The Mama of All Breast Pumping Guides: Getting Started {Part 1}

The Mama of All Breast Pumping Guides: Getting Started {Part 1}

In this post we'll cover:

  • Things To Know Before You Start
  • The Gear
  • Caring For Your Pump

We are all so unique, and different ideas work for different people. That’s why we’ve put together so many tips for you! Give the ones that feel okay a try and discard what doesn’t work for your family.

Click to read all the posts in the Mama of All Breast Pumping Guides Series!

Things To Know Before You Start

Pumping, like breastfeeding, is equal parts relational, mental, and physical. It is a relationship that must be mutually beneficial and desirable for all involved. It is a mindset, a way of life that the pumping mom chooses to adopt. And pumping has many physical elements that must all work in concert to be successful.  

Things to keep in mind as you being pumping:

  • Pumping output doesn’t always equal nursing output.
  • Pumping is biologically different than nursing at the breast; anticipate this difference and make accommodations to get maximum output.
  • As with nursing at the breast, it is vital to maintain a rhythm. When introducing a pump, your body must account for a new set of conditions under which to produce milk. Staying consistent will help preserve that capacity.
  • When the going gets tough, remembering your goals will help you persevere through any challenges.

Speaking of pumping goals, let’s define those now.

Complete these statements to get an idea of why expressing breastmilk for your baby is important to you. As you read the recommendations outlined in this article, keep your big picture in mind.


Breastmilk Pumping Goals

The Gear

Pumping milk can seem overwhelming at first, simply because of all the extras that are needed! Let’s break down the gear you’ll need (expand to view each).

Breast Pump

As with most breastfeeding choices, your goals will largely impact what you need in a breast pump. If you plan to only offer your baby expressed milk occasionally, a simple electric or manual pump should suffice. If you will need to pump frequently or exclusively, it will be worth the investment to use a higher power electric pump or even rent a hospital grade pump. (Particularly if your baby is in the NICU or has frequent hospital stays, ask your facility about a breast pump rental.)

A tip from personal experience, it might be a good idea to wait until baby arrives and breastfeeding has begun before purchasing a pump. You may plan to pump only occasionally, but early hiccups in establishing breastfeeding might mean you pump more frequently for a while. This happened to me. I bought a simple single electric pump, but ended up purchasing a more top of the line double pump when I began needing to pump several times per day. Personally, I use a Medela Freestyle. I’ve also heard Ameda’s double pumps come highly recommended. Many breastfeeding professionals recommend Spectra pump models.

Taking your goals into consideration, these are a few questions you can ask about the features of your breast pump:

  • Are extra milk collection bottles included in the pump? Or does the pump come with a cooler to keep plastic bags of expressed milk?
  • Does the pump come with its own carrying bag? If not, will I need to purchase one? Do I have a designated, sanitary way to transport my pump?
  • Is the pump dependant on an electrical outlet? Does it have a rechargeable battery option?
  • Due to safety concerns, it is not a good idea to purchase a used pump. Additionally, a used pump may not be as efficient due to wear and tear on the motor.

Canadian Mamas: Check with your insurance provider, some offer coverage of breast pumps.

US Mamas: “The Affordable Care Act requires most health insurance plans to cover the cost of a breast pump as part of women’s preventative health services.” Visit for more information.

Nipple creams

Nipple cream can be a total lifesaver for a nursing mom! It’s common for nipples to feel a bit sore after nursing, especially for first time moms. A good nipple cream can provide needed relief and protection. Creams can also be useful to soften the breast tissue and nipple, making it easier for your baby to latch. Apply after each feeding -- and don’t worry, it’s safe for baby.

If you are having excessive nipple pain or damage, seek help! Many nursing moms are told the unfortunate myth that breastfeeding is supposed to be painful. While soreness is common, it is not necessarily good! If you are experiencing sore, cracked, or bleeding nipples, you may consider using cream for immediate relief, but schedule an appointment with a breastfeeding professional to check for issues.

Nipple cream can also be helpful for pumping. I would put a bit of nipple cream inside of the flanges before I pumped, which made it much more comfortable!

A few nipple cream brands I recommend are:

Hands free pumping bras

Today’s mamas are a busy bunch! A hands free pumping bra can be a useful tool for pumping moms. The option for hands free pumping is enticing to many moms, and makes expressing milk even more accessible. As we’ll discuss later in this guide, a hands free bra also allows you to easily do ‘hands on pumping’, which can boost output.

For the Pinterest-savvy mama, you can make a DIY hands free pumping bra. This was my choice. I put on an old bra, and drew dots with a Sharpie on the bra where my nipples were. Then, I cut little slits for the flanges. (For those interested, KellyMom has a DIY hands-free pumping bra tutorial on her website.)

If you want to purchase a pumping bra, a few options are:

Pump Bags

Many pumps these days include a custom-fitted carry bag, but you can also purchase your own bag, or designate a bag you already own to do the job.

These pump bags are stylish, convenient options:

Or you may choose to purchase a pump with a custom, included bag.

Milk Storage Bags

While you can easily store expressed milk in bottles, many moms use plastic bags for freezing and easier longer storage.

If you’re pumping to donate breast milk, you will need to thoroughly detail the contents (name, date, ounces) and possibly include donor identification information.

Popular milk storage bag options include:

Cleaning Tools

Properly sanitizing your pump, milk collection containers, and bottles is important! Not only will proper sanitation protect your milk and your baby from contaminants, it will extend the life of your pump and accessories.

Here are cleaning tools I regularly use:

Caring For Your Pump

Use the directions provided in your individual pump to maintain it for optimal use. But these tips from my experience will useful, regardless of your pump style! 

  • Keep your pump in the same place. With little ones underfoot, it’s so easy for things to get misplaced! By keeping your pump and accessories in a consistent location, you’ll make getting and going with your pump easier for yourself. (Maybe a fun storage tote, atop the fridge or on the counter?) 
  • Wash and prepare your pump for reuse at the end of each day. For less of a hassle in the morning, it’s a good idea to prepare your pump for reuse before heading to bed.
  • Regularly inspect your pump. Just as you regularly maintain your car, it’s important to treat your breast pump as a piece of useful equipment! Even small pieces like the membranes or valves, which create suction, will make a difference in the amount of milk you’re able to collect. Give your pump the once over every so often to make sure you’re getting optimal use.
  • Safely replace old or broken pump parts. What if part of your pump needs replacing? Is it safe to buy or share used pump parts? Many moms want to use a handmedown part or buy used, rather than purchase a brand new part from the manufacturer. Should you? That question can be answered by knowing whether or not your pump is an open system or closed system.
    • A closed system “has a barrier between the milk collection kit and the pump mechanism to prevent contamination.” (Most Spectra and many Hygeia pump models, for example. See a full list at However, many closed system pumps are intended to be single-user pumps; check the manufacturer's warranty and motor life guarantees.
    • An open system, by contrast, does not have any sort of mechanism to prevent contamination. (Most Medela pumps, for example.)

Protecting the health of your baby by practicing good breast pump hygiene is paramount. When considering whether or not to use used pump parts, weigh the benefits and risks. Full disclosure should be given, and the used pump in question thoroughly researched, so moms can make an informed decision.

Your Free Breast Pumping Care Package

In order to support you in your breast pumping journey, I've created a free care package, just for pumping mamas. Your care package includes:
  • The entire Mama of All Breast Pumping Guides ebook
  • Guided Meditation / Relaxation for Pumping mp3 file 
  • Printable pumping routines / schedules
  • Printable reference guides and worksheets
  • Inspiring and encouraging screen savers for your phone

This care package is available exclusively to the Narra Nest community. 

Download yours now by clicking the image below!


Disclaimer: I am not a lactation consultant or medical professional. The wisdom and advice shared in this post is mama to mama, not provider to client. You assume all responsibility and risk when implementing any of these suggestions. Additionally, I have no affiliate relationships with any brands mentioned. I am not receiving any compensation for my recommendations. The products and resources listed are simply ones I found useful in my breastfeeding journey.

Myths of Breastfeeding, International Breastfeeding Centre
18 Breast Pumping Tips, Ask Dr. Sears
Now on iTunes: An audio galactogogue, Breastfeeding Medicine

Choosing a breastpump, LLL
How to buy a breast pump, important safety notes,
Breast Pumps and Insurance Coverage, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Breast Compression, International Breastfeeding Centre
Getting More Milk When Pumping, La Leche League International
Hand Expression,
Maximizing Milk Production with Hands On Pumping. Stanford Medicine
Hand expressing your breastmilk,
I’m not pumping enough milk. What can I do?,
What are the LLLI guidelines for storing my pumped milk?, La Leche League International
Breastmilk Storage & Handling,
My expressed breastmilk doesn’t smell fresh. What can I do?,
Not Enough Milk? How to Increase Supply when you are Exclusively Pumping,
How much expressed milk will my baby need?,

What should I know about buying a new or used breastpump?,
Are Used Breast Pumps a Good Option? Issues to Consider, La Leche League International
What is a galactagogue? Do I need one?,
Blessed Thistle Information Overview, WebMD
Fenugreek Information Overview, WebMD
How Can I Make My Return To Work Easier?, La Leche League International
Traveling with Breastmilk, Breastfeeding Today
Weaning from the pump,
Weaning from the Pump, La Leche League International