenting things-what can seem like it’s never-ending and not pleasant, will seem like a very small part in the big picture.

  • Reply Urban Wife May 7, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Madison, this is SUCH a great post! And a super cute picture of you two! 🙂 I had no idea this type of system even existed. Though pumping isn’t my favorite just because I can’t find the time to sit down for 20-30 minutes, I love the concept of using the Freemie system. Have you had any issues with the cups not having enough suction, and causing leaks? I know that’s one of my big issues with using my traditional pump.

    • Reply MadisonMayberry May 7, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      It’s fabulous! It makes pumping around friends and family, when necessary, much less awkward because you’re so much more covered up. I’ve had zero issues with leaks and find that the Freemie system can be put into your existing bra, though I do think that a sports bra works a little better. They do say that you may have to increase the suction on your pump by about 10% which I’ve found to be true!

      • Reply Urban Wife May 8, 2015 at 4:13 am

        Awesome! That’s great to hear. Thank you for letting me know. xo

  • Reply Lori May 7, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    I also exclusively pumped from 6 weeks on and this hands-free bra is a MUST!


  • Reply Aileen May 11, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Do you think that the freemie cups stretch out your bras? I’m thinking about buying it after this post for when I go back to work but don’t want the cups to ruin my nursing bras. And on that note…Have you found any really great nursing bras that you love?

    • Reply Julie Robinson May 12, 2015 at 1:12 am

      I’m not sure if the cups stretch out the bra or not, I’ve read posts where people say they do… I guess it depends on how snug your bras fit when your full/ready to pump. My breasts are not that big and I ultimately end up wearing a cami with nursing pads in the shelf bra part. And then a loser shirt over it. It makes it super easy to put the cups in and out and have the over shirt conceal better. I can see how not everyone would feel comfortable like that though. Anything that has a little stretch to it would be easiest though, sports bra etc. I did have the issue of the bra putting too much pressure on my breast and not letting all the milk letdown, which caused hard spots in my breast where the milk couldn’t get out. However, aside from the pressure from my bra, I believe the cup size was also too small and I ended up ordering the 32mm. Hope it works for you! I love it! It has really made pumping on the go so much easier and convenient for me, which has definitely been freeing! I was upset that my LO couldn’t nurse, as my first one did, so I didn’t have experience with exclusive pumping until now.

  • Reply Kim@NewlyWoodwards May 26, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    I definitely think you hit the nail on the head with this post – I pumped exclusively for 11.5 months and I only managed it because I multitasked. Otherwise, I’m sure I’d have gone nuts. getting ready in the morning? Pumping. Reading a book or blogging? Pumping. Driving? Pumping. Eating a snack? Pumping.

  • Reply Jenna June 26, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    Madison – can I tell you how grateful I am for your blog and this blog post??? I have a 4 month old girl and feel like I have been on this journey with you. I just looked at the Freemie cups and I. AM. SO. EXCITED!!!! I’m back to work and these are going to be a lifesaver. Thank you!!!!

  • Reply Aly Guillemette July 4, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    Madison – I love your approach to mama hood and would love to hear more about your exclusively pumping experience. I am a brand new mama to an 11 day old and have to pump due to latch and weight issues and am looking for all the advice I can get so I feel a little more confident! I was wondering a few things like if you stayed on a strict timing scheduling for your pumping or more just pumped when Ainsley wanted to eat? Right now I pump every three hours at 3, 6, 9, 12 and feed my baby right before or after each pumping session often times waking him to feed but Im wondering if thats the best way to do it. I also was wondering how you knew how much to give Ainsley in the bottle each time and as she grew? And finally when Ainsley did start sleeping longer stretches at night did you increase the amount she was getting in her bottles during the day? Again just looking for any tips on scheduling a pumping schedule that makes for a happy baby and mama and I love your approach to all things mama hood! Thanks!

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