Every mom tells you that pumping is the worst part of going back to work. As someone who recently returned from maternity leave, I agree 1,000 percent. Pumping is labor intensive, requires special equipment and a private space, and takes so much time. It can also be emotionally draining. But if feeding your baby breast milk while you’re away is a priority, then there’s really no way around it. To help streamline the process and make it less of a pain, I spoke to five lactation consultants about their favorite hacks and products that make pumping more efficient and, well, less sucky.
Best electric pumps
First, start with a reliable pump, says Meema Spadola, a Certified Lactation Counselor and postpartum doula. The Spectra is a favorite among the lactation consultants I spoke to (and is also the one that I use), and it’s available in a cordless version as well. According to Spadola, the Spectra has a more comfortable action than the Medela, the other popular pump. “People who have used both Medela and Spectra say that the Spectra is smoother and less jagged. It’s a lot quieter. And because it’s a closed system, you could share it with a friend or coworker,” she says. Clients tell her that it helps them pump more milk. Betty Greenman, an internationally board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), agrees, saying that it’s “soothing and simulates baby sucking.” Many pumps, like the Spectra, are often covered by insurance, so call your insurance company to see if you can get one for free through them. It’s also a good idea to have an extra pump. “Many parents will keep one pump at work and one pump at home so they don’t have to carry a pump back and forth every day,” says ICBLC lactation consultant Stephanie Wagner.
There’s a crop of new pumps on the market that promise a more discreet, in-your-bra, on-the-go pumping experience. “Elvie is another pump I’m getting good feedback about,” says Spadola. “It’s completely portable and less fussy than the Willow, whose bags are too small. If money is not an object, it is an amazing option.” (The newer pumps are often not covered by insurance.) Jada Shapiro, founder of Boober, a digital platform where expectant and new parents find in-person maternal care services, also finds it to be a convenient option. In fact, her office manager was wearing it the other day and working without her even noticing. “Because it’s wireless, you can pop into your bra and it’s almost silent,” she says.
Best manual pumps
It’s also a great idea to have a manual breast pump. “If you are a person who is not keeping up a full milk supply, or simply want to keep a pump in your purse because you’re running around all day, having a manual hand pump is one of the best ideas,” says Shapiro. “It’s always good to have manual devices in case batteries die or the electricity goes out.” She recommends the Philips Avent hand pump for its soft and flexible silicone “petal” flange that massages the breast during pumping. “Some people respond to a manual/hand pump and like it better than electric pumping,” says Wagner.