Never in a million years did I expect to sit down and write a blog post about exclusively breast pumping, but here I am. Nor did I expect that it was a path I would take. My plan was always to have a healthy baby, and nurse the first year. But, my baby had different plans.
She didn’t nurse well at the hospital but they sent us home with optimism that all would be well. Until Penny wasn’t gaining weight properly. The pediatrician wanted to try an experiment. She told me to pump my milk and feed it to her for three days and come back. She gained weight. After that, Penny had even less interest in nursing. This is not to start a conversation about breast milk versus formula. But I had always intended to give my baby breast milk so, after weeks of trying (and failing) to get her to nurse, I switched to pumping exclusively.
Was it easy? Heck no. I had to mourn the loss of being able to nurse. Also, exclusively pumping is hard. It is exhausting. It’s tricky. It is time-consuming. And sometimes it is even funny. (Like when your intern walks in on you at work.)
But to me, it was worth it and here are 10 tips on how I made exclusively pumping easier.
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8 Tips to Make Exclusively Pumping Easier
1.) Set a schedule.
In the beginning, you need to pump every two hours to get your milk supply up and keep it up. I had such a low supply I actually kept this schedule up well past six months. Everybody is different so there is no set schedule that will work for everyone. But your milk should be established after a few months to sleep through the night!
Once I set a schedule, it seemed a lot easier. I’d pump at 5:30 am (GAH!) 7:30 am…and so on and so forth until I pumped one last time until bed.
Every few months I’d drop a pumping schedule and increase my time to keep my supply up. But just knowing when I was supposed to pump (and that it was OK to go past it sometimes…) helped relieve some of the unknown.
2.) Use a car charger to pump in the car.
Some people I know pump in the car while driving. While I’m not sure I can recommend that from a safety perspective, you can EASILY pump as a passenger with a car plug adapter. If you’re using a hands-free pump then you can just skip this step, otherwise, let me tell you what a lifesaver it was!
I pumped in the car driving to New York and Pennsylvania to visit our families. I also pumped in the car right before and after weddings, church, and shopping trips. Although you are tethered to a machine, you don’t have to be tethered to your house.
I’d also invest in a few breast milk wipes to clean your parts while on the road. I also bought a cooler bag to keep my pump parts in, especially when driving 9 hours to Buffalo from Washington, D.C.
3.) Let go of your fear of making other people feel awkward.
It’s as important to talk about the emotional side as it is your practical side with pumping. Sometimes I didn’t want to pump because people were around. However, that quickly went out the door when I had a baby to feed.
I’ve had to pump in bathrooms sometimes and had to deal with weird looks from women. I also had to pump at work and had an intern bust in on my office without knocking. While I was embarrassed for about 10 seconds, I’m pretty sure he was embarrassed a lot longer.
Pumping covers can help you feel more comfortable. Just remember – you’re doing your best for your baby and motherhood is messy sometimes!
4.) Find a good support group.
It’s natural for people to question why you are choosing to exclusively pump. As I said, it’s time-consuming, exhausting, and a lot of work. Mixing together a bottle is a lot easier. But if you’re choosing to pump be proud of your choice. Find people who can support you, give you tips, or just cheer you on. Feel free to email me even if you ever need encouragement!
You’ll be amazed at how much encouragement and support can help you stick with it. You’ve got this.
5.) Use your time productively.
It is easy to open social media and scan while pumping. But honestly, that is not the best use of our time. If you have a hands-free pump you can even walk around the house and get a few chores done. (Some of you are like – yay?)
Since I used an electric pump I used that time to do my devotions, work on blog posts, read the news, or watch online courses. I got some much done during my pumping sessions. Of course, an occasional Instagram scroll session is quite all right too.
6.) Increase Your Supply
I tried all the pills, Gatorade, and cookies. To be honest, changing up your pumping schedule will work way better than any of those. Make sure to eat plenty of calories and drink plenty of water. Besides that, try adding in a “power pump” once a day. A power pump is where you pump for 20 minutes on, 10 minutes off, and so forth for an hour. It works!
You could also try increasing your pumping time. You usually want to go about 5 minutes after you see the last drop to increase your milk. Another trick (TMI ALERT) is to massage your “parts” right before pumping.
7.) Treat clogged ducts right away.
Exclusively pumping can be painful to start – and so can getting clogged ducts! My absolutely best trick is to take an Epsom salt bath and make sure you are – let’s just say – fully emerged! While in the tub and fully covered in water, you can also massage and express some milk to break up the clog. I am telling you – this is the only thing that worked for me. Plus, soaking in Epsom salts helps calm your mind and body.
8.) Make cleanup easier.
It can be very time consuming to wash your parts after each pumping session. What I learned early on was to wipe them down with either breast milk wipes or just a paper towel. I then put them in a ziplock bag or container, and keep in the fridge all day. I washed my parts at the end of each day. Easy Breezy.
Have you exclusively pumped or are you currently? What are your best tips? We’d love to know!