Breast milk! It really is liquid gold and you want to take the best care of it that you can. We all know the phrase "no one cries over spilt milk" was never created by a mama! I have cried over spilled breast milk every time.
I have used the Medela Pump in Style and the Spectra. I used the Medela with my first (pumped and breast fed) and the Spectra with my second (I am exclusively pumping). The Spectra is by far the better of the two. It doesn't pull, it gentle suckles. It has numerous settings and choices for how it is suckling and how hard. It is quiet! Multiple people have commented on how quiet it is. I get more milk from the Spectra (had to use the medela for a weekend when I forgot my Spectra). I also don't feel like a cow! (Can I get an amen!?) The spectra is less expensive. Both should be covered through your insurance. Make sure you call and get directions on how to get a free pump! Some companies make you buy the pump and then reimburse you and some companies will purchase it for you from the beginning. Also, most insurance plans will cover a new pump with every baby! (Never hurts to have a back-up!)
To get the most out of your pumping time, it helps to use moist heat on your breasts and to massage your breasts. This article talks all about breast massage to increase pump supply- it is an easy "trick" and helps every time! Also, make sure you are relaxed and drink lots of water! If you are dehydrated your milk supply will drop. Here is another article with a bunch of pumping tips, including find a great pump, know your pumping rights and look at your baby or photos of your baby at the beginning of your pumping session. Get those oxytocin hormones working! :) This article is geared towards exclusively pumping mamas and goes into more of the science behind breast milk production. And lastly, an ode to all you mamas who are exclusively pumping.
For mamas who are planning on going back to work and are pumping at work, check out this article from balanced breastfeeding. Lots of good information and tips.
If you are going to pump exclusively, or at work, you will want to buy a pumping bra! Believe me, it makes it so much easier to pump when you have a bra to hold everything in place so you have your hands free to read, look at your phone, or type on the computer (I've done it all, including driving while pumping, working on my computer while pumping and holding my babies while pumping.). You can find one online at Amazon here. There are various styles to chose from.
Breast milk Bags:
I have used numerous brands of breast milk storage bags. Most of them are the same. They freeze fine, they store great and are easy to write on (I use a sharpie). I hated
I really like Nuk and Lansinoh brands. They can be found at most places and online. They seem to have the thickest bags that hold up the best in the freezer. They do not leek and they seal easily. They are easy to pour from and usually don't spill everywhere (you do have to be careful though).
I did not like the Avent or Medela brand. They are thin. They have a really long pour spout which does not tear evenly (you tear it to open to put the breast milk in) and so it was always a mess to pour. The medela brand tore all the time after it was frozen. I lost so much milk. It is too thin.
I have found that people who use bottles are usually very particular about the bottles they use. Babies are also known to be picky about the bottles they like. I currently use three different brands in my house, have researched bottles for hours and talked to lots of mama friends. I recommend you buy one bottle at a time until you find the one you love and your child loves. It is also depend on the age of your child, if they are colic-y and if they are using bottles and breast feeding.
Munchkin Latch are the closest to breast and nipples that I have found. They move around like a breast, they release more milk if a baby pushes against the nipple of the bottle and they have the availability for lots of movement/give. They also have an anti-colic valve. They are on the more expensive side. They only come in one size (8 ounces). They do not have any designs or colors. We like these bottles the best. They took some getting use to. My husband had a harder time getting use to using them with our son than I did. Our son also loves them. I think they are definitely worth the extra investment. (*site note- I have found that putting them in the dishwasher can cause them to leak out the bottom for a while. I just hand wash them - with a bottle brush - and they do not leak from the bottom anti-colic valve) You can find them in stores - Target and Fred Meyer and online - Amazon and Diapers.com. I would recommend these bottles if your child is breast feeding some times and using a bottle some times.
We also use, and have lots of friends who happily use, Dr. Brown bottles. Dr. Brown bottles come in varying sizes, shapes and materials-glass and plastic. They are one of the only bottle companies that make glass bottles. Dr. Brown's are known for their anti-colic piece inside the bottle. You do have to put it in and take it out. You can use them without the anti-colic piece. They are min-price I would say. The glass are more expensive. They do not have designs or multiple colors. They can be found at most stores including Target, Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer and online.
We also use Nuk orthopedic bottles. We started using these when our oldest had to switch to formula at 10 months. They are not a fancy bottle. They come in numerous designs and colors and are pretty inexpensive. They can be found at most stores including Target, Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer and online. Nuk also makes toddler cups and transition bottles/cups.
Doula Rachel has put together a blog of resources, info-graphics, and articles, with an occasional self-published blog. Enjoy!