Tips for a pumping-only lifestyle

For some moms, nursing is just not an option. Whether your baby is unable to latch properly, or you simply don’t like breastfeeding (hey, no judgment here) there is still a way for your baby to benefit from breast milk and all of its nutrients by exclusively pumping. That means using a breast pump to get the milk your baby needs, then feeding him or her from a bottle. Many women will choose this path, so here are a few tips to help you get started.

Commit to pumping as often as your baby feeds.

Newborns eat often—like, really often. Ideally, your pumping schedule will mimic your baby’s feeding frequency. For the first 12 weeks, that means you’ll need to pump eight to 10 times a day, which equates to every two to three hours during the day with a longer stretch overnight (you need some sleep, right?). When exclusively pumping, middle-of-the-night pumps are important for building and keeping your supply, so even if your baby starts snoozing longer, make the effort to get up and pump at least once during the night. Those extra ounces will make a difference. After the first 12 weeks, you can drop one pump each month or so, which gives you time to gauge the effect on your supply. If you see a dip, you’ll be able to quickly bump back up without causing a long-term drop in output.

Pump to “empty” to help build supply.

The truth is your breasts are never completely empty. Your body will produce more milk as your baby—or your pump, in this case—demands it (it’s pretty amazing). So to build a good supply, pump until you feel that “empty” feeling with zero lumps, bumps or firm areas. Don’t set a time limit or a certain amount of ounces per pump. The more often you empty your breasts, the more your body will produce. Helpful hint: To make your pump sessions go a little faster, use hands-on pumping (i.e. gently massage your boobs as you pump). Get that milk flowing!

Get comfortable.

You will develop an intimate relationship with your pump. To achieve BFF status, make sure pumping is pain-free. That means your flanges need to fit (no, they aren’t one-size-fits-all-nipples), play with settings for suction and speed to find your ideal levels, and don’t be shy about lubing the flanges with coconut oil (rub a bit inside the part where your nipple goes). Oh, and invest in a hands-free pumping bra or two. When you’re hooked up to the pump for so much of the day, you need to be able to multitask.

Buy extra parts.

For a pumping mother, a missing pump piece or a broken valve can be paralyzing, so avoid the panic and keep those extra parts on hand. Trust us: At some point, you will lose or break a piece. You might forget to clean the parts or simply not want to wash the same set all the freaking time. Plus, with all the action your pump is getting, you’ll have to replace the valve membranes every month or so to keep the suction strong.

Get into a routine.

Before you know it, you’ll get in a groove and figure out a routine. Some moms leave their parts out on the counter for a few hours between pumps (because breastmilk is okay at room temperature for that length of time) and wash them after every other pump, while others pop the parts in the fridge and wash everything in the evening. Some store all their pumped milk for the day in a big pitcher or large screw-top bottles and then divide it into baby bottles and bags before bedtime, while others pump directly into bottles so the milk is ready to feed. Some place their baby on a Boppy pillow or in a bouncy chair or Rock ’n Play so they can bottle-feed while pumping, while others plan their pumps for nap time.

Consider your pump options.

A standard double electric pump works well. But if you’re pumping around the clock, a strong and versatile pump will make all of the difference. From finding a battery operated option for on the go, to perhaps having an extra pump at work, the choice of breast pump is very important for exclusively pumping mothers. A hospital-grade pump can provide maximum output and efficiency for many women. Talk to the experts at Ashland Health about which option is best for you.

Like most things in motherhood, it takes time—and some trial and error—to discover what works best for you. Keep up the great work and remember, you’re doing great!