What I Wish I Knew as a First Time Pumping Mom

As a mom of three now, I feel like I have a lot better idea of what I’m doing. But, I remember what it was like being a first-time mom. (For me, this was almost nine years ago! Wow time really flies!)

A lot of the moms that I work with directly are first-time moms or first time pumping moms. This post is for you! This post will cover what I wish I had known as a first-time mom. Maybe this can help you specifically on your pumping journey, too!

Allison Tolman, IBCLC


This post is specifically geared to those combining breastfeeding and pumping. However, anyone who is a first time pumper, a first-time mom, or going back to work for the first time, this is for you.

(This post was originally a video. Check it out, here!)


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Not All Pumps are Created Equal

First, you should know that not all pumps are created equal.

Back when I started pumping and went back to work, there was like one option that I knew of. It was the Medela Pump In Style. That was kind of the only option. I actually got this pump used from a friend which is a huge no-no because it’s an open system. This pump specifically was not designed for multi-users and having that pump was probably a huge detriment to my pumping journey. I didn’t quite make it to my goal of pumping for a year.

I talk about more about my specific journey and how and why it didn’t work and maybe what you can do to make it work in this video.

Allison Tolman, IBCLC

Here at New Little Life, we explore breast pumps, test them and get their data and their graphs. This data shows that not all pumps are created equal.

For example, pumps have different suction levels, patterns and settings but those things aren’t the only reason why pumps aren’t created equal. Some manufacturers don’t make pumps as well as others. Pumps have different parts and technology. It’s amazing how different they are and it can be really overwhelming to choose which one to get.

There’s a million options! There’s tabletop pumps, small portable pumps and wearable pumps. How do you know which one is right for you?

If you’re looking for help finding the right breast pump for you, check out this webinar! Or, if you’re a working mom trying to figure out which category of pumps might work best for you, check out this quiz. The quiz will pop out some recommendations and link you to pumps that might work for your situation.




How to Use A Pump

Second, you should know how to use a pump.

I wish I would have known as a first time pumping mom how to actually use the pump. I think I knew that there were two modes because I pushed the buttons around and there was a faster mode and a slower mode. I did start with the faster mode that is what you’re supposed to do. Then, as soon as the milk started flowing (I had a let down) I would switch to the slower mode. I just used a comfortable suction setting and milk came out. I wish I would have known a little bit more about how it worked, a little bit more of the specifics, what I was actually looking for, etc.

Allison Tolman, IBCLC

It can be nice for first time pumping moms to pick a pump that doesn’t have a lot of settings or speeds. Find a pump with minimal settings if you feel overwhelmed by lots of settings and options.

However, pumps that have more features are great. You can customize them and get the milk out as fast and efficiently as possible.


Importance of Flange Sizing

Third, you should know how important flange sizing is.

I wish I would have known is how important flange sizing was. For one, I didn’t even know that having a different flange or the right flange size was a thing. Two, I don’t think I ever even thought about it because I just used what came with the pump. Since milk came out and it didn’t hurt, I thought like this must be fine.

Allison Tolman, IBCLC

A lot of moms and (even moms inside our Pumping for Working Moms Program!) just use the flanges that come with their pump. Measure your flange size! It’s worth it.

Remember, the right size flange will be more comfortable and will help you pump milk more effectively and efficiently.

Milk will come out if you’re pumping with a flange that is too big. However, you will not pump all the milk out. And, it will take longer. If you want to pump fast and efficiently, you should have the right flange size! (It doesn’t have to be perfect, just as close as possible).




Importance of a Good Schedule

Fourth, a good schedule is important.

I actually feel like I did know this going in. I was a school nurse and had my own office. It was actually pretty easy to shut my door. I put a sign on the front and said “I’m pumping.” It got harder when I had to transfer between schools or there was an emergency at another school. It interrupted my flow. For the most part, I tried to stay as on on schedule as much as possible.

Allison Tolman, IBCLC

Remember, there really is no substitute for consistency. Some moms wish that they could pump less often and for a short time and have things just work out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. If you’re not being consistent with your pumping, it’s not going to go well.

If you’re feeling like you can’t stick to your schedule, you have to weigh your goals. That’s what we help working moms do in the Pumping for Working Moms Program. Sometimes all you need is an outsider looking in to help you evaluate your goals.



A Good Schedule Doesn’t Guarantee Good Output

Fifth, you should know that a good schedule does not guarantee good output.

I talk about this heavily in this video: why my back to work pumping schedule didn’t work. Although I was really consistent and I did an awesome job at scheduling in my pumps, I still didn’t quite make the output that I wanted. Breastfeeding was going fine so I knew the milk was there, I just didn’t understand why I couldn’t pump it out, especially towards the end of our one year mark. I wish I would’ve known that a good schedule doesn’t guarantee good ouput.

Allison Tolman, IBCLC

It is not you, it is not your milk supply, it is not your pump, it’s the way you’re pumping. Pumping is an art, using a breast pump is not just plug and play. You can’t just use the things that came with it, plug it in, push play and expect things to go great.

Sometimes it does work fine but that is not the norm. Often, it works okay for awhile which can give you a false sense of security. Yet, later on you notice that your output it decreasing.

Don’t forget, the biggest key to pumping is getting the milk out that’s already there. If breastfeeding is going well, it’s almost guaranteed that the milk is there. However, if you’re not pumping enough, you’re not able to supplement your baby’s needs while you’re away from them, it’s one of two things. Either, you’re not pumping the milk out that is available, or you are over feeding your baby while you’re away.

Low supply doesn’t even come into the equation if breastfeeding is going well but you just can’t keep up with pumping. For more info on low output vs low supply, check out this video, here. It talks a lot more about the right way to pump and how to find help.



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Know Who Can Answer Questions

Last, but definitely not least, you should know who you can reach out to with your questions.

The thing that I wish I had known as a first time pumping mom is who the heck to ask questions to. I had no one. I had a couple of friends that pumped at work but they did about as well as I did (which was medium success). I kind of thought that that was the norm, like when you have to go back to work, you’re gonna have to supplement with formula.

That’s just not the case! But, I didn’t know who to ask my questions to. I had been a nurse for many years and worked in an OB office with pregnancy, postpartum and breastfeeding. This was already my jam but I still couldn’t find anyone, including lactation consultants that knew how to help me with pumping. Pumping was hard for me. I figured it out and I was so determined but I had no one to ask my questions about pumping. Honestly, my personal experience is why I created a specific program to give you everything that I didn’t have.

The Pumping for Working Moms Program includes all of the information from this post. It’s specifically built for working moms so that you don’t have to experience what Allison did as a first time pumping mom.



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Allison’s experience in the field of lactation and certification, her study of breast pumps through research and testing, and her experience with working moms makes her an expert! So, if you are combining breastfeeding and pumping specifically and you want some help from a professional who specializes in exactly what you’re doing, Allison is right here!

Feel free to schedule a call with the New Little Life team, here. We offer personalized help from an expert. Hopefully, these six things help give you an idea of some things to watch out for as a first time pumping mom!

What I Wish I Knew as a First Time Pumping Mom