Mar 10 , 2021
Here at Lilu, we’re all about empowering moms to be their best and brightest selves and to feel confident with choices they make along their breastfeeding journeys.
Today we break down the pros and cons of exclusive pumping, reasons why you might go this route and other factors to consider.
It’s important to note that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feed your baby. Every mom is different and we are here to support you as best we can.
What are the benefits?
- You will always know how much milk your baby is consuming whereas, with nursing, it’s harder to tell unless you weigh them before and after feedings using a very specific scale like this one.
Pro Tip: Another way is to weigh a baby's diapers (again you need a pretty precise scale, especially to weigh unused diapers) to be able to check that they are getting enough wet and poop diapers.
- You’ll spot changes quickly and can act on them right away. For example, if your baby isn’t consuming as much milk or if your own supply is starting to drop.
Pro Tip: This same exercise can also help a mom realize what makes her supply drop; exercise, eating certain things, stress, amount of sleep, etc. So pumping definitely helps a mom get a sense of control and be able to identify what works and what doesn't.
- If nursing was a particularly painful experience for you because of biting or cracked nipples, you’ll have a smoother experience (no pun intended).
- You have more control over when you decide to wean your baby off breast milk.
- It’s a convenient and time-effective solution for many working moms returning to the office. Exclusive pumping allows these moms to be there for their babies, even when they can't physically be there, and that can be a great source of comfort.
What are the challenges?
- It’s a lot of work and a big commitment. Most exclusive pumpers need about 120 minutes (or two hours) of pumping per day and that’s not including the time it takes to bottle feed your baby the milk.
- For second or third time moms, pumping can be extra challenging when you have other little ones running around the house.
- It requires extra time and energy to clean all the bottles and pump parts. For nursing moms, there’s minimal cleanup and for formula feeding moms, you still have to clean the bottles but not the pump.
When to consider exclusive pumping
The truth is, there are so many reasons why nursing might not be the right choice for your family. Even if you nursed your first baby with no problems, that doesn’t mean that you won’t have difficulty with another baby (and vice versa).
Here are a few reasons why you might turn to exclusive pumping.
You’re having problems nursing.
Blocked ducts, milk blisters and nipple blebs are three of the most common challenges moms experience during their first month of breastfeeding. While working with a lactation consultant, is a great first step, sometimes the discomfort is too painful to work through.
Another reason why a baby feeds better by bottle might be because it was introduced to them early on and they’ve grown to prefer it over the nipple.
Your baby has a medical condition that makes it hard.
A newborn baby’s stomach is pretty darn tiny—about the size of a cherry, or a marble. By day 3, it's the size of a walnut. That’s usually not big enough for even 0.5 to 1 ounce of liquids. All this is to say that medical conditions aside, a baby’s tummy is very delicate.
You might choose to exclusively pump because your newborn has low-birthweight, was hospitalized or spent time in the NICU. There may be latch problems such as a shallow latch, pain on latch-on, breast refusal and/or inverted nipples. Your baby might have a medical condition like cleft palate that makes nursing difficult.
You’ve experienced sexual trauma.
This is rarely talked about, but should. One reason women struggle to breastfeed is because of past sexual trauma. The experience of breastfeeding can trigger unpleasant memories or sensations in the body. There’s absolutely no shame in this, and we encourage all moms to feel empowered in whatever feeding method they choose.
You are prioritizing your emotional health.
Hearing your baby scream whenever you try to nurse them can be really troubling and upsetting. It’s tough being a new mom and your emotions can feel all over the place thanks to hormonal changes and general overwhelm. Take breaks, get support and remember that you are doing an amazing job.
It’s your preference.
Sometimes ‘no reason’ is the best reason. Mommy-hood is no cake walk and there are so many factors to consider when deciding what feeding method works best for you and your baby. For some that might look like traditional breastfeeding and occasional pumping exclusively pumping, formula-only, or any combination.
A lot of Lilu Moms use our massage bra because they are balancing a full-time career and a growing family. If you have to return to work, for example, it’s not possible to breastfeed your baby every couple of hours. However, as an exclusive pumper (or part-time pumper), it makes for a smoother transition back to work.
Final Thoughts from a Lilu Mom
If you’re considering exclusive pumping, getting the right pumping equipment is key. A poorly fitting pumping bra, a low suction pump that’s not medical grade or poorly fitted flanges will make it even more challenging, so it’s worth investing in the products that work.
“For exclusively pumping moms, it becomes increasingly important to have flanges that fit correctly. Having an ill-fitting flange is a sure way to decrease your supply as it gets harder to remove milk from the breasts fully. This can lead to an increased risk of clogged ducts and mastitis (no fun).” — Maria G.
Lastly, when you pump and breastfeed, babies can develop a nipple preference, so make sure to buy bottles that allow your baby to switch back and forth between bottle and breast without fussing.
Whatever you decide, remember that pumping is breastfeeding and that you are doing what is best for your baby. After all, you as a mom knows what’s best for you, your baby and your family.