Pumping Like a Cow
I exclusively pumped for 8.5 months, the longest I’ve ever exclusively pumped. Now with that said I am team feed baby however you can, breast or formula, it doesn’t matter. My older children received very little breast milk and were formula fed and I have no issues with either. However, this time around being a stay at home mom I wanted to challenge myself to pump/breastfeed Karetta. So I did my research and joined Facebook groups. I’m sharing everything I’ve learned so you can be just as successful.
It’s important to note that everyone is different and doesn’t produce the same amount of milk. And nor does every baby drink the same amount. I’m not a lactation specialist, just sharing my experience.
When it comes to pumping you need to have a great pump. What makes a pump great? Well, one that can give you the most milk output and is gentle enough on the nipples. Hospitals use Medela and will recommend Medela. I myself used the Medela Pump In Style Advance, you can get it through your insurance. I’ve also heard that Spectra is a great brand. In addition to my Medela, I invested in Willow. Willow is a portable, wireless breast pump and let me tell you it’s worth the money! With willow I pumped in the car picking up my daughter from school, pumped at the movies on date night, pumped while sleeping/resting, pumped while making dinner and cleaning the house! If you can afford it I highly recommend it. The link for the willow pump is below, should you be interested.
When pumping, you need bottles, lots of them! You pump into the bottles and if you’re like me you’ll use the same bottles for feeding as well. I find this to be the easiest. But of course sometimes you’ll have to change bottles because the baby may not like certain ones and yes this is a thing.
In addition to bottles you’re also going to want to have extra flanges, connectors, valves and membranes. The more sets you have the less often you’ll have to wash. And some of these pieces take forever to dry! Of course buying extra pieces can be expensive. Most hospitals use Medela pumps and will give you a set of accessories when at the hospital post delivery and your pump comes with one, so that will help.
Hands free bra - this will allow your hands to be free so you can hold baby if you need to or eat while pumping, which I’ve done several times. The hands free bra makes it so you don’t have to hold the bottles yourself. Who wants to hold bottles for 20+ minutes multiple times a day. Get yourself more than one, so you can swap them out and wash them. Trust me you’ll end up spilling milk on them. A link of the ones I had are below.
Nursing Bra - this is simply for easy access to the liquid gold. You don’t want to have to completely take your bra off and put the hands free bra on, it’s too time consuming. Pumping is already time consuming as it is, make it easier on yourself. The nursing bras have clasps on the straps so you can remove/lower the straps and get to pumping. It’s important to note that it’s not recommend to wear a nursing bra with a wire for the first 6 weeks. It’s believed that a wired bra can restrict milk flow. I used Auden nursing bras sold at Target and on amazon. I’ve included a link below for one of the bras I purchased.
-Pumping- Getting Started
When you’ve just given birth you’re tired and relieved the process is over and enjoying your precious baby. But now comes the process of feeding baby. Immediately if you’re nursing they’ll try to get baby to latch, if you’re successful at getting baby to latch this is awesome!! If not, you can keep trying and supplement in the mean time. But, if you really want to provide breast milk start pumping. It takes a few days for your milk to come in, so the sooner you start the better. I wasn’t as successful at this with my oldest. My second and third time around, I had milk before leaving the hospital.
If exclusively pumping, a lactation consultant will recommend you pump every 2-3 hours in a 24 hour period, so 8-12 pumps a day. The reason is, the pump is mimicking the baby and a newborn feeds every 2-3 hours. So we need to tell our bodies to produce milk around the clock as if we were nursing. If strictly nursing, they don’t recommend bottle feeding for a few weeks. I tried pumping every 2-3 hours and after the first 2 weeks exhaustion set in and nipples started to crack. So I decided early on I would pump every 3.5 hours to 4 hours. And this worked fine for me, I was able to produce more than what baby needed and could freeze milk.
Middle of the Night Pump
It’s important to have at least 1 Middle of the night pump aka MOTN. This pumping session takes places between the hours of 12am and 6am. Now why is this pump time so important, because it’s been proven that we produce more milk between this time. It sounds bizarre but is true! Some women do 1 MOTN, and some do 2. I quickly went down to 1 because I needed sleep to be able to care for my toddler during the day. So if my last pump was at 11pm, I would pump again at 3am and then again at 7am. The MOTN would give me an extra 2 feedings in the beginning when baby wasn’t drinking much.
2. How long to Pump
There’s no set number on this. However my lactation consultant had suggested 20 minutes. I learned from the Facebook group I’m in for Exclusively pumping mamas you should pump till empty. How do you know if you’re empty? When there is nothing coming out, you’re empty. If you’re breasts feel softer then when you started, you’re empty. If you pump for less than 20 minutes chances are it’s not long enough to produce enough milk. A newborn typically nurses for 20 minutes on each side. In the beginning I pumped for 30-45 minutes because it felt like it took that long to be empty, towards the end of my pumping journey I pumped for 25-30 minutes and that was enough for me to be empty. This is definitely something that you will figure out as you continue down this path.
-Comfort when Pumping-
So I mentioned earlier that I was getting cracked nipples when pumping every 2-3 hours. You’re probably thinking TMI, (too much information), but this is a reality of pumping and nursing. Well thanks to the Facebook group I joined, I learned about products that are available to make pumping more comfortable. When I pumped with my second child I had no idea about these products.
These help to protect your nipples and areola from rubbing up against the flanges. The flanges are plastic and the constant friction will cause your skin to crack and be sore. I personally use Beaugen cushions. These are inserted into the flange to provide comfort. They also help for women who have elastic nipples.
2. Nipple Creams
There are so many kinds out there. I will just name the ones that I’ve used and that I have found provide comfort.
Lanolin Cream, I always used the Lansinoh brand but I’m sure any lanolin nipple cream will work. And it’s all safe for baby.
Nipple Butter, I found this one to be thick and didn’t really like the smell too much. But it did the job for a while and is also safe for baby.
Coconut oil, this was by far the best for me. It healed the cracks on my nipples but also allowed me not to feel any pain. And a little bit goes a long way. Links are below on which ones I used and where you can find them.
3. Nursing Pads
These are great because sometimes you may have a leakage problem. You insert these into your bra and it will catch any milk that leaks. But this also provides a level of comfort because your nipples won’t brush up against your bra. When pumping, your nipples will become sensitive to the point that any friction can cause you to feel uncomfortable, especially if it’s a little chilly outside. They have reusable ones that can be washed in a washing machine and disposal ones. I used the disposable ones just my personal preference. There also nursing pads that are cooling to the nipples when applied and those can be reused for up to a few days.
-Increasing Milk Supply-
Everyone wants to know how to increase milk supply when pumping, because if you can freeze milk than you can quit pumping sooner than your goal and still provide baby with breast milk. The best way to increase milk supply is to keep pumping, add more pumps in if you can. The more you pump, you’re telling your body to make more milk. Avoid taking supplements, often times they don’t actually help. I tried Fenugreek tea and my milk supply did not go up it stayed the same.
Power pumping is when you pump for 20 minutes, pause for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, pause for 10 minutes and finally pump for 10 minutes. This mimics a baby cluster feeding and will signal your body to produce more milk. About a month after my daughter was born I power pumped 3x a day for 2 weeks straight and saw an increase at the end of the 2 weeks. I was producing twice what she was taking in.
2. The Sluty Pump
I tried this one a few times and it worked. It’s called this because you pump after having an orgasim. I never knew about this until I read a Facebook thread in the Exclusively Pumping Mamas Group. I’ll share the link to this group so you can join for support and more information. I guess it has something to do with the oxytocin our body releases when pleasured correctly 🥰
Should you embark on the path of exclusively pumping, I pray you are able to do it for as long as you want and desire to. Exclusively pumping is a full time job while having another full time job of mothering and another full time job if you work out of the house. But it is possible to achieve! The link for the Facebook group is below. Reading posts from women in this group who were going through the same thing as me helped me tremendously.
Happy Pumping Mamas! 😘