Exclusive pumping is breastfeeding without nursing. I only express my milk and don’t nurse. I explain it to mothers of all kinds, and the majority of the time the reply is, “That would be so hard. I could never do that.’
That’s such a funny response to me, because for me exclusive pumping is easy.
I am an over-producer, and both of my babies would fall asleep while breastfeeding because it’s hard work for them. They were also both slow to gain weight, so for me it was a no-brainer to move to only expressing my milk.
I produce double what my kids need when I pump (8 ounces a breast), and I choose to only pump 3 times a day. When I bottle feed them what I express, I know how much they are getting, so I am assured they are getting what they need. Plus, I work full-time so it gives me a jump start on practicing the pump schedule, helping with the transition back.
Pumping exclusively works for my family and my situation – and I recognize it’s not for everyone.
I know exactly why it’s hard. There’s a LOT of bottle washing. Some might feel they miss out on bonding with their baby. Pumping and breastfeeding is hard work and NO mom is the same. Many moms might pump and pump and not get much of anything. The fact is, it’s ALL hard. You just figure out what’s best for you and roll with it.
I am very grateful for being an over-producer. I was able to stop pumping after 6 months and feed my first child my over-supply through a year old. I learned a lot about pumping with my first child and wanted to share some tips for moms new to pumping or if you are looking for a possible boost in supply.
Tips for Pumping Exclusively
Have the Right Tools
Start with the setting. I have a chair or station in the house to pump, and I make that station my own – lotions, water, lip balm, nipple pads, etc. It’s a comfy chair that faces our big window. At work, I pack a picture of the baby and try to bring elements of home to feel comfortable.
PLEASE BUY THE HANDS-FREE BRA!
I thought it was ridiculous and I laugh and laugh at how dumb I was holding two shields my entire maternity leave with my first. When I went back to work I was propping a shield on the desk to get some work done (yes, really), and another mom steered me in the right direction. I was worried I wouldn’t find one that fit my size G breasts but I have this one in two colors and I’ve never looked back.
With cooking, your dish is only as good as your ingredients. I think that analogy transfers to pumping. I have extra tubing and membranes on hand as I like to be gracious in switching them out since I pump so often.
My tubes get condensation in them after every pump. I learned to just twirl them around above your head to shake out the water. If they get milk in them, just throw them out because it’s very hard to clean and the milk can mold. I was able to get some replacements by contacting the manufacturer, and I also buy replacements on Amazon.
I change my membranes once a month whether they look warped or not. Working with worn parts can mean for a weak pump session, which will slow down production. I also have double parts so there is less for me to drag to work, making it less likely I’ll forget something at home.
Drink plenty of water!
From the moment labor is over I drink like a camel, which also helps with recovery. My husband and nurses were constantly filling my giant water bottle. I have water cups for night feedings, at my pumping station, in the car – everywhere.
Some women swear by lactation cookies or brownies, and I’ve never tried them, but I’ve heard good things. Do you have any brands or recipes you swear by? I have to admit that a good beer has always helped my production – I just made sure to pump-and-dump.
Figure Out Your Supply
My philosophy on feeding my children is to just feed them. Sounds silly, but what I mean is I feed them formula of all brands, breastmilk, mixed, etc. The first few weeks I exclusively breastfed or pumped, but a bottle or more of formula a day helped me build a supply.
I do NOT pump overnight. A lactation consultant told me moms are more useful rested and that stuck with me. Most moms need to pump more than the three times a day I pump, but don’t worry about setting a schedule until baby is a month old.
Your body takes cues from what you express, so that might mean you pump longer at a session to cue your body to make more. It helps to keep the pump going even after your breasts have emptied. I also do a few pump sessions that mimic cluster feeding where I pump, rest for 20 minutes, then pump again.
Please remember this is just my story – not yours. If you’re struggling to produce, don’t compare your experience with mine. Every. Single. Mother and body is so different!
Figure out what works for you and keep going!