Attention: Breast Pumping Mothers

How to Stay Sane and Smell Sweet

In a new series of posts, simply titled: Guidance for New Breast-Pumping Mothers, we are answering questions directly from new breast-pumping mothers, just like you. After all, that’s why this blog exists—to guide and support you on your breast-pumping journey.

Our first question comes to us from a New Jersey reader and Exclusive Pumper (EP-er). She asked us to give her suggestions on how to stay sane while fitting breast-pumping sessions into every conceivable moment of her life with her new baby. As a secondary concern, she wonders (with noticeable embarrassment) how to cleanse herself from the always-lingering scent of stale milk. *sigh* Such is the life of a breast pumping mother.

There’s absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about—even if you do, in fact, smell like sour milk. Remember these truths: As you become accustomed to life as a breast pumping mother you’re likely spending the majority of time at home. Your home is full of the people who love you most. 

Secondly, we are so relieved that our first question comes with such honesty, because you are not alone and if you smell, we’ve all smelled and that’s why we’re here to help. No shame here.

Moreover, this question perfectly illustrates what we preach all day long: As a breast pumping mother, your first responsibility is to yourself. If you take good care of yourself, you will take good care of your baby. And so finding ways to smell good as you pump, pump, pump, is exactly aligned with your goal of nourishing and nurturing your new baby to the very best of your every ability.

To the first question of staying sane while pumping, the most straightforward advice is three-fold. First, establish a routine as quickly as possible. When activities become a part of our everyday routines they typically cause us less stress and angst.

Secondly, ask for help from your friends and family. Any extra time you can find in the day is a bonus. If your mother-in-law, neighbor, sister, or friend can watch your baby for an hour or two between pumping sessions, you can nap, read, do the dishes, get a manicure, take a shower—anything that is pressing for you personally. But you have to ask! 

Thirdly, don’t forget that you’re still a woman with her own needs and wants; these needs must be attended to. Breast pumping mothers need pampering too! For example, you would probably love a back-rub, or a manicure, or someone to do the dishes, or to not smell like sour milk. Never feel guilty for attending to these needs. Even though in the short-term it means devoting precious time to yourself, in the long-run these self-indulgent moments are a real key to staying sane. Not all new or breast pumping mothers find this an easy feat!

Now, what about your (not so) sweet stench?

Even if no one in your company detects or complains about a lasting breast milk pungency, odds are you will sense it, smell it and begin to hate it.

Here are our best tips on how to control and/or disguise the sour stench of breast milk, which has likely permeated your world as a breast pumping mother.

Wear freshly washed clothing as often as possible.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but when you’re sleep-deprived and running on all cylinders, even the obvious needs reminding.  And although you hate to part with your favorite sweat pants and fuzziest socks, the clothing you wear is the worst offender of a permeating stench. The hormones your body generates in the early stages of post-partum may lead to a change in your normal body odor and sweat levels. Furthermore, your clothing holds onto everything like an old kitchen sponge.

Also, your boobs are leaky and even with the help of breast pads inside your bra, those pesky leaks somehow find their way into your shirt and sweater and even your socks! Breast pumping mothers can attest to this wonderful perk of  Wearing freshly washed clothing as often as possible is the surest way to escape the sour stench.

Commit to washing your baby’s clothes and accessories as often as possible.

Another seemingly obvious fix, but it’s worth a reminder. Your baby’s clothing and bibs and burp cloths are constantly in contact with your body as you hold and rock and burp and snuggle your precious smelly little one. Using freshly washed clothes and accessories are another sure way to reduce the sour waft in your world.

Rinse your breasts and chest after each pumping session.

Make this cleansing step a part of your breast pumping routine. Just as you commit to applying Lanolin or other healing ointments to your nipples after pumping, it’s equally important to wipe yourself down. When you’re home this is as simple as using a damp washcloth. If you’re in public or at work, use a few fragrance-free wipes to do the job.

Wash your pumping bra as often as possible.

If you use your hands at all while pumping then odds are a hands-free pumping bra has become your very best friend. But at $30 odd dollars a pop, few of us have a plentiful drawer full of these awesome brassieres. If you can swing it, invest in at least two of these babies and rotate them into the laundry as often as possible. This one rotation will make a huge difference in the stench of your daily life.

Splurge on a favorite lotion for all your non-breast parts.

Don’t forget to dote on the rest of your body every once in awhile. Your breasts are getting (and need) so much attention as you pump, but your other parts could use a quick refreshment as well. We find that splurging on a favorite lotion to be kept at your pumping station or in your pumping bag helps remind us to dote on the rest of our bodies. After you’ve stored your breast milk in a sanitary container but before you get up and change gears, take a moment to massage your arms or legs or feet with a pump or two of a creamy, decadent, beautifully aromatic lotion.

Apply an organic perfume or natural body oil.

You want to be careful not to disguise your natural scent too well as it’s…natural. Your smell is something your new darling will use to identify you and find comfort in. If you keep your body and clothing as clean as possible the sour after-smell of breast milk should not be overwhelming.  Applying heavy, chemically-formulated perfumes may pose risks[1] and overwhelm your child’s new and sensitive system. However, if you need a last line of olfactory defense, find an organic perfume or natural body oil with a scent that gives you (and thereby your baby) comfort.

We hope these tips help you stay sane and smell sweet, fellow breast pumping mothers.