The idea of exclusively pumping breast milk can seem like a daunting task. Especially if you’ve made the decision to do it from the beginning. You may feel pressure from other moms to directly nurse. You may have even been told that it’s impossible to exclusively pump from birth because your milk won’t come in.
Thankfully, all of that is false. It is not only possible to exclusively pump from the beginning, it is also a great way to care for your baby.
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Breastfeeding is Weird
When I was pregnant, I was afraid and freaked out by many different things. None so much though as breastfeeding. I’m not really sure why, but the whole idea of it was just weird to me. I guess I was just having issues getting over the idea that I was about to become a dairy cow for my tiny human.
Breastfeeding was just weird, and though I was going to do it (health benefits and all) I didn’t expect to like it. J had other ideas. He had a lot of issues surrounding breastfeeding (you can read more about our journey HERE), and I tried everything, and I mean EVERYTHING to try to get him to nurse. He just wasn’t having it.
So when he was 7 weeks old, I made the switch to exclusively pumping. Doing that changed everything for us. Though it was not how I originally planned to breastfeed my son, it is still breastfeeding and it’s working for us.
My word of advice, is to learn as much as you can about both pumping and nursing before your baby is born because you never know if your baby will have other plans. If you are planning to pump from the beginning. Here’s what you need to know.
Before Your Baby is Born
Get to Know Your Breast Pump
Don’t just wait until you head to the hospital to check out your pump. (That’s what I did and it sucked) Pull it all out, clean and sanitize your parts, and get familiar with the set up while you’re still pregnant and have time to sit and read an instruction manual. You won’t have that kind of time or patience later.
If you haven’t yet, this is also a great time to actually get a breast pump. Most insurance companies will provide one for you, so definitely check with them first before buying anything. Aeroflow can take care of the whole process for you.
I personally have a Medela Pump in Style Advance that really works well for me. She and I have been through a lot together. (Yes she, her name is Barb) I have also heard great things about the Spectra S1 and the Spectra S2.
I believe that they’re essentially the same pump except for the fact that the S1 is portable. If you have the option, definitely get a portable pump. The Spectras are also hospital grade pumps which generally suggests that they are better. Not sure how true that is, but just so you know.
Related: How to Choose the Best Breast Pump
You should never, I repeat, NEVER begin pumping while you are pregnant without your doctors permission.
Pumping or hand expressing can cause you to go into labor early if you aren’t careful. If you are prone to leaking though, then you can collect the colostrum to use later. You can use handy bottles like THIS and then freeze for when your little one is born.
Colostrum is the thick, yellow milk that you will produce for the first few days before your regular milk comes in. Because the colostrum is so thick, it can be really hard to get it out with a pump. Having some on hand can keep you from having to formula feed or get donor milk.
While there is definitely a ton of pumping information online, I am a HUGE fan of personalized help. Marianna over at Find Your Mom Tribe has created a GREAT course on pumping. Her class, Pumping Mom Academy has so much information and personalized help that it would be impossible to go wrong. Definitely check it out HERE!
Tell the Hospital What You Want
If you know that you want to exclusively pump, then don’t be afraid to tell the hospital that.
Some exclusive pumpers have said that they have felt pressured to nurse while in the hospital because they were told that their milk wouldn’t come in unless they did. That isn’t necessary and it’s completely false.
If this is the decision that you feel is best for you and your family, then the hospital staff should respect that. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground. It’s your baby and your decision. Also make sure that your partner is on board as well. Having him (or her) help to be your advocate can be a huge weight off your shoulders.
In the Hospital
If you were directly nursing, then you would be told to start nursing within the first hour of your baby being born. The same holds true for pumping. Just because you’re using a machine rather than a baby doesn’t mean that you don’t have to abide by the same rules. You will need to pump every 2-3 hours around the clock to get your milk to come in and to help establish your supply.
Many people believe that exclusive pumping means that you can get by with doing less feedings, I’m sorry, but that’s not the case. Not in the beginning anyway. Once your supply regulates (or if you have a huge oversupply) you can look into dropping some pumps, but the first 12 weeks are the most important for your milk supply.
During this time, your supply is all hormone based. Your body REALLY wants to make milk. The more often that you are emptying your breasts and using the milk, the more milk you will make.
Once the hormones taper off around 12 weeks and your supply regulates, it’s all supply and demand based then. As long as you are still emptying regularly, you will continue producing roughly the same amount of milk. I know it sucks, but keep pumping! It does get easier.
Use a Manual
Remember we talked about how thick that colostrum is? It can be really hard to get it out with a regular pump. Using a manual can be a little easier.
I personally have the Medela Harmony and I love it! I use it all the time. Even if you don’t need it in the hospital, you will want to have one on hand. You never know when you’ll lose power, forget your tubes, who knows what? Having a backup is always a good thing.
If your regular pump and/or your manual don’t work to get the colostrum out, try hand expressing. Kelly Mom has some great information about how to do this properly. It may take you a minute to get the hang of it, but it can be very beneficial. Especially when trying to get out that thick colostrum.
If you still have issues getting the colostrum out, don’t worry. Continue pumping and stimulating your breasts to let your body know to make milk. Talk to the hospital staff about supplementing with formula or donor milk until your milk comes in. This normally takes at least 3 days, but as much as 7. Just keep pumping.
Once your milk comes in, continue with your schedule. I’m sure by this point you are well and truly exhausted pumping and dealing with a newborn, but it does get easier. Make sure that you are eating enough calories and drinking enough water to maintain your breast milk. It takes a lot to feed your baby.
Also make sure that you are not stressing out and getting discouraged with your output. You may not be making very much in the first couple of weeks, and that is completely normal. Just make sure that you are emptying fully and often and your supply will continue to increase.
Though exclusively pumping may not be the easiest way to breastfeed your baby, it is still breastfeeding and you are doing an amazing job.
Have you decided to become an exclusive pumper? Leave me a comment below or join the conversation in our Facebook group.
Until next time!