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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Essentials for the Pumping Mama

Photography by Misty D. Photography

Joslynne nursed for 17 months. It was great! I hardly ever pumped unless we had a date night. I didn't have to think about having enough food on the go. We saved a ton of money by not buying formula. When breastfeeding wasn't working with Elaina, I was already disappointed, discouraged, and worried about making sure she had what she needed. Read more about Elaina's story here. Then there were things like bottle warming, cleaning, finding the right formula, and figuring out how to afford it that were all new territory for us!

Newborn days are sweet, but also exhausting and emotional. We want the very best for this new baby we are already ridiculously in love with. When we hear so much that breastfeeding is best (which I wholeheartedly agree with), it's nerveracking when that doesn't work. Why is my body failing my baby? What am I doing wrong? How long do I push for this when we are all exhausted? Am I quitter if I try something else?

These were all things that went through my mind. There is so much encouragement out there for breastfeeding. Which I love! Sometimes we need cheering on not to quit, it will get better, or that it will be worth it. But as much as I advocate and love breastfeeding, sometimes we need to hear it's ok if it doesn't work.

Feed your baby. Do what your family needs. You are still an amazing mama. And here are some resources to help you move on to the next plan. That's what we need sometimes. That's what I needed. One of the most encouraging things a doctor said to me in the hospital when Elaina wouldn't breastfeed was, "She might figure it out. But, in the meantime, buy a pumping bra." She gave me an actual resource for my current situation.

I was a little lost. As we found things that helped us, I made a list. So I could offer encouragement to mamas on both sides of the struggle. This is by no means comprehensive. And, I don't have a ton of experience pumping away from home. This is just what we used and loved. I'd love for you to add anything else you have found essential!

Essentials for the Pumping Mama

Most breastfeeding moms pump too, so I know this isn't a foreign concept. Especially working mamas who are definitely pros. However, when I predominately nursed, even though we had bottles, we didn't use anything special to clean them, or warm them. I didn't have pump on the go, and even when I pumped here and there at home, I just held the pump up to myself! If you're going to pump and bottle feed daily, you gotta add some tools for your sanity! 

 Pumping Bra
Hands free pumping changed my life. First of all, using a pumping bra helped me hunch over less, so my back and neck were much happier! I could relax, and not make a mess like I would if I accidentally pulled the pump away. I could also feed my baby while pumping. I just fed her from milk I already had to save time. This way I didn't have to pump, then still feed her!

Bottle Warmer
I think anyone that babysat Jos just had to run the breastmilk I left for her under warm water. That was the only time we had to deal with bottle warming. When every bottle was coming from frozen or refrigerated breastmilk, we needed something to warm bottles quickly. Having a bottle warmer was a life saver. Especially with a hangry baby! ;)

Haakaa Hand Pump
When I first heard about this hand pump, I thought there is no way this actually works. Oh man, it sure does! It's amazing when you are out and can't pump. It actually fills up with milk without you doing anything! It's easy, and portable. Also, simple to wash! You can just save the milk in it with the lid. Make sure you order one with a lid! It looks like some of the listings on Amazon don't include one. ;) I also used this if I was getting ready and didn't have a lot of time to stop and pump. It's a fairly quick way to get some milk if you need it right away.

Bottle Drying Rack
At first, I didn't think I needed this. I just laid out bottle and pump parts on a towel on the counter. This was my mom's idea to keep everything in one place and easy to find. It also saves counter space! This one fits all our bottles and sippy cups!

Bottle Brush
Another thing I thought was extra. Haha, I don't even know what I was thinking. I'm probably the only mom who didn't already have a bottle brush! This is so helpful. It has a tiny brush you can unscrew from the bottom to get in tiny areas and bottle nipples. It's also amazing for sippy cup straws. How did I ever live before? :P

What we use
If you need a pump, before buying one, call your health insurance company. Ours gives each family a free pump per child. We just had to pick it up from a certain place once the baby was born. We didn't get to pick the brand, but it has worked great!

Breast Milk Storage Bags
We used these bags. I know there are some that fit right on the pump, but I always spill the milk that way. I have spilled way too many entire bottles worth of milk. And when that happens, we all slowly die inside. :(

We love these bottles. They are actually the only ones we've ever tried. Elaina likes to hold her own bottle, so these are short and easy for her. When both our girls used bottles, (yes after breastfeeding I let Joslynne drink milk from a bottle. Ugh dumb mistake! :P) I just bought 2 colors to keep them seperate.

Other Tips

Easiest way to get a bottle ready for late night feedings
One nice thing about breastfeeding is that you don't have to actually get up in the night if your baby is in your room. I usually just sat up and nursed Joslynne in bed. When your babe wakes up hungry, by the time you get up and warm a bottle, the whole house might be awake!

Before bed, I would just bring a bag of frozen breastmilk to our room and set it on the nightstand with a clean bottle. By the time Elaina woke up, the milk was usually thawed and room temperature! Then I would pump while I fed it to her. I would put the pumped milk on the night stand for the next feeding.

Did you know that breastmilk can stay unrefridgerated for 4-7 hours? It's so nice! I've heard different things, so I usually just went with 6 hours or less.

Lactation Cookies
I've never had trouble with my supply. Well, until it dried up pumping. I know there are many things you can try to bring it up. I honestly didn't try most of them. At the point when my supply dried up, we just decided we were ready. I have tried these cookies and they are delicious. When I ate them I was pumping tons of milk. I already made a lot, but I think these might have helped increase the supply even more. Worth a try especially because every mama deserves amazing cookies!

Transitioning for formula
I could tell I was drying up after a couple months of pumping. I wanted at least some breastmilk in Elaina for as long as possible. We started supplementing with formula before I was completely done pumping. I just gave her mostly formula, and saved frozen breastmilk for one bottle a day. We stretched out the breastmilk we had for about 4 more weeks!

How to save money on Formula

We finally had to move on to plan C and feed Elaina exclusively formula. When you weren't planning on it, formula is a huge expense. We didn't do much research on which kind of formula because Elaina had to have it so early on in the hospital. We didn't have time to think about it, so we used the brand our pediatrician, who we trust, recommended. Then, we just stuck with that. It definitely wasn't the cheapest brand, but it's the way it happened, so we've made it work. 

Join the formula brand's rewards program

I haven't checked other brands, but I would think most have some sort of rewards program! We use Enfamil and joined their Family Beginnings program. You just create a free account and include your email. We get multiple $5 and $10 coupons in the mail every month!

Ordering from the website is the cheapest option a lot of the time! They have sales often. They also offer free shipping over $50 and you can buy in bulk. You earn points back with each order that can be redeemed for free cans of formula as well!

Compare prices at different stores

When we have to grab formula in the store, I assumed Walmart would be the cheapest option. I was surprised how much the prices vary between grocery stores. We have found the cheapest prices at Costco (when they carry our brand) and Lucky (a local grocery store). So, it's worth comparing prices. A couple dollars makes a huge difference with something we have to buy so much of!


I also use the Ibotta app pretty often for cash back on in store and online purchases. The app has different offers each week at various stores. I have found our formula on there for $5 back several times! I just check the app before shopping to make the most out of my shopping trip.

Photography by Misty D. Photography

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