Does your baby have trouble with latching? Are you familiar with exclusive pumping? How much do you really know about breast pumping?
Exclusive pumping, or EPing, is a way of extracting breast milk with the help of a breast pump, to which your breasts are hooked up, which then collects the milk into the bottles for bottle-feeding your little one.
Every mom in this world wants the best for her child – that is a well-known fact – and when it comes to babies, moms are even more sensitive. It is their instinct to keep their babies safe and sound – keeping them in a safe place, well-fed, and loved.
Still, there are many obstacles to accomplish this goal, especially when it comes to feeding newborns.
One might think, “Well, what’s easier than feeding a newborn? All it needs is breast milk and that’s it.” Well actually, that is exactly where things might get complicated.
There are so many reasons why that is so. Not every mom is capable of breastfeeding, and for many different reasons, nursing is simply not an option.
It can be due to lactation failure, or if the mother has some infectious disease and needs to take certain medication that isn’t compatible with breastfeeding.
So, what to do in that case?
You can always use formula, right? But before you go there, there is still a way of using your breast milk. There is an option called exclusive pumping, or more commonly known as an EPing.
Before we cut to the chase, I want you to know that whatever option you choose, you’re right.
You know your baby best and no one has the right to tell you how you should feed your little one.
I know that it gets hard sometimes, especially when other moms judge you for not breastfeeding your baby.
I can’t count the number of times I heard those comments from other moms.
Other moms can advise you to do something in this or that way, and it’s always nice to hear them out, but no one has the right to tell you how you should take care of your baby.
What is exclusive pumping?
EPing is created to help the moms who are unable to nurse their babies for whatever reason, but still want them to get all the benefits that mother’s milk has to offer.
If your baby has trouble with latching or you can’t always be around your baby to breastfeed them, then exclusive pumping can save you.
You can pump milk and build a freezer stash of frozen breast milk for those times you aren’t in a position to breastfeed your baby.
This does sound easy in theory, but the practice is not that – let’s say “comfortable.” However, if you are still interested in this way of feeding your baby, keep reading.
Why exclusive pumping in the first place?
There are many reasons for feeding your baby in this way. Some are related to the physical condition of a mom or baby, while others are related to conditions of another nature.
However, all of them are equally important and we should not neglect them. With that in mind, let’s look at some of most common reasons:
– a premature baby who cannot breastfeed
– multiples (for example, twins or triplets)
– having to go back to work immediately after labor
– breastfeeding is too painful for the mom
– baby doesn’t latch properly on to the breast
The most common question by moms is: “Is it easy?”
I’m probably going to disappoint you, but the definitive answer would be: Sorry, but no.
It’s never easy because first you have to learn everything about it and get used to it.
Without any intention to freak you out, exclusive pumping is not child’s play.
It is physically exhausting, especially at the beginning, and of course, it is emotionally hard considering you had one plan on how to feed your baby, and now it has to be something completely different.
When it comes to the physical part, the first thing is, your breasts will hurt. Badly. Also, you might feel like you are hooked up to the equipment all the time since you will be pumping many times a day.
Another bad part of this is cleaning all the equipment all the time – pump bottles, other pump parts, and feeding bottles.
You HAVE to do it after every use because if you don’t, you might get mastitis, which would make it even more painful for you.
It is hard work for anyone, especially for new moms who are just getting used to their babies and learning what their baby needs.
But, even though it now sounds like mission impossible, it’s not, believe me.
Does it get easier with time?
Hey, here’s the happy part. Yes, luckily, it does.
You’ll master all you need to know and over time you’ll get used to the equipment and breast pumping.
I know that everything that you’ve read so far sounds like a horror story, but eventually it will become – well, not a rom-com, but certainly no horror.
You’ll find your own rhythm, you’ll have your own way of how to do it in the easiest way possible, and your body will get used to it.
The first time for anything is hard, so don’t feel like you will let-down your baby if you don’t get it right the first time around.
Going through the first few weeks is the challenging bit, but afterward, it’s as if you’ve done it your whole life long.
You establish your own pumping schedule, and your pumping journey comes so naturally that you began to wonder what was the big deal was at the beginning.
Remember, EPing is also a way of breastfeeding
People around you might try to convince you otherwise, or tell you that your struggle is not worth it.
So, you’re going to need encouragement to move forward to your goal, especially in those days when you are all messed up anyway, but don’t let them get to you.
No matter what anyone around you says, you are aware of the benefits of breast milk, and even if pumping it is not the gold standard, it is still a great way to give your baby breast milk.
And even if comments from those people might hurt you at the beginning of your pumping journey, when a certain amount of time passes by, you will learn to merely ignore and smile at them.
How to start?
First of all, find a place within your home where you feel the most comfortable. It can be a living room, a bedroom – even the hallway if it works for you, why not?
Or, it can be all of these.
Establish your “pumping stations” and provide each one of them with a different pump, so you don’t have to move all the equipment all the time, making it for yourself an even bigger obligation than it already is.
Also, it is important to have the right pump. In the very beginning, you’ll be able to use a hospital-grade pump at the hospital.
Later, you can use your own electric (you can go for a hands-on option or a hands free pump) or manual pump at home.
How often and for how long should I be breast pumping?
Considering the fact that newborn babies nurse on average 8 to 12 times a day, the ideal option would be to establish a pumping schedule approximately close to that.
Most experts agree that there shouldn’t be more than three hours between pumping.
It is recommended to do it every two hours, because the more often breasts are emptied, the more milk is produced.
Some mothers do it also during the nights, some don’t, and that is up to you to decide and find your comfort zone.
Also, every milk pumping session should last for at least 20 minutes in order to maintain normal milk production and create enough of a milk stash for the times you aren’t around.
Is there a way to make it easier?
At the very beginning, it is hard work and hard work only. Eventually, with the right breast pumping gear, it becomes easier.
The question here is what you can do to fast forward to the easier part.
Here are some tips from moms who have already been there and done that.
Buy a hands-free pumping bra
This is one of the best tricks you can do in order to make things easier for yourself. So what is it?
Having this type of bra will set your hands free, so you will be able to do different types of activities while pumping, such as playing with your baby, feeding him with previously pumped milk, or even surfing the net.
An electric pump really helps
Now that you are certain that EPing is a constant part of your life, consider investing in an electric pump, and an even better option is a double one.
It will cut you pumping time in half, leaving you more time to enjoy with your baby.
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The refrigerator is your friend
You don’t have to rinse all the parts of your pump every time you are done pumping. 8 to 12 times a day might drive you insane, so use the old refrigerator trick.
If the milk sachets or bottles can be in the fridge without spoiling, so can parts of the pump and bottles that have some leftover milk in it.
Simply put the pump parts into a ziplock and, voila, one less thing to worry about.
In this way, you can save a lot of time and reduce washing to once or twice a day.
By the way, you can always buy some extra pump parts, so you don’t have to wash them immediately after pumping, worrying if you will be able to use them in an hour or two.
Storing your milk
When you first start, you may find different information on how to keep your breastmilk – use this kind of storage bag, or that one, this one is more recommended than the other one, etc…
The truth is, regular food-grade freezer bags are just as good as any of those.
You don’t have to waste an unreasonable amount of money on buying special bags when these will do an equally good job.
All you have to do is to take a sharpie, label the bag with the date you pumped, and that’s it.
It is possible even during pumping, yes.
For example, you can feed your baby and pump new milk at the same time. It especially comes in handy during the nights when your little one wants to eat.
While your baby’s emptying one bottle, you can fill another one.
Also, it is good in the early mornings because you can finish these two tasks at once and climb back under the covers for a little more shut-eye.
Exclusive pumping schedules
This can also be a bit tricky when it comes to EPing.
When breastfeeding, women usually cannot measure the exact amount of milk intake their child is getting, but it somehow comes natural to know when they’ve had enough.
When giving milk from the bottle, it can be harder to tell how much your baby wants – sometimes he can drink everything from the bottle, sometimes he can give up halfway through it. It can get rather confusing.
It is easier to give your baby more than he really needs when bottle-feeding than breastfeeding, so you’ll have to establish the average amount of milk intake, and feed your baby according to that.
How much and how long you have to pump your breast milk depends on several things, and that’s why it’s hard to make a stable schedule.
However, it’s always easier if you make a schedule for yourself and stick to it.
For example, for a newborn baby, you’ll have to pump every 2-3 hours.
Also, it’s very important to pump breast milk at night because it plays a big role in establishing your milk supply.
One other thing you have to remember is that you should pump at the same time every day.
How to maintain the milk supply
As everything else related to EPing, this part is also a bit more complicated than regular breastfeeding, but as an exclusive pumper, you’ll get used to it.
Maintaining your milk supply requires a special dedication.
You have to pump on a regular basis, and force yourself to do it at nights as well (because babies certainly would).
The more often you pump, the higher milk production will be.
Also, there are some tips related to your diet that can be helpful. The first one is, as you guess, water. You have to stay hydrated in order to keep the milk coming.
There are many breastfeeding-supportive foods, herbs, and teas you can also use in order to increase your lactation.
Always include your partner in the process
You might be wondering what he can do, and of course, in the very process of exclusively pumping breast milk the answer is not much, but in the period afterward, a lot.
The process of breastfeeding is simple, a mother feeds during the day, in the middle of the night – basically, whenever the baby is hungry.
However, with the EPing, it is not like that.
When you’ve already done the work of pumping the milk and filling the fridge with it, your partner can be the one who answers your crying baby at 4 in the morning.
In this way, you are letting him bond with the baby more, but also you get to have a precious hour or two of more sleep.
This is great for you, your partner and of course, your baby.
You get the opportunity to rest a little bit, plus you allow space for your partner and baby to bond.
More freedom? You bet
Exclusive pumping means you don’t have to be in the same room as your little one all the time and trust me, it is a good thing.
The thing with breastfeeding is that the mom has to be around all the time.
But with EPing, you have enough milk stored that you can leave the house for a few hours and not have to worry that your baby will go hungry.
You can leave your baby with grandparents or a babysitter, and go shopping or have a romantic dinner with your partner once in a while, without feeling guilty.
EPing definitely does give you more flexibility and freedom than regular breastfeeding does, and consider this to be one of its great advantages.
Don’t feel guilty, no matter what happens
Not being able to breastfeed your baby was not your choice, and even if it was, you should not be feeling guilty about it.
Lots of people around you might try to make you feel that way, but don’t listen to them. We are different individuals and sometimes life just doesn’t go the way we planned it.
In the beginning, you might even blame yourself, feeling as if you failed your baby and are less of a mother for not breastfeeding him.
That is simply not true.
Think of all the effort you are investing in exclusively pumping breast milk and you’ll see it.
Yeah, you may not be tied 24/7 to your baby, but you do spend a lot of time preparing his meal and making sure he won’t be hungry when you aren’t around.
The most common myth: “You bond with your baby only if you’re breastfeeding”
Okay, it might not be the same experience, but you still spend a great amount of time holding your baby, cuddling with and caring for him.
Don’t feel like you’re missing something because you’re not.
You are still a dedicated mom who loves her baby and is doing her best to take care of him. Don’t let anyone – and I mean anyone – try to convince you otherwise.
It’s okay to get tired sometimes, we all do
You, out of all people, know your boundaries the best.
So don’t force yourself to do exclusive pumping if you feel like you can’t do it anymore. It maybe worked for half a year, maybe for three months.
We are all different, and that is the beauty of it. Don’t compare yourself to anyone.
You will always know that you did your personal best and that you still love your baby more than anything in this world.
Sometimes life won’t let you dedicate the same amount of time to pumping as it was in the beginning, and that’s okay.
Sometimes you will feel like you can’t do it anymore, and that’s okay as well.
If you’re worried that you aren’t doing it right, if you can’t pump enough milk in your pumping sessions, or you have any other questions about exclusive pumping, you can always call a lactation consultant or midwife and ask them for advice.
Breast milk feeding is one of the best options for your baby, but also for you.
That way your daily schedule will be a lot more organized and you’ll have time for everything.
I know that it’s painful sometimes and that you need to get used to it, but it’s totally worth it. Just don’t give up and hang in there.
No matter what you think, I’m sure you’re doing it right.
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