Hey guys! A few of you commented that you were tucking information about cloth diapering etc. away for when you needed it, so I went ahead and added a “Pin It” button to my photos. Just hover over a photo to save the image on Pinterest. I use Pinterest for everything, and just started a Pinterest page for Oh, Sweet Thing where I’m saving things like my favorite baby gear, baby-led weaning foods, and activities for kids.
It wasn’t until I went back to work full-time after Maggie was born that I realized how difficult pumping truly is. With Lily I had an oversupply and a cushy full-time job for about a month before going down to part-time. I’m going to go into (graphic) detail about my pumping routine because I think it’s important to prepare yourself for what this is going to look like and, if possible, talk with your employer about how pumping will fit into your schedule. Since you don’t get paid for pumping breaks unless you work during them and all. But first, I want to start with the supplies.
While I didn’t begin my pumping journey this way, I have become a minimalist pumper. I’m not sure I fully qualify because I have a huge bag of leftover parts from two defunct pumps (more on this later), but at this point in my life as a working mom, I have my supplies down to an incredibly bare minimum. Like, I don’t think you can get more basic than this (except for the Clorox wipes). It seems parents are becoming more and more aware about reducing the sheer number of things they accumulate (or are trying to do their little part to reduce their impact on the environment because they’re terrified what the current administration will try to do to it), and pumping is a really great place to try to cut back because you can either create a huge amount of waste, or get by with a few key items. I’m also partially able to do this because I don’t freeze my milk, but if you read on you’ll see how to freeze milk while still cutting back on plastic.
1)Spectra S2 Plus Electric Breast Pump: I am on my fourth pump. The first pump I got was an Ameda. At first I thought it was okay, but it seemed to just get worse and worse. Ryan bought me a Medela Symphony for our first Valentines Day as a married couple. I was swooning. It was such an improvement over the Ameda. Something happened with the motor at one point, and Medela replaced the entire pump for free because I had been using it under a year. The pump I received is the same one I started off using after Maggie was born. I couldn’t justify getting a new pump (even though they’re mostly free) from a moral standpoint: you should see all of the pump bottles, flanges, caps, tubing, valves, and general plastic I had accumulated. I had enough parts that I could double pump (both sides at the same time) three times in a day and not have to wash a single thing. Ryan recently said something about how we’re going to kill dolphins with all the toys we have. This is exactly how I felt about getting a new pump. But of course my Medela petered out and I was forced to replace it.
I did some research and with the validation of a lactation consultant chose the Spectra S2 PLUS Electric Breast Pump. It’s much more efficient, quiet, and compact than the Medela. I have one set of parts which means I have to wash them during the day. I could purchase another set which I did with my Medela but by conscience won’t let me (dolphins and all). This is actually less cumbersome and problematic than trying to keep track of countless parts at home.
2) Nenesupply Duckbill Valves: Breastpump valves are pretty fragile and susceptible to tearing. After I had a valve tear I came across these Nenesupply valves and decided to try them after reading reviews stating they made pumping more efficient. The verdict: they totally do! While they don’t technically increase the amount I pump, I end up with more milk volume because I’m able to express more milk in the 15 minutes I give myself to pump. This is huge when you have low supply like me. They’re apparently compatible with Medela pumps as well.
3) Mason jars: I didn’t realize how expensive breastmilk storage bags were until I was working and pumping full time. I was spending close to $20 a month on bags that, because my supply was so low, were being discarded within 24 hours of being filled. That would end up being upwards of $180 if I pumped until Maggie was one. Now, if you have a strong supply and want to build up a freezer stash you’ll may want to go with bags. But there are alternatives if you want to save money and cut down on plastic either because dolphins, or because estrogen proprioceptors.
After some research I discovered Mason jars can be used to store milk. I had a lot of 16oz jars but ended up getting the smaller 8oz ones because it’s easier to put 5oz in them which is what Maggie drinks. Plus they were onle like $4 and we still use the big ones we have. (PS We were lazy and put the lids in the dishwasher and they rusted. I decided to try out plastic lids and they leaked. I got a full refund from Amazon but no compensation for having the supplement with formula while Maggie had a double ear infection. Just use metal, wash by hand, and boil occasionally). Kelly Mom says you can store milk in the fridge for 3-8 days which is perfect for me right now. However, when I needed to freeze milk I would simply freeze it in the same ice cube trays I used to freeze baby food. After they were frozen, I put them in freezer bags for storage. Then I’d pull out however many I needed for a bottle.
Mason jars are great for storing milk because you can heat the milk right in them much more quickly thank milk will heat in a plastic bottle. Simply fill a pot with a few inches of water, add the Mason jar, and warm up on the stove. It takes less than 5 minutes. If you freeze your milk in ice cube trays you will need to add cubes to a bottle to thaw in the fridge overnight, or you can put them in a Mason jar on the stovetop for quick thawing.
I was always uneasy about thawing and warming milk frozen in bags in hot water because you wouldn’t heat something in Tupperware right? Same thing with heating milk in plastic bottles: we still do it when I’m not able to add just the right amount of milk to my jars during the day, or when timing and communication with the many people graciously feeding Maggie just don’t line up. But using glass whenever possible makes me feel so much better. If more glass bottles had been affordable and available when Lily was a baby we would have used them. However, we were having combined wedding and baby showers so wanted only to register for the essentials. Lily didn’t get fed a huge number of bottles so the plastic wasn’t as much of a concern, and we ended up having a hard time finding a bottle nipple Maggie liked so could have wasted a lot more money had we replaced everything with glass bottles. There are so many affordable glass bottle options out there now that I definitely recommend it for new moms!
4) Ziplock bags: I store all my clean pump parts and my Mason jars in Ziplock bags to avoid contact with other things I may occasionally stow in my pump bag (Tupperware from lunch, running clothes, tablecloths I need to wash for work…)
5) Bottle brush and dish soap: Because we don’t have a kitchen at one of our offices, and because my regular office has a sink right inside it, I bring my own.
6) Disinfecting wipes: These are a new addition to my routine. I only use Clorox wipes during norovirus/rotovirus/flu season, and I try to wear gloves because like hand sanitizer, these things also kill beneficial bacteria.
7) Tote bag: Another bonus about the Spectra is that, unlike many other pumps, you can carry it (and your supplies) in any bag. Like i mentioned I often carry other things in the same bag as my pump so I typically use a pretty spacious tote.
What’s in your pump bag?