Why I Switched to Exclusively Pumping and All of the Questions I Had
Exclusively pumping was not my plan for how I would feed my children. Before I became pregnant, I had no opinion whatsoever about breastfeeding. In fact, I never thought about it much, other than when I saw women breastfeeding in public. After I saw that little plus sign on the five pregnancy tests I took, I started reading books about pregnancy, parenting, and breastfeeding. I quickly learned there was much more to it than a breast and baby.
From Breastfeeding to Pumping
I successfully breastfed Sasha for six and a half weeks. She gained weight well, napped well (albeit usually on me), and slept really well at night. When she was about two weeks old, I started pumping instead of her nighttime feed in order to ensure she was eating enough before bed. She took to bottles well, never having an issue with nipple confusion.
At three weeks, I started to pump for a few minutes after her morning feed to build up a freezer stash. At four weeks, I started to pump for her morning feed. She was basically sleeping through the night and I was waking up with very full breasts.
At six and a half weeks something happened. Sasha started to refuse my breast. She would start screaming and crying and I’d have to get her a bottle. Maybe it was because the weather got hotter and I got sweatier, but she flat out refused my nipple after a minute of latching. It broke my heart the first time, but then it happened for three days in a row. I was already pumping for her first and last feed of the day. I realized we needed to make a change. Enter (almost) exclusive pumping.
What Is Exclusively Pumping?
Exclusively pumping is when a mother feeds her baby by pumping breastmilk and feeding the baby via a bottle. You do not feed via a latch to the breast, but the baby still gets their custom cocktail of nutrients.
I still planned to breastfeed occasionally, so that in an emergency I could give her the boob and not worry about her not eating. Particularly, I planned to do this if Sasha woke up in the middle of the night. My pumping schedule matched up with her feeds. I’d pump at 9AM (she usually slept through this one and ate at 11AM), 1 PM, 4 PM, 7 PM, and 10:30 PM. Sasha, who was 6 weeks old, would go to bed around 11 PM and sleep until 10:30 AM. Usually she would wake for a quick feed at 5:30 or 6 am. I know this isn’t your typical schedule, but it worked for me to put her down so late, and there is no typical schedule with a newborn.
Side note: a mom in a Facebook group once told me my schedule was abnormal. Please don’t use that language with new mothers… it’s hurtful. What works for you and your baby may not work for someone else and vice versa…
After about four days of exclusive pumping, I tried out giving her the breast during her 1 pm feeding. This was the time of day we were usually home alone. Giving her the breast was easier than finding somewhere else to put her or listening to her cry. She took it, but wouldn’t last as long before she was hungry again. This was when I started considering getting a hands-free pump.
To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out what the best pumping schedule for me is. I typically have an oversupply. I usually pump around 11 ounces in the morning, 9 ounces in the evening, and about 6-8 ounces the rest of the day. However, sometimes my 7 pm and 10:30 pm pumps produce a significantly lower amount of ounces than the rest of the day, 3-4 ounces total.
I’ve tried several things in the evening to increase my supply (after 4pm) including:
- eating before pumping
- drinking BodyArmor Lyte (or any drink with electrolytes)
- chugging water – Since having Sasha, I drink between 64 and 96 ounces of water a day!
I think before I started mainly pumping, Sasha wasn’t eating enough. She’d be irritable and fussy way earlier than she should have been hungry and she didn’t sleep well during the day. Slowly but surely, she’s staying full longer and sleeping better during the day. Now I know exactly how much she eats. Sasha eats four ounces per feed, other than her first and last feed. At 11 am I give her a five-ounce bottle, and at 10:30 pm she takes between 5 and 6 ounces so that she sleeps longer!
The supplies below are what I have been using for exlcusively pumping:
- Medela Pump in Style with Max Flow
- Elvie Pump
- Elvie Flanges in size 21 mm
- Beaugen Cushions
- Earth Mama Nipple Butter
- Pumping Bras (I have two I rotate through)
- Set of Medela Pump Supplies
- Snacks (pumping makes me SO hungry)
The Most Important Thing
The most important thing to remember about exclusively pumping is that it’s ok if it doesn’t work! It’s ok if anything doesn’t work: pumping, breastfeeding, a combination of both. As long as your baby is fed, that’s all that matters!