Apr 21 , 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're covering a few tips and tools to make your exclusive pumping journey a success.
What is exclusive pumping?
When a mom chooses to exclusively pump, this means that she’s feeding her baby breastmilk that she expresses or pumps, rather than milk directly at/from the breast. Remember that pumping is still nursing, as your baby is still getting all that nutrient-dense breast milk, via bottle, nasogastric (NG) tube or other means.
Why would moms choose to exclusively pump?
We detailed the benefits and challenges of exclusive pumping in a recent post, but here’s a recap:
Moms often choose to exclusively breast pump because of the baby more so than because they prefer it. For example, some babies aren't able to nurse because of medical conditions, or they may spend time in the NICU or even develop a nipple preference. For other moms, they choose to exclusively pump because they are experiencing pain due to biting or cracked nipples.
For working moms returning to the office, exclusive pumping can be a convenient and time-effective solution in that exclusive pumping allows moms to be there for their babies, even when they can't physically be there. That can be a great source of comfort, especially when the mom doesn't feel like she's ready to leave her baby just yet.
Exclusive pumping moms find it easier to know just how much milk their baby is consuming. They can also spot changes more quickly and 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.
The main challenges of exclusively pumping is the amount of time and energy it requires. To say it’s a big commitment is a bit of an understatement. 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 or to clean up after.
What are some best practices?
What works for one mom may or may not work for another, so take our advice with a grain of salt. If you’re interested to read a first-hand account of a mom who exclusively pumps, check out our recent blog feature.
Set up ‘pump stations’
Whether we like it or not, environment is important in almost everything that we do, and this includes exclusive pumping. Consider where you might want to pump, whether it be in your bedroom, in your living room, in your car, or all three.
Try to have equipment for each station so you won’t have to carry equipment from room to room. Of course, if this is not financially feasible, consider investing in a pump bag that offers many compartments so that you can stay well organized. That said, remember that most health insurances cover one pump per baby. So second-time moms can get a new one even when their pump from their first baby still works perfectly.
Some moms keep a pump at home and another at their office. Bigger and heavier pumps are more difficult to carry around (many Lilu moms really like Spectra), while smaller pumps are easier to take with you to work or just carry with you when you are out and about (think Medela Flex or Baby Buddha).
Ask for, and accept help
Even though we know you can do it all, Mamma, don’t be shy to ask for help, especially if it’s readily available to you. If you have a partner or other family member living with you, consider giving them feeding duty during the nights or whenever they want to feed the baby, so you can get some much-needed shut eye.
Take advantage of tools and tech
Help can also come in the form of pumping equipment and techniques. The Lilu Gen 2 makes breast pumping more efficient and productive by massaging your breasts automatically. On average, moms who pumped with the Lilu Massage Bra saw 30%-55% more milk per session.
For moms who don't react well to pumps, the Lilu can be a lifesaver because it gives them the extra stimuli to help them empty their breast fully and be able to both avoid clogged ducts and mastitis, and be able to produce more milk.
It's common for moms who exclusively pump and who have not breastfed before to continually feel their breasts become engorged or enlarged. This is because their pumps sometimes can't get all the milk out, which then leads to problems like clogged ducts and discomfort.
Pumping, like breastfeeding, should be comfortable. So it is important to check flange size, the correct pump (which can be different person to person) and massage, either by hand or with the Lilu Massage Bra.
Some moms swear by power pumping, a technique that mimics your baby’s natural feeding cycle with a breast pump. Our bodies produce breast milk on a supply-and-demand basis and when you empty your breasts more frequently, your body works to produce more milk. Power pumping is a way of doing this with a breast pump rather than through breastfeeding.
See bottle time as bonding time
Exclusive pumping requires a lot of diligence and structure, but that doesn't mean you can’t turn it into fun, too. Feeding your baby by bottle is a great opportunity to bond with them, and for the other caretaker(s), too. After all, you are still nourishing your little one, holding them in your arms. Quality time and cuddles are so important for building that mom-baby connection.
A note about bottles. Some pumping moms keep thinking or asking themselves if they are making enough milk. What constitutes "enough" varies from person to person and baby to baby. So, when asking yourself if you are or are not making enough milk, consider if your baby is having enough wet and poopy diapers.
Breastmilk, contrary to formula, does not have to be increased over time and babies who are bottle fed usually eat faster than breastfed babies because it's easier to drink from a bottle than the breast. If your baby is reaching all of their growth milestones, you're making enough milk.
However, if they seem fussy and still hungry after a feed, make sure that the bottle they're drinking from isn't just dumping all the milk into their mouth before they get a chance to feel full. You can also explore paced feeding options (especially if they get gassy or spit up a lot after feedings). This video is a helpful resource.
Success is not defined by starting and stopping
What we mean here is that don’t see yourself as a failure if you give it your all and it still isn’t working. There might be a time when you return to breastfeeding or when you decide to supplement with formula. You may choose to do a combination of pumping and formula, or pumping and breastfeeding.
If it's painful or taking an emotional or physical toll on you, formula is a great option. One Lilu mom told us how she bought formula when she was exclusively pumping—she never ended up using it—but it gave her enough room to feel like if there wasn't enough milk one day, if her milk went bad or if her pump broke, her baby would still have food.