Exclusive pumping, simply put, is breastfeeding without nursing. The mom pumps her milk and feeds her baby via bottles. It’s answering both when people ask if you are doing breast or bottle.
I pumped exclusively for my son for 14 months and over those 829 hours (yep, you read that correctly) I spent hooked up to my pump, I learned a few things that helped make the experience more manageable and productive (sorry but not sorry for the pun). Though some of these are more applicable for exclusive pumpers, most of them are more general and can help make your pumping life a bit easier.
- An electric double breast pump. This one is pretty self-explanatory because it’s more efficient to pump both breasts at once than one at a time. They can get pretty pricey but the good news is that your insurance may cover it, so definitely check before registering for or buying one.
- A hands-free pumping bra. I love this one from Simple Wishes because it comes with an adjustable Velcro back panel for the perfect fit as your boobs change sizes three times a day. And, um, if you happen to add anything else to your cart, that’s just between you and Amazon. ?
- A second set of pump parts. It’s hard explain just how much of a mental load having back-up parts can take off. Just the fact that there is the option of not having to wash your parts every night is stress-reducing. Not to mention if a part breaks, you can replace it right away without having to google if Walmart carried pump parts.
- The magic number. According to this article, which was shared to me by Robin at Lactation Connection (formerly known as Starfish Lactation), breast milk production is affected more by how many times a day milk is removed from your breasts. The idea is to try to get in a certain number of pumps/feeding sessions in a 24-hour period instead of spacing them out evening. It’s much more manageable this way and significantly less daunting. Which brings us to the next tip.
- Cluster pumping. It’s basically cluster feeding but with a pump. Cluster pumping typically involves pumping for 10-15 minutes, taking a 30-60 minutes break, then pumping again. It mimics the feeding pattern of a baby going through a growth spurt and will hopefully “trick” your body into upping its production. So keep the pumping bra on and the pump parts attached and settle in with a good show (or two) on Netflix.
- Milk storage. If you have a deep freezer, store your milk in there and it will last up to a year. If you don’t, store your milk as far away from the door as possible to ensure that it remains frozen. Basically, don’t do what I did.
- The Ziploc bag trick. Depending on your situation and what you have access to, you can store your fully-assembled pump parts in a Ziploc bag until your next pump session. Breast milk is good in room temperature for 4-6 hours and 3-8 days in a fridge, so your pump parts should theoretically be good to use until your next session without washing. I used this trick and kept the pump parts in the fridge between sessions and only washed my pump parts at the end of the day. As always, every situation is different so use your best judgment.
- Multi-task. A good friend got us a bouncer and it was the best thing ever. I was able to pump and feed my son at the same time, as long as I keep my back straight to avoid leakage.
- Hand expression. To boost your supply or to top off that last half ounce, hand express for a few minutes after you are done pumping. You can find tutorials on YouTube or contact a lactation consultant.
One last thing, if you ended up storing your milk in a deep freezer (which I did) that you keep in the garage (which I also did), plug in an always-on nightlight in the other socket (which I did not do).
Why, you ask?
So you can know when the outlet has been tripped and that your precious liquid gold is thawing in the summer heat…
This was me. Don’t let it be you.