Breastfeeding is an intimate bonding experience between a mother and her newborn baby. For five to six months, breast milk is the baby’s number one source of nutrients, making it very important that nursing takes place. For mothers who cannot breastfeed due to health reasons, like the pain in the breast, mastitis and swollen nipples, or even anatomical problems, like flat or inverted nips, the main solution can be pumping full time, often called exclusive pumping. This means to eschew breastfeeding and to pump all breast milk into bottles to store and feed to the baby when it’s time.
Exclusive pumping may seem easy to some, since it does involve the concept of storing milk for a later feeding, but it is a challenging task to undertake. Imagine the mental and physical stress it can cause the new mom! From finding the perfect pump to getting the letdown reflex to work without a baby latching, not to mention figuring out the perfect routine to pump, exclusive pumping can be a tall order. Here are 15 things you must know before pumping full time. Read on, and find out if exclusive pumping is the nursing method for you and your baby!
15 Monitor Your Hygiene
In these early stages of a baby’s life, breast milk is important because it is packed with all the nutrients that a baby needs. That is why when a mom is planning on pumping her breast milk full time, she needs to monitor her hygiene. Health is wealth, and in this case, it is the baby’s too, so it is important to keep clean. And we’re not just talking about simply washing one’s hands, either.
Since a mom who pumps regularly uses her breast pump a lot, she has to make sure it is regularly cleaned. Check the bottle for residue, and clean out any fluid that might have gotten on the pump flange. The breast and nipple must be kept clean at all times, too. After pumping, clean up any stray drops with a moist towelette, and wear loose-fitting clothing in case of accidental expression.
14 Encourage The “Let Down Reflex”
The “let down reflex” is what we call the urge to express milk, and it usually happens when the baby is near, and when it is time to nurse. Once a mom decides to pump full time, it can be hard to get that feeling to come naturally. That is why one has to train themselves to get their let-down reflex going. Once Mom has this reflex down, expressing milk at any given time is easy as pie!
The key to getting the letdown reflex to work is to trick the body into thinking the baby is near for feeding. Think of the baby and how it feels to hold them, or if you’re a little more visual, have a picture of the baby on hand. Smelling the baby’s towel or clothes can also trigger this reflex. And lastly, the important thing is to relax! Tension will only make letting down more difficult.
13 Follow A Good Routine
A good pumping routine has consistency, and it always depends on each woman’s special preferences. What works for one mom might not work for another, so it’s all right to try out different pumping times and see which routine fits best. Once a routine is found that works both for the mom and the baby, that’s where the consistency trick comes in! It’s a must that all things be done as similarly as possible while pumping: sit in the same chair in the same position, and pump your breasts in the same sequence as you did before.
Doing so will help train the body and mind to get ready to express milk. Once the mind recognizes and adapts to the patterns performed before pumping, the body will then follow suit and cooperate. As time passes, and once you have stuck to the same routine of pumping, it will be easier to get the maximum amount of milk out of each pumping session! And hey, once this technique is mastered, one can even easily pump at work!
12 Get A Flange That Suits You
Breasts come in all shapes and sizes. One flange of a breast pump might fit one woman perfectly, while another woman using the same size might end up having sore breasts due to the wrong fit. A flange, or a breast shield, is the part of the breast pump that cups your breast during pumping. Finding the best flange fit is the key to a great pumping session. One size DOESN'T fit all, in this case. And a bad flange cup can ruin breastfeeding and pumping forever.
Using breast pumps should never hurt, even for moms who have sensitive breasts. And, if your breast pumps are causing any pain or discomfort, it is time to STOP using it. Many issues can be attributed to using the wrong breast shield or flange. Pain and discomfort while pumping can lead to changes in your let-down reflex, eventually leading to low or no breast milk production. Nipple sensitivity and stress to the breast can damage the tissue and cause long-term damage to mommies. Keep in mind that a good fit will make the breast pumping sessions a breeze. Shop around and find your perfect fit!
11 Stay Hydrated
A nursing mom needs to stay hydrated to keep her bodily fluids in check. Once a mom is dehydrated, her milk production will be affected slowly but surely. Once this happens, thirst will kick in, and it will get difficult for the letdown reflex to take place. Pumping on demand is hard enough as it is, and dehydration can make it so much harder. And we don’t want that, do we?
Studies show that a nursing mom has to have a fluid intake of about eight to ten glasses of water a day. This is to make up for fluids lost during the pregnancy and the nursing process, and it also helps the body recuperate from the stress of pregnancy. It does not necessarily have to be water either! You can go ahead and have a healthy glass of orange juice or have some tea, as long as it keeps you hydrated.
10 Check Your Pump
Sometimes we get so busy with the process that we forget the most important part of the pumping process: the pump itself. Are all the parts of the pump in place? Are they well-attached and tightened? Does the flange fit right? These are the questions a pumping momma needs to ask herself before sitting down and getting ready to express milk. If one part is off, or if one bit is loose, chances are the pumping will not work as well, and milk might be wasted.
Now, crying over spilled milk is totally valid in this case! But let’s try to avoid that by making sure nothing is spilled in the first place. Having a secure pump that fits like a glove and works well will mean more milk and a more consistent pumping session. And as an exclusively-pumping mom, that is your goal.
9 Choose A Pump That Suits Your Needs
Just like every woman has unique needs, every pump is different. For every unique pumping need, there is a corresponding pump that can more or less serve as a solution for you. There are three major types of breast milk pumps: manual pumps, electric pumps, and battery-powered pumps. Whichever you choose, it is critical that you find the one best suited to your routine and lifestyle.
Manual pumps are attached and pumped by hand, which requires extra effort to hold the bottle attached to the pump. Electric pumps are attached to a cord or a wire that is connected to a small machine that creates a vacuum to express the milk from the breast and plugged into an outlet. Battery-powered pumps are attached sometimes with a band or are used with the hands, and they have a tiny mechanism powered by a battery attached that creates suction to get the milk. Test all three and find which one suits you best!
8 Store Milk Properly
Once you have your milk pumped, it’s vital that it be stored properly. If not, bottles of the good stuff can go to waste!What’s worse is that storing breastmilk incorrectly can be incredibly harmful to your baby. If there’s something off about the temperature, or if the bottles are not cleaned thoroughly, then it’s bye-bye to that particular serving of milk. Save yourself the hassle and keep the bottles of milk stored properly!
If you’re really in it for the long haul, invest in a large deep freezer. Once set to the optimal temperature, you can store breastmilk for up to a year in them. If you’d rather stay low-key with your storage, just your regular refrigerator will do. Room-temperature bottles of milk can still be given to the baby, but watch out if it’s been sitting for longer than four hours!
7 Find Your Support System
Pumping breast milk exclusively can be challenging, which means you need a solid support group to cheer you up and help you wind down when the going gets tough. Support can come in many forms: it can be your sisters, your partner, and even your friends. Talking about the stress and struggles of new motherhood can take a load off your chest, so do so with people you know you can trust. It will help you feel better!
Finding a support group can also aid milk production by lessening your stress. Less stress means more milk, and that is a great way to beat negative emotions. Tired of feeling lonely at work? Gather the moms at your workplace and create your very own mommy bonding circle! Wherever you are, having a supportive group of people will really help ease the stress and make you feel better about yourself.
6 Be Comfortable
No mom can pump well in a place that causes her discomfort, or causes her to feel awkward about what she’s doing. That is why it’s so important to find your “special place” for your pumping sessions. It can be a quiet room without any distractions, or at a table with all of your pumping tools ready. Hey, it can even be your very own workspace! Whichever it is, you have to make sure you are comfy enough for the letdown reflex to take over.
Once situated, grab anything that has baby’s scent on it: a towel, some clothes, or even a stuffed toy. You can even stay visual and take a look at your baby’s photo to encourage lactation! Let down will come through in a few seconds when you’re all good and relaxed. Once that happens, let the pumping begin, and let the milk flow!
5 Don’t Stress Out About Milk Production
Some moms pump more milk in a sitting, and some moms pump less. Such is the way of life. This happens because everybody is different, with different limits and boundaries. You may think that you can always pump more than you do, but that can only cause stress and negative feelings, which can slow down milk production. This effect will only make you feel worse! Produce what you can, and all will be well.
Social media can add to the stress and feelings of inadequacy when it comes to milk production, due to posts of “I produced this much today.” When it comes to making milk, one should never think of pleasing other people, or think of earning a “badge” for the number of bottles filled. What matters is if it’s all right for baby. If it’s all right for them, then it’s perfect for you.
4 Set Reasonable Goals
Just like any other task, pumping breastmilk should also be met with goals. Goals are important, because they can help result in the outcome you are trying to accomplish with your baby. Is it a goal to exclusively give baby breastmilk for the first six months? What about trying for something longer than that? These are the kinds of questions to ask when trying to set goals for pumping breastmilk.
When setting pumping goals, it’s also important to stay realistic. Let’s say you can only pump five times a day. That’s a pretty decent amount of milk for one whole day, but if you decide to set your goal to ten sessions, what was once decent will now look inadequate. This can lead to a high amount of stress. Dodge the stress and set realistic goals that you are capable of meeting.
3 Find Your “Magic Numbers”
By “magic numbers,” we mean how many times you can pump in the span of a whole day. Every woman’s body is totally different, and that is definitely the case when it comes to milk production. Some moms can easily handle pumping for up to five times before their breasts are completely drained for the day, and some can handle ten. Everybody pumps and nurses at their own speed, and that’s okay.
Whatever you can handle, it is important to find your own magic number. Test the waters and try different numbers of pumping sessions until you find the one that is most comfortable for you. And by comfortable, we mean that it fits with your body and works with your schedule. Too much pumping will lead to sore breasts, and too little will be a waste of milk. After testing different frequencies, you are sure to find your magic number!
2 Watch Your Stress Levels
Stress can cause many bodily functions to slow down or work at less optimal levels, including lactation. It can affect the production of milk by slowing down the lactation process and making the letdown reflex nearly impossible to access. It’s important to monitor your stress levels since stress can affect not just your health, but baby’s too. We know, it’s easier said than done, especially with a new baby!
High-stress levels can be avoided, or at least mitigated, by taking the time to relax and bond with baby and getting in touch with family and friends. Stress can accumulate from the workplace too, so make sure to have a solid support system at work as well. Put on some relaxing music, or have some warm tea to help you chill. Whatever your solution is, your body will surely thank you. Remember: being stressed is normal, but it’s important not to let it get the best of you!
1 Try A Morning Pump
Early morning is the golden hour for milk pumping. The reason for this? The body is fresh from sleep, and the breasts are full of milk again from resting overnight which means letting down won’t be a difficult task. It is also a good time to pump because there are little to no distractions: no noise, no other work to be done. Maybe baby will even be sleeping soundly... if you’re lucky!
Every morning is a clean slate, so try including this time into your pumping routine if you can to get the most out of your milk. It can also be a relaxing time to pump due to the lessened distractions. You can take the time to read or even knit while pumping. If you wake up early enough, you can catch the sunrise as you are pumping. Now that’s a treat for tired eyes!