Breastfeeding: how to pump and have a life in 10 easy steps

It’s baby boom time in my circle of friends. Like the year that preceded it, the year of the seven weddings, this is the year of the seven impending births. Between family, close friends and acquaintances, most conversations are evolving around birth, sleep, lack of sleep and the lack of desire to reproduce again. (Ok that’s just me. Joking. Or am I?)

During all these chats I’ve found myself answering lots and lots of questions about breastfeeding. I’m not the first in our group to have a baby, but I am one of the first to have breastfed longterm and I used pumping to do this.

When I look back on my experiences I realise that it was an absolute minefield, but I did develop some techniques that really helped me and could possibly help others. “I think I’ll write a blog post on it,” I said to one of my friends who is nursing a three week old at the moment. “Oh do!” she said. That’s because she didn’t have any time to talk. It’s easier for her to read this with her free hand while breastfeeding than sit and talk to me. So is the life of a nursing Mam.

1) Find your own way

crazy lady
You want me to feed the baby, change it, get it to sleep AND pump milk for future use? ARE YOU CRAZY???

Only you can find the best way to pump to suit your baby. You may only need to pump rarely, to have a spare bottle of two for an emergency. You may decide to pump every day so that you can have a stock of milk in the freezer. Or you may want to pump because you missed a feed and your boob is sore. You will need to fit pumping into your own routine. And whatever way this works for you is fine. I’ve had lots of friends with newborns on the phone worrying that they are not pumping yet or when they should be fitting it in. Do not worry in the early days. It should be the last thing on your mind.

2) Make sure your milk is established before pumping

milk bucket
That’s just from this morning’s leakages

Some experts say you should wait at least six weeks before pumping to allow your milk to establish itself. All breastfeeding mammies will know that milk supply is all over the place in the first few weeks. Let it settle, then introduce pumping gradually if you can. I had a wedding coming up five weeks after my baby was born, so I started pumping at three weeks. This was a bit early, but it worked out for me. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get much at the start. This is normal too. I used to pump on the opposite side to the one I just fed on as this had more milk. I would then feed from this side too when it was time for the next feed to ensure the boob was fully drained.

3) The equipment

milkin the cow
I’ll take it. Do you do these in half sizes – I only need two?

I waited for two weeks to buy my first pump. (Thank you Nana Cassidy). We went with the Medela Swing pump, which was excellent. It cost the guts of €200 though so I wanted to be sure I could breastfeed and would be breastfeeding before we spent the money. Avoid manual pumps. All chatter on these is that they’re useless – unless it’s something just to get you by or if you know you won’t be breastfeeding for long. There are also double pumps available. I’ve never used these, and don’t know how they stick on, as I had to hold the single bottle in place with the swing pump. I don’t think I could sit there holding two bottles, feeling like a real human cow, but each to their own. Mooooooo.

4) Cleaning

Life saver

You’ll need to clean all your equipment after use. I used the microwave steriliser and it was super handy – four minutes and everything was ready to go again. I had a few experiences where milk got sucked into the pump and I was able to take the pump apart and clean it all out. Make sure to stop pumping straightaway if this happens as it can damage the pump.

5) When to pump


At the start I pumped in little minute bursts after the baby had fed and was napping. There wasn’t much milk but I would collect the output (nice) and build up the milk that way. You will find you have much better supply in the morning, so if you can pump then, do. Eventually, when the baby had developed longer sleep patterns in the evening, I would pump then, in front of the telly, the sounds of waa waa waa our soothing chorus for the evening. Don’t attempt to pump after cluster feeds. There’s no point and you’ll only be annoying yourself.

6) Storage

storage pots

I pumped in 100mls. It was my target everyday. Sometimes you will fall short or have more, which is fine. I then poured these 100mls of white gold into little pots I’d bought in Aldi and stacked them in the freezer. The joy of opening the freezer to see a whole stock of milk – you are superwoman!

7) Serving it fresh

milk from farm
The Mom Farm

When it’s time to use the milk, you can take out the pots and leave to defrost in the fridge or kitchen counter. It’ll take about five hours to defrost. If you need the milk quickly, put in bowl over a pan of boiling water. Don’t defrost in the microwave. A friend recently asked about what bottles to use while breastfeeding. I just had normal Avent bottles, which our baby took to no problem – but I do like the look of the Tommee Tippee bottles because they look exactly like a big boob. Because we had introduced the breast milk in a bottle very early our baby never had any issues going between the bottle and boob. Do think about this, if somebody needs to feed your baby breast milk while you’re away. Best not to leave it too late or else the baby might refuse anything that isn’t Mammy’s warm boobs.

8) Drinking

God be with the days

One of the big worries Mammies have is drinking. At the wedding I watched what I drank, pumped and dumped (it’s awful to see all that lovely milk going down the drain) and then read afterwards that this makes no difference atall. It’s your blood alcohol level that counts and pumping and dumping makes no difference to this. For me, I found it was best of have pumped milk ready to give baby after a night of drinking, to watch what I drank and drink loads of water to flush it out of my system and to pump some anyway because my boobs were sore and full. I also learned quickly that alcohol had little effect when I was breastfeeding; I literally couldn’t get drunk. I always felt it was the body’s magic way of not letting harm come to your baby, despite Mammy’s worst efforts. So be careful on this too – as you might feel the urge to drink more because your normal amount is not having an effect. Also, relax. Don’t beat yourself up for having a few drinks now and then. Use up your pumped milk, that’s what it’s for.

9) Bullet boobs

They’re not called melons for nothing

If you have to be away from your baby, your milk will build up very quickly and you will feel like your chest is about to explode. I had a trip away earlier in the year and when I greeted baby after only having pumped for the previous two days, she latched on, came off and the milk kept flowing. In an arc. In a restaurant. It was funny. And horrible. Pumping is great and will relieve your discomfort, but it is nothing to how a baby will drain your breast, it’s good to remember that.

10) Pumping out and about

Sorry Officer

I was determined to exclusively breast feed my baby till six months – which we more or less achieved, but I had to return to work at five months. So I pumped at work. In the van. In the toilet. Wherever I had to. I carried the pump and equipment in a little neat gift bag, because it sparked some joy and didn’t raise suspicions. I never told anyone what I was doing – I just did it. I found I could throw the pump into a bigger handbag if I needed. And I carried a protein shaker to store the milk. You will find you will build pumping into your life. Because pumping allows you to have a life. At least it did for me.

I breastfed my baby for almost a year and chose to stop then. You can read why here. I have become an advocate for breast feeding because of the many benefits I found it brought I and my baby. What was your experience of breastfeeding? Did you get used to pumping? I’d love to hear from you.

I only have experience of using the Medela Swing Pump. I used the single pump and found it really good. The links below take you direct to Amazon to buy (affiliate link). We bought ours in Mothercare. You can also pick up in pharmacies. 

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December Girl audiobook

17 Comments on Breastfeeding: how to pump and have a life in 10 easy steps

  1. Thank you for doing this post! I have been breastfeeding almost five weeks now and I want to start pumping for the odd occassion where my hubby may need to feed my sone (like next weekend when I have a blog event) and I have been so worried about what to do and how to store it etc! For when you’re out and about (like we will be next weekend) for do you store the milk then? Kay x

    • Hi Kay,
      Thanks for your comment and well done on getting to five weeks! I think it gets easier from now on in 🙂 Do you mean how do you store the milk when you’re pumping out and about? I brought a small sealable bottle with me – actually it was a large protein shaker, but any sealable bottle will do as long as it’s clean and sterile. I could then pour the milk from the pumped bottle into this and carry it around until I got home. It’s ok for a short while – you could think of a cool bottle or flask. When we wanted to bring breastmilk with us, we would have it defrosted then and bring it in ready to go bottles – a lot of baby bags have special compartments which helps keep the milk cool or warm. Does that answer your questions? x

  2. My friend is about to make the decision whether to breastfeed or not and is panicking because she does not know what is best for her and is worried what people may think. What would your advice be? Great tips too x

    • Hi Ana, sorry for late reply. First of all I’d say to your friend, don’t worry what anyone thinks – just work out what is best for her and her baby. I’d also suggest that she really try breastfeeding and see how it works out for her. She might be surprised. And as for pumping – see that as something down the track, once she is established. When is due? Sending her best wishes xx

  3. Great post – funny but also full of good tips & information. I fed each of my 3 kids until they were 12 – 14months old. I wasn’t good at pumping though, I had some on hold if I was going somewhere but the rest of the time my baby was with me. x

    • It’s a big commitment isn’t it? I had to pump for work, but I also liked my bit of freedom too. I would hope to feed again in the same way in the future x

  4. I pumped for over five months when I went back to work and I greed with all the tips you gave above, there’s really good information and I couldn’t help laughing at the melon boobs…I’d never really thought of the bullet hard feeling of them 🙂 But oh, the relief once baby nurses or it’s pumped. Just this big whoosh of relief.

    • Totally Muuka. Dare I say it, a bit like the relief when you’re dying to go to the loo, haha! Wow five months pumping, fair play to you. I eventually grew so tired of it I had to pack it in. But I’ll do it again if I have any more, as it is worth it 🙂

  5. This is a very educational for me as I don’t have any of my own. This is a lesson to be learn one day if I had any children of my own. Thank you for sharing tips!

  6. I found this so great to read. I have not breastfed my children but wish now I had over the years. It was great to read as I wouldn’t have known much about it before.

    • Thanks Amanda. Each to their own – I was lucky everything worked out for me and wanted to pass on the tips to help others. Hope they do! Thanks for the comment x

  7. I had a manual pump and it was useless. Unfortunately months of hand expressing have put me off pumping for life but I think your tips are awesome. #TheList
    (Ps: I run a linky for advice for mums, and would love to have you join next week….just saying 😉

    • Thanks Julie, sure send me the details of the linky and will join in 🙂 I havent heard one good thing about manual pumping yet! And hand pumping – like getting blood from a stone!

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