Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
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4 essential (non-$500) tricks for making pumping easier!

Otto is 5 months old now and I've been back to work for 2 months, and... pumping is NOT fun or big enrichment to my life, but I've found a few essential tricks for making it a lot easier! I think I did struggle with slowing down on milk production when I first went back to work, but it's a huge relief that I was able to get some more milk stored up and keep producing--without taking extra hours out of my day!

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I'm working part-time and trying to get 9 or 10 hours into my three days/week at work. I quickly found, after going back, that that is very hard to do when you take two 30-minute pumping breaks! If I wanted to work 10 hours, I would need to add in a third pumping break, which would mean I would be at the office 11.5 hours! That is so hard!

So, I've had to find hacks and solutions to help me 1) produce and pump enough milk to replace what Otto drinks in a day and 2) not spend a million hours stuck to my breast pump watching Instagram stories.

4 essential tricks for making pumping easier!

First, the $500 option

One option for that is the Willow pump, a revolutionary pump that is within each bra cup and controlled with an app on your phone. No cords, no machine to drag around--you're totally mobile and just wearing (quiet) pumps in plastic boob-enhancers. That means that rather than taking 30 minute breaks to hike up to the pumping room, set up the pump and parts, pump, do anything else I needed to on my break... I could pump in the car driving in. I could set up the Willow in the bathroom and then fill up my water bottle, walk around, maybe even do some work back at my desk, etc. before returning to a private place to unhook.

I seriously considered buying one of these despite the $510 price tag (for the upgrade to the flange size I needed)... but I did some more research. It sounds like a fantastic invention, but some of the reviews said there are still some kinks to be worked out, like the app glitching and then not knowing how much you've pumped and how full the bags are. Also, the bags--they are single use (you cut the top off to get the milk out) and about $0.50/each. Willow has a calculator on their website for how many bags you'll need each month based on how many times per day and days per week you pump--for me it was about $92/month (and I'm only pumping full amounts 3 days/week!). I have anxiety about money and while I was almost able to talk myself into spending $500 one time (based on my hourly rate, it wouldn't take me that long to make that up if I was working instead of just pumping 1 hour/day)... but another $100/month for the next 6 months or year? That is really not a good solution for me.

Now, the much more affordable options!

I did some research and have tried out several other hacks/options/tools that have made pumping manageable and efficient for me.

  1. Pump to and from work with Freemie cups--with travel charger. Freemies are about $60 and compatible with Medela pumps, or Spectra with a hack--I followed this tutorial (not sanctioned by Freemie--you can also buy a converter kit. I am SO excited I have this worked out and it has really helped me make and save more milk. I pump from about 6:00 AM to 6:25 AM on my drive in, with the cups in my bra and the pump plugged into the adapter, which makes a little sound but I get used to. Then when I get to work, I go to the restroom, de-cup, and pour the milk into a bottle to refrigerate for the day. On my drive home, I hook up the cups (only slightly awkward part is putting them into my bra while parked on the street, but it's been fine) and pump driving home. This means I'm able to get four 20-minute pumping sessions in but still only take two breaks during the work day! (I've even brought my setup [plus an ice pack] with me on long errands on the weekends when I was trying to up my supply.) Update: Since writing this post, our insurance changed and I was able to get a second pump covered. I got the Spectra S9, which is small and portable, so now I can leave the big one at work and just use the little on in the car and when I pump before bed. It seems to work just as well as the big one--so if you can only choose one and size and portability are important, I recommend it plus the cups!
  2. Bra attachment with horns/bottles that come with pump. I figured this one out way early, when pumping after feeding early on--the hands-free bra attachment was a MUST have for me. You can also get a full-on strapless bra that holds the horns in place. I use the bra attachment when I pump at work and can easily use my phone, laptop, whatever.
  3. Pump/store/feed pouches. I got this starter kit and have basically always pumped directly into these breastmilk storage bags that turn into the bottle. No pouring or waste. (These bags are also meant to be single use, but we have washed them--this is not medical advice, just what has worked for us--and reused each a few times. And the extra pouches aren't too pricey.) So, I use the Freemie cups while driving and the standard horn/bra attachment/pouch system the other times.
  4. Refrigerate parts between sessions rather than washing every time. I use a tall tupperware container with the lid off and put my bags/horns/bra attachment in the fridge in between sessions at work or home, and I sometimes refrigerate the cups! I end up washing everything at least once/day, but it saves a lot of time to just put it all in the fridge all ready for the next use.

I am really excited about the Freemie cups and they are so easy to use! The stick in your bra and just make you look extra busty, and they collect all the milk in the cup (no bag needed) and pour out the same opening in the top where the tubing goes. The only thing I don't love is I can't see as easily if milk is still coming out because it's through two layers of plastic. But that's fine for my drive home when I know I can pump for 20-25 minutes regardless of how milk-efficient it is.

I really hope this was helpful. I doubt anyone enjoys pumping (I suuuuure don't), but I'm all about ways to make it easier and keep me producing milk while Otto needs it. One day maybe we'll have paid maternity leave for the first 50 weeks like they do in Canada... but until then, I'm doing what I have to do for my family, 401k, and baby! And making it suck (pun not intended) as little as possible.

Shop the products I use (and some other options) here!

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