There’s the assumption that you have to nurse your baby to nurture and bond.
This destroyed me at first. But then I realized that you can and you will bond with your baby in SO many ways. How you choose to feed your children is totally up to you and your preference. Nursing, pumping, donor milk, formula… These all provide nutrients that nourish your children. I just had to put this out there before I begin my post. It’s so important for all new mothers to understand. I went through periods of guilt for absolutely NO reason because I felt that things were needed to be done a certain way. Follow your instincts, mama. Mine was to exclusively pump and that worked best for us.
I made it 7 months of exclusively pumping for my daughter.
It was an incredibly tough but rewarding journey. I’m here to share my experience with you and share some of my tips that helped me get as far as I did.
My daughter had a tongue tie and wasn’t able to latch, but we practiced the motions of nursing while in the hospital anyways. While at the hospital, I used the hospital pump (yes, they have pumps!) to help my milk to come in (it took me about 3-4 days postpartum for my milk to come in). *Tip: my hospital had hand pumps and extra pump parts that you can take home, so double check with your hospital before leaving!
While my milk came in, we supplemented with formula.
Formula saved us while I was trying to increase my milk supply. When my daughter was a few weeks old, we took her in to the pediatrician to get her tongue tie corrected. We tried giving nursing another go, but it became stressful for the both of us. I was already pumping every 2-3 hours a day and was getting used to it, so I decided to just keep going. My husband was doing the late night feedings while I was pumping, so it just worked out for us.
It was hard.
I felt like giving up many times, but the mom-strength was something unexplainable that helped me keep going. Support from my husband helped me so much too. Having him help with feedings was great bonding time for him! He actually really loved feeding her. We loved knowing how much she was eating. It was helpful to gauge how many ounces she ate a day so that we can freeze the extra milk.
Here are my tips I learned during my exclusively pumping journey.
If you are on the same road and decided to exclusively pump, I hope these tips help you out!
Pump every 2-3 hours in the first month.
Pump for at least 15-20 minutes on each breast. This will encourage milk flow and regulate your production.
Don’t skip the middle of the night (MOTN) pump session.
I pumped the most milk in the middle of the night. I also bought A LOT of random stuff on Amazon during my middle of the night sessions lol. I called it “Prime and Pumping” to my husband. Sometimes I bought the most random stuff, so proceed very cautiously!
Invest in reusable breast pads.
I loved these breast pads, they were great while I was establishing my milk supply. I didn’t stop leaking until the 4-5 month mark. I loved these because they never soaked through or felt uncomfortable and I was able to reuse them!
Find the best breast pump that fits your needs.
I tried the Medela In Style, Willow, and Spectra S1. I ended up loving the Spectra S1 the most because it was hands free and wireless. I stuck with the Spectra S1 most of my exclusively pumping journey. I liked that you can convert bottles and parts from Medela (found at most stores like Target or Walmart) to the Spectra. I took this pump everywhere I went! To work, to target, to restaurants. My Spectra became my best friend.
Check with your insurance if breast pumps are covered.
Mine was covered through my insurance and I used Aeroflow Breastpumps. They were amazing to work with. They will also check with your insurance and periodically send new pump parts.
Find a good pumping bra.
This one is so important! I liked wearing nursing/pumping bras all day so I didn’t have to switch my bras. I’ve linked my favorites at the end of the post!
Nourish your body with good food and lots of fluids.
Your body is working double so fill your body with good nutrients. Foods that helped produce a more milk were coconut water, oatmeal, protein and rice.
Listen to your body.
If your breasts feel full, you will need to empty them. If you’re on the go, a hand pump is super handy for this. I always carried a small hand pump in my car. If you don’t empty your breasts, you can end up getting clogs that can lead to mastitis (believe me, it’s the worst feeling ever)
Use pumping time for “me time”.
Shopping on Amazon (lol), reading a book, catching up on YouTube videos, etc. This will help time go by faster and you will end up enjoying the alone time.
Clean your parts regularly.
I loved the Medela no scrub soap. Disinfect them once a week by washing them on the top rack in the dishwasher.
The refrigerator hack.
After I finished pumping, I would put all the parts in a zipper wet bag (this one linked is so cute and discreet) and store them immediately in the fridge until the next use. At the end of the day, I would wash the parts thoroughly and have them clean and ready for the next day. Please note that this method isn’t recommended by the CDC. They recommend cleaning your parts as soon as possible after every use. If you would rather follow CDC guidelines, I would recommend buying additional sets of pumping parts to switch out. The fridge hack worked for me and my schedule and I believe it helped me stretch my pumping journey. Use it with caution, though. Only YOU know what is best for you and your baby.
Pump into the bottles that you feed your baby with.
With the Spectra pump, the Avent bottles fit perfectly. I had lots of Medela bottles too, so I purchased converters that allowed me to use the Spectra pump and Avent nipples on them. It was a lifesaver.
Freeze your extra milk in storage bags laying down flat.
Freezing your milk in your storage bags laying down flat helps maximize storage space. I recommend these Baby Nova bags from Target. I’ve used several brands and these were the best.
Join a “exclusively pumping” Facebook group.
And follow the @exclusive_pumping Instagram account. You will learn that you are not alone and that there are thousands of other moms out there who are doing the same! I learned so many of these tips above from experience and from other moms in that group.
To all my fellow mamas: you are the sh*t.
If you decide to nurse, pump, use donor milk, or formula feed (and everything else you do as a parent). Screw the mom guilt! Love isn’t measured by ounces. Don’t let those picture perfect Instagram posts make you feel that you have to do things a certain way. I learned this early in my mama journey and I’m sure there are so many more things I’ll continue to learn as a mama.