Breastfeeding isn’t defined by putting your baby to breast. Many moms choose to pump and use a bottle to feed. By choice or necessity exclusive pumping is growing in popularity as pump technology improves and moms are heading back to work with the intention to continue feeding breast milk. There are many reasons for exclusively pumping (EP). Some moms don’t feel comfortable putting their baby to breast or a baby may be born with a condition that makes breastfeeding impossible, like a cleft palate.
While exclusive pumping can be done, it takes some additional preparation to be successful and keep your milk supply strong. Here are some time-tested tips to help you meet your exclusive pumping goals.
1. Be ready for pumping to take over your life for the first week. While you establish your milk supply, pump 12 or more times in each 24 hour period. This works out to pumping every 2 hours day and night, it’s tiring and your breasts may become sore. But, the early days of breastfeeding aren’t easy either, establishing your milk supply and caring for a newborn are challenges for every mom. Once you find your groove and you become a more efficient pumper, you might be able to increase your time between sessions to 4 hours.
2. Have extra pump parts and bottles. Expect the unexpected. You might find yourself without a working pump or clean parts if you have an emergency at home or your car breaks down. Have a spare (or two) of everything, even an extra pump. If your pump motor tires out or a part breaks, you still need to pump and you won’t want to run to the store in the middle of the night.
3. Washing pump parts and bottles will take some time and space in your kitchen. You may feed your baby 12 times per day – will you wash the bottle after each feeding or use a new bottle each time and wash once a day? Either way you will need set aside time each day to clean and organize bottles, nipples and other feeding supplies.
4. Your partner can take on more feedings. No breasts are required for bottle feeding and anytime your baby is hungry, milk is available to for caregivers to feed. Pump before going to bed and let your partner handle the night time feedings. Sleep helps your supply by signaling your body to release milk making hormones.
5. Use hands-on-pumping. Get a hands-free pumping bra or make your own using an old sports bra and use your hands to shorten pumping time. Once your pump is in place and turned on, push with your palms to create gentle pressure starting near your ribs and move toward the nipple. This moves more milk out of your breasts to support a strong milk supply and you finish pumping faster – double bonus!
The one thing EP moms want to share is that it gets easier. The early days of pumping, washing pump parts and bottles non-stop can be overwhelming. But as you and your partner find a system that works for you and your baby, it becomes a natural part of life.