13 Tips for Moms Who Want to Exclusively Pump Breast Milk

13 Tips for Exclusively Pumping Your Breast Milk
Exclusive pumping provides your baby with your breast milk even if you don't want to put the baby to your breast. Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Exclusively Pumping Your Breast Milk

If you won't be breastfeeding, exclusive pumping is a great way to provide your baby with your breast milk without putting your baby to the breast. But, it isn't necessarily an easy thing to do.  Exclusive pumping can be time-consuming and exhausting. Plus, it can often be difficult to continue to pump exclusively for a long period of time. Of course, the longer you can provide your baby with your breast milk, the better it will be for your child.

So, here are some tips to help make exclusive pumping a little easier.  

13 Tips for Exclusive Pumping

Use a high-quality breast pump: Buy or rent a high-quality breast pump that is designed for long-term, daily use. A good double pump can save you time and energy because it can collect breast milk from both breasts at the same time. Whichever breast pump you choose, it should be comfortable and the flanges should fit you properly. This will help to prevent damage to your breast tissue.

Begin pumping as soon as possible after your baby is born: The sooner you can begin to pump, the better. Pumping will help to stimulate the production of breast milk. You will also be able to start feeding your baby right away with the breast milk that you pump. 

Pump every 2 to 3 hours in the beginning: Newborns eat every 2 to 3 hours, or 8 to 12 times each day. You should try your best to pump as often as your baby eats.

Pumping every 2 to 3 hours will also help you to build up a healthy milk supply for your baby.

Pump for 10 to 15 minutes at each session: The let-down reflex allows the milk to flow out of your breasts, but it could take a while for your milk to let-down while you're pumping. Make sure you give your body enough time.

Continue to pump until there is no more milk flowing from your breasts, and then pump a minute or two longer.

Relax: Try to relax, put your feet up, and think of your baby. Holding your baby, looking at a picture of your child, smelling your baby's blanket or an article of his clothing, or listening to your baby coo or cry, can help to trigger your let-down reflex while you're pumping. Massaging your breasts, placing a warm compress on your breasts, or taking a warm shower before you pump, can also help the flow of your breast milk.

Eat a healthy diet: Milk production requires extra energy. A well-balanced diet that includes extra calories, and healthy milk-making foods can provide you with the energy that you need.

Drink plenty of fluids: Just like breastfeeding moms, moms who are exclusively pumping need to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water each day. If you have something to drink each time you pump, you'll be sure to stay hydrated. Just keep in mind that it's best to limit caffeinated beverages - coffee, tea, or soda - to no more than 2 a day.

Get enough rest: Taking care of a baby along with all of the other responsibilities that you may have can be tiring on its own. Then add pumping every 3 hours, and you might just be exhausted. It's OK to ask for help with chores and other children, especially in the first few weeks after the birth of your baby. Let the housework go, and rest when you can.

Store your breast milk properly: If your baby is in the NICU, be sure to follow all the handling, storage, and labeling instructions given to you by the hospital.  For your own home use, you can follow the general guidelines for breast milk handling and storage.

Whenever possible give your baby freshly expressed breast milk: Breast milk that has been frozen and defrosted is still nutritious, but it does lose some of its health and immune properties during the freezing and thawing process. 

Keep up your milk supply: It can be difficult to keep up your milk supply when you're pumping exclusively. If you are struggling to increase a low milk supply you can pump more often, try a nursing tea, or talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant about the use of herbs or medications that can help to boost your supply.

Try to save some time: A hands-free pumping bra and a double pump can be great time savers. You can also try to feed your baby while you're pumping, if possible.

Think about family planning: Exclusive pumping is not the same as exclusive breastfeeding when it comes to the prevention of pregnancy. The lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) of birth control is not considered to be effective with pumping, so you will have to use another form of contraception if you do not wish to become pregnant again right away. Be sure to let your doctor know that you are exclusively pumping, though. Some forms of birth control contain estrogen, which can cause a decrease in your milk supply

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Newman, Jack, MD, Pitman, Theresa. The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. Three Rivers Press. New York. 2006.

Riordan, J., Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning.

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