Let’s face it: pumping and/or bottle feeding our babies typically involves a lot of plastic, most of which will eventually make its way into a landfill where it will stay for thousands of years. The good news is that there are some simple, inexpensive ways to minimize the environmental toll and they can even save you money in the long run.
First let’s talk about breast milk expression. Most people assume that a pump is needed in order to remove milk from the breast, when in reality women were expressing milk long before pumps were invented using hand-expression. Hand-expression a very simple technique that can be as effective as a pump once moms get the hang of it. In fact, many women respond better to the skin contact and massage of hand-expression than the hard plastic flanges involved with pumps. Best of all- there’s nothing to lug around or clean, so hand expression is incredibly convenient. (Click here to learn more.)
While this works really well for many women, others need or prefer a pump. Unfortunately no plastic-free pumps exist (yet… I am an optimist!) but there are some more eco-friendly options:
Non-electric pumps are a bit easier on the planet because there is no battery or motor involved, and they are great for occasional use.
For mamas who are pumping a lot, a double-electric model is often preferred. If that’s what you are planning to use, be sure to get a multiple-user pump, so that it can be passed along to another mama when you’re finished with it. Unfortunately many pumps on the market are single-user and are not safe to pass along to others, so be sure to investigate. Additional earth-friendly features would be rechargeable batteries, and a brand that can be sent back to the manufacturer for recycling when its lifespan is over.
If you’re expressing milk it will need to be stored, and single-use storage bags have become ubiquitous in pumping households, but there are actually some great alternatives. In the early weeks when babies are eating smaller amounts, you can freeze breast milk in silicone ice cube trays with lids, transferring to a freezer safe container after they are solid. As babies grow and start eating more (and you start expressing more milk) breast milk can be stored in the fridge or freezer in mason jars, which come as small as 4 ounces. When freezing, be sure not to fill all the way to the top- you’ll need to leave some space for expansion or the glass can crack.
When it comes to feeding time, you can feed baby a mason jar with a nipple made specifically for them like the ones below… and if you are pumping and storing in jars, you can just pop the nipple onto the same jar the milk was stored in and warm it up in a bowl full of hot tap water- so convenient!
Then as babies get older you can switch the nipples out for sippy lids like these:
Worried about the glass breaking? Silicone covers are your friend…
Or better yet, you can get crafty and make your own protective jar covers and koozies!
And here I must confess, I have a bit of a mason jar obsession, and have been using them for decades for everything from drinking glasses to food storage to pen holders and paper clip containers… I have had some of my jars for 20 + years! Even beyond feeding your baby, they are the ultimate in plastic-free convenience and cost savings.
Happy pumping and baby-feeding! And remember, the most important thing is to feed with LOVE.