Find the best breast pump for you, learn how to use it, how to store your breast milk, and what to do if you have problems.

Breast Pumping: The Ultimate Guide to Getting it Done

Breast milk is a wonderful way to nourish your infant. In choosing to breastfeed, you are setting your child up for a lifetime of health benefits. It’s also beneficial for mama and creates a beautiful bond between mom and child.


Some of us can’t actually breastfeed every time the baby is hungry. You may need to work, go shopping or, heck, take a nap. Enter breast pumping.

Sure, you’re a nursing mother, but you’re also human.

There are tons of reasons (from work to sickness to latching issues) that mamas choose to pump. In fact, a dear friend’s daughter just would NOT latch on her breast. She was so committed to the benefits of breast milk that she pumped for a year! Her daughter was exclusively breast (or you could say, pump) fed and is thriving. Investing in a pump and keeping some spare milk on hand will make life less stressful and flexible for you and the whole family.

What types of breast pump iss best for you?

If you have done any research or shopped around a bit, you have probably realized that not all breast pumps are the same and that there are many different options. Don’t be overwhelmed.

Here’s a look at various pump types and who they’re best for.

Hospital grade – electric

Hospital grade pumps are best for moms who are having difficulty breastfeeding. These pumps are work fast, can collect from both breasts at once, and will drain the most milk. You may need one of these if your baby isn’t latching properly, you’re having trouble building up a supply, or if your baby is a preemie. Note that these top-of-the-line pumps can be an investment.

Top end personal use pumps – electric

These breast pumps are best for mamas who pump frequently – moms who need to pump at work, for example. These also pump quite rapidly and will drain a lot of breast milk. (Pssst… This is helpful if you are using the pump during your lunch break!)

Mid-range pumps – electric or battery

These are best for mamas who pump about once a day – moms who are usually with baby throughout the day, but want to have some extra milk on hand. They do take a while to use, and won’t get you quite as much milk as quickly, but are less expensive and make sense if you will only be pumping once a day.

Manual pumps

These are best for moms who prefer an inexpensive and quiet option. Some women love using manual (or hand-operated) pumps, but if you’re on-the-go or need to build up a big supply, a manual pump may not be the right option for you. Keep in mind that YOU will be doing all the pumping by hand, so this method can be downright exhausting.

Did you hear that U.S. insurance plans are now required to cover the cost of a breast pump?

It’s true! The Affordable Care Act requires most health insurance plans to cover the cost of breastfeeding equipment and lactation consultants for pregnant and nursing women. You’ll find more details on this page.

When should you begin breast pumping and storing milk?

It depends. If you are planning to go back to work, then you can start breast pumping immediately after the baby is born so you have a store ready to go when your maternity leave is up.

This may be too overwhelming at first. If you feel like you simply can’t start breast pumping and need some time, give it a few weeks and do not stress. That stress will lower your milk supply and make having a newborn even more challenging and draining.

Wait 4-8 weeks to introduce baby to the bottle

Though you can start pumping as soon as you like, it is usually best to wait until baby is at least one month old (8 weeks to be safe) and breastfeeding is well established before you introduce a bottle. This will help you avoid “nipple confusion” in your infant. (As I mentioned earlier, some babies won’t latch no matter what you do. It could be tied to a lip or tongue tie, or some other mysterious reason. It’s best to meet with a lactation consultant to to get to bottom of it.)

What’s the deal with “nipple confusion?”

Fact is, nursing can be hard work for a baby! Whereas it’s pretty easy to let gravity do the work when they’re drinking from a bottle.

After their babies begin to drink from a bottle, some moms can have a hard time getting them back onto the breast. This will also cause difficulty for you, because you will not produce as much milk if your baby does not nurse.

For most moms, the longer they wait to introduce the bottle, the better.

How do I use a breast pump?

If you have never seen or used a breast pump, you may be wondering how they work. They may look a bit intimidating, but they are quite simple to use.

First of all, the nurses at the hospital will probably offer to let you use a hospital grade pump for breast pumping. Even if you have no intention of using it right off of the bat, you may want to let them bring it in so you can check it out and give it a try. They will be glad to help you position the cups and get the settings correct. You want to center the cup (also known as a phalange or shield) over your breast and turn the machine on. The rest is up to the machine. If you use a manual pump, you will center the cup over your nipple in the same manner and simply pump with your hands.

Each pump will come with detailed instruction manual and usually an accompanying online video. Follow the directions and you’ll be good to go.

When is the best time of day for breast pumping?

It is best to pump 1 hour after feeding because you will have allowed your breasts some time to refill. If your baby has recently drained them and you’re trying to pump, you may create an unnecessary stressor and you can be doing more harm than good. However, many moms have ample milk a few weeks postpartum and can pump right after nursing and freeze the extra.

Feel pain? Something’s wrong.

When pumping you should never feel pain. There will be a tugging sensation and possibly some discomfort, but it should not hurt. Try starting out on the lowest setting and gradually working your way up.

If you still feel discomfort, try repositioning the cups or talking to a lactation consultant. (Here’s what it’s like to work with a lactation consultant.) There are breast shields and many other tools that can be used to make pumping as easy and comfortable as possible. Some moms find just adding a little olive or coconut oil on their nipples before and after pumping helps. You can also try my DIY sore nipple remedy.

“How can I express the most milk possible?”

Here are some tips to help you get the most milk per breast pumping session:

  1. Don’t stress. Never stress out about breast milk or sit and watch the bottles fill up. You know the old saying, “a watched pot never boils”? Well, “a watched bottle never fills!”
  2. Get a hands-free bra for comfort. In a word: Life-changing. It transform staring at a wall holding cones to your breasts to a time when you can read, text message, or drive a car (done it!) The more comfortable and content you are, the more likely you’ll stick to pumping. There are lots of great pumping bras out there and it will seriously transform pumping from a chore to a chance to catch up on things. I really can’t recommend this enough.
  3. Make sure you are hydrated. Dehydration is your worst enemy when you are breastfeeding (or at any other time in your life, for that matter.) So drink plenty of water. And go easy on coffee or soda.
  4. Grab a photo of your babe. Sometimes having a photo or video of your baby to look at while you pump will help your body release the appropriate hormones that allow for milk production. This will also help you to de-stress and relax.
  5. Don’t forget! Wait at least an hour after your last nursing session.

How do I store breast milk?

Now that you have it, what do you do with it? You will need to develop a storage system that is easy for you, your spouse and other caretakers to understand. You can purchase many breast milk labeling systems and storage containers made specifically for breast milk. These can be convenient, but aren’t essential.

Store your breast milk in clean glass or plastic food storage containers. Make sure and label them with the date. It is also easiest to try and store the milk in portion sizes equivalent to what the baby typically eats. That way you have it on hand and ready to go.

You should always refrigerate the milk to keep it safe for baby. You can also freeze your milk, but should only do so when necessary. The freezing process damages some of the antibodies in the milk, but it is still very therapeutic.

How long can breast milk be kept at room temperature?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that breast milk can be kept at room temperature for six to eight hours. It is, however, best to refrigerate it as soon as possible.

How long does breast milk last in the refrigerator?

Breast milk stored in the refrigerator can last up to eight days, provided that your fridge is set to a temperature between 32°-39°F (0°-3.9°C).

How long does breast milk last in the freezer?

If you’ve got one of those freezers that are located inside of your refrigerator (for example, a mini-fridge), breast milk will keep for two weeks.

If you’ve got a large refrigerator, where the freezer is on top or side by side, and if that freezer is kept at a temperature of 0°F (-18°C), your breast milk will last for six to 12 months.

Pro tip: store your breast milk in the back of your freezer and not in the freezer door. The key is to keep the temperature consistent and cold.

How to thaw frozen breast milk

Popular ways to thaw your frozen breast milk include:

  • Storing it overnight in the refrigerator
  • Running it under warm water
  • Soaking it in a  jar of warm water

You can also buy bottle warmers if you’re pumping often and need to heat bottles regularly.

Never, ever microwave breast milk. It will kill nutrients and can create hot spots which may burn your baby’s mouth.

Once thawed, breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator for 24 hours or at room temperature for about an hour.

What if you have trouble breast pumping?

Having difficulty with pumping can be frustrating and disheartening. If you are having trouble, don’t give up or feel alone. Breastfeeding and breast pumping can be difficult and there will be a learning curve.

Try not to worry

If you are feeling discouraged, try not to worry and follow the tips mentioned earlier for producing the most milk:

  • Drink more water
  • Relax
  • Look at pictures of your little one as you pump

Could the problem be your pump?

There’s a chance that your pump may not be appropriate for your needs. If that’s the case, you’ll want to consider getting a new one. This is something you can discuss with a lactation consultant or at a La Leche League meeting.

Yes, see a lactation consultant and attend La Leche League meetings

Even if you need to pump full time, you are still a breastfeeding mama, and you can still benefit from the support of a lactation consultant or a community of breastfeeding mothers.

Getting this type of support can be invaluable if you’re struggling with lactation issues, and may help you to feel more secure with this experience.

Feeling guilty about exclusively pumping?

Whatever the reason they choose to pump, some mamas feel guilty or sad about it – like they’re not “really” breastfeeding when they do it from a bottle. If you’re having thoughts like that, I encourage you to feel your feelings of grief and then let them go.

Truth is, you’re working even harder to nourish your baby this way, and showing an even greater dedication to being a natural mama. In fact, you are my hero. Pumping ain’t easy and you’re going the distance, mama.

Always remember: You are not alone

For many moms, exclusive breastfeeding is simply NOT possible. And pumping is the next best thing. Be sure to get yourself that hands-free bra (or make one by cutting small holes in a tight-ish sports bra) and you can multitask your way through each session.

Need breastfeeding help?

How about you?

Did we miss anything in this breast pumping guide? Did any tips or tricks help you along on your pumping journey? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

  1. Extremely helpful topics to include here:
    1. What is a haakaa and how is it helpful to nursing moms?
    2. What is pace feeding and why would I need to do it?
    3. How much milk should I plan for baby to eat? (I have breastfed two children past 2 and did not know until #3 that the answer is 1 to 1.5oz per hour mama is away. So my early pumping attempts were deeply discouraging bc I thought baby would need 4-8 oz per feeding.)

  2. Good day all. Well I am 2 weeks post and finding myself getting a bit discouraged at times with breastfeeding. I know it rakes time and patience but it feel as if my baby isn’t getting enough at feedings. O also feel like I’m not producing what I should. I’m lpoking to meet with a lactation consultant so hopefully after that I will feel more confident

    • Hopefully the LC will be able to help shed some light on your situation. Good luck!

  3. I overproduce and I work full time. The issue that I’m having is that one breast is more productive than the other. I understand this but the underproducing side I have to massage and squeeze the breast in order to Express all the milk even when I’m just starting pumping. Is there anything I can do in order to make it where I dont have to do this. I usually end up having to turn my pump up a few times during the session and pump for at least 30 minutes. Thanks ahead of time.

  4. This data was extremely useful and empowering! Much thanks to you Enjoyed reading this blog post,this is very helpful post .well done

  5. I am currently breastfeeding but will need to start pumping for when I return to work. Baby feeds every 30 mins to 1 hour though so I am not able to wait 1 hour after nursing before I pump. And it’s always a stressful time whenever I do attempt because I keep thinking he might start asking to feed any moment now. Any tips for how I can start getting a stash going?

    • Pumping after you nurse is a good idea. Having a huge freezer stash isn’t advised as your milk contestantly changes to suit baby’s needs. You wouldn’t want to have 100 frozen ounces of newborn milk to feed to your 6 month old. One days worth of milk is all you need!

    • I am in the same situation, my 6wk old feeds 1-2 hrly throughout the day and by the time I set up my pump and sterilise after, as well as trying to meet his needs I just got so time poor and stressed. But my LC said if I pump directly after a feed for 4-6mins each side I won’t affect his supply… I am not getting much but it’s a start. She said that it takes approx 35 mins to rebuild your supply.
      Another tip was to pour your precious pumped bmilk into an icecube tray, then when you have enough for one tray tip into a bmilk storage bag so you have enough for one feed without losing a drop. Hope this helps x

  6. I tried to click on the links for mid-grade and top-end, and it just brings me to a general amazon search for breast pumps. Could you provide examples of each? I pump at work, so I want to make sure I have the right pump. Thanks!!!

  7. Hello! Do you have any suggestions/articles for plastic-free breastmilk storage options?

    • Glass mason jars!

  8. Seeing and rereading this post from time to time is very encouraging. When my son was born last September, he had almost no suck reflex to speak of. Nurse after nurse, the lactation consultant, his doctor, my ob came in and stuck their fingers in his mouth just to all conclude, “Huh. You’re right. He’s not sucking.” I was finally given a hand pump the second morning after he was born, got out some liquid gold, and we tried a bottle. He sort of got it; he took forever but eventually got some food in his belly! I had my MIL bring the electric pump I had received through insurance (that I didn’t think I would have to touch for weeks yet) to the hospital, and our exclusive pumping journey began. It is lonely and a time suck to sit and pump (for me) five times a day, but I am encouraged by your words and my wonderful growing baby! Thank you!

  9. Yes all this information is helpful! I have been back to work for about 2 weeks now and have actually seen my supply go up by using this technique as well. I try to power pump (10 min on, 5 min off, then 10 min on again) plus then I hand express and get more milk that the pump wasn’t getting out. There was a study done by Stanford of moms whose babies were in much- by adding massage during pumping and hand expression afterward they saw a natural increase in amount produced compared to those who didn’t massage or hand express afterward. Staying hydrated also really helps- I try to have my bottle of water handy and anytime I nurse or pump I drink the whole thing!!! Rock on ladies and keep at it – it truly is the best thing for you and your baby!

  10. How about some tips for getting a breastfed baby to take a bottle? That’s what we’re struggling with right now…

    • Even I’m facing the same problem with my 3months old LO

  11. Thank you for this post! It was very encouraging to me. I had my baby last week and he was 4 weeks early. Because he’s a preemie, he doesn’t have the energy to latch on for every feeding. I have been pumping so that he can have my milk from a bottle instead of formula. Part of me is afraid he’ll have “nipple cinfusuon”, but I know I just need to let me fears go and know that I’m doing what is best for my baby right now.

  12. I exclusively pump and feed my baby expressed milk and I agree that having a hands free pumping bra is ESSENTIAL to keeping your sanity while pumping. I cut tiny holes in an old sports bra and it worked like a charm. I found out that you want to keep the holes small so the flange doesn’t slip out.

  13. I’d love a post on re-lactating and induced lactation. We are looking into adoption for our third child and I’d like to attempt to use breast milk. I’ve read that for some who have already breastfed it can be as easy as pumping every couple of hours until you start producing again. I think this may work for me – I sometimes still have the sensation of let down (not sure that means anything) and I remember releasing small amounts of milk long after my youngest stopped nursing, though not in the past couple years. However, if pumping alone won’t do it, I’d love to know about natural ways to get my body to produce. If you don’t do your own post, please feel free to direct me to some good info on this topic. Thank you!

  14. The best thing I got to increase my milk supply for pumping was going hands free. There’s a company called free me that has hands free collection cups. I can pump anywhere now- driving, conference center bathroom, with company, etc.
    I’m crazy passionate about how awesome it is to be so free!

  15. Thanks a lot for all the insight. I have come to find a manual pump works well for me especially when I’m very full, as it does it faster. But for when I’m relaxed and not in a hurry, I hook up to the electric one

  16. Thank you for the note on exclusive pumping. I can’t get my newborn to latch, and after 4 meetings with 2 different consultants I am exclusive pumping. It breaks my heart and I don’t get much support from family, so I need all the affirmation I can get.

  17. I recommend the Medela In Style Advanced. Sturdy and quick! I feel it is powerful enough without causing discomfort. I am doing a combination of breast and pumped BM in bottle due to work. This is baby #3. I am a visiting nurse and often pump while driving. I pumped every day for a year with my second child and I LOATHE pumping. It takes a lot of dedication to exclusively pump and it is a labor of love. Kudos to exclusive pumpers!!

  18. i like my karmin breast pump 🙂

  19. Thanks this was awesome info I have been having so much trouble and I wanted to cry but I think you have helped me solve my small problems with pumping thanks so much

  20. This information was very helpful and encouraging! Thank you 🙂

  21. I recommend learning how to hand express as well. My wife was not keen on pumps, even before she started back to work. She tried a manual one for about a month, and then it seemed her supply was going down. So she told me, “I was raised on a farm, so I’m gonna stick to what I know best”. She stopped taking her pump with her and literally took matters into her own hands. Her supply that had mysteriously vanished was back within a week. She tells me it is a lot more comfortable than pumping. She also notes that it doesn’t take her much time. Every 2-3 hours she takes roughly a ten minute break to produce a 4-5oz bottle. So as far as the company is concerned, she’s just taking a smoke break, and our baby is staying pretty well fed. Not to mention my wife has one heck of a firm handshake these days.

  22. I hate pumping. Don’t do it if you don’t have too. Been back to work for 7 months and my supply isn’t enough anymore. Make sure you start a good pumping routine right away if you’re going back to work, because it’s hard to change later and it can decrease your supply. But the important part is that he is still getting some breastmilk everyday. Just do what you can and don’t be hard on yourself for the things you can’t do.

    • Well, sometimes breast pumping is not the best thing in the world. It can be uncomfortable and a bit disgusting but if you need it you have to do it. I can understand you perfectly but afet 1-2 weeks it is easier to do it. Just be consistent and you will get it. 🙂

  23. I seem to be seeing this for the first time a bit late! But, regardless, I think it is important to note that not all nipples are created the same. So the standard phlange sizes may not work for you. For example, I have a hygeia and the phlanges that came with my pump are, I believe, size 28 mm. I started experiencing severe breast pain after pumping and couldn’t figure out what the problem was. After consulting with a friend, I decided to try a smaller phlange. So I purchased a Medela 24 mm as i couldn’t find a smaller hygeia phlange. Still had the same problems. My lactation consultant gave me a new nipple shield – 21 mm – around the same time. So I did more research and straight up measured my nipples and had to special order a couple 19 mm phlanges. Now, I can pump without pain. Sizing is important!

    • How did you measure your nipples? I’m having breast/nipple pain an think my phlange might be too big, it’s a 24mm.

    • So true! Even though I’m exclusively breastfeeding right now, I started pumping and freezing at 4 weeks in anticipation of going back to work at 12 weeks. I wasn’t getting any milk with the standard 24 mm shields that come with the Medela! I couldn’t figure out what was wrong until I googled and realized the way my nipples looked while pumping meant the shields were too big. I had to go to 4 stores to find 21 mm shields.

      This is something the article doesn’t address, but it’s very important! Size matters!

  24. This is a remarkable article! I’ve been exclusively pumping for 6 weeks, my baby girl is 8 weeks and perfect.
    It has been quote a struggle and my biggest frustration is every article refers back to nursing.
    Thank you for taking your time and putting this together!
    Best wishes!

  25. For some of us who will not produce for the pump, the manual pump is able to express MORE milk than an electric one.

    • How long does it take to use a electric breast pump to fill up a bottle? Would the day before you need the expressed breast milk belong enough?

      • It depends on how much you produce. I exclusively breastfeed, but also pump/freeze after 3 feedings/day. After a feed, I pump between 3-5 oz, depending on the time of day. I produce more in the morning than in the evening. I have a slight over-supply. Some women can produce a lot more while others pump an ounce or less after a feeding.

  26. Enjoyed reading this blog post, it came at a perfect time for me. My DS is 11 weeks now and while I breastfed from both breasts in the first 5-6 weeks or so, he never really accepted one breast, so I ended up having to start pumping that one and fed him the expressed milk by bottle. This probably started him preferring the bottle, and now, at 11 weeks, he nearly exclusively feeds from the bottle, and I must now nearly exclusively pump. Agreed that it is double the work, is annoying and I consider throwing in the towel nearly every day. But then when he gets his checkup and you hear that your baby is thriving, you feel a great sense of pride and achievement, knowing everything you go through trying to nurse and and with pumping still are putting your body through to feed your child well. Whoever said breastfeeding is easy has no clue!
    For those wondering, I used a rented Medela hospital grade pump for the first 6 weeks, then while travelling with baby a Medela handpump on the road (worked like a charm too, but your hand does get tired!) and since week 9 a Spectra S1 electric pump, which I am quite happy with.

  27. Is anyone aware of just plain old glass storage bottles for freezing breastmilk? On the link there are mostly plastic and the ones that are glass are strictly bottles or for food. I am just looking for glass bottles to freeze my milk in so I don’t have to use the plastic bags…

    • I bought mason jars but ended up never using them since my body does not produce for the pump.

    • You shouldn’t freeze liquids in glass, as the glass can shatter when it’s thawed. It’s dangerous.

    • I have used mason jars to freeze milk. I would just leave the lid on top without screwing on and enough room at the top for the milk to expand. I found that putting the lids on tight, some jars cracked and broke. When I needed to defrost I would put in the fridge or in luke warm water with the lid unscrewed. It worked great for me and I pumped exclusively for 1 year.

  28. When my daughter was born she developed thrush, and we passed it back and forth to each other. After trying many things, I began to exclusively pump because the pain of feeding her made me want to fall to my knees. In the end, I made a lot of dietary changes, which was what cleared it up. I exclusively pumped for six months, periodically trying in that time period to have her breast feed directly. At six months it worked! I breast fed her then from 6-12 months! So it’s not impossible to go from exclusively pumping to breast feeding! You can make a pumping bra out of an old sports bra. I also just cut a couple holes in an older t shirt so I could walk around the house and not feel like I’m walking in my bra all day.

    • My baby is 5 months and I have a similar story as yours where I have been pumping this whole time and now that I want to breastfeed he barely nibbles (only at night time). my milk does let down but I barely feel suction and I still have to pump the hind milk bc he just stops when the automatic the let down slows. His suction is so gentle that if I don’t pump I produce less milk.How did you go back to bf?

      • My baby did the same thing and I took him to Beckman & Associates and got an Oral Motor Assessment. His mouth, tongue, checks & lips are weak & I learned little exercises to do with my fingers gently in his mouth. I exclusively pumped the first 2 months because my nipples were so damaged from his clamping down trying to nurse his first week. He is 3 months and I started breastfeeding all the time with a nipple shield. It still hurts sometimes, but he is getting better at it. And I still have to pump when my breasts get too full, but he is improving at getting the milk out. I put him on the breast every couple hours, so I won’t be going back to work. It has been rough, and I had Mastitis when I wasn’t pumping enough, but my sweet baby is healrhy and growing and happy so its all worth it! Call your Insurance & tell them your baby has feeding issues And needs a

        • And needs an Oral Motor evaluation and therapy. Or just get a referral from your pediatrician. Good luck and hang in there! 🙂

  29. Great guide! I chose a personal grade double electric Medela from Aeroflow Breastpumps (which I got for FREE through insurance) and I love it. I also have a Medela Harmony manual pump which is super convenient to have (super discreet).

  30. Hand pumps/manual pumps are really worth the extra expense. I loved mine! It was not something I would have thought to buy but I was given one at the hospital and it ended up saving me many, many times. It’s discreet and easy to use. It’s not a good choice for pumping at work since you can’t express as much milk and have to do one side at a time, but I used mine at times when I was on the go. I once used it at a Red Rocks concert (under a big shawl) because my LO was still nursing every few hours and, heck, why should a mama not go out? It saved me the embarrassment of having to look for an outlet or a bathroom if I was out running errands, or something similar. They’re not too expensive and as an added bonus, they’re much easier to clean!

  31. When my supply was well established around 5 weeks. I would nurse LO on one side and pump the other first thing in the morning. Your body produces the most milk through the night. This of course went along with her sleeping through the night longer than 4 hours. At 9 weeks old she now sleeps 8 hrs allowing me to have about 7 ounces to store after she has gotten her belly full. This helped alleviate any fear of not having milk stored for my return to work.

  32. Thank you for this great article. I am BF and pumping too. I have introduced my 5 week old to a bottle so her dad can feed her too. I have a question that I can’t seem to find an answer to anywhere.

    Can I store/freeze milk pumped on different days, in one bottle/freezer bag? As I begin setting up to store for my return to work I have an ounce here, two ounces there and wonder if I can combine. Any idea?

    • As long as the milk is the same tempurature you can combine them.

    • The Medela website states that yes you can combine milk throughout the day, but you want to wait for it to cool first. This link had a lot of info that helped me! Hopefully it will help you too.

      “You can continue to add small amounts of cooled breast milk to the same refrigerated container throughout the day. Avoid adding warm milk to already cooled milk.
      Pumped milk may be added to frozen milk provided it is first chilled and the quantity is less than what is frozen.”

  33. I am a nurse and returned to work when my daughter was 11 weeks old. I work 13 hour shifts and I was concerned about having time for pumping. I plan my ENTIRE day around when I can pump. I make it my number one priority. Its frustrating sometimes to be tied down when there are a million things I need to get done (especially when you work in a fast paced environment like the ER). My daughter is 7.5 months now and still solely breast fed! I also try to protect my supply when I am at home and get in some quality one on one time. I take baths with my daughter and she co-sleeps with me and nurses at night.

  34. Love this article! I’ve been exclusively pumping for my daughter for 13 months and still going. This is great info.

    One note on freezing: If you are freezing milk for your baby, make sure you use it regularly to rotate your frozen stock and to check if you have excess lipase ( It’s not a major issue if you do, but some babies (like mine) won’t drink the frozen milk if it’s not scalded because of the lipase. I didn’t check early enough and ended up not being able to use my whole freezer stash. I donated it to a mom who needed milk for her twins, so it went for a good cause, but man, I was bummed to have to start from scratch!

  35. Thanks for this post! I’m a first time mom and pumping has been few and far between. Great info!

  36. Great article! My first born nursed 2 years but I don’t think lactation was great that whole time. 2nd born weaned against all my efforts at 10 months. I had introduced a bottle and that was it. I tried to pump but it never worked well. I was SO discouraged! Pumping is wonderful for having a much needed mommas night out if you want to indulge in a cocktail. I salute full time pumpers. Ready for number 3 now and I really want to make sure there’s a giant supply for baby. I suspect having my nipples pierced when I was young and ignorant may have handicapped me. :(.
    Would love more details on sterilizing equipment and bottles etc. Do I have to boil everything everyday??? If I leave a sterilized bottle out overnight etc, can I still use it? My thawed milk always looked curdled and smelled a bit so. I warmed in water. What else might be wrong. It was very hard for me to pump. I felt like I was doing it all wrong.
    Thanks ladies for the encouragement! Breast feeding rocks but is a commitment.

    • If thawed milk smelled bad you can google “high lipase” and see if that’s it. Or work with an LC.

  37. Thanks for this great blog post! I would have liked more information about the specific pumps, especially since the amazon links are very generalized. Some of the hospital grade pumps were cheaper than the links provided for the personal use electric and mid-range pumps.

    • Sites like Hellobee have forums which go into great detail about pumps. Many moms will say, “Hey! How is this pump?”, and get great feedback. It’s how we picked ours!! 🙂

  38. Great post!

    A gentle reminder that formula bashing can take many forms, and the line about frozen breast milk being okay because “it’s still much better than formula” is hurtful. I am breastfeeding my daughter, but due to a congenital lack of glandular tissue, I cannot produce enough milk for her (even after prescriptions, herbs, lactation boosters, etc.). I pump and feed to give her everything I have, and the remainder is formula. Obviously, breast milk is best, but again, just a little reminder that some phrases (that mean well) can come off as very hurtful.

    I definitely recommend an appointment with an LC to ensure your pump is right for you. Are the shields the right size? Are you using the controls in the best way to encourage letdown? Do you need new membranes? Etc. LC’s are sent from Heaven, and every new mama (should they choose to breastfeed) should have at least one appointment.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • I totally agree, however I think a lot of mamas need encouragement like these target phrases to breastfeed! Using terms/phrases like this helped me continue breastfeeding, even when it was really difficult and it would have been easier for me to use formula. I think offense comes when we assume people think we aren’t doing the best for our families and/or our babies.

      I know no offense was meant, and breast milk truly IS better than formula–that’s a fact, and one I think should be overstated so that some moms (obviously not aimed towards you, as you have serious health issues and physically cannot) will continue to push through the initial struggle, even when formula seems the easier or more convenient choice. So, trust that these phrases come from a place of love and well-meaning! 🙂

      • Yes, encouragement is awesome. I love sharing details about why BFing is amazing, photos of nursing in public, and how other lovely BFing moments (especially since we faced many painful challenges in the beginning).

        I loved this post, especially since some moms who have to exclusively pump are saddened or resentful. Pumping takes so much dedication. Go mamas!

        Instead of saying “frozen breastmilk is way better than formula”, saying “because you still get so many amazing health benefits from frozen breast milk” would have worked too. This is a conversation about pumping, not formula, and I think many moms (however they choose (or are required) to feed their babies) forget that there’s probably someone struggling and wishing for the other experience.

        Breastmilk is best … Having empathy is pretty great too.

        • Ravyn,

          Thank you for being a voice for me and so many of us who spent so much time, energy, emotion, and money fighting for breastfeeding only to have to accept my body can not do what I thought and wanted it to. Well meaning comments can be so hurtful and a trigger for the emotion and heartache. There are typically more tactful ways to express truths that aren’t as wounding to people experiencing something that some moms will never understand.

  39. I exclusively pumped for over 14 months. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done! I used a Hygeia and it lasted that whole time. It still works which is pretty amazing considering how much it’s been used!

    • Forgot to add that I got it for free through our insurance!

  40. Thank you so much for this post! I exclusively pumped for the entire first year with my little one, and always felt guilty because I wanted to quit, or because I felt like it wasn’t the best for him. I felt like a slave to my pump lol, but now looking back I am just so grateful that I was able to breastfeed him period and that wouldn’t have been possible without my pump (Medela Freestyle)! I am hoping to be able to latch with baby number two, but am also prepared in case I cannot and need to pump again.

  41. Love your blog so much! I exclusively pumped until my son was 7 weeks old and could latch. Moms who exclusively pump are incredible! It is exhausting and twice as much work. They need way more credit for what they do, thanks Genevieve for including them in this article!

  42. Sometimes the pump paid for by insurance is pretty chintzy and not very powerful or long lasting–just keep that in mind.

    If you have a nice pump that is not working as well, check the flanges–little white things–sometimes all it needs is a new one and pump is working great again.

    Kelly Mom is another excellent resource
    Also look up “power pumping” if you need to boost supply

    • I think you mean to check the membrane.

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About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 75,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.

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