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Everyone’s heard the age-old debate: breastmilk vs formula. It’s infiltrated mom groups on Facebook, conversations with strangers on the playground, and unsolicited advice from the old lady in the grocery store. We’ve battled it out. We’ve recognized that each has its merits. We’ve (hopefully) agreed that #fedisbest.
But is there a happy medium? What if you prefer not to breastfeed, or are unable to do so, what can you do if you still want to give your baby breastmilk?
With the help of modern technology… You can exclusively pump!
What is exclusively pumping, you ask? It’s when one only feeds baby pumped breastmilk, and does not offer the breast or formula. Whew! I know this sounds overwhelming, so we’re going to give you allllll the tips to successfully navigate your exclusively pumping journey. This is your fair warning that a lot of lists are coming your way!
But, first, a note to the NICU mom warriors: A common reason why moms choose to exclusively pump is that their baby is in the NICU. We know that this separation is excruciating, especially if you had dreams of exclusively breastfeeding your baby. Pumping for your baby is a way for you to take back some control when you have to put so much trust in others. Not to mention, your milk will give your baby all those extra nutrients to hopefully get your baby home as soon as possible.
All right. Now, on to business. In order to build up an adequate supply for you baby, it’s important that you follow these tips:
Establish a good routine. Especially in the first several weeks after your baby is born, it’s important to pump 8-12 times in a 24-hour period. This averages out to be every 2-3 hours, day and night.
During each session, pump for at least 20 minutes. Even if you stop producing milk at 13 minutes, keep pumping until that 20 minute mark. Why? Breast milk production is a supply and demand system. By pumping for longer, you are training your body to produce more milk.
After several weeks, when your supply is built and regulated, you can start to play with more time in between sessions. If you notice your supply starting to dip, resume your previous pumping schedule.
If you’re interested in finishing pumping sooner, rather than later, you can maintain a rigorous pumping schedule for a few months and freeze the excess milk for later dates.
Sounds intense, right? We won’t lie to you. Exclusively pumping can be exhausting. Between the pumping, washing all the parts between each feeding, and taking care of your baby, it is a lot of hard work. But, if breastfeeding isn’t an option for you, pumping is absolutely worth it.
If you’re already feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath. This is definitely possible to incorporate this into your life, and we’ll teach you how with this next list.
Pump Your Ride. (See what I did there?) Make sure that you have a pumping bag in your car for on-the-go milk making, filled with the essentials*.
Incidentally, did you know you can even pump while driving?! One of our clients pumps on the way to and from work. Use the Freemie attachment instead of your usual flanges to have a discrete pumping experience.
The Kiinde storage bags are our personal favorites. You pump directly into the bag (several adapters included, so you can pump from any pump), so no losing precious drops with all the pump-to-bag-to-bottle transfers. The nipple attaches right onto the bag! Plus, the bags are designed to be used with one hand, so you don't need to put your baby down to prepare the bottle.
Also create pumping stations in your house. If you have more than one floor, you may want to make a station for each. Again, filled with the essentials*.
I hate to break it to you, but this is not the time to try to lose weight. You need calories to make calories. You should be eating nutritiously, but make sure to incorporate an additional 500 calories into your diet to account for the output.
*By now, I’m sure you’re wondering what the essentials are. Well, you can stop now because we’ve got you covered. We’re even throwing in some of our favorite brands (should you be interested in purchasing any of these, make sure to use our links).
For your pumping stations, I recommend that you keep the following essentials on hand.
Hands-free bras: The benefit is obvious! These allow you to be super mom and pump and take care of stuff at the same time. You could even get a hands-free pump, like this one, but fair warning - they can be a bit pricey.
Lanolin cream: Pumping can be hard on your nipples. Keeping them lubricated with this cream can help. We recommend putting it on before and after pumping. Best part is that it’s totally safe for both you and your baby.
Breast pads: If something comes up and you’re not able to pump as soon as you’d like, you’ll need some breast pads in case you start leaking. These are also great to help protect your bras from the nipple cream. We love these reusable pads as they help cut down on unnecessary waste.
Haakaa: While this sounds like a crazy contraption, it’s really just a silicone cup that you can pop on to your boob to collect more milk. It’s design even creates its own suction! This is great for when you need a little extra milk for your next feeding, but don’t want to haul out the whole machine in between sessions.
If you’re having trouble producing milk, keep these in mind:
Make sure that you’re using the right flange size. Keep in mind that pumping can elongate your nipples, so you may need one size in the morning but need the next size up come evening time.
Connection with your baby can help with your let-down. Try watching videos of your baby (especially while he’s crying) if you’re out, or try holding your baby while pumping if you’re at home.
Mouth stimulation is more effective than pumping. If your baby is able to breastfeed, this may be a better fit.
Some people simply don’t respond to pumps. Speak with a lactation consultant if you’ve tried troubleshooting and still require assistance.
And that’s all we have for today, folks! We hope you feel empowered to begin or maintain your exclusively pumping journey, just like our owner Sara has been doing. All of this advice has come straight from her personal journey with pumping. If she can do it, you can too!