Confessions of an Exclusive Pumper
Tips and Tricks for an Exclusive Pumper
Some of you may know that my daughter was born 6 weeks early via emergency C-section. She was immediately sent to the NICU where she stayed for about 3 weeks. In the meantime I was in the ICU recovering for about 4-5 days.
In this time, I did not get to see my baby let alone nurse her. The only way to get milk to her was to pump. This is how my journey to exclusive pumping started and lasted the whole first year of my daughter’s life.
Many people asked me how I was able to pump religiously and maintain the supply for that long so I’ve decided to share everything I learned while pumping.
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Start Pumping from Day 1
If you have decided to exclusively pump then 1 you will need a pump ( I got the Medela Freestyle Pump with on-the-go tote) and 2 you need to start pumping from day 1. Because my baby was in the NICU, she was put on a 2-3 hour feeding schedule so I pumped every 2-3 hours to match the schedule. The hospital will provide you with a hospital grade pump and lactation consultants are available if you need help. USE THE HELP! I had the lactation consultant come to my ICU room every time I had to pump on the first day to make sure I was doing everything correct.
If you live in Howard County area, they have amazing lactation support at the Howard County General Hospital. My lactation consultant was amazing, she taught me how to pump while I was still in the hospital, she stayed to help me breastfeed/pump even after her shift was over, and even after being discharged she called multiple times to see if I had any questions or ask how I was doing. Information for lactation support is HERE
Pump Through the Night
When I said pump every 2-3 hours, I meant every 2-3 hours even at night for the next 3-4 months. It’s the most difficult thing to do but it really made a difference in the milk supply. Most likely your baby will still be waking up every 2-3 hours to feed anyway so just spend the extra 20 minutes pumping. If you have established a good milk supply, then most likely you won’t be able to go more than 3-4 hours without pumping anyway because you will become engorged and have trouble sleeping.
My nighttime pumping schedule was 12am, 3am, 6am. The daytime pumping schedule was 10am, 1pm, 4pm and 8pm. After 3 months, when the baby was sleeping a bit longer at night, I adjusted my nighttime schedule to 12am and 5am but still kept all the daytime pumping sessions. You will feel like your whole life is pumping (it actually is) but it gets a lot easier and by now you should be a pro.
0-3 months: 12am, 3am, 6am, 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm
4-6 months: 12am, 5am, 9am, 1pm, 5pm, 9pm
6-9 months: 11am, 5pm, 10pm
9-12 months: 10am, 10pm
Pump and Nurse
If you have decided to pump exclusively and not nurse then go ahead and skip this part.
At 2 weeks of age, the lactation consultant had me try breastfeeding my daughter while in the NICU. Once I was able to get somewhat the hang of it, I attempted to continue nursing for as long as I could along with pumping. After every nursing session, I pumped immediately after to empty what was left. This actually increased my supply since I was tricking my body into thinking it needed to produce more milk. I nursed only 1-2 times a day and the rest of the feedings were pumped milk in a bottle. For me nursing lasted only 4 months and from then on I was exclusively pumping.
Pump Anywhere and Everywhere
Don’t let your pumping schedule tie you down to your house. It is important to get out of your house for the sake of your sanity. I barely went anywhere the first 4 months because I felt like I was always pumping but then I started taking it with me everywhere. Take your pump with you if you know you will be out for a long time. Pump in the car on your way to date night, pump in public restrooms if you need to or at work. I used to pump on the floor while playing with the baby or watching TV. Consider purchasing a hands-free pumping bra so you can easily multi-task.
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During all the pumping, make sure you massage your breasts constantly. By doing this, you will be able to extract every ounce of milk and smooth out all the milk ducts. I would just put on a show on my phone and keep massaging while pumping. The last thing you want is a clogged milk duct or Mastitis, an inflammation of the mammary gland in the breast. I ended up getting Mastitis within the first week after I was discharged which landed me in an overnight stay in the emergency room and required antibiotics through IV. So best way to avoid all that is to massage and maintain the pumping schedule.
Stay off Belly
I don’t remember the last time I slept on my belly! Before pregnancy, I could not fall asleep unless I was on my stomach. Obviously that had to change during pregnancy and I thought as soon as this baby is out I will get to sleep so comfortably. Haha, I wish! There is no way you can sleep on your belly while pumping. It will suppress the milk production and not to mention it will be very uncomfortable.
Eat and Drink
If you are going to exclusively pump, you will most likely need to change your diet a bit. The last thing you should be worrying about is loosing the baby weight. This the most crucial step in maintaining a decent milk supply. I found that eating oatmeal for breakfast everyday maintained my supply. The days I did not eat oatmeal, I dipped an ounce. I also made myself some lactation cookies, recipe HERE. I ate a couple of those a day and I definitely noticed a difference in the milk supply. If you don’t have time to make cookies, Milk Makers Lactation Cookies are pretty great and you can pick them up from majority of retailers.
For me, eating a normal 3 meals a day was always a struggle but while pumping I made sure I ate a full 3 meals and more if I felt hungry. Breastfeeding makes you hungry so eat all the good stuff so your baby gets all the good stuff. Avoid junk and sugary foods. Incorporate ingredients into your food that produce more milk such as brewer’s yeast, flax seeds, fenugreek, etc.
Make sure to drink a ton of water every time you pump and throughout the day. Right before I would start pumping, I would chug a glass of water. Breast milk is 80% water and contains all the water your baby needs so don’t miss this important step. Instead of drinking plain water, I would infuse the water with fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds and mint. This really helped in maintaining a good supply. I drank this for an entire year and in the beginning it tastes disgusting but you get used to it.
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Cleaning Pump Parts
I hated this step more than pumping! I barely wash the dishes in my house and having to wash the pump parts 8 times a day was the bane of my existence. I learned a few good tips that might be helpful.
- Buy a few spare parts so you don’t have to wash them every single time. DUH! I should have thought of that A LOT sooner.
- Refrigerate all pump parts after a pumping session and reuse the same parts for the next pump session. You can do this once and then wash the parts after every other session.
- Pump directly into the milk storage bags. This was a lifesaver for me especially when I was able to produce enough milk to fill the entire bag. This way, when I’m done I just zip up the bag and put it away and not have to worry about washing the bottles I pump into.
- If you are on the go, get breast pump wipes for quick and easy clean.
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So, thats about all the tip and tricks I can think of that made my pumping experience what it is! Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what worked for you or if you found this post helpful.
If you’re starting out and think you can’t do it, just hang in there it does get better I promise!
Thank you to my family and friends who helped me throughout this process. To my sisters who washed all my pump parts a million times a day, my friends who shared their tips on pumping and of course the hubby who was SO patient and understanding throughout this entire process!
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