Exclusive Pumping can be for mothers who are having difficulty breastfeeding and still want their baby to get the full benefits of the nutrition that mother’s milk can offer.
Sometimes nature doesn’t come to the party, or the breastfeeding experience is too much of a strain physically. For working Moms they are just short on time!
So how do we provide nutrition to a baby in challenging circumstances? In comes the electric breast pump.
These wonderful machines mimic the natural process of nursing, and are an essential item for all new Moms and will be the piece of baby gear that will likely receive the most use.
We have put together this comprehensive guide to pumping, including reviews of the best breast pumps on the market.
What Is Exclusive Pumping
Exclusively pumping is the decision to pump breast milk for a baby rather than feed directly from the breast.
It may require feeding from bottles, but it still means that babies are getting the superior benefits from breast milk rather than formula.
Many women who exclusively pump receive a lot of criticism from others who believe that they aren’t properly bonding with their babies or that they are taking the easy way out.
However, making the decision to exclusively pump requires the same time and commitment as the decision to feed a baby directly from the breast.
Why Would Anyone Need To Exclusively Pump?
There are several factors that can contribute to a woman’s decision to exclusively pump. Some may be voluntary, but others are often due to the mother’s or baby’s medical condition(s).
Some of the common reasons women choose to exclusively pump include:
- A premature or ill baby
- A baby who cannot latch onto the breast
- Inverted or flat nipples
- Painful breastfeeding
- Returning to the workplace
- Low milk supply
- Aversion to breastfeeding due to personal beliefs or psychological experiences (i.e. abuse)
- The desire to share feeding responsibility with family members or caregivers
- Medical issues involving medications
When Can I Start Pumping?
No matter your reasoning, if you have decided to exclusively pump, there is nothing that prevents you from being able to start immediately after birth.
However, most professionals recommend that if you are able to breastfeed you should establish a breastfeeding routine first.
This helps your baby to establish a good latch and prevent nipple confusion, which is necessary should you decide to breastfeed on occasion.
If you are breastfeeding up until you return to work, you should start pumping no later than 2 weeks before your return date.
You want to make sure your supply is up and that you give yourself time to relax and build your stock.
What You Need To Get Started
Breast pumping will require a lot of work. Setting yourself up with a full toolkit early will make your journey as easy as possible.
Here is our list of what you need for successful pumping.
Double Electric Pump
Exclusive pumping obviously starts with the best breast pump that you can afford. A double electric pump is the way to go for the best results.
They are fast and easy to use, and have the option to pump both breasts at once. This increases efficiency and saves time at each session.
Have a Backup Plan
There are times you may find a manual breast pump more convenient than an electric breast pump, but they are not intended for primary use.
If you find yourself somewhere with limited time, space, no access to electricity, or simply wanted to short pumps between sessions, a manual breast pump will be your go to.
You will not get the same suction levels as an electric breast pump, and they are hard work in comparison! But being able to quickly express and relieve some pressure can be a godsend and makes the manual pump an essential part of your toolkit.
We have put together a full list of the best manual breast pumps on the market. So check it out if you are looking for a convenient and low cost alternative.
If you are exclusively pumping, you are doing do to create a back stock of breast milk.
You can’t store your milk in the collection bottles long term. They are expensive, don’t hold up well in the freezer, and take up a lot of space.
Instead, you will want to transfer your pumped milk to storage bags. They can be purchased in bulk for very little money and they take up very little space in the fridge or freezer.
Storage bags also have labels for you to write on to keep track of the date, time, and amount you pumped. This eliminates confusion and prevents you from giving milk to your baby that has “expired.”
We recommend the Kiinde twist pouches for ease of use.
Cooler Or Fridge Access
Speaking of keeping your milk cold, you need to be aware that your milk will not keep for very long at room temperature after it has been pumped.
It is essential that you can safely refrigerate your milk after pumping.
If you are pumping away from home, be sure you have access to a fridge or that you bring a cooler or breast pump bag with ice packs to keep your milk cold until you are able to get it home to the freezer.
Obviously, your baby can’t drink milk directly from the storage bags, so you will still need to have some bottles around.
There are several types of bottles available now with nipples of different shapes and textures. We have also put together a list of the best bottles for breastfed babies here.
You may want to try several different types to find the one that your baby responds to best.
How To Take Care Of Your Body When Lactating
In order to produce milk in order to take care of your baby, you have to first take care of yourself.
Without proper attention to your body’s needs, you will find yourself exhausted and stressed, and as a result, you will find your milk supply beginning to dwindle.
- Rest when you are tired. Have someone watch the baby or simply take a nap while your baby is sleeping.
- Don’t skip meals. Your body needs calories to create milk, and skipping meals will leave you feeling weak and low on milk.
- Hydrate. Dehydration can cause your milk to dry up, not to mention the other negative side effects that negatively affect your body.
- Focus on you and your baby. Let the housework go for a day. A little dirty laundry never hurt anyone.
- Find ways to relax. Your body needs to relax in order to produce oxytocin, the hormone responsible for milk production and let down.
- Ask someone to watch your baby for 20 minutes so you can take a walk or enjoy a nice warm bath.
What Should A Pumping Session Look Like?
Every woman is different and so is her supply when lactating.
Your breasts create milk based on supply and demand, and if you have a baby that is smaller and doesn’t eat as much, your supply will be smaller than the woman with the 10-pound baby who has a hearty appetite.
As a result, this also means that a pumping session will look different for every mother. Some women are able to pump out an entire bottle’s worth of milk in one sitting whereas it may take another two or three.
However, there are general guidelines you can follow to ensure you are getting the most out of your pumping sessions.
Frequency Of Pump
Babies eat often which means your supply is replaced at the same rate that it’s drained. When you are first starting, you should plan to pump anywhere between 8 and 10 times in a 24-hour period.
Start first thing in the morning – when you have the most supply– and create a schedule from there that allows you to fit all of these sessions in.
Don’t worry; I’ll talk more about schedules in a bit.
Duration Of Pump
You need to allow yourself enough time to drain the breast. You also need to be relaxed in order to allow your hormones to work properly for milk let down (stress combats the release of oxytocin).
Find yourself a comfortable chair, and keep some water, a snack, and a good book nearby.
Give yourself at least 20 minutes to pump at each session at first until your supply is established. Continue to pump about 2 minutes after you see the last drop to ensure your breast is completely drained.
Once your supply is established, you will likely be able to have shorter pumping sessions about 10-15 minutes each.
Volume Of Milk To Produce
This is where it differs a lot from mother to mother, and it is also where mothers can become discouraged, believing they are not producing enough milk.
Rather than focusing on how much is pumped at each session, set yourself a minimum goal for the entire day. This should be around 25-35 ounces in a 24-hour period.
Know what times are best for you to pump for optimum expression. As I mentioned before, most women have the most milk in the morning, and that supply continues to decrease as the day goes on.
Be sure you don’t skip or miss any pumping sessions. You need to keep to your scheduled production to maintain your supply.
Exclusive Pumping Schedule
As promised, I am going to touch on pumping schedules to help you build and maintain your supply without feeling as if you have your breast pump attached to you 24/7.
The goal is to pump around 25-35 ounces in a 24-hour period. At first, this may be 8-10 sessions about 20 minutes each.
On the low end, this means pumping about every 3 hours or so (for 8 sessions in a day).
Start first thing in the morning and schedule your pumping sessions for about every 2-3 hours. Yes, this means you will still be setting an alarm to get up during the night, but it won’t be like this forever.
As your baby gets older and your supply is established, you can get away with fewer sessions throughout the day. You will be able to pump more at each session and your baby will not need to eat as often.
Around the age of 6 months or so, you can expect to start sleeping through the night again.
When you are ready to start weaning, you can cut your pumping sessions back. It is important to remember that you need to wean yourself too, as quitting cold turkey will cause painful engorgement and possible mastitis.
5 Helpful Pumping Tips
Breast pumping is hard regardless of whether it is occasional or exclusive. It takes a huge commitment, hard work, and diligence in order to be successful.
It is important that you seek help or support if you need it.
It is also important you set yourself up for success by reducing frustration and maintaining your pump.
1. Understand How Breastfeeding Works
The more knowledge you have of how your milk is produced and let down as well as your baby’s sucking patterns, the better you can adjust your pump to produce the same results.
2. Choose Appropriate Clothing
Nothing is more frustrating than trying to breastfeed or pump in public with the wrong outfit on.
If you are pumping at work on a regular basis, invest in some clothing or nursing cover that is specially designed to expose the breast easily for feeding or pumping.
3. Get A Hands Free Bra
There are some generic brands as well as pump manufacturers that make bras that fit your pump for hands-free double pumping.
It may seem a bit strange at first, but if your pump is small enough to carry around, you will be thankful to have your hands free to roam the house and get things done without having to hold the flanges to your breast.
4. Clean Your Pump Pieces
Closed system electric pumps are easy to clean, and it is essential that you clean the components on a regular basis.
The bottles and membranes shouldn’t be left overnight with residue; this can create a breeding ground for mold and bacteria.
If you need to, purchase extra spare or replacement parts so that you can interchange these if you are on the move. Extra tubing, bottles, and membranes can make things much more bearable for working moms especially.
5. Take Care Of Your Body
While you are EPing, it is a must to take care of your body. Avoid ingesting too much caffeine in the body as caffeine can affect the mood and behavior of your child.
The next thing that you need to take note of is the type of medication that you are taking if any. There are some medications that can affect milk production.
Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables as well as fruits and nuts to supply you with the nutrients that you need to support your body during milk production.
Breast Pumping FAQs
Are Used Pumps Ok?
The short answer: NO.
Even if you know the previous owner or the pump is “cleaned and sanitized,” there is still a risk for bacteria that can be trapped in the pumps or tubing.
There are some hospital pumps that are designed for multiple users (each with their own set of accessories), but be sure to do your research and talk to your doctor before renting or purchasing something used.
How Can I Make Pumping Easier?
The best thing you can do is make sure you are comfortable.
Find a cozy chair, a quiet spot, some peaceful music, a good book or TV show, or even close your eyes for a nap if you’re using a hands-free bra and a pump with a timer.
You also want to make sure your flanges fit properly, and if you have the option with your pump, find a flange with a silicone cushion.
Where Can I Pump At Work?
Many employers are required to provide a space that is safe and acceptable for breast pumping in the workplace. It shouldn’t be a bathroom, as that is unsanitary.
If your employer doesn’t have a place, speak with HR about the company’s policy.
You can also look around to see if there is a way you can create space either using a room partition or a spring-loaded rod and curtain.
How Long Does Pumped Milk Keep?
According to the CDC, fresh breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to 4 hours, in the fridge for up to 4 days, and in the freezer up to 12 months (within 6 months is best though).
For thawed (previously frozen) milk, only 1-2 hours at room temperature and up to 24 hours in the fridge. Thawed breast milk should never be refrozen.
How Can I Increase My Supply?
If you are worried about low milk supply or want to try to temporarily increase it, you can try a galactagogue.
Certain herbs – fenugreek, blessed thistle, fennel – as well as foods – oats, brewer’s yeast, dark leafy greens – can help to boost lactation.
There are also other techniques like power pumping that can train your body to produce more.
Will Insurance Pay For My Breast Pump?
If you are based in the US there are a number of insurance policies that will over some or all of your expenses.
You may need a prescription to qualify, and you may be restricted to certain models from suppliers specified by your insurance provider.
They are expensive items though and can be worth going through this process.
A mother who chooses to exclusively pump is making a huge commitment, sacrificing her time for the sake of her baby’s health and well-being.