One Mother's Guide to Exclusively Pumping Breastmilk for Baby

So, the running joke between Savy Daddy and I with our first two children is that they hated my breasts! This is because both of my first two children had "issues" that caused them to fight nursing so hard or do so much damage that I turned to my pump and never looked back.  Since, I know that many moms out there find themselves unable to nurse for one reason or another, I am here to provide my support and helpful tips!

Quick History

My oldest, Big N. was born with severe acid reflux.  At that time (2009) many medical providers did not provide treatment until the infant reached the age of 2 months. From day one, he would scream every single time I laid him horizontal to nurse him.  Me, being a new mom, I had no idea what a Lactation Consultant was or even how to find one (our local hospital was in transition to a new building when I gave birth and there was hardly an ounce of food, let alone an LC available). I honestly thought the baby would just come out and know exactly how to nurse! I decided the best thing for us both was to stop forcing him to nurse and just pump and bottle-feed him.  I did this exclusively for 8 months.
When I got pregnant with my middle child, Little A., I couldn't wait to have a second chance at nursing! But, alas, the stars were not aligned in my favor.  First off, she was born with a very tight tongue tie.  Again, I had never heard of it and no one noticed for the first 10 days.  It was a very dear friend who is a La Leche League Leader hundreds of miles away that helped me diagnose it. Unfortunately, just 24 hours after confirmation from the local lactation staff, Little A. became very ill and ended up spending 10 days in the NICU (12-22 days old). For the first 3 days, we couldn't pick her up as the only line giving her fluids was through her umbilical stump.  While she was there, we had the tongue tie clipped, but it was too late. So, I decided that I was going to once again exclusively pump milk for her. When I returned to work when she was 12 weeks old, I had 300 ounces of frozen milk in our deep freeze and I was able to provide her with breastmilk for 12 full months!

With 20 months of exclusively pumping under my belt, here are the things that worked for me:

  • Invest in a Good Pump. If you have health insurance, you likely won't have to pay anything or very little for a really good pump! My favorite with my first two was the Medela Freestyle and now I am use a Hygeia Q.  I loved my Freestyle, but the Q is the one offered for free through my insurance and it's hospital grade and awesome as well! So, please, before you buy or register for a pump, call your insurance company and find out what they can offer you. Many will give you a few options. Do your research and pick the one that is highly recommended.
  • Pump Frequently in the beginning. The key is to pump every 2 hours around the clock for the first week or two.  This will help your body familiarize itself with the pump and establish a generous milk supply. 
  • After supply is established, you can pull back to just pumping when baby eats.  I actually found it easiest when I was by myself to put the baby on the Boppy next to me and feed him/her while I double pumped at the same time.  Just keep in mind after 5 hours of not removing any milk your body starts reducing your supply and thinks that you don't need at much.
  • Get yourself at least one pumping bra. This will save you time and stress as it is made to hold the pumps in place, allowing you to focus on feeding baby.
  • Try to be as calm and stress-free as possible when pumping. I laughed out loud a little at this, but it is really true.  Stress can greatly reduce your supply. If you pump away from the baby, bring a photo of the baby to look at while pumping and even something with the baby's scent on it.  These will help to elicit a letdown.
  • Make sure you are using the pump correctly.  No, I don't mean that you are too dumb to figure out which parts go on your breasts.  What I mean is that a lot of people think the higher you have the pump suction/speed, the more milk you will get.  This is actually wrong.  If you are in pain when pumping, it's too high! This will actually do the opposite and cause your breasts stress and you to tense up while pumping which limits supply and letdown. Always read your manufacturers directions on use and sizing of the flanges to be sure you are using it correctly.
  • Drink lots of water.  I can't stress this enough! Just when you think you are drinking enough, drink more! If you find your mouth feels dry and you are thirsty then you are not drinking nearly enough!
  • Eat healthy foods. I admit, I'm not the healthiest eater, but I find when I am filling myself with unhealthy foods, my supply starts to suffer.
  • Oatmeal. I'm not a big fan of this stuff, but I have found that I really like Steel Cut Oats and after a few weeks of eating oatmeal daily I get used to it. 
  • Fenugreek. This is one of my favorite supplements.  I mean, who doesn't love smelling like maple syrup?! LOL! No, seriously, I have found that within a few days of taking these my supply gets a good boost.
  • Lactation Cookies. Okay, these aren't exactly instant supply boosters.  But, over time they do help maintain and slightly increase supply and they are delicious! You can bake your own or buy online!

These are just some of my tips based on my experience.  I hope they help you in your pumping goals.  I highly recommend finding a local La Leche League Group and Lactation Consultant to support your needs. And if you find yourself with more questions, feel free to ask! I am always happy to help a mommy in need!

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*Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor.  All advice above is purely based on my experience with exclusively pumping for my babies.

1 comment

  1. OMG that is so great you were able to pump for 12 months! i always pumped w my first and had an overbundance of supply and for my second i did not pump and when i needed to could not produce so you are right that should pump a lot in the beginning! thanks for the reminder of all these things when i have my third this spring!


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