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I know feeding your baby right from the breast is obviously the most preferred option, but for some moms that isn’t always feasible. Exclusively pumping is a huge sacrifice to give to your baby to ensure they get your milk.
Whether you are currently exclusively pumping or thinking that might need to be the route you take, I hope this article will give you everything you need to know when exclusively pumping.
- What is exclusively pumping?
- What are the reasons some mothers decide to exclusively pump?
- Is exclusively pumping the same as breastfeeding?
- What is the best breast pump?
- What is the best exclusive pumping schedule?
- Will I always have to wake up in the night to pump?
- Do I need to power pump?
- What suction strength should I be using while pumping?
- How do I know when I am empty?
- How long do I need to exclusively pump for?
- Exclusively pumping is a sacrifice but worth it for your baby
What is exclusively pumping?
Well, first let’s discuss what exactly is exclusively pumping, also commonly known as EPing. It pretty much is exactly what it sounds like it is. It is providing milk for your baby through using a breast pump instead of directly feeding them straight from your breast.
Some mothers will pump alongside breastfeeding to either help with increasing their supply, building a freezer stash, or maybe they pump while they are at work and breastfeed at home. But these scenarios would not fall into the “exclusively pumping” bandwagon.
Exclusively pumping is where that is the only way your baby gets your milk. You pump your milk regularly throughout the day and then bottle feed your pumped milk to your baby at frequent intervals.
What are the reasons some mothers decide to exclusively pump?
Some mothers do decide that an exclusively pumping journey is just better for them while other mothers have no choice.
Whether you decide to embark on this journey or not, pumping exclusively is HARD WORK.
For me, exclusively pumping was not necessarily my choice but when I was faced with some roadblocks in my breastfeeding journey, it seemed to be the most logical route to go.
There is an array of different reasons as to why a mother may need to exclusively pump.
It could be due to the baby having issues latching. Latching problems could be related to having flat or inverted nipples or the baby having a tongue/lip tie.
Some mothers have limited maternity leave and with difficult work schedules, may find it easier to pump milk for their baby.
Having a preemie:
Preemies sometimes are too young and depending on the medical conditions may not be able to be breastfed, to begin with.
Exclusive pumping can be a good solution to this and then sometimes transitioning them from the pump/bottle to the breast isn’t always straightforward.
For this reason, mothers may find EPing a more straightforward solution if they have a preemie.
There are a few mothers out there that simply just prefer pumping over breastfeeding. They still want to provide their baby with breastmilk, but they don’t really have an interest in nursing.
Is exclusively pumping the same as breastfeeding?
I think back to when I was an exclusive pumper, I almost felt bad that I had to pump and couldn’t breastfeed. Not only did I feel bad, but I felt defeated as I failed at breastfeeding.
Ok, well I am going to share a little secret with you! Are you ready? You ARE breastfeeding! Your baby may not be breastfeeding directly from your breast, but your breasts ARE feeding your baby!
Don’t allow yourself to feel bad or any less than those who can breastfeed. Exclusively pumping is such a sacrifice for your baby. You are willing to put in so much more time and work into ensuring your baby gets that liquid gold of yours.
You need to be patting yourself on the back because exclusively pumping is not easy.
What is the best breast pump?
Unfortunately, I cannot answer this one for you. There are SO many breast pumps out there. The one I ended up using (Medela Pump In-Style Advanced) worked great for me and I really liked it. But then again, I really didn’t know any different.
The best advice I can give you is to research, research, research! Every woman is different and everyone is going to have different experiences and preferences but try to find the best overall one that is going to fit your needs.
Here is a great breast pump comparison article. You can also search for a ton of different reviews on youtube.
Ultimately, you want something that effectively removes milk and provides comfort to you while pumping. Those two things would be high up on my list when researching for the best pump to purchase.
What is the best exclusive pumping schedule?
A pumping schedule is kind of crucial to this whole exclusively pumping life. Those first few weeks are you are going to feel like you and the pump are connected at the hip, or breast for that matter.
The fact is if you want your body to produce milk and your baby isn’t directly nursing, your pump is going to have to be doing all of the work.
Basically, the pump needs to act as if your baby was feeding from the breast. To begin with, you need to be pumping every 2-3 hours during the day and every 3-4 hours at nighttime.
This usually result in 8-12 times per day, with 20-30 minute pump sessions if you are using a double pump.
That seems like a lot, I know, BUT you have to be consistent and frequent to signal to your body to produce milk.
I found it super helpful to use a pumping app to keep track of my pumping schedule. The app helped me know when I needed to pump and how long I pumped for.
Once you reach about 8-12 weeks postpartum you can become a little more flexible with your pumping schedule. It is important in those early weeks to pump frequently because that is the most crucial time for establishing a solid milk supply.
I was an over-supplier so after those first few months I was able to scale back on my pumping and go longer in between each pump.
Depending on whether you overproduce or not will kind of depend how much you can cut back. If you are an over supplier, you usually can afford those longer intervals.
Will I always have to wake up in the night to pump?
Since I was able to produce so much milk, by about 2 or 3 months I cut out my middle of the night pump. I would do one last pump really late at night (like 11pm) and then I didn’t need to pump until the next morning (6am-7am).
It might be better to wait closer to 4-6 months before you cut that middle of the night pump out, especially if you don’t overproduce.
The nightly pump is usually where you can yield the highest output so if you cut it out too soon, it could drastically affect your milk supply.
The main key here is to look at your long term goals and decide what is going to be best for you. If you are supplementing or not wanting to exclusively pump for as long, you might have more flexibility with your pumping schedule and that middle of the night pump.
If you want to exclusively pump long term and or build a large freezer stash, keeping a more rigid pumping schedule might be the best option for you. Especially in those first few months.
Do I need to power pump?
Power pumping can be a really effective tool for increasing your milk supply. Basically, power pumping mimics cluster feeding, so it can in turn tell your body to produce more milk.
If you want to try power pumping, all you need to do is pump on your regular schedule and then at the end do a few power pumps.
Basically, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes and so on. I would recommend doing this 3 or 4 times in a row and you could just do it whenever you feel like you need a boost.
Power pumping isn’t something you do every single pump session long term. You could just do it a few times and then see if it helps or not.
I noticed a difference after doing it just once in a day. If you have the time you can try doing it twice in one day to see faster results. Give yourself a few days break in between pushing your body hard.
It is important to make sure you don’t burn yourself out.
What suction strength should I be using while pumping?
This is one of those things where you have to find the fine line and balance between too much and too little.
Also, suction strength can vary depending on each individual person. It really does just depend on what feels most comfortable while being the most effective.
You don’t want the suction strength to be turned all the way up to high if you feel like your nipples are being ripped out of you.
And on the other hand, you don’t want a weak suction because that won’t be very effective in emptying your breasts and could in turn damage your milk supply.
Experiment and find what is the most comfortable for you while yielding the best return. I liked mine to be an intermediate strength where I could feel some pressure, but it never hurt or was painful.
How do I know when I am empty?
If you have done much reading on maintaining and increasing your breastmilk supply you probably know how important it is to be emptying, right?!
It is important to fully empty because that signals to your body to PRODUCE MORE MILK!
Although, remember that it is impossible to completely be bone dry because there will always be some milk in there. But if you can pump until you hardly have any, if any, milk coming out then you are pretty much empty.
Another good tell-tale sign to know if you are empty is that boobs should feel soft and squishy and not have any hardness in them.
How long do I need to exclusively pump for?
This is completely and totally up to you. You pump for how ever long you want to pump for. It is sometimes nice to set small attainable goals and go from there.
Don’t feel pressured to have to pump for a certain length of time. Exclusively pumping is hard work and can take a toll on your mental, physical and emotional health. Remember, even though your baby is your top priority, don’t neglect yourself.
If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of exclusively pumping for a whole 9 months, a year or even beyond. Start off small. Set small, very attainable goals like “I am going to pump for a week” or “I am going to pump until the end of the month”.
When you reach and achieve those small milestones, you then can re-evaluate the situation, how you are dealing with it and be able to move forward with new goals that will be best for you.
Exclusively pumping is a sacrifice but worth it for your baby
Breastmilk is the best thing for your baby, so if for whatever reason you are unable to directly breastfeed, pumping is a great second option.
Even though pumping is a huge sacrifice and takes up a lot of your time and energy, it is so worth it for your baby!
No matter how long you manage to exclusively pump for, getting some breastmilk into your baby’s will be so beneficial for them.
Well, I hope this post answers any questions you may have had in regards to exclusively pumping. Remember to give yourself a pat on the back for all of the hard work you have put in or are about to put in.
If you feel overwhelmed, take a step back and give yourself some slack. You are doing amazing things for your baby and if you need to supplement or even transition to formula there are some great natural formula options out there.
The most important thing is that you and you are well and healthy and your baby is fed and thriving. No matter the source.