7 Ways to Make Pumping More Bearable

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.

  • Hands-free bra 1 of 6
    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
  • Hold the baby! 2 of 6
    Hold the baby!
    You don't need a hands free bra to hold the baby while pumping, just a bit of preparation and a willing participant. I never set out to hold Eli while pumping, but sometimes he requires it. I usually put my legs up and lay him on my legs/lap, while pumping. You can hold both sides by using the forearm against one and the hand against the other. It gives you a free hand to repeatedly replace the pacifier that your son keeps pulling out of his mouth (which causes him to scream because OMG it's not in my mouth anymore, Mom!). Holding the baby is also a nice reminder of why you're doing all of this every 3 hours.
  • TV episode 3 of 6
    TV episode
    I pump for 15 minutes most sessions and I've found that with clean up, a pumping session is pretty much exactly the length of a tv show without commercials. My favorite is Friends, but sometimes just something fun in the background is enough to distract you sufficiently to get through it.
  • Make it a Contest 4 of 6
    Make it a Contest
    I'm a naturally fairly competitive person, so I make pumping a contest against myself. I want to pump more than the last time, more than this time the day before. As long as you don't take it too far and get too wrapped up in it, it can be fun. It makes you focus more on the milk and less on the pump, I think.
    Photo from MorgueFile
  • Company 5 of 6
    I know it seems awkward to have company around, but having a conversation with anyone, my husband (in person) or a family member (on the phone), seriously helps me out. If you're too weirded out by pumping in front of other people, nursing covers work great for pumping too.
  • Phone games 6 of 6
    Phone games
    Much like the single-handed pump hold used for holding the baby, you can play phone games with a free hand too. Sometimes a few rounds of Yahtzee or catching up on Words with Friends and Draw Something gets me through the sessions I really don't want to do.

How did you make pumping more bearable?


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