Exclusive pumping was not in my original plan. I exclusively pumped for my son Greyson for nearly 11 months. Read more about my journey with exclusive pumping here.
I have learned a lot about exclusive pumping these past 11 months. I am hoping to share with moms who are going through something similar what worked for me can hopefully work for you! While not easy, exclusive pumping is possible.
Tip 1: Pump every 2 – 3 hours to mimic a nursing baby’s breastfeeding schedule
Part of exclusive pumping is ensuring that you are expressing your milk as often as you would feed a nursing baby. I would pump anywhere between 20-30 minutes depending on time, every 2-3 hours. As the baby gets older, you can go 3-4 hours between pumpings. At nighttime, I read somewhere that you shouldn’t go without a pump longer than 5 hours. My exclusive pumping schedule looked like this:
5:30 am-Wake up and pump
5:30 (if possible while cooking)
For the first 6 months, I would do a night pumping between 12-1. After that, I skipped the night pumping because I was a ZOMBIE. Greyson was still waking up and stirring prior to six months, so I was up anyway and it wasn’t a big deal, but once he was sleeping better, I needed my sleep.
Tip 2: Lubricate your flanges with coconut oil
This is a tip I learned from a lactation consultant. Putting coconut oil on the inside of the flanges or on the breasts themselves ensures that your nipple can flow freely in the pump as you go. I was getting so many plugged ducts and little cuts prior to using coconut oil. Once I started using the combination of coconut oil and hand expressing (which I’ll discuss next) I haven’t had one plugged duct since. You’ll know you have a plugged duct if you are very tender in an area and notice a decrease in milk output. Coconut oil is safe for baby, too! Trader Joe’s makes my favorite coconut oil!
Tip 3: Hand express after every pump
This is another tip I wish I knew early on. Hand expressing helps ensure that you get any left over milk out and helps to clear your ducts. The lactation consultant told me that as you hand express and you notice your milk spraying in 10 different directions that that is the duct clearing itself. Once the milk begins to spray as “normal” the duct is cleared. You also won’t feel any more tenderness in that area. You need to get in front of the duct in order to clear it, so the milk can begin flowing again. Read more about hand expressing here from Kelly Mom. Hand expressing also helps you get out a little more milk 😉
Tip 4: Buy at least two sets of pumping supplies and make sure you have the right size flanges
Having two sets (at least!) of pumping supplies is a game changer because then you’re not washing pump parts all the time. I would bring a large Ziploc bag to work to store my pump parts and bottles in the fridge after I used them. I had a private fridge, so I knew they would stay clean. I only used one set of pump parts per day because I always kept them in the fridge after I was done using them. This worked for me and I was okay with it, but that might not be true for you. Do whatever makes you feel most comfortable! At night, I would wash all of the parts and put them in the sanitizer. My next set was all dry and ready for the morning from the night before.
Another important thing I realized after many plugged ducts is that you need to have the right size flanges. Your nipple should be able to flow freely in the flange and not have too much or too little room. Read more about flange size from Very Well Family here.
I learned that I am actually a combination of sizes, a 27 mm and 24 mm! That’s perfectly normal and I wish I had learned it earlier. I bought a pair of 27 mm flanges (28 mm with Spectra) and a pair of 24 mm flanges and then just used one of each set when I pump. I bought my extra pump parts on Amazon here! These were cheaper than Spectra’s parts and they were just as good! Be sure to replace your pump parts regularly as you will wear them out as an exclusive pumper.
Tip 5: BUY A PUMPING BRA
This is another thing I wish I had done earlier. I didn’t really think I needed a pumping bra. I was nursing half the time before I became an exclusive pumper, but still, this would have made it so much easier for me. A pumping bra holds the bottles, so you don’t have to! I was able to go hands free, especially with a rechargeable pump. This is the pumping bra I used. Tip: Buy at least two because you will need to wash it every day and it’s helpful to have extras. 🙂
Tip 6: Purchase a rechargeable, battery operated pump
I got a pump through my insurance, but it wasn’t the right fit. I was so restricted because I had to plug into the wall and sit there. The expression mode didn’t work for me, so I researched buying a hospital grade, rechargeable pump. That was the best decision I ever made! Not only was I able to take the dogs out, do the laundry, DRIVE (I know) and cook dinner, but it made the pumping time go by so much quicker. Wearing the pumping bra and using the rechargeable pump was the best. I purchased the Spectra S1 pump and I LOVE IT. I wouldn’t have been able to make it these past 11 months without it. I will use it for every future baby! The battery lasted a long time; at least 4 days with me using it between 6-8 times a day pumping for 20-30 minutes each time. Amazing!
Spectra is also an amazing company. My bottles warped after putting them in the sanitizer, so they sent me new ones, no questions asked! Be careful about sanitizing these pump parts daily because they will warp. I recommend a thorough hot water/soap wash and sanitize for the first use. After that, hot water/soap only and sanitize only if necessary. I use after market parts from Nenesupply and I am able to sanitize those daily, but it’s not totally necessary.
Tip 7: Squeeze while you pump
This is another quick way to get extra milk. As your milk begins to let down, squeeze! This helps get more milk out! I noticed an extra ounce or more when I squeezed my breasts as I pumped than if I didn’t.
Tip 8: HYDRATE
Part of breastfeeding in general is remaining hydrated and that stays true for exclusive pumping! I like to drink a bottle of water with every pump. I brought multiple reusable water bottles to work in order to make sure I was drinking at least 100 oz while I was at work. I also love water. 🙂
Tip 9: Supplements and Power Pumping
Galactagogues are things that can increase milk supply. These include lactation cookies, mother’s milk tea, fenugreek, oatmeal, etc. Read more about them from Kelly Mom here. Unfortunately, these things did not work for me. Just because they didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean they won’t work for you, so give it a shot!
Power pumping is when you mimic a baby’s clusterfeeding. This is also said to increase milk supply, but again, this did not work for me. A power pumping session looks something like this:
Pump for 10 minutes
Break for 10 minutes
Pump for 10 minutes
Break for 10 minutes
Pump for 10 minutes
Break for 10 minutes
Total: 60 minutes
After power pumping, it is said you will a difference in milk output the next day. You should power pump 1-2x a day.
Tip 10: Milk Storage
As I mentioned before, I had a private fridge at work, so I was able to store my milk in there. These Medela milk bags are by far my favorite. As opposed to others, they don’t leak and seal well. Tip: Lay down the milk in the freezer, so it is a flat bag. Once it freezes, it will be easy to store! I stored all of my milk according to the first half of the month and the second half of the month. For example, I labeled my freezer bags, October 1, October 2. I knew I needed to use October 1 first before I broke into 2. I also made sure my bag was packed the night before with everything that I needed (breast milk bags, coconut oil, nursing cover) before I went to bed, so I wouldn’t be rushing around in the morning.
What are some other pumping tips you have come across in your pumping journey?
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