How to Reduce Pumping Anxiety

10 ways to stress less while you’re making milk for baby.

*We’ve partnered with Lansinoh to help you make the most of your breast-pumping time.

There are a lot of things we could be stressed about after bringing our little bundle of joy home, but pumping shouldn’t be one of them. We’ve all heard it: relax and the milk will flow. But how do you unwind with a set of vacuums stuck to your boobs? We’ve teamed up with Lansinoh and rounded up the most impressive breastfeeding and pumping pros we know to give you 10 tips on how to reduce pumping anxiety and get the absolute most out of the time you spend hooked up.

1. Unplug from work. As hard as it may seem. I personally found that 15 minutes watching videos of my baby on my iPhone was more productive than 40 minutes strapped to a pump while answering emails. And when I was researching my book, I talked to a woman who used to watch old episodes of Gilmore Girls on Netflix while crouched on a box in the supply closet of her office. (She got over her guilt about watching TV by looking around at her luxurious surroundings.) Allyson Downey, founder of weespring.com and author of Here’s the Plan.

2. Smell something nice. I keep a little lavender pillow in my bed, and I have a Pavlovian-like relaxation response when I’m around it. Lavender reminds me of the feeling after nursing my little one in the middle of the night, and then getting to roll over for a few more delicious hours of sleep (well…sometimes….). I accidentally ended up with a lavender sachet in my pumping bag one day and found that the subtle scent did me a world of good. I’d close my eyes and the smelly gym locker room I was pumping in (ALMOST) faded away. From then on in it became part of my pumping routine.. Katinka Locascio, Doula, herbalist & founder of Earth & Sky Healing Arts 

3. Set the scene. Not all pumping environments are created equal (take the bathroom stall for example). If you are able to customize your “pump station” to set a relaxing tone, your milk supply will thank you. Prepare a cup of tea and keep a stack of your favorite magazines or a racy book handy. If you allow yourself to indulge in something you otherwise wouldn’t have time for, then you will stop dreading your pump sessions—creating a more positive experience and letting the milk flow like wine. Morgan Hutchinson, founder of Shopburu.com for best breastfeeding-friendly fashion 

4. For a good supply, keep baby at the breast. Baby is generally going to be the best way to teach your body how much milk to make and to establish your supply.  Well-intentioned family and friends may pressure you to let them feed the baby but it is important, especially in the first month at least, to have baby at the breast so baby can trigger the natural actions for breastmilk supply and demand. If you and baby will be apart or someone else does feed baby, pump ahead of time so your baby can have your expressed breastmilk versus using formula if possible so your baby can continue to get the benefits of your breast milk even if not at the breast. When baby is at the breast, he’ll trigger milk let-down and remove milk based on his needs. In response, your body will refill what has been removed. This is supply and demand.  If for any reason you need to have someone else feed baby be sure to pump or hand express at that time so your body gets the needed stimulation it needs to keep making milk. Gina Cicatelli Ciagne, CLC, Lansinoh VP Healthcare Marketing and Media Spokesperson.

5. Don’t start regular pumping too early! The early days of breastfeeding are all about building just the right milk supply for your baby. Many women begin pumping too early and then overproduce milk. Unless there is a clinical reason to do so, most moms should wait until breastfeeding is well established (usually 2-4 weeks) before introducing a bottle. There’s no reason to begin pumping until you’re getting close to that first bottle introduction. Jada Shapiro, doula, lactation expert and founder of Birth Day Presence and Boober, an on-demand lactation service. 

6. Google and learn about “hands-on pumping.” It’s basically going to second base with yourself while you pump. It can help you produce more milk per session, which is also going to help you relax. Jessica Shortall, author of Work, Pump, Repeat.

7. A great way to get your milk flowing is to remind your body why you are doing this. Keep a picture of your little one with your pump, or flip through photos and watch a video of your baby on your phone. Many moms swear by listening to a recording of their baby crying when they pump. Figure out what works best for you, and then go with it. A little-known benefit of focusing on your baby while you pump is that you are not focusing on the other dozen things you should be doing. Reducing stress will help you get the most out of your pumping session. Amanda Cole, founder of breastfeeding shop Yummy Mummy 

8. Connect with other moms. A few times I pumped, I had friends in the room and it made me laugh and pump with ease. While that wasn’t possible at work, I still sought out other moms online who could relate. It’s why I created Pumpspotting, actually, so more moms could be with other people pumping and share needed laughs and tips. Amy VanHaren, founder of Pumpspotting app 

9. Plan on not washing your pump parts. Keep a ziploc bag (or a small, opaque cooler bag, if you use a shared fridge at work) handy, throw in your pump parts, unwashed, and put the whole thing in the fridge after each pumping session. It’ll save you valuable clean-up time, which can help you be less stressed about getting it done. Jessica Shortall, author of Work, Pump, Repeat

10. Don’t be a clock watcher! Establishing a good supply early on is key to increased breast milk production when you’re pumping later on. During early feedings, you should be watching your baby for their feeding cues — not the clock. There is no specific time period that you should let your baby nurse for at any given nursing session, and there is no magical time you should strive for in between feedings. Babies don’t know how to tell time—their tummies tell them when they are ready to eat and it will be very often in the beginning. Watch for cues like sucking on fingers, smacking lips or rooting, and respond to them by offering them the breast. Let baby nurse on the first side as long as they want, and when they pause and seem done, burp them and then offer the second breast. It is impossible to spoil a baby and every feeding teaches your body how much milk to make based on how much baby removes. Gina Cicatelli Ciagne, CLC, Lansinoh VP Healthcare Marketing and Media Spokesperson.

*This post was sponsored by Lansinoh. Join Lansinoh’s Moms’ Club for more breastfeeding news, tips and offers here

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Hanna Nakano

Hanna Nakano

Hanna Nakano is a journalist and mama-to-be based in Washington, D.C. After years as a television reporter and producer, she now works strictly online -- writing stories from coffee shops and saving lots of money on HD makeup. She's married to a medical doctor with a culinary degree (you can find their recipes and ramblings at Chef Meets Girl). They have a golden retriever named Mochi, and their first baby is due in February.

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