Whether you’re planning to return to work or just want to pump extra breast milk so that other caregivers can feed the baby, knowing what you need is key to successful pumping.
We asked Dana Czuczka, MPH, IBCLC, the expert that leads our breastfeeding classes, for her top tips for new and expecting parents when it comes to pumping. From what to consider when selecting a pump to knowing what essential items you’ll need, this ultimate pumping checklist will help set you up for pumping success.
The Ultimate Pumping Checklist: Essential Items for Pumping
❑ Breast pump
❑ Breast pump parts
❑ Bottles or bags to pump into
❑ Cooler bag and ice pack
❑ Extra membranes
❑ Extra nursing pads
❑ Extra shirt
❑ Hands-free bra
❑ Power cord and/or battery pack with extra batteries
❑ Zippered plastic bags
❑ Sharpie to label bags
❑ Calendar reminder or other alarm/ notification, to make it easy to remember to take milk home
❑ Snacks & plenty of water
❑ Hygienic wipes, to clean parts in case a sink is not available
What to Consider When Choosing A Breast Pump
Portability: Consider how big and heavy the pump is if you are planning to bring it back and forth on your commute. Also consider whether you want a battery, plug-in only, or a completely hands-free or wireless option.
Suction strength & pump effectiveness: This typically ranges between 220-350 mmHg (mmHg = millimeters of mercury, the standard unit of measuring vacuum pressure).
Noise level of pump. Some pumps are quieter than others, which may matter to you depending on the privacy of your setup.
“Open” vs. “closed” system. This describes whether there is backflow protection (aka a barrier) within the pump to ensure breast milk and moisture can’t get into the pump. Closed systems help decrease the risk of contamination and bacteria growth.
Note: Closed system pumps can be shared between users. Open-system pumps cannot be shared.
Cost. Even though insurance often offers some pump options for free, there can sometimes be an extra fee for certain pumps or models.
Ease of use. The last thing you’ll want to do with a new baby at home is figure out how to use a complex pump.
And, remember, under the Affordable Care Act, most marketplace plans cover a breast pump. So before you go out and purchase one, make sure to check what’s available to you through insurance.
A Few Other Pumping Tips to Keep in Mind
Dana recommends beginning pumping between Weeks 2 and 4 after birth. This typically gives most parents enough time to regulate their milk supply and establish a comfortable latch . If you are still working out the breastfeeding kinks, or don’t have a time-bound reason to begin sooner, it’s fine to wait and continue to focus on breastfeeding. Just be sure you give yourself at least a few weeks before heading back to work to feel comfortable with using your pump.
Since your milk production is highest in the early morning hours, you’ll probably yield more output if you pump in the morning versus in the afternoon or evening, but do what works best for you. Dana details how often to pump, here.
If you usually breastfeed and are pumping so that someone else can feed baby, or because you are returning to work, make sure to introduce your baby to the bottle before it is absolutely necessary. Generally speaking, Dana recommends waiting to introduce a bottle until breastfeeding is well established, baby has a good latch, and your milk supply is regulated —that usually takes 2-4 weeks. Then, you may want to consider offering at least one bottle a day to ensure your baby is comfortable/flexible moving back and forth between breast and bottle.
Heading back to work and looking for more pumping tips from Dana? Check out this article for 11 steps for breastfeeding parents returning to work, and don’t forget to watch our breastfeeding classes (this one is free!), to learn everything you need to know for a successful breastfeeding journey.