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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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Two questions today! One about how to know when to wean and one about the mechanics of wearing a hands-free bra. (Have a question about pumping breast milk? Ask it here!)

I am exclusively pumping for my 19 month old who was born with a complex heart defect.  I’m struggling with not getting nearly as much milk as I would like (about 5 oz total/day with 5 pumping sessions of about 20 minutes plus hand expression).  I have three kids, so things like waking up to pump, pumping every 3-5 hours, etc just seem ridiculous.  But my milk is so good for him.  Any guidance on whether to try to push production back up?  Or how to know when to wean from the pump?  How do I decide to be done (I’ve been nursing for almost 6 1/2 years straight!).  I hate to see that relationship (albeit in altered form with my third) end prematurely.  Any guidance on the emotional side of things?  I’ve spent do much time grieving that he isn’t nursing at the breast it seems doubly unfair that I cannot control how long he gets breast milk!   Thanks for any support.

I’m so impressed that you have been breastfeeding for 6.5 years – that is awesome!

I totally understand not wanting to quit before you’re ready. I am struggling with the same thing with my youngest. She is about the same age as your little one, and I’m still nursing her in the mornings, but I can’t imagine my supply is more than an ounce or two at this point. Part of me wants to just quit completely and part of me is sad to stop because I know she’s likely my last baby.

As to what you should do – I think there are really two questions in your email: one about supply, and one about ending the breastfeeding relationship. As far as the breastfeeding relationship goes, I think that you should keep going as long as it works for YOU, as long as YOU want to keep pumping. If you’re not ready to quit, I don’t think you need to quit just because your supply isn’t what you’d like. But if you need more time to yourself/sleep, and you are ready to stop, I 100% think that you should stop. Breast milk is awesome but what your little one needs more than breast milk is a happy you. So I think you should do whatever makes you (more) happy.

As far as supply goes, I personally have not had much success with bringing my supply up after I got my period back (at 9 months) with each kid. Both times I had an awesome supply until I got my period and then a gradual decline no matter what I did. Everyone is different, though, and that might not be the case for you.

Best of luck to you with your decision!

I see you talking about using the hands free bra. I have one but find it very difficult to get on and hooked up. It’s not worth the effort to take off my shirt and regular bra and then put that on, especially at work. Any tips or suggestions on getting set up and going with the bra?  I’ve been using just one side at a time for the last 3+ months and it’s becoming exhausting.  Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!

What kind of hands-free bra do you have – is it the kind that you zip up in the middle (between your breasts)? What I did with this kind of hands-free bra was push my shirt UP and pull my bra cups DOWN (I always wore nursing bras even if I wasn’t “nursing” per se, so it wasn’t difficult to do this.) Then I zipped the hands-free bra up OVER my bra. I also usually wore a tank top under my shirt because I didn’t like the way that the pump bottles felt against my stomach – they were too cold.

And while I wouldn’t do this at work or leave the house like this, I will admit to just leaving the hands-free bra on all day sometimes at home (under my shirt and over my bra), because I’m lazy like that!

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