What does exclusively pumping mean?
To exclusively pump (EP) means your baby doesn’t nurse directly from the breast, ever. You use a breast pump to remove milk. Babies whose mother EPs might receive milk via bottle, syringe, or feeding tube.
Why would someone want to EP?
There are a variety of reasons women choose or are forced to EP. They can include physical limitations (i.e. baby has a cleft lip and cannot latch), being unable to be with baby (NICU stay, adoption, etc.), limited access to nursing assistance to help a struggling nursing relationship, a history of sexual abuse that makes nursing traumatic, and a multitude of other things. While EPing is not considered direct nursing, it is most certainly breastfeeding.
EPing requires a lot of dedication and twice the work of direct nursing. It is not a decision to come to lightly, and it should be considered a last resort in most instances. If you’re having trouble with direct nursing and you’re considering switching to EPing, please seek help from an IBCLC before you jump ship.
Is it possible to meet my baby’s needs when EPing?
Yes! If you combine a good pumping schedule, a high quality pump, and feeding baby appropriately, it is definitely possible to feed your baby breast milk exclusively.
What type of pump do I need?
The best option would be a hospital grade pump. They’re closed system pumps that are meant to be used a LOT. They can be rented from most hospitals, Babies R Us stores, and some medical supply companies. Hygeia brand pumps are closed system hospital grade pumps that can be purchased. Your insurance may also cover them.
Remember that when EPing, pump maintenance needs to be performed more often. Membranes should be replaced every 3-4 weeks, or if supply dips sooner. Check tubes often for stretching or holes. Be sure to completely disassemble thoroughly when washing, and dry before reassembling. Your pump manual will provide other information.
How often/long should I pump?
For the first 12 weeks you need to pump every 2 to 3 hours around the clock, for a total of 8-12 times per 24 hours. After that, most women are able to slowly drop pump sessions and keep up their production. A beginning pumping schedule might look like this: 12 am, 3 am, 6 am, 8 am, 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm, 4 pm, 6 pm, and 9 pm for a total of 10 pumps per day.
You should always pump until empty, PLUS five (5) minutes to encourage more milk production. For most women, that means pumping 15-20 minutes each time in the beginning. When the milk stops flowing, try hitting the let down button. Chances are, you will get another let down. If not, you can assume your storage capacity is empty and stop your extra 5 minutes. Many women also find they empty better if they massage their breasts while pumping.
It is vital for your long term milk supply and breastfeeding success to stick to your schedule for a minimum of the first 12 weeks. Deviating can permanently decrease your supply without warning.
How much should my baby be eating?
It is best to feed baby on demand. Small, frequent feedings whenever they show signs of hunger (rooting, sucking on fists, etc.). It is always better to feed a small amount at first, then offer more if baby still seems hungry.
Babies have small stomachs, especially in the beginning. On day 1 baby’s stomach can only hold 5-7 mL at a time, by day 3, .75-1 oz at a time. At a week they can hold 1.5-2 oz at a time, and by a month their stomach can hold 2.5-5 oz at a time. Exclusively breastfed babies should never receive more than 5 oz at a time, regardless of age. It will stretch their stomachs and mom will not likely be able to keep up with that consumption.
Paced feeding is critical to the success of EPing moms who want to provide breast milk long term. It is critical that all caregivers follow these instructions. Kellymom describes how to paced feed properly.
Help! Pumping hurts!
Pumping should not be painful. Improperly fitting flanges are usually the biggest cause of pain. Check your flange fit first.
There is also no need to have the suction all the way up. Many moms like to turn the pump up until it just becomes painful, then turn it back down a notch. If the suction is painful, you have it up too high.
Using lubrication when pumping can also decrease pain. A small amount of coconut or other edible oil on your areola before pumping will help things glide better. If you’re getting pain in your back when pumping, there’s a product called Pumping Pals that allow you to sit more upright.
Other Pumping Tips:
- If you don’t have a hands free bra, you can make one by cutting small X shapes at the nipples of a sports bra.
- Stash your pump parts and bottles in a closed container in the refrigerator between uses. They can be reused for up to 24 hours using this method, for a healthy full term baby.
- If you’re having trouble getting a let down, try looking at pictures or videos of your baby.
Happy Pumping! ❤