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We know what you’re asking yourself… With a million items on your to-do list, how is it possible to find the time you need for pumping?
The addition of a new family member can bring a lot of happiness, but also less sleep and more things to get done in a day. If you’re like most new parents, you’ll do anything to get a few more minutes of rest.
Hands-free pumping can provide the solution to your time crunch by allowing you to multitask. How do you do it? What do you need? Are there any tips or tricks to do it successfully? Your answers lie below…
The process for pumping hands-free should be fairly familiar if you’ve used an electric breast pump before.
Step 1: Wash your hands!
Step 2: Assemble your pump’s parts according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 3: Put on an appropriate bra for holding the pump to the breast. This is something you might want to purchase after the baby comes, since most women’s breasts get significantly bigger postpartum after their milk comes in.
Step 4: Place the flange of the pump inside the bra and secure the flange to the breast. Make sure that everything is fitting properly — having the wrong size flange can lead to sore nipples and low milk output. If you have questions about flange size, consult with a lactation consultant.
Step 5: Start the pump. There should be a good seal and no milk dripping out. You should feel suction, but not pain as it begins to operate.
Step 6: Relax and think loving thoughts about your baby to help your letdown reflex. Adjust the suction as necessary. Some pumps like the Willow will allow you to track on your phone how much milk the pump is collecting.
Step 7: When done with the pumping session, make sure to take the pump apart, store any milk appropriately, and clean the pump parts, so they’re ready for your next feed.
Hands-free pumps can vary greatly in price depending on the extra bells and whistles. A common price for some of the more technologically advanced options is $500, but there are cheaper options if you’re on a budget.
Some of the most popular hands-free pumps are:
While pumps like the Elvie and Willow will allow you to move around without being attached to anything (something that sets them apart from other electric pumps), you might still prefer to use these in private. Even though the device may be hidden under your shirt, many women said that they can hear it, and it is visible through their clothing.
Hands-free pumps will deposit your breast milk into either a container or storage bag. Containers can be used as a bottle or poured into a bottle. The milk storage bags can also be poured into a bottle or stored as is in the fridge/freezer.
Love your current pump and wish it were hands-free? Pumping bras can help to convert many regular electric pumps into hands-free pumps!
Pumping bras are designed with small slits or holes around the nipples to allow the flanges of the pump to slip through and be held in the appropriate place.
The bra does the work your hands would normally do, freeing them up for other tasks. While you will still be tied to whatever electric pump source you use, now that your hands are free you’ll be able to read a book, write, or type on your computer!
Many hands-free pumping bras can be purchased for around $20 to $30. A couple of great options include:
- Simple Wishes Hands-Free Pumping Bra
- Medela Easy Expression Bustier Hands-Free Pumping Bra
- Bravado Designs Clip and Pump Hands-Free Nursing Bra Accessory (not its own bra, but an addition you can clip onto your current nursing bra!)
Want to pump hands-free, but on a tight budget? It’s not always necessary to invest in an expensive new pump or hands-free pumping bra.
One DIY option is to take a sports bra and cut a hole over each nipple. (The holes should offer just enough room to fit the flange though). Once the flange is properly positioned through the hole, you have a hands-free pumping experience!
If you don’t want to cut into any clothing, all you need is a few ponytail holders and this clever method. Out of hair ties? Rubber bands can also work. Ponytail holders just tend to be a bit more durable.
- Make sure that you are prepared and have everything you need. Even before your baby arrives, you can sanitize all the parts, practice putting your pump together, and pack a pump bag with all the things you’ll want for pumping on the road. You’ll be grateful for all this prep when you’re feeling engorged!
- You may want to consider purchasing some extra pumping parts. These can be helpful when you don’t have time to clean your parts between pumping sessions or something breaks when you’re ready to pump. Since many women’s breasts change in shape and size during the breastfeeding journey, it can be useful to have a variety of different sizes of flanges on hand.
- Massage your breasts before beginning a pumping session and try to create a relaxing environment. Massage and relaxation can help with letdown and increase the amount of milk that you’re able to produce. You may also want to try warm compresses on your breast before pumping sessions to help with letdown.
- Set up a pumping schedule that works for you. Even with hands-free pumping, there may be times of the day that are more convenient for you to pump or when your body seems to produce more milk. Setting phone alarms or scheduling pumping times into your work calendar can help make sure that you’re pumping frequently enough when life gets busy.
- Store milk in small batches and freeze breast milk so that it lies flat. This will help to prevent milk loss. There is definitely crying over spilled milk if it’s breast milk, so it’s important to make sure that none of your “liquid gold” is going to waste.
If you’re feeling stressed about everything you need to get done and wondering how in the world you’re going to squeeze pumping time into your schedule, hands-free pumping may be the multitasking option you’ve been dreaming of.
There are a range of hand-free pumps on the market or you may choose to invest in a bra that makes hands-free pumping easier. Whatever you decide, it’s important to make sure that you’re keeping your pump parts clean and seeking help if something feels wrong.
With a little practice, you’ll be pumping hands-free in no time.