Are you struggling with nursing and thinking about switching to just pumping? Not sure how to start exclusively pumping breast milk? Here is everything you need to know.
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Preparing to exclusively pump: what you need to start exclusively pumping
To start exclusively pumping, it’s a good idea to have the following things at a minimum:
- A double electric breast pump. If you’re nursing, a single or manual pump can work pretty well. If you’re exclusively pump (or pumping at work), a double electric pump will save you a lot of time and hand cramps. (Here’s how to get one free through insurance.)
- A hands-free pumping bra. Most exclusive pumpers pump for at least two hours a day (which is what I recommend). No one wants to hold up pump parts to their breasts for two hours a day, so going hands-free is a big help.
- Spare pump parts and bottles. Having lots of extras will save you from having to constantly wash them.
Other pumping gear that might be helpful is outlined here.
How to start exclusively pumping breast milk? It depends what you’re doing now
The steps you take will be different depending on whether you’re currently pregnant, nursing and pumping, or just nursing.
1. You’re pregnant and plan to exclusively pump from birth.
If you haven’t had your baby yet and you decide to exclusively pump, you’ll want to make sure you have pumping gear (listed above) on hand before giving birth, and then have a plan for pumping after delivery.
2. You’re currently “triple feeding” your baby.
Triple feeding means that at every feeding, you’re doing three things – nursing, pumping, and bottle feeding your baby. It doesn’t necessarily have to happen in that order, though generally you’d be nursing first. (With a hands-free bra, you might even be able to pump and bottle feed at the same time.) Generally, new mothers are advised to triple feed in order to maintain supply when their baby isn’t nursing or transferring milk well.
So, how to start exclusively pumping breast milk when you’re triple feeding? Easy – you just have to drop the nursing session.
Depending on your reasons for switching to exclusively pumping, it might not be a bad idea to keep one session either a nursing session or a triple feeding session. Exclusively pumping is harder than nursing over the long term, and keeping one nursing session might allow you to switch back later if your baby gets the hang of latching or transferring milk.
(I should note that I had every intention of doing this when I switched from triple feeding to exclusively pumping for my son, but I dreaded nursing so much that I just couldn’t. That’s fine, too!)
3. You’re currently just nursing or only occasionally pumping.
Sometimes, you can have a situation where nursing is going well – until it isn’t. For example, maybe your baby starts biting, and the usual strategies to fix this don’t work.
If you’re currently not pumping at each feeding, you have a couple of options to switch over. For both of these, you’ll either need to be one feeding ahead, which means you have at least one bottle of breast milk pumped already, or supplement with formula for one feeding. (I don’t recommend waiting until your baby is hungry or about ready to eat and then pumping, as it’s too stressful. It’s best to have a bottle of milk ready to go and then pump for the following feeding around the time your baby drinks the first bottle.) If you decide you want to try to pump enough to get one feeding ahead of your baby, you can do this by pumping after your nursing sessions until you have enough milk.
The first option is to cut over to exclusively pumping cold turkey. That means at one session you nurse your baby, at the next, you bottle feed and pump.
The other option is to switch over gradually; to do it this way, you would replace one session at a time with pumping and bottle feeding. This would allow you to try exclusive pumping out and see if you like it before committing to it full time. Of course, this only works if the reason you’re thinking of switching isn’t urgent.
Figure out your schedule
Obviously, when you nurse, your schedule is your baby’s schedule. When you’re exclusively pumping, you can continue on that way – you can pump whenever he eats, which is what I chose to do at the beginning – or you can have a set schedule of times that you pump that are independent of when your baby eats.
Here is more information about exclusively pumping for a newborn:
If you decide to pump on a set schedule, the number of times you should pump in a day depends on how old your baby is. You can see some sample pumping schedules broken out by baby age here.
I hope this helps you figure out the best way to start exclusive pumping! Let us know what questions you have in the comments!
- Bonyata, Kelly, IBCLC. “When Baby Bites.” https://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/biting/
- Desfosse, Rebecca. “How to Balance Breastfeeding and Pumping.” https://www.care.com/c/stories/4419/how-to-balance-breastfeeding-and-pumping/