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When I had my son I needed very little when it came to feeding. I had a nursing cover and I think that might have been it. Pumping is just a whole different ballgame. Some things you need without question, others you need to be successful EPing without going insane, and others are just nice to have. The products below are my favorites of every category. The products will be linked in the text and then again at the bottom with pictures.
Need to Have
First and foremost, you need a breast pump. I started with a Lansinoh double electric which was great for every now and then pumps to build a freezer stash for emergencies if you are normally a nursing breastfeeding mom but it just couldn't keep up with my 8-12 pumps per day. I now have the Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump with On the Go Tote and love it! It can definitely keep up with me and is so easy to operate. My almost three year old has actually figured it out just by watching me and now want to "help" all the time. The tote bag makes pumping on the go super convenient. It comes with a cooler and ice pack as well so you can store milk while out and about and not worry about it going bad. I love that the ice pack is shaped to wrap around the bottles. It keeps them cooler longer and helps everything stay in place.
I think all pumps come with at least a few bottles to pump into, but not all come with nipples. You can use the bottles that came with your pump to feed baby, or you can buy different ones. The choice is up to you. I currently use different bottles to feed Gracelynn than the ones I pump into. When I was using the Lansinoh pump, I fed her using the bottles that came with that pump. This way I could pump straight into them and then feed her.
The Lansinoh bottles are wide-neck while the Medela bottles are regular. While she was in the hospital (more on this later) she was using the regular bottles and really struggled with them. She took in an excessive amount of air and never latched onto the bottle correctly. So even when I switched to the Medela pump, I kept her on the Lansinoh bottles.
I pump into the Medela bottles but there are many conversion kits you can get that will allow you to pump straight into your wide-neck bottles. I chose to use both bottles because 1. The hospital uses Medela pumps so I have about 30 or so bottles from them and 2. I only pump enough to fill a whole bottle in the morning, my very first pump of the day. I don't want to dirty my feeding bottles by using them to pump so I keep them separate. I also like that the Lansinoh bottles are simple and have very little parts; only what is necessary.
To save money, I purchase my bottles and nipples separately. I can get four bottles and nipples for less that three when you buy them together. Another reason to buy them separately is because the storage bottles (what they call the bottles with no nipples) come with a cover that keeps milk fresh longer in the fridge.
I use this bottle brush. It is simple and gets the job done. It also has a nipple brush build into the handle that unscrews for easy use.
Hands-Free Pumping Bra
As a mom, multi-tasking is a must. I don't know how moms, especially EP moms, go without a handsfree bra. I have this one. It fits almost any size with a custom panel in the back. It zips up the front and can be worn with or without straps. A hands-free bra also makes it possible to do hands on pumping which yields much more milk.
Most of my storage is done in the fridge but I am finally starting to build up a freezer stash. I use the storage bottles that I mentioned above for storing milk that will be used for the next day. When I freeze my milk, I use two methods. I will either use a food storage container to freeze the milk into cubes and then put them into freezer bags or I will use breast milk storage bags. The breastmilk freezer bags stack easier and are better for larger quantities bu if I only have 2 ounces or so, making it into a cube and using it sooner just makes more sense to me.
Correct fitting flanges
Flange fit is so important. Your nipple should move freely in the flange without rubbing the sides. If it does, your flange is too small and you need to go up a size. If your flange is too big, it will pull an excess amount of areola and or breast tissue into the flange. If this is happening, you may need to go down a size, but not always. I was having a problem with correct fit in the beginning and then I found these. It comes with a whole set of different sized flanges which is so nice. You may find that one size is more comfortable in the morning when you are completely full while another is better at night when you aren't as full. Your breasts might need different sizes. Experiment with the sizes until you find what is most comfortable for you and what helps you yield the most milk.
I use coconut oil every time I pump. The flanges will rub against your skin and make your breasts sore while will make pumping almost unbearable. Lanolin is great to use after pumping if you already have sore nipples but it is too thick to be good at preventing soreness. If anything it can make it happen more often.
If you oil your flanges, you most likely won't have much nipple soreness, but if you do lanolin is great for relieving the pain.
Bottle Drying Mat
When using bottles, you have to make sure they are completely dry before putting the top on and putting them away so mold won't grow. You can either hand dry them, set them out on a towel to dry, or get one of these to dry your bottles and pump parts on.
The easiest way to wash everything is in the dishwasher but all those parts are easily lost in there. That is when a dishwasher basket comes in handy. It will hold all the bottle and pump parts and let them be cleaned without damage or loss.
When on the go, these cleaning wipes can come in handy. Even if you are without a sink, you can clean your pump parts and avoid collecting bacteria on them.
What are your favorite pumping products? Let us know in the comments below!