Pumping breast milk is a relatively simple concept, and many breastfeeding mothers will pump their breast milk at some point in order to build a supply for when they are away from their baby. Breast pumping involves expressing milk from a lactating woman’s breasts through a manual or an automatic pump.
So what does pumping breast milk exclusively or exclusive pumping mean? Pumping breast milk exclusively is when a lactating mother is not nursing her baby at all, but instead pumps her breast milk and bottles feeds it to her baby for every feeding.
Reasons for Pumping Breast Milk Exclusively
One might ask, why would anyone want to pump breast milk exclusively? The answer is that most women do not start out their breastfeeding journey wanting to pump exclusively. Most of the time a mother still wishes for her baby to receive the benefits of breast milk, but is unable to nurse or decides not to nurse for many reasons. Some common reasons are listed below:
- There may be circumstances where the baby is away from the mother for long periods of time, such as long hospitalizations or returning to work, resulting in the baby being forced to take breast milk from a bottle.
- Difficulties with latching on- this may happen due to problems with the baby’s palate or tongue, the mother may have inverted for flat nipples, Premies also tend to have more difficulty creating a sufficient latch.
- Bottle Preference- Some babies who are given a bottle start to refuse the breast because they develop preference for the bottle. It is recommended by most doctors and lactation consultants not to give a baby a bottle or pacifier for the first couple weeks if the mother is intending to breastfeed exclusively. However, that can be easier said than done sometimes.
- Some mothers may simply choose this form of feeding because they want to know exactly how much milk the baby is drinking or for other personal reasons.
Challenges of Pumping exclusively
Pumping breast milk exclusively can be a very daunting process, because of how the body makes and produces milk. Breast milk is replenished based off of a supply and demand concept. A mother who is breastfeeding exclusively on demand should “theoretically” always produce enough to keep the baby full and happy. (That is not always the case though, because some mothers have problems with supply even when they are breastfeeding on demand) With that being said, the best way to keep up supply when pumping exclusively is to follow a typically newborn feeding schedule and pump every 2 to 3 hours for about 15 to 25 minutes a session for the first few weeks.
- Even though most mothers of newborns are up every 2 to 3 hours to feed their baby anyway, most moms either nurse the baby or give the baby a bottle of formula and go back to sleep. If a mother is pumping exclusively, she has to feed the baby at this frequent intervals and she also has to pump just as frequently or almost as frequently. Most literature available suggests that a mother’s breast milk production is “set” somewhere between 10-12 weeks. After this time, it is safer to go longer in between pumping sessions to avoid the risk of a large drop in milk supply. Sadly though, some mothers are unable to produce enough breast milk to meet the needs of their baby no matter how often they pump, or what they do.
- Another draw back to pumping exclusively, is that there most pumps on the market can not empty the milk from a mother’s breasts as efficiently as a successfully nursing baby. However, this point is pretty much irrelevant if you have a baby that does not latch well or refuses the breast.
- Pumping can also be more difficult to do in public than nursing due to the set up of the equipment. This can make social events more challenging as you have to plan accordingly. There are products on the market that can make public pumping easier though.
- Also, an unfortunate reality for the mothers that are pumping exclusively is that there is much less information and support available to them as there is for mothers who are nursing or formula feeding. Hopefully this will change in the future.
Benefits of Pumping Breast Milk Exclusively
After reading all the challenges of pumping exclusively, you might be asking is it even worth it to try? While I can not answer that question for you as everyone has a different situation and set of circumstances, I can offer you some benefits of exclusive pumping.
- The most obvious benefit is the benefit of breast milk itself, which is enough for many mothers to give it a try. Although formula has come a long way, and there are many different options available, there is no denying that there is just nothing comparable to breast milk.
- Many moms love the idea of being able to keep track of exactly how much milk the baby is taking in at each feeding and throughout the day, especially if they are struggling with weight gain. Moms who are nursing are not able to keep track of milk intake as easily.
- Having help with feedings is another huge advantage to pumping that strictly nursing mothers will never be able to benefit from. When there is a storage of breast milk in the fridge and the baby needs to be fed, anyone responsible enough to feed the baby can do it! That is a fabulous benefit!
- You can and should eat more calories than a mother who is formula feeding in order to keep up with the demands of your body and your baby’s needs.
- Some mothers actually produce more breast milk than their baby needs and are easily able to build up a freezer stock to use later.
- By the time a mother goes back to work after pumping exclusively for weeks, she will be very efficient and comfortable, so pumping at work should be much easier.
- Pumping is more flexible than nursing, because if you have some extra supply in the fridge, you can space your pumping sessions out differently or skip sessions if needed. You just do not have that flexibility if you are nursing exclusively, you kind of have to nurse when the baby is hungry.
How to Make Exclusively Pumping Easier
There are some things you can do to make exclusively pumping easier.
- Make sure you have a high quality automatic double breast pump.
- Make sure you are drinking enough water and taking in enough calories. It is suggested to drink at least half your body weight in water, and to take in an additional 300-500 calories per day.
- Invest in a hand free pumping bra!! They are lifesavers!!
- Make sure you are using the correct size flange for your breasts.
- Invest in a nursing cover in case the unexpected guest drops by during a pumping session.
- Look into a hand free portable pump or collection system to work with your regular pump for when you are on the go or have to pump in the car.
- Develop a storage system for breast milk that works for you.
- Have more than one set of flanges and collection systems or bottles.
- Find and get involved in a support system for exclusively breast pumping moms. Moms and other family members and friends who do not pump exclusively can be very supportive but they do not fully understand the struggles you are dealing with.
A Fed Baby is a Happy Baby
I hope that you have a better understanding of what pumping breast milk exclusively is and some struggles and benefits you may encounter while doing so. Just remember that how any mother decides to feed her baby is a very personal decision and there are most likely many factors involved. As long as a baby is fed, by whatever means, that is what is important. In closing do whatever you feel is best for you and your baby and do not let anyone make you feel bad about your decision! If you have any questions regarding pumping exclusively or pumping in general feel free to ask!!