To Pump or Not To Pump

July 26, 2017

This is a question many new parents are faced with. People do not realize the amount of information thrown at new and expecting parents until they are expecting and new parents themselves.

One of the big decisions parents have to make is how they are going to feed their baby. It seems like most Americans consider breastfeeding. There are many obstacles that interfere with breastfeeding – that is a post for another day but let’s talk pumping milk.

I recall when I was pregnant with my first baby I took a breastfeeding class. I knew I wanted to breastfeed but did not have many role models so I listened intently on how to breastfeed. I remember the instructor talked about pumping and how it is best to rent a pump – I am not sure I remember much more. When Phoebe was born I struggled with how to get her latched and how often to feed her and I had a striped scab across one of my nipples and a hickey on the other from her latching onto the areola. I remember in a fit of frustration telling Rob WE NEED TO RENT A PUMP! NOW!


It took a few days for us to figure out how and where to rent a pump – this was 1995! Phoebe and I found our rhythm – she found my nipple I found how to listen to her cues. The pump arrived and I stared at it.


For three and a half weeks. We rented it for four weeks. I knew I needed to use it before returning it and having spent over $80 renting and buying parts. I put the shields on my breasts and was impressed that milk came out of my breasts.

Later that night Rob came home from work. This was summer and there had been a storm. The electricity was out. Phoebe started to root around. “You have to give her this bottle! Now! My milk is going to go bad and we do not have a refrigerator and it is 99 degrees!”

Rob grabbed the bottle and tried to feed our screaming baby. I walked out of the room. My breasts began to tingle and leak.  Rob was sweating, Phoebe screamed louder and louder. Her head spinning like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. I started to cry. I think Rob was crying, too.

“Give me the baby.” I latched her on and we both chilled out.

“What do I do with this?’ asked Rob.

“Pour it down the drain,” I told him.

It turns out I did not need to pump. The company I was working for went out of business so I became a full time mom.

I asked Rob if he felt he needed to feed Phoebe to bond. He laughed and told me he felt bonded with here.

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And eventually I became a La Leche League Leader and then a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).


As someone who has been in the breastfeeding business for two decades I have seen different trends. With the Affordable Care Act offering up pumps to expecting parents and with social media there is a big pumping culture. And there is so much information shared that it can all be confusing.

If your baby latches on, you feel comfortable and your baby is gaining weight there is no need to pump.

Conversely, I have seen women who were told not to pump for two weeks or for one month or whatever someone told them was a rule. Or no one told them to pump while their baby is being supplemented with formula. In some of these cases this compromises their milk supply. The bottom line is that the baby must be fed. But if your baby is being supplemented and you want your body to make milk then it is important to pump. Milk is made by removing milk form the breasts – this can be with a baby who has a good latch, by hand expressing or by using a good breast pump.


Let’s now talk pumps. Pumps are not all created equally and not everyone responds to pumps the same. I have worked with people who pump using their hands – hand expressing – here is a cool video:

hand expressing


hand expressing

There are hospital grade pumps, electric single user pumps , and hand pumps.


When should you pump?

  • If your baby is separated from you
  • If your baby is not gaining enough weight
  • If your baby causing you so much pain you cannot tolerate nursing
  • If your baby takes a bottle
  • If you are donating milk
  • If you are working away from your baby

There is no need to fill your freezer! Pumping is not an Olympic sport!

How many people compare their milk stash to those they see on Instagram?!

breastmilk stored

You really only need enough milk to feed your baby.

If you want to pump that is cool but if you do not want to pump and do not need to then don’t pump.

People can bond with a baby without a bottle. If you want your baby to have a bottle of breastmilk, then pump.

Each situation is unique and blanket statements do not help new parents. For help call an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) Find a Lactation Consultant or a La Leche League Leader.La Leche League International





When I go to the home of a new mom I am often shocked to see all of the stuff in the home. I shouldn’t be. I once had a new baby and had more items than I needed. And these days there is more. Aren’t we supposed to be paring down? Saving the environment? Living simpler? Remember, I am seeing families in New York City. These are not big homes. Most are less than one thousand square feet.

In winter 2002-2003 I  had been a mom for seven years. I had two children at the time. I had been in the mom trenches for some time. I was in Chelsea a neighborhood with a new baby superstore. I wanted to lay my eyes on the new store I had heard so much about. Well, as I walked into the city block sized behemoth my eyes filled with tears. I was so overwhelmed with the thousands of items targeted at new and expecting parents. This explained the piles of unnecessary items in these homes.

I recently did a quick Google search to look at baby registries. The suggested registries had between 8 and 12 categories with 6 to 30 items in each category. That would be as many as 630 items for your new baby! That is a lot of real estate!

Let me guide you through a realistic registry.

First thing: avoid superstores! They overwhelm and oversell. You do not need 80-90% of what they would have you think you need. You may WANT some items but you do not need most of the items suggested.

Clothes: do not over buy.  First, your friends and family love buying baby clothes! Leave something for them. Yes, you want to be prepared with a few onesies and some soft blankets, socks and hats but your baby will grow and you do not need too many of the tiny clothes.

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For sleep you may want to wait for a crib to see if you will actually use one. In the first several weeks your baby will sleep in your room in a bassinet, a Moses basket or next to you, so either one of these or a bed rail will get you through these first couple of months. This will give you time to look around and see what kind of sleeping arrangements you will decide upon.

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I do like a night light for the middle of the night so that you do not light up the room and have your baby thinking it is party time. You want to be able to see while keeping the nighttime atmosphere.


Diapering: whether you use cloth or disposable diapers it is a good idea to have plenty on hand. Babies pee and poo a lot! Having a space to change the baby is good. Better is to have more than one place for changing the baby. In New York City it can be considered a luxury to have a changing table. Many will have the table on top of a dresser – this saves space. I also think everyone should have a portable changing pad so that you can change the baby in your bedroom and in the living room.

You can get wipes or you can make them by using water and paper towels, or better yet, those soft baby washcloths.


Diaper ointment? You do not need to use it unless your baby has a diaper rash and if he does you can use raw virgin coconut oil. You can use this on the baby’s bottom, on her skin to moisturize, on your own skin and you can cook with it. There are no mineral oils or other harmful additives. You can have a jar in the pantry and in the medicine cabinet.

You may want a few baby towels and those washcloths. A portable bathtub is a good item.

I love the lists for feeding. If you are breastfeeding you do not need anything from the store. The stores will certainly make you think you need to buy breastfeeding items.  You do NOT need a special pillow – they mostly get in the way of comfortable feeding. And please, please do not get a nursing cover! Do you get a cover for any other feeding in your life? Why put a tent around your baby? If you are trying to be discreet it just draws attention to you.

Regarding pumps, if you really need to pump at the beginning you will do best to use a rental grade pump. Before you purchase a pump you need to see what your situation will be. Will you be back to work full-time?  Do you need to pump only occasionally? Do you even need to pump?

Regarding bottles please do not fall victim to the marketers who want your money. All bottles are not created equal and no bottle will mimic a human! Consider something slow and not too big.  The formula sample bottle nipples are super fast.

Strollers! Ah! How will you get your baby around? I did not see any baby carriers on my samples of registries. Wearing your baby is essential no matter where you live. Put that baby on in urban settings for getting from place to place. Put that baby on in the suburbs to go for a walk or go to the grocery store. Put that baby on in your home so you can get things done like make yourself a sandwich.

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Now, back to strollers. Where do you live? Is it a walk up? You certainly do not need a huge pram going up and down the stairs.


In an urban setting a sturdy lightweight stroller is a must. Something you can quickly fold and unfold with a strap to go on your shoulder and a pouch at the bottom to carry your sling! This stroller will be great for grocery shopping- you wear the baby and put the groceries in the stroller.


Of course, if you are ever going to put your baby in a car a car seat is a must.

Safety gadgets: So there are certain things like outlet covers that are good and a gate or two near stairs or a particular room. But please do not cordon off your entire home. A baby needs to learn to be in space and to understand that there are some areas that you respect and learn to live with; for example, a bookshelf. Babies need to learn that a bookshelf holds books and they are not to be tossed about. Plants – a baby needs to learn that plants are to be admired and watered but not ripped apart.

Walk around your home, then crawl around your home and see what danger looms but do not restrict your baby as she learns to crawl to a padded cell. She will not know how to behave in the real world.

When people ask you what you want or need tell them to start a college fund or to buy you food. Maybe real estate but do not buy things just because there is a store wanting to sell you stuff. Ask your friends what they really used and think about if you have the same personality as that friend or the same size home.

Until your baby arrives pamper yourself and practice taking naps. Naps are one of  new parents best survival tools!

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