Jacque Ordner BSN, RN, IBCLC
Exclusive pumping or EP, as it is often referred to, is a term for providing breastmilk via expression rather than direct nursing. Many mothers choose to exclusively pump for a multitude of reasons. Most often, moms turn to EP because of latching or nursing difficulties which could include latching pain, milk transfer struggles, and weight gain concerns. Often, these difficulties are a result of NICU stays or medical obstacles. Other mothers choose exclusive pumping because it fits their lifestyle and goals best. Whatever the reason……PUMPING IS BREASTFEEDING! If you’re considering EP, this guide can help you get off to a great start!
Can I really make enough? Yes, you can! It’s a myth that exclusive pumpers can’t make a full milk supply like their nursing counterparts. In fact, many exclusive pumpers make MORE than enough milk for their babies. Check out our recommendations below on how often and for how long to pump. We also highly recommend reading up on Paced Bottle Feeding. This feeding technique is essential for helping baby have more control of feedings and avoiding overfeeding. HERE is a link to our blog all about Paced Bottle Feeding. Babies take an average of 25oz of breastmilk per day from ages 1-6 months old. Typical pumping output for EP moms is 2-4 oz every 2-3 hours.
Get to know your pump. Having a high quality, hospital strength, double, electric breast pump is a must! We highly recommend our S1 and S2 models as they provide loads of customization, durability, and up to 270mmhg of suction. The S9+ is a fantastic model for on the go or as a “travel pump”. It weighs only 0.5 pounds and provides up to 260mmhg of suction. No matter which pump you choose, it’s important to know the recommended settings, how to sterilize and clean the accessories, and which parts might need to be replaced at regular intervals. You can find all this information and more in our Spectra Baby USA Learning Library and Mama Blog. You can even get personalized assistance, when getting to know your pump, by scheduling a free consultation with a Spectra IBCLC!
How often and how long should I pump? If you’re pumping from the start, we recommend 8-12 sessions, of 15-20 minutes each, every 24 hours. Research tells us that new mothers need at least 120 minutes of good quality nipple/breast stimulation per day to establish and maintain a full milk supply. Most moms pump every 2-3 hours during the day and every 3-4 hours at night. Prolactin levels peak during our deep sleep hours, so don’t miss those middle of the night pumps! Frequently draining your breasts is key when building a supply. Full breasts result in the buildup of a polypeptide known as Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation (FIL). FIL does just what its name says and tells your breasts to slow down production if your breasts remain full too long. As time goes by and your supply becomes more established, you will very likely be able to reduce pumping sessions.
Check your flange size. This topic gets a lot of traffic on social media, and for good reason! Having the right flange size means more comfortable and efficient pumping. Don’t suffer through weeks of pumping pain…..reach out! Our International Board Certified Lactation Consultants can help with sizing for free! Check out our printable flange sizing guide and flange sizing blog post. We recommend waiting until after about 2 weeks postpartum to get sized.
Set small goals. Though your overall goal may be to pump until baby is at least one, setting smaller sub-goals can be super motivating! Your first goal might be to EP for two weeks, then 1 month, then 3 months, then 6 months, and so on. Every time you hit a goal, CELEBRATE!!! You’re giving your baby an amazing gift and that absolutely deserves a bit of fanfare!
Make it easier. Hands free bras, all in one collection and feeding systems, tracker apps, extra pump parts, the Pitcher Method, and more can make the pump life easier. Think about the most time consuming and inconvenient parts of pumping and consider ways to streamline. Connect with other EP moms for tips and hacks that can reduce frustration and time spent.
Make a plan for storing milk. The CDC has a printable handout listing the general milk storage recommendations. We highly recommend printing it out and keeping it handy! It’s also important to store milk in useable portion sizes. Storing milk in 2oz and 3 oz portions often works well. Consider how you will rotate your stash. Many moms pump and refrigerate milk for the next day’s feedings while others pump and freeze milk while pulling from their oldest freezer stash.
Connect with other EP moms! Exclusively pumping is tough, and having the right support can greatly influence your success! Consider finding an IBCLC to help customize a pumping plan and to provide guidance for any obstacles you make face. It’s 100% okay to vet your support system. Ask potential IBCLC’s if they have experience supporting exclusive pumpers. If a lactation or healthcare professional doesn’t seem supportive of your EP journey, switch to a new provider who does. Connecting with other EP moms is also essential. Look for local exclusive pumper support groups and consider joining our Exclusively Pumping SpectraMoms! Facebook group for tips, hacks, and tons of support.
Exclusive pumping is an amazing gift for your little one! We know that EP moms face unique challenges and we salute you!!!! If you’re looking for help with pumping or just need a few words of encouragement along your journey, we’re here for you! Schedule a free pumping consultation with one of our Spectra IBCLCs HERE.
Bonyata, K. (2018, January 02). Exclusive Pumping • KellyMom.com. Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://kellymom.com/mother2mother/exclusive-pumping/
Bonyata, K. (2018, January 16). I’m not pumping enough milk. What can I do? • KellyMom.com. Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://kellymom.com/hot-topics/pumping_decrease/
Lawrence, R. A., & Lawrence, R. M. (2016). Breastfeeding: A guide for the medical profession. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.
Mohrbacher, N. (2012, November 27). How Much Milk Should You Expect to Pump? Retrieved July 27, 2020, from http://www.nancymohrbacher.com/articles/2012/11/27/how-much-milk-should-you-expect-to-pump.html