This post is part of the series Pumping Mamas
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When I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of our first son, I was not expecting to become an exclusive pumper. But a few hours after he was born, it became clear that pumping was our only option if we wanted to breastfeed, and I managed to pump for ten months. A few weeks after our second son was born, once again I was back to being an exclusive pumper. Apparently, I carry and birth babies easily but breastfeeding from the tap is not something my body is able to do.
Whether you are an exclusive pumper like me (what I like to call “full-time”), you are a working mama pumping during business hours (“part-time”), you just need to pump a little extra for a trip or to have some emergency storage, or if you are a lucky mama that has to pump to relieve over-production (Hey, it does happen!), here are some must-have items to make your time pumping easier.
Seriously. These items are life-savers!
Must-have items for the Pumpin’ Mama
1. Double Electric Breast Pump
All pumping mamas need a great double electric pump, and while there are many on the market, I love, love, LOVE my Medela Pump in Style Advanced. I wasn’t planning on being a full-time pumper, but I am so glad this pump was recommended to me after our first son was born. It has survived 15 months of 24/7 usage, nine of which also included pumping at work, being dragged all over the place, being used in all sorts of places (including single occupancy bathrooms and moving vehicles). In fact, I once had to pump while I was driving.
Through all that, it is still going strong!
2. Correct Size Breastshield/Flanges
Sometimes called breastshields and other times flanges, these are the cone-like part that touches your breast. Medela Pump in Style Advanced comes with a set of medium 24mm breastshields, but depending upon your nipple size, this might not be the best fit for you. Important note: breast size is not an inducator of nipple size. Before my first child, I was an A cup and even as a breastfeeding mama, I’m just a B cup, but I use 30mm breastshields.
Medela’s the Pump in Style uses the PersonalFit interchangeable parts, and offers five different sizes so you can find the right fit for you.
3. Medela Wipes
If you have attended a breastfeeding class or read your pump’s instruction manual, then you already know that you are encouraged to wash the parts of your pump with warm, soapy water after every use. For working mamas, this might not be possible! These Quick Clean Breastpump and Accessory Wipes by Medela have been a lifesaver for me! Not only do they clean your pump parts in between washings, but they also cut through the breastmilk film that builds up on the inside of bottles.
4. Pink Stork Liquid Gold lactation tea
Whether you are an under-producing or just-right Mama, this delicious tea can help boost or maintain your milk supply. Each tea bag can be used up to three times. This tea is one of my secret weapons for increasing my milk supply. It helped me go from about 10 oz a day to over 40 oz! What is also great about Pink Stork Liquid Gold is that this tea is delicious steaming hot or iced.
5. Hands-free pumping bra
No matter how well-intentioned you might think you’ll be, all pumping mamas need a hands-free pumping bra or two or three. Believe me, it can be hard enough to get the proper suction without trying to hold the flanges correctly for 15-20 minutes, especially late at night or early in the morning when you are already sleep deprived and exhausted. A pumping bra lets you have your hands free: to feed a bottle to a hungry newborn, to answer phone calls, to write blog posts…
6. Similac slow flow nipple and ring
You might recognize these as the disposable nipples your hospital or birthing center might have sent home with you with a small batch of formula. For the picky newborn who tends to choke and fuss if the milk flows too quickly, these disposable nipples are extremely helpful. The slow flow is designed with newborns in mind. Both of our little ones used these for the first six months before they were ready to shift over to a reusable nipple with a slightly faster flow.
7. Boppy nursing pillow
This is the go-to pillow for nursing moms, but this pillow has more uses than just for breastfeeding. You can use it to bottle feed an infant, lay an older baby across it for tummy time, and help a baby practice unassisted sitting. Our older toddler likes to use it as a nap-time pillow, too. The Boppy nursing pillow is definitely a useful item in any household, but it can be especially helpful for pumping mamas.
8. Medela Pump Soap
As I mentioned earlier, breastmilk causes a filmy residue to build up in bottles and pump parts even if you wash them with warm water and mild soap regularly or even sanitize them. The Medela Pump Soap is a life-saver! I soak all bottles, caps, nipples, and pump parts for ten minutes at least once a week and then gently scrub off the residue with a bottle brush. With little effort, everything is clean and film-free!
9. Bottle brush
Bottles. As a pumping mama, you are going to have to deal with bottles, caps, and nipples. However, these items are not the easiest things to wash. If you don’t have a dishwasher (or even if you do), it is important to invest in a good bottle brush with a nipple cleaner attachment to get into those tiny spaces.
10. Drying rack
Another item you will need is somewhere to dry said bottles, caps, nipples, and pump parts! I highly recommend getting a drying rack designed specifically for this purpose. It will help keep all the bottle and pump parts away from your everyday dishes. We keep ours on the countertop next to the refrigerator in an area we have turned into a sort of “baby/toddler care section”.
11. Bottle warmer
For anyone who intends to bottlefeed in any capacity, a bottle warmer is a very handy tool. You can quickly warm up a bottle of expressed milk from the fridge or dethaw frozen breastmilk. It is faster for those middle-of-the-night bottle grabs! It is also helpful for those babies whose tummies might be a bit sensitive to cold milk or for those who live in colder climates. We used ours so much with both of our boys that it is almost completely worn out now!
12. Breast Milk Storage Bags
While there are many storage bag options available, I prefer Medela Breast Milk Storage Bags or Target’s Up & Up brand for durability. The last thing you want is for a bag to rip or leak while you are dethawing frozen milk and you lose precious ounces of liquid gold. I know this first hand. Yes, yes, I have cried over spilt milk.
13. Bottle cooler
If your pump does not come with it, you need to pick up a bottle cooler. This is vital for the pumping mama who works outside the home, to have something discreet you can put your bottle of expressed milk into to keep cold. It is also useful when running errands or visiting family/friends for a few hours.
14. Washable nursing pads
While useful throughout your breastfeeding and pumping experience, these are especially necessary during the first few months after baby is born while your supply comes in and evens out. Almost every mama will experience leaking, and these Washable nursing pads save you from embarrassing moments. They are soft, durable, and come in different color or patterns. The best part? Throw them in the wash on delicate, let them air dry, and then re-use them! Washable nursing pads are far more comfortable than the disposables and will save you a lot of money in the long run.
15. Nipple Balm/Butter/Cream
Ok, mamas. Let’s be real for a second. Breastfeeding is hard, pumping is hard, and it is especially hard on our breasts and nipples. Most women will experience some or all of these: soreness, dryness, tenderness, redness, blisters, cuts, etc. You need to find a nipple balm/butter/cream that works for you and is safe for baby to ingest. Earth Mama Organics has a great nipple butter. I also use Medela Tender Care Lanolin, and if you find your nipples rub your pump’s flange uncomfortably, use lanolin as a lubricant! I learned to apply it before every pumping session as a preventative measure.
16. Tender Care Hydrogel Pads
There may come a time when the nipple balm/butter/cream is not enough to ease pained or injured nipples. Every mama should have some soothing Hydrogel Pads on hand for emergencies. Be sure to follow the instructions on how to use these pads. I hope you never have to use them but definitely keep them in your pump bag. You’re welcome.
17. Spare Pump Parts
Depending upon the brand and style of pump you have, you should keep a few spare parts for your pump on hand. For those using Medela Pump in Style, here are links to replacement parts:
- Membranes – change out once a month
- Tubing – replace if torn or you notice specks near the connectors
- Valves and membranes – it is always good to have a spare set of values
- PersonalFit Connectors – if damaged or if you have a hard time cleaning the inside (I use q-tips), get a new set
If you are using a different type or brand of pump, make sure you find parts that match your specific pump.
18. Pump Bag
If your pump does not come with its own bag, you will need to get a bag to hold your pump, all its parts, bottles, wipes, pumping bra, etc. Since I don’t know your personal style or tastes, here are a few different types of bags to give yourself an idea of what is available and at different price points.
This is my ultimate list of must-have items for the pumping mama! Do you have another “must-have” item that is not listed above? Share it in the comments below!
Pump on, Mama!