Exclusive Pumping: What do you need?
Updated: Jul 31, 2021
image owned by @littlepumpling
Exclusive Pumping Starter Kits: Beginner, Additional & Luxuries
Okay - so for whatever reason, you've found yourself pumping your breastmilk and for any additional reasons you've found yourself pumping full time. Do you know what you may need?
I'd like to share what I've picked up along the way. I've divided this post into beginner kit (so the early days, the not-so-sure-how-long I'll pump days and the least money crunching items can be found here), then it's the additional kit for the bits you'll need to adapt your style or make it a little easier, and lastly the splurges, the beautiful things, the gifts, for a luxury kit.
Pumping Kit: The Beginner
This list is the basics, the bits you will use everyday, you'll use them regularly and will wash and dry around the clock. These things are the must-haves and worth every penny when you see your little baby transform into a thriving toddler later down the line.
Snacks & Water
Separate washing up bowl
Gentle dish soap
Blue links are to buy, and black links are to move down to the paragraph about it.
Images all owned by @littlepumpling
Double Electric Pump
I've only recommended 3 in the list above as I believe there are a lot of factors when choosing your pump. Feel free to email me to arrange a pump consultation to help you choose. If you use a double electric pump, it not only halves the time you'll have to sit pumping (compared to a single pump) but it also has been found to help maintain milk output (Hill, Aldag & Chatterman, 1995) and produce more (Burton et al, 2013) compared to single pumping.
Order a pumping bra to go alongside your pump purchase. Check that the bra you order fits the connectors and flange sizes of your pump as some have smaller openings than others. I think this is where there is a huge difference between nursing/pumping occasionally and pumping full time. If you're pumping occasionally, holding the breast pump may not be an issue for you however, if you're full time pumping, you need a pumping bra. You are pumping for 20 minutes, sometimes more, multiple times a day, do your arms a favour and use a pumping bra. The pump flanges fit in holes in the bra cups so you have your hands free to do whatever you need to do.
Whilst we are considering you, the pumper, the expresser, the milk-maker - I want to suggest buying a few things which make your pumping experience a little more self-care focused which is essential. Keeping budget in mind, I'll keep it minimal.
Coconut oil is great for lubricating flanges, this advice can be for all pumpers to create the comfiest conditions but is almost essential for anyone who has elastic nipples. This is where your nipples stretch all the way through the tunnel of the flange and this feeling can cause discomfort, soreness and decreased output. The oil helps stop the skin rubbing on the tunnel of the flange and should mean a comfier experience.
Nipple balm often gets overlooked but is definitely something you'll need. Think of it this way, a pump is mechanical and repetitive. It can cause discomfort. Nipple balm will help nourish and take care of your nipples when they're not being expressed. Balms are often natural, breastfeeding safe which means they are formulated so no need to wash it off. I've used both Lansinoh and Weleda so asked my followers which brand they preferred...
64% of Little Pumpling followers used Lansinoh (on a poll between Lansinoh & Weleda)
Snacks & Water
Ensure you add various snacks to your weekly shop from now on. Snacks are not just for pregnancy, they are still vital as you'll need to refuel quickly. Research is mixed but its a general belief that breastfeeding mums need to eat more to keep up with milk production. Personally, I can recall waking in the early hours of the night and needing to eat, it was a must for me. A study found that mothers who reached the 6th month mark ate more calories than those who stopped breastfeeding. This data doesn't directly say that calories will make you better or worse but it is something to note and it's never a bad thing to ensure you're eating enough to keep your energy up to look after baby.
When talking about looking after your body, we've gotta talk about hydration. You may or may not relate, but lots of breastfeeders will share how they feel an insatiable thirst in the early days of breastfeeding. Remember exclusive pumpers are breastfeeders too so that thirst will happen with you too! Hydration is so important to highlight how important it is, I can list what happens to our bodies when we are lacking water. Some signs of dehydration can be headaches, dizziness and dried eyes. None of which you want when you're navigating new parenthood. Tell yourself, it's best to drink the recommended daily amount of 2 litres a day so that you can keep up your fluids to ensure you feel happy and confident about your breastmilk.
We've covered what type of pump you'll want to get, the bra you'll need to keep your hands free and all the bits to keep you and your body well looked after. Now it's time to consider a simple back up option in case the electric pump isn't available. You'll want to consider getting a non-electric pump, either a manual or a silicone (Some people have both, you decide).
The Silicone vs Manual Pump debate: You decide.
A silicone pump, like the haakaa uses a constant suction to collect milk. The medical grade material is easy to bend and put into place for quick relief. It takes a little practise but once you've grasped how to get a good suction, you can use this pump hands. Other benefits to these include; no power needed and no assembly. Silicone pumps are a great back up, can be used as an unblocker and easy to travel with.
A similar product to the above, a manual breast pump can help relieving discomfort, can be used for short duration pump sessions and can be used to unblock clogged ducts. Manual pumps have minimal parts compared to an electric model and don't require a power source so are easier to travel with. This Medela manual pump has a double-ended handle so you can do quick regular pumps to initiate let-down and the larger end of the handle to do longer suction movements to collect milk.
Once you've pumped your milk, you'll want to put the newly expressed milk into bottles for baby to drink. My advice here is to buy as many as you can afford, aim for as many bottles as baby would use a day (newborns can eat from 8-12x a day). Seems like a lot but it will decrease the number of washing up sessions you do a day, giving you more time for other things like cuddles with your baby :).
Washing & Sterilising
Talking of washing up, collect all used feeding equipment in a separate washing bowl. This separation reduces the risk of cross contamination and accumulation of unwanted bacteria which could arise from food etc. Whilst you're thinking about your wash station, you'll want to purchase a separate bottle brush/teat cleaner which will be solely used for bottle / pump washing to avoid any other chances of bacteria. Baby bottle brushes / teat cleaners are gentle on the sensitive feeding equipment which increases the amount of time you'll be able to use the product and decreases the chances of unwanted breakages. It may also be worth switching to a gentle dish soap to avoid feeding and pump equipment becoming cloudy or discoloured as well as accumulation of excess fragrance - no one wants lemon fresh breastmilk.
Once you've cleaned everything, you'll want to sterilise. See my blog "What type of sterilisation is best for you?" for more sterilising options! But either way you will want to ensure you have a method of doing so for that all important daily sterilisation session. After sterilising, you may wish to keep all your product in the steriliser itself or if you have more equipment than space in there you'll want a bottle rack. These racks are designed so that your bottles, teats and pump parts can dry quickly and easily. It's also ideal to keep all your feeding equipment separate to the dishes to avoid any unwanted germs getting to your freshly sterilised bits. This particular model is travel friendly as it packs down flat.
Pumping Kit: The Additional Kit
This list is less about daily must-haves but more about items which are helpful to have. As your journey progresses and time passes you'll learn what suits you and can refer back to this list to grab anything you need.
Spares pump parts
More than one pair of your chosen flange set up
Storage: Caddy, Drawer Dividers or Trolly
Blue links are to buy, and black links are to move down to the paragraph about it.
All images owned by @littlepumpling
As I said, this list is more about things that may or may not apply to you so consider each suggestion, simply that, a suggestion. If something sounds like it'll help, perfect. If it doesn't apply to you, don't worry, we are all different, just move on to the next suggestion.
Breastpads are not always an essential, some breastfeeders find that they do not leak at all and others find they always leak between sessions. It is totally dependant on you and your milk. I personally found I only leaked if I'd gone slightly longer between sessions. I later, found I leaked during the night when sleeping as I dropped night pumping from 6 months. Dependant on your style, breast pads can also be handy at keep nipple off your clothes, pyjamas or pump bras. Please note that if you don't experience leaks, it is very normal and is not a sign of low milk supply.
Something I didn't need at first but found useful later down the line was heat pads. a steamy shower is the best form of heat for ease of let down but sometimes it's not possible. When you need a quick fix, that fits in your bra, these are ideal. Why would you need relief? Sometimes, you can't pump as soon as you'd like or you wake with hard breasts aka engorgement because your baby slept through for the first time. It can be uncomfortable and painful. These pads are handy as they quickly head in the microwave and come in a comfy case to pop in your bra with your pump.
Bottle Caps/Storage Lids
Bottle caps are really useful for storing milk in the fridge as it means a teat and teat cover can be used on another bottle. When you take the bottle out of the fridge and place into a bowl of water you also completely reduce the risk of the teat getting too hot as it isn't in contact with the warm water. Bottle caps make pumping on-the-go convent too. I use them for bottles of milk I've pumped on the train or in the back of the car. I find capped bottles are easier to store in your changing bag as they're a lot smaller and also easier to clean. Again, not something you may want but something to know about if a situation arises where the traditional option isn't ideal for you.
Freezer Storage Bags
You may also produce enough to want to store milk longer than a few days. You may want to freeze your milk for later down the line. I have used various brands, the lansinoh ones are one of the prettiest with the flower detail and the shade of purple. Most brands have been really good for me and haven't let me down. Make sure to write, date, time, ml, and a cute message to your future self. Don't over fill the bag and squeeze out all the air before you lay flat in the freezer. Laying flat means you can store more in your freezer as your stash builds over time. Do not be disheartened if you do not have enough milk for spare. You give your baby what they need, don't worry about the words over or under supply. You either can freeze milk or you won't. It's definitely not a must.
Pump spare parts
Once you've got the routine of pumping down you'll want spare parts. Think about spare membranes, duckbills, back flow protectors - basically whatever your pump requires changing regularly. You'll want to consider having a few spare pump parts as exclusive pumping schedules are tough on our bodies as well as our pumping equipment. It wears out with the hours of use, the washing and sterilising so you'll need to change these parts to keep the pumps performance as good as possible. Why is that important? Well, if your pump isn't performing as well as it should, you won't be efficiently emptying. Efficient emptying is what your body needs to kickstart the negative feedback loop. The theory is empty breasts tell the body that there's a demand for milk and a need for milk means greater supply. Insufficient emptying via the pump can also lead to discomfort, soreness and clogged ducts. Clogged ducts can lead to mastitis and nobody wants that.
Spare parts also extends to spare flange sets. If you have more than one pair, you have decreased the amount of times you clean and sterilise your flanges. You also have an opportunity to have a day/night set up, a home + away set up or a home + work set up. A pumper told me how she had a spare set of flanges at work and how often they saved her life because she'd so often forget to pack the flanges in her bag due to lack of space or lack of energy in the mornings. Basically, a spare set is mega helpful and eases likelihood of the mad dash for parts.
Spare/Back up Electric Pump
A spare electric pump is something I swear by, but only do this if you can afford an extra. I was in hospital with my 9 week old, in another city when my pump broke. The manufacturer helped as they understood my urgency but this isn't always going to be the case. Get yourself a back up if you can afford a cheaper model to store in the cupboard or have in a different spot in your home. The main one can break and you won't have a pump to use until it's fixed or replaced which could be next day but may not be. Limit anxiety and help yourself before anything like that happens. Your boobies will thank you - no one likes panic pumping. This Bella Baby model is battery powered so is useful for car travel, train travel and hands-free pumping. Note it is loud and it can be very painful so ensure you pump at the right suction power for you!
So I've recommended all of these items, but where are you going to keep them all? Some people use draw dividers, others use plastic bin boxes in cupboards, others use a caddy. Caddy's aren't only for your nappy station, they can be extremely useful for an organised pumper! It keeps all of your pumping stuff in one place. It could make sessions easier as you don't have to worry about remembering gathering everything you need nor having to get up and disrupt a session by unplugging mid-pump to go and retrieve what you forgot.
Pumping Kit: The Luxury Kit
These are products that are definitely useful but they may be US based companies which mean you'll have to pay shipping and import tax. Others that are Amazon links obviously don't have those conditions but may be on the pricier side. Definitely worth considering if you're wanting products to help you out - they may change your pumping life completely!
Elvie double breast pump
Blue links are to buy, and black links are to move down to the paragraph about it.
The Elvie: No tubes, No Noise, No hands (their marketing is fab)
The Elvie is the name everyone knows but any wire free pumps are pretty luxurious. The Elvie has minimal noise and collects your milk without you needing a to do anything. You don't even need to wear a pumping bra. This is a great pump to know about as it's hands-free, wire-free and has minimal noise so you can go about your day pumping when you need to but not needing to make time for it. I've not used this product because of it's high price point but I have had clients refer to as a lifesaver, an amazing secondary pump, an on-the-go pump or a work pump rather than their sole exclusive pumping pump. There are cheaper in-bra pumps available for example the cozytots, check reviews first before you purchase.
Talking of additional items to add to your pumping kit, there are some products you can buy which can be used to hack your pump and make them work differently for you. There are several on the US market, two often spoken about are the collection cups by; Freemie Next Gen Cups and Legendairy Milk silicone collection cups. I'm working on finding UK Resellers for LM. These work with several pumps and basically collect the milk you pump inside a big silicone cup that fits within your bra. It's a more discreet way of pumping and can be useful when you need your hands free and no bottles on show. Childcare, driving or working could be so much easier.
Another item which can help your pumping style really pop is a LaVie massager (£29.99) or heat massager (£69.99). As mentioned before, heat helps with let down and massaging helps to get milk out. Clients who have these absolutely love them as these devices do the work for you. Some pumpers couldn't imagine life without them!
Beautiful Bra Brands
I've mentioned two types of products which mention putting things in your bra. The bra I mentioned in the beginner kit is one of the basic ones. Now it's time to talk about the pretty ones. There is the hugely recommended Mumba Bra 'Maya', there's the beautiful 'Ella' laced pumping bra by Davina and Adley and there are so many pretty patterned pumping bras by The Dairy Fairy try the Ayla. The latter have a sister company called Milkful who create beautiful bras for plus size.
There are other things you can purchase which some believe help them pump, more specifically help their milk supply. Again research is always varied when it comes to milk output and whether things can help so that's why I put it in my luxury list. I put it here because supplements that can be used for lactation often have a higher price tag than any other supplement so this cuts off anyone with a tighter budget and I'm not overly keen on promoting more expenses where they may or may not be needed. I will go into this more in another post but supplements that can be taken are moringa, fenugreek, lecithin (ones to avoid are peppermint and sage).
Another consumable that people may suggest which has anecdotal evidence, is lactation cookies. Boobbix is just one brand in a market of many. They have a vast number of products with varying yummy combos, with a lot of their products including ingredients such as soy lecithin, flaxseed and fenugreek. They could make a lovely gift for a breastfeeding mum - something I will make a blog about in the future.
And finally, after all the time sitting with your pump, after all the washing up and sterilisation sessions, when the last drop is drunk and the freezer is well and truly empty. You deserve a treat - a breastmilk keepsake. This gift to you showcases your efforts to provide for your baby. You can look back on that moment of your life forever. For the sentimental soul, it is wonderful and you truly deserve it. The Empowered Mama is a wonderful brand owned by a pumping mama. She is US based but is something to show you for inspiration whilst they work on shipping to the UK :)
I hope you enjoyed looking through the lists of the types of products you may want to add to your pump list. There are so many included but I've been pumping for a long time so have had time to go through a lot of products. I've not covered everything, I've barely touched the surface but I hope this has helped you. If you would like to purchase anything recommended today, please click on the links - it helps keep LP running and tells me you love my content.
What does the LP community say...?
Here's what the Little Pumpling community had to say about what was essential in their pumping kits. If you're reading this and you're feeling alone with your pumping journey, please check out our Instagram / Facebook where there's daily topics, tips and an insight into my EP journey.
A cup of tea - Be
A decent nipple cream. Apply after every pump not just when you're sore - Br
Medela microwave sterilising bags - amazing for if you're out. - Br
Anything hands-free! An Elvie if you can afford it but if not there are cheaper options available. The haakaa is good too. Without them I'd have given up! - Ju
I couldn't pump without my phone or iPad. I just love the time to relax - Ca
Thank you for your contributions - it's always amazing seeing how we all do this our own ways. Comment on this post if you want to share any of your must haves. Difference is not bad - difference allows space to learn and to grow from one another!
Burton P, Kennedy K, Ahluwalia JS, Nicholl R, Lucas A, Fewtrell MS. Randomized Trial Comparing the Effectiveness of 2 Electric Breast Pumps in the NICU. Journal of Human Lactation. 2013;29(3):412-419. doi:10.1177/0890334413490995
Fikawati, S.; Syafiq, A.; Mardatillah. Maternal Calorie Intake is a Significant Factor Associated with 6 Months of Exclusive Breastfeeding among Lactating Mothers in Depok City, Indonesia. Malaysian Journal of Nutrition . 2017, Vol. 23 Issue 1, p31-41. 11p.
Hill PD, Aldag JC, Chatterton RT. The Effect of Sequential and Simultaneous Breast Pumping on Milk Volume and Prolactin Levels: A Pilot Study. Journal of Human Lactation. 1996;12(3):193-199. doi:10.1177/089033449601200315
This article is that of the opinion of the author. Consult your health visitor or GP if you want any medical advice. This product uses affiliate links and referral codes to help maintain the community it is building. The links do not add a cost to you but if you choose to purchase an item using them they receive a small commission. It is a small thank you to the author for the time and dedication taken to provide you with information on Exclusive Pumping.