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Today’s first question is about feeling overwhelmed by exclusively pumping, and dealing with guilt about needing to cut back. (Have a question about pumping breast milk? Ask it here!)

Hi! I’m almost 4 months post-partum and have been exclusively pumping for about 2 months. My baby got used to the bottle REALLY fast and wouldn’t latch anymore, and we had latching problems from the beginning. I’m a single mama, so exclusively pumping isn’t ideal, but so far I’m doing okay. Luckily, I have an amazingly calm baby, but still … often times he’ll need me while I’m pumping, or when it’s about time to pump. I currently pump 5 times per day, and I’m able to do that, just not always on time.

Also, I’m an RN, so finding time at work without compromising my patients is super hard as well. I only work 3 days a week, so I’m managing so far, but it’s all starting to wear on me. I’m super stressed and feel like my life revolves around when I have to pump next. I’m shooting for 6 months of this at least, but I don’t know if I’ll make it that far. Is feeling guilty normal? I have horrible guilt just thinking about not giving him breast milk. I need advice and/or encouragement on how to juggle pumping, work, baby, life, etc.

This might just be me, but in my experience, feeling guilty about my performance as a mother and what I did or didn’t do is totally normal. With my first I felt guilty that I was exclusively pumping instead of nursing, with my second I felt guilty that I couldn’t give her as much attention as I did my first – it goes on and on.

Let me say that it sounds to me that you are doing a great job. It’s really hard to exclusively pump when you are a single mom, especially if you are working in a role where it can be difficult to take pumping breaks. What do you think about dropping a session or two to give yourself a break, and just supplementing the rest? That way you’re giving breast milk but not needing to pump so much at work.  I think that whatever works for you is good for your baby – a happy YOU is more important to your baby than an extra 5 oz (or whatever amount) of breast milk. In addition, if you’re not super stressed, you’re more likely to feel able to manage things and be able to pump for longer than you would have if you’d continued to feel overwhelmed. Good luck!

I planned to breastfeed and had several troubles early on with latching, pain, and cracked bleeding nipples and now what I think is a clogged milk duct – this has led me to the decision to pump exclusively. Today is day 5 with my newborn, and my milk came day 4. 

I am worried about establishing my supply effectively with the pump only. I don’t really feel the letdown when I pump versus when I was nursing, am I still letting down if milk is coming out? Will I pump a larger output holding my baby? Also, I can only produce about 1-2 oz milk each session right now. Is this a normal amount of milk for day 5? Will pumping help with the clogged duct or is the suction not powerful enough? (I cannot empty the breast that is clogged fully). I have been pumping every 2-3 hours during the day and 3-4 hours at night. Will my output increase daily?

I’ll take any advice for pumping in the early days. I am feeling kind of helpless and hope to not have to use formula.

Congrats on your brand new baby! I’ll try to answer each of your questions:

  • I don’t really feel the letdown when I pump versus when I was nursing, is still happening if milk is coming out? When you pump, does the milk at first just drip out and then start coming out more forcefully? If so, yes it is. The fact that you are pumping the amount that you are leads me to believe everything is okay.
  • Will I pump a larger output holding my baby? Possibly – it might be worth trying it with your baby and without to see. I held mine when I pumped when he was a newborn, because that was just our routine (I held him after he ate, while he was falling asleep). Later, when I went back to work I didn’t see a decrease, so it’s hard to say.
  • I can only produce about 1-2 oz milk each session at this time. Is this a normal amount of milk for day 5? Totally normal. This should increase as the days go on – 5 day old babies can’t eat more than 1 or 2oz, so that is perfect.
  • Will pumping help with the clogged duct or is the suction not powerful enough? Yes, pumping will help – I cleared a few clogged ducts when I was exclusively pumping. I would start pumping ONLY your good side, while you apply warm compresses to the clogged side. After a few minutes, attach the pump to the clogged side and massage it while you pump. Hopefully that will help!
  • I have been pumping every 2-3 hours during the day and 3-4 hours at night. Will my output increase daily? That sounds like a great schedule. It’s hard to know exactly what will happen, but I think it will increase slowly at first, then go up to a higher baseline by week 2 or 3.

Good luck!

Please feel free to add any suggestions or thoughts in comments!


Today’s first question is about getting started exclusively pumping with a brand new baby. (Have a question about pumping breast milk? Ask it here!)

I am new to exclusive pumping and I feel like everything I find when researching it is different than what the hospital told me. My baby is three days old. They immediately had me start supplementing with formula. So now I’m unsure how often to give her formula. Also if after 15 min of pumping and I am still getting milk, do I continue pumping until it stops? I just started to get 7-11 mls per session. I’ve already read most everything on your website and it has been very helpful. Thank you!

Congratulations on your baby!
exclusively-pumping-from-the-beginningTo start with your second question, if you’re still getting milk after 15 minutes, then yes, I would continue pumping if you can. It sounds like your supply is starting to build up (which is awesome!) and you want to encourage it to continue. However, if you’re exhausted or your baby is crying or there’s a reason to stop, then it’s fine to stop. If you have a few extra minutes, though, I’d keep going until the milk stops flowing. (Hah, that rhymes.)

As far as how often to give formula, I’m assuming you’re not nursing at all? If you are only pumping, then one way to do it is for every feeding (8-12 times a day), is to give her whatever pumped milk you have on hand and follow it up with a formula “chaser” if she’s still hungry. Or you could wait until you have about enough pumped milk for one feeding and make that a breast milk only feeding and others formula-only feedings. That would save in bottle washing.

If you are nursing for some feedings and pumping to bring in your milk, I did this for awhile and what I did was – nursing, giving the milk I pumped and a formula chaser if it wasn’t enough, and then pumping. So he got maybe an ounce or two of formula “chasers” each feeding in the early days until I got my supply up.

I am celebrating 6 months of EPing this week. To celebrate, I’ve dropped down to 4 pumps and have not seen a decrease in supply. Same thing happened when I dropped from 6 to 5 pumps. I’ve never had an oversupply issue…my body seems to make about 1 ounce an hour regardless of how often I pump thus far. I guess what I’m wondering is, for the pumping schedules you listed, what did your supply look like with each schedule? Did it stay the same until a certain tipping point, or did you notice a decrease with each drop? I know every body is different, but I am curious to know how things went for you. Thanks so much!

Congrats on making it 6 months – that is awesome!

My supply did stay pretty much the same until I got my period back. (I was at 4 pumps per day and 9 months post-partum when this unfortunate event occurred.) After that, it was a slow slide down to weaning – I lost maybe 3 ounces a month. I would lose the supply when I got my period, and then it never recovered like it’s supposed to. But before that, dropping pumps did not decrease my supply, though I was careful to keep the total pumping time per day the same.

A few more bonus questions from the search engines:

Exclusively pumping different flange for each nipple?

I had never considered this, but I don’t see why you couldn’t get different sized flanges if you have different sized nipples. Just buy one of each size and then you have two sets that fit you! Perfect.

I smell of fenugreek and no milk?

How long have you smelled like maple syrup? Usually it kicks in within 24 hours of when you start to smell. If it’s been longer with than this, unfortunately, I think this likely means that fenugreek isn’t going to work for you. One possible next step might be talking to your doctor about domperidone. Good luck!

Can you walk around while pumping?

It depends on your pump! Some pumps, like the Freestyle, have a battery pack and can by clipped on to your clothes (or put in a large pocket). Other pumps (like the Pump in Style) can’t be taken out of the bag they come in and therefore aren’t easy to walk around with.

However, even if you can walk around, you really can’t do much. If you bend over (to pick something up, etc.) you will probably spill milk and get sad. Your range of motion is also not great. You could probably wash bottles while pumping, for example, but not clean the house or give your kid a bath.

Please feel free to add any suggestions or thoughts in comments!

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