I became an exclusive pumping mom by force rather than by choice. J had a lot of issues with nursing and we were both miserable. Check out this post to see how our exclusive pumping journey began.
So when I finally decided to make the switch I had a lot of research to do. When I was pregnant I focused all of my efforts on how to directly nurse, not pump. I got a breast pump (thankfully), but I thought I would only use it when I went back to work. I never thought that she and I would become so close. (Yes, she. Her name is Barb.)
Whether you have chosen exclusive pumping, or are having the decision made for you. Just know that you are not alone. You are doing what is best for your baby and your family and that is what matters. Besides, it’s still breastfeeding. It just looks a little different.
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Get a Good Pump
I cannot stress enough the importance of getting a good quality pump if you are going to do this exclusively. The good thing though is that most insurance companies will pay for one, so definitely check with them first. Aeroflow can handle the whole process for you.
If you can’t get a free one, there are places where you can find one second hand. You’ll just have to get new parts for it, but that’s much better than having to buy a whole new pump if you don’t have to.
There are so many options available these days, but I would suggest either a hospital grade pump or as close to it as possible. It should be, but make sure it is a double electric. Being able to pump both sides at once will save you so much extra time and hassle.
I personally have a Medela Pump in Style Advance. Though it isn’t a “hospital grade” (that would be the Medela Symphony It’s crazy expensive, but some hospitals will let you rent one), it’s a great pump. I’m almost 9 months into my pumping journey and I haven’t had any problems with it. The only downside is it isn’t portable. If I was going to get another pump, I would consider something portable like the Spectra S1 or the Medela Freestyle. It would be nice to have a little more flexibility.
Get a Pumping Bra
One of the best things that you can do for yourself is to get a pumping bra. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be an actual pumping bra. I’ve seen women just cut holes in an old/cheap sports bra.
Pro tip: Cut the holes slightly off from your nipple so that your nipples won’t poke through when you aren’t pumping.
If you don’t feel brave enough to try making your own (I don’t blame you), the Simple Wishes SuperMom pumping bra is a great option. I wish I had known about it before I bought others. It would have been SO much better.
Having a pumping bra will free up your hands to do other things. I like to feed J while I’m pumping so that he is distracted and more likely to let me finish a session.
Buy a Manual Pump
It will happen. At some point you will forget your tubes, your power cord, your pump, something and you will freak about how you are going to pump. Go ahead and get a manual as a backup. I’ve used mine a good deal more than I ever expected and I am so glad that I have it.
I have the Medela Harmony and it’s great. It has also become my clog buster because it gets them out so much better than my electric.
Stay on a Schedule
Contrary to popular belief, pumping is hard work. A baby will always be more efficient at getting milk out of your boob than a pump will. So that means we have to work a little harder to get things going. Staying on a schedule helps with that.
During the first 12 weeks you should be pumping between 8 and 12 times a day. You’re trying to mimic your little one’s feeding schedule. If you were nursing, this is how often you would be doing it. Same rules apply.
You also want to make sure that your supply establishes at a high enough amount. Before 12 weeks, your supply is all hormone based. Your body really wants to make milk. After 12 weeks, the hormones mellow out and your production becomes all supply and demand based. That means that you can start dropping pumps without dropping ounces. It’s so nice.
Find a schedule that works for you and stick with it. Incorporating pumping into your normal routine will make the whole process less intrusive. If you feel like you constantly have to stop what you’re doing to pump, then you’re less likely to stick with it. You need to be comfortable with your pump. You’re going to be spending a lot of time together.
Pumping, especially exclusive pumping, can be hard on your nipples. Even more so in the beginning since you’re still trying to get used to the level of torture that is breastfeeding. So be nice to your girls and apply a little coconut oil before your pump sessions. Not too much because you still want a little friction for stimulation, but enough to keep the tugging to a minimum.
Don’t worry, the oil is safe for baby. Just keep an eye out for allergies, though I’m pretty sure that allergies to coconut oil are pretty rare.
Drink ALL the Water
If you thought you needed a lot of water during pregnancy, it is nothing compared to breastfeeding. Breast milk is 88% water. If you aren’t drinking enough then your supply will suffer. Exclusive pumping means you’re going to notice a drop in supply immediately.
I typically fill up a gallon sized pitcher each day and refill my cup from that. It helps me to have a visual. I also hate having to count ounces. I do enough of that with milk. I love my Hydroflask water bottle. I carry it with me everywhere!
Eat More Food
In addition to needing more water, you also need more calories. Each ounce of breast milk takes 20 calories to produce. If you’re pumping 35 ounces a day, that’s an extra 700 calories you’ve burned.
Don’t worry about the baby weight. It will come off on its own. So go ahead and enjoy your ice cream.
Join the Facebook Group
There is an amazing Facebook group called Exclusive Pumping: Breastfeeding Without Nursing that I would strongly recommend joining. The ladies in that group are an amazing wealth of knowledge and experience. I don’t know if I would have been able to go as long as I have without them. The group requires approval to join and there are some rules to follow, but it’s totally worth it.
Get an App
There are a few pumping friendly apps these days that you can look into. I personally love Baby Log. You can use it to keep track of pumps, feedings, diaper changes, your freezer stash and more. It will even calculate how long you’ll need to pump for to get to your goal age for feeding breast milk. It’s awesome and makes keeping track of your newborn’s information so much easier.
Forget the Numbers
I know I just told you to track your ounces, but hear me out. As an exclusive pumper, you will see the exact amount of milk that your baby is drinking every single day. You’ll also see exactly how much milk you’re making every single day. It’s hard not to get caught up in the numbers. You’ll have a great day one day with amazing output and then the next you might drop a few ounces. It’s easy to stress out about those little changes, but it’s normal.
Your baby will also adjust how much he eats on a daily basis. Today it may be 25 ounces and tomorrow it might be 35. There are several factors that come into play that determine how much he eats and how much you produce. The big thing to remember is to relax.
Levels fluctuate all the time. If you were nursing you wouldn’t ever know it, but since it’s easier to see the differences it’s hard not to pay attention. Just remember that it’s okay.
Are you an exclusive pumper? What tips have you found that have helped? I’d love to know. Leave me a comment below.
Until next time!