So…breast feeding is not going as planned, and you have decided that your last ditch effort is to get to know your breast pump intimately and embark on a journey a lot of new moms would never, ever attempt. You are choosing to Exclusively Pump in order to feed your baby. I applaud you, because I chose this too, and I will be completely honest with you by saying that it is not a walk in the park. In fact, most of the time it’s painful, inconvenient, and stressful. And even with all your hard pumping work, 2 hours per day, your supply will most likely not be able to keep up with baby’s growing appetite, which will force you to sometimes supplement with (gasp!) formula. Are you still in? Great! Here are some tips to help you succeed as an “Exclusively Pumping Sometime Supplementing” Momma (or EPSS for short):
- Set-up camp somewhere comfortable and convenient – Since you will be pumping several times per day, it’s important to set up your pumping station to best suit your needs. I have two kiddos, so I set up in the TV/toy room, that way, they can play or watch a show while I pump. I am with them while I’m pumping, so I can join in on the fun too. Plus, they are in arms-reach just in case something happens.
- Rinse pump parts throughout the day, and only wash at night – This changed my life. I was washing parts after every pumping session, and not only was it time-consuming, but my hands were cracked and dry! A great way to keep things simple and sanitary, is to keep the parts in the fridge in between sessions during the day, and thoroughly wash the parts after your last pumping session of the day.
- Choose (un-mixed) formula when on-the-go – If you are EPSS, you might alternate between formula and breast milk depending on the situation (how long the milk will be out without refrigeration, how likely baby is to finish the bottle, etc.). I find that powdered formula and room temp water are best to pack for outings that have an uncertain timeline. I feel worse about wasting breast milk than I do about wasting formula, you know? I like to pack a small (easy to pour) container with pre-measured powder, and a bottle with lukewarm to room temp water secured with a nipple and bottle cap. Easy to mix, and I am not going out of my way to buy “travel size” formula packets.
- Pump as often as you can, but don’t let your life revolve around it – This is a constant struggle for me. I try to pump every 2-3 hours, but realistically, it’s more like every 3-4 hours, and sometimes even going on 5 hours. I know, it’s not good for my supply, but with two kids and a jam-packed schedule, it’s life. If I have a spotty pumping day, I try to make up for it the next day with extra sessions.
- Reserve stationery activities to do with your kid(s) during pumping sessions – This is a biggie, especially if you have other children who may become resentful of your pumping schedule. Since my station is in the TV/toy area of our home, I can easily access puzzles, books, baby’s toys, and the remote when needed. My older son understands that I cannot really do much attached to the pump, but he is happy to have my undivided attention during those 30 minute stretches. Sometimes I hold off letting him watch a show until it’s time to pump, that way, we can do something more constructive together after.
- Invest (if you can) in a quality pump and accessories – Whether you rent or buy, choose a quality electric pump. I purchased a Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump after I had my first son (nearly 4 years ago), and it still works great! I did, however, purchase new pump accessories (tubes, membranes, and flanges) when I had the new baby — just to be safe. If you are committing to the EPSS lifestyle, you MUST purchase a pumping bra! It saves time, and gives you freedom to play with your kids…or draft blog articles for cool moms to read 😉
- Take care of your pump and accessories – You have a long 12 months of pumping to go, and taking care of your equipment is vital. Wash your parts daily, sanitize your parts in boiling water monthly, and be sure to wash your pumping bra too. Think your pump is starting to slow down on you? You might only need to purchase new membranes for better suction!
- Do NOT “pump and dump” – For Pete’s sake, have yourself a drink but don’t pump and dump! Save that liquid gold! Studies show that even if you’ve refilled your glass a few times, there is very, very little alcohol in your milk—and very little ingested by your baby. I am not saying to chug a beer while you are pumping, but there is no need to dump your milk after a night out. Look it up.
- Boost your milk supply – Take Fenugreek (I take 4 capsules, 3 times a day), drink Mother’s Milk tea, eat foods that boost breast milk production, and drink lots of water! It may take a week or so to see an increase, so be patient. However, in some cases, a doctor may prescribe something to boost your supply, so be sure to consult your physician if the above tips don’t work for you.
- RELAX – This is a biggie! You will have a harder time EP if you are stressed. When I first started pumping, I would get frustrated because it would take 20 minutes for my initial let-down to come! 20 minutes! I researched, and spoke to my wise Mommy Friends, and was told to RELAX while pumping. They were right. Once I got into a pattern of relaxing, not watching the clock, and thinking about the awesome thing I am doing for my baby, I would get the first let-down within minutes, and a second let-down about 15-20 minutes later.
Listen, Exclusively Pumping is not for everyone. There have been so many moments when I felt like throwing in the pumping bra, and calling it a day. Remember: Don’t beat yourself up! What you are doing sucks hard, but it is AMAZINGLY selfless, and your children will thank you one day (well, maybe they won’t, but they should!) And if you decide that EP is not for you, that’s fine too! As long as you are feeding your baby, you are doing the right thing. Hang in there, Mommas! <3