Are you a new exclusive pumper? This way of feeding of your baby can be rewarding, but it definitely has a learning curve! Here are my top ten exclusive pumping tips.
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What is Exclusive Pumping?
First – not everyone is familiar with what it means to exclusively pump.
Exclusive pumping means feeding your baby breast milk that you pump, without also nursing your baby. Some exclusive pumpers supplement with formula or feed their babies solid foods.
Essentially, exclusive pumpers provide baby some pumped breast milk in a bottle, but none via nursing.
10 Exclusively Pumping Tips
Here are the ten things that I would recommend every new exclusive pumper do.
1. Use a hands-free setup
You get so much of your life back as an exclusive pumper when you don’t have to spend all of your pumping sessions holding up your breast shields.
One way to do this is with a hands-free pumping bra, where the bra holds up your flanges for you. Here is how they work:
Once you have a hands-free setup, you can work, eat, take care of your baby, etc. – all while pumping.
2. Make sure that you have the correct flange size
Breast shields are the pump part that you place on your breast, and they come in different sizes based on the size of your nipple.
When I started pumping, I just used the breast shields that came with my pump, which were 24mm. I had no idea that they came in different sizes, and that I actually needed a 27mm.
Pumping with the wrong flange size can lead to pain and damage, so make sure you’re using the correct size. More on how to do this here.
3. Start out pumping every 2-3 hours, and drop sessions later
When you have a newborn, it’s important to pump frequently in order to establish your milk supply.
Start out pumping every 2-3 hours, or about 7-10 times per day (it’s okay to go a little longer at night, if you can).
Later, as your baby gets older, you can drop sessions and consolidate your pumping time into fewer pumping sessions. You can see some sample pumping schedules over baby’s first year here.
4. Pump for 120 minutes per day
You may have heard of the “120 minute rule” for exclusive pumpers.
Basically, what it means is that you should always be pumping for 120 minutes a day as a minimum guideline, even when you drop pumping sessions (until you start weaning).
So say you start pumping 8 times a day for 15 minutes – you’re at 120 minutes. When you drop to 7 sessions, you’d increase the length to make the sessions slightly longer (17-18 minutes) in order to stay at 120 minutes.
At 6 sessions, you’d do 20 minute sessions, and so on.
5. Feed fresh milk when you can
One thing that can make life a little easier is feeding milk that you pump at one feeding at the very next feeding, and leaving the milk out at room temperature in between.
This saves you the hassle of warming that bottle as well as managing all that milk in the fridge.
(This obviously won’t work for everyone – like if you need multiple pumping sessions to make one bottle, or if you’re at work. Also, some people prefer the pitcher method. But I found it worked well for me and saved a lot of time.)
6. Stick to your schedule as best you can
As a new parent, it can be really hard to stick to your pumping schedule – you have a lot going on, and stopping everything to pump every few hours around the clock is a lot. It can be tempting to skip a session here or there.
However, milk supply is based on consistent milk removal. If you aren’t consistent with pumping, no lactation cookie or supplement will fix your supply.
Therefore, stick to your schedule when possible, and if you have to miss or delay a session, try to make up the pumping time later in the day.
7. Multi-task pumping with feeding when you can
Feeding your baby while you pump can save you a ton of time – up to two hours, if you’re pumping for 120 minutes per day.
Some parents put baby on their laps while they pump, others put baby on a Boppy pillow next to them. Here’s an example of how that can look:
8. Figure out mobility
When you’re exclusively pumping, it’s really difficult to be tied to one spot all the time. It’s important to integrate pumping into the rest of your life and be able to do it everywhere you need to pump.
(Otherwise, pumping can completely take over your life.)
If you have a breast pump that needs to be plugged in while you use it, considering getting a battery pack that will allow you to pump wherever you need to be – in the car, at a pediatrician appointment, at a soccer game, etc.
Also, it’s a good idea to have a dedicated breast pump bag that has everything you need and is easy for you to grab on your way out the door so that you’re not scrambling.
9. Get extra sets of pump parts and bottles
When you’re pumping and bottle feeding all day and night, you want to make things as simple as possible.
By having extra sets of pump parts, you can wash a bunch of sets all in one big batch instead of having an extra pumping step at the end of every pumping session.
It’s also useful to have extras in case you lose a pump part or something breaks.
10. Remember that you are much, much more to your baby than your breast milk
It can be easy to focus on and become obsessed with the amount of milk that you’re pumping. Some parents report feeling like a failure if they are not able to pump as much milk as their baby takes in a day.
Your baby loves you the same whether you pump 5 ml per day or 50 oz. However much milk you pump, you are the best possible parent for your baby, and you are doing a great job. Your worth is not measured in ounces.
Have any exclusively pumping tips that I didn’t cover? Leave them in the comments!