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7 Ways to Make Pumping More Bearable

By Katie |

I imagine that I am among many mothers who never planned to be a pumper. I mean, I knew when I went back to work I would probably use one for a few feedings a day while the baby was with the babysitter, but I didn’t imagine that I’d start using it at day 2 and just … never stop.

I hate it. I seriously, to my very core, hate that device. I feel like a cow most days as I hook myself up to my milking machine. But I’m just not ready to give up and I’m still holding out a foolish bit of hope that he’ll magically be a breastfeeder when we try again in a few days.

And from this hatred I’ve had to be creative because without some tricks, I don’t know that I would’ve lasted this long. I keep telling myself that I just have to make it one more day and that has carried me through a month already. But it’s not enough. I know that everyone is a little different, but these are my top 7 ways I’ve found to make pumping more bearable.

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Tips for Exclusively Pumping

Hands-free bra

This was suggested to me by a friend who pumped for several months. I have the Medela hands-free bra and I absolutely love it. I've been told that you can make your own by cutting quarter sized holes in an old sports bra, but I haven't tried it myself. My one warning is that if you're prone to clogged ducts and you have to use massage to fully empty your breasts, you should use this sparingly. Both of the times I've gotten clogged ducts were after I used this guy several feedings in a row. Now I make it a point to never use it more than twice a day and I've been fine.
Image from Medela

How did you make pumping more bearable?


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About Katie



Katie is a former teacher, part-time PT, wife, and first-time mother to the baby with the best ears on the Internet. You can find more of her grammatically questionable writing at her blog, Overflowing Brain. Read bio and latest posts → Read Katie's latest posts →

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9 thoughts on “7 Ways to Make Pumping More Bearable

  1. Alexis says:

    I’ve been pumping since week one and my daughter will be 5 months old tomorrow. Your suggestions are great. Pumping is so boring. I catch up on reading Babble on my iPhone while I’m pumping at work and I also started playing Words with Friends!

    Hang in there! Things will get easier. I pump a lot now since I work outside the home. But around the four month mark, breast feeding got a lot easier and now I usually just pump 3 times a day for the feedings she needs while she’s at daycare.

  2. Karen L says:

    It depends on how/why you’re pumping so YMMV but I have found it helpful to nurse the baby on one side while pumping on the other. It dramatically increases my pump rate. I only have a manual pump. I get the baby nursing on one side (supported on a pillow and latched in the football hold or in the baby carrier) then start pumping on the other side.

  3. Karen says:

    I exclusively pumped for 9 mos. with my first baby and while the hatred doesn’t get any better (that’s why I didn’t make it to a year), the day-to-day does because you get better at multitasking and faster at cleanup. I got so I could eat and feed the baby while pumping and ended up pumping in cars, malls, airports, bathrooms, etc. with no problem. Hang in there – you’re doing a great thing for him!

  4. Melissa says:

    I am reading this while pumping, im on my 11th month and can-not-wait-for-it-to-be-over, wow was that dramatic or what? I also never thought I would have had to pump by day 3, but it was easier than nursing and less painful, I would get 4 or more feedings out in just one pump, but I didn’t realize how much of a pain in the ass it was until I started successfully nursing all times with baby at 7 weeks. If i didn’t have to work I would nurse forever, well maybe not forever, but I will happily be ditching the pump In a bout a week and I think I may throw a party just for the occasion. GL, keep up the good work, it will be worth it, I promise.

  5. Etta says:

    Good tips love the post. I too mastered the one hand pump and used my phone or tv to help me through it when he got older and wasn’t napping as much to give me the time to pump I put him in his jumper and that would jeep him happy for a pumping session. I kept it up for 10 months props and congrats to the previous commenter for 11 months it was definitely a challenge but in the end worth every hated moment. I’ve pumped in front of people, on my side in bed, in cars and air ports you do what you have to and you make it work. Loved the post keep at it momma some days are worse than others but focusing on those good things and a cookie here or there definitely helps :-)

  6. i hate pumping says:

    I have twins and I SNS’ed them for a month and pumped and now I am almost 4 months in pumping 8 times a day everyday!! and I am so sick of it I tried the sports bra with the hand cut holes and I dont’ like how it smashes me and I am very prone to clogged ducts. One thing that has helped me is having my husband take my milk and bottles after I’m done pumping and clean it for me. Also I got a second pump for my work and I figure I can re-sale it for a good price when I’m done and it saves me from lugging it back and forth day in and day out. I also got extra bottles and an extra plug so I can use it in different rooms more easily. I hope that one day both babies can feed off of me but for now this is my life. I AM A COW MOOOOOOO! :) but I’m feeding both my babies the best milk possible so it is all worth it!

  7. Keren says:

    I have former 27 week preemie twins. They were in the NICU for 3 months which required me to exclusively pump. Like a lot of very early preemies they came home from the NICU with feeding issues. which of course meant I had to keep exclusively pumping. I made it 7 months of pumping every 3 hours before my supply completely went away. These are great tips. I survived because of Angry Birds. One of our NICU nurses suggested it when I complained of how boring pumping for 45 minutes was. That and reading magazines or books on my Kindle. I mastered the art of using one arm to hold both pumps to free up the other hand for phone games or holding my kindle.

  8. i hate pumping says:

    My pumping went from 30 -45 mins to 15 mins by using some of the tips I found with a Stanford study, Also what has helped me is sitting in a comfortable chair with a foot stool and having extra cushion/pillow behind me I also use a homedics small back massager (bought at bed bath and beyond) to help prop me forward while still having support. Many times I need my hand so I use and legs to hold the pumps in place (this may not work for smaller breasts) I usually watch tv or pull my baby next to me in their rocker. Good Luck and don’t give up. I have lasted almost 4 months with pumping 8 times daily. I pump every 4 1/2 hours at night and then pump every 2-3 hours daily also I try to get each baby to latch and feed (snacks) a few times daily. It’s not fun and sometimes drives me crazy but I will not give up and maybe one day I will be able to feed my babies from my breasts alone…. and only pump at work. Also contact someone from your Le Letcha League they are so helpful. Please keep other tips coming.

  9. Sabrina says:

    I pumped exclusively for 6.5 months. It was never fun, and it was a real pain when I was travelling. But when I was home and it was just me and the baby it wasn’t always so bad. The hands free bra was a lifesaver too!

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