Well y’all, I have never been asked so many specific questions about something before! I realized over the last 4 months as I have casually mentioned I exclusively pump to feed Rory that it’s not so simple and (in some cases) something other mommies didn’t know was okay to talk about. I am the #1 advocate for FEED YOUR BABY. Breast fed, bottle fed, formula… whatever you do… do it and do it proudly. You, momma, are a rockstar. You grew a human inside you, brought that human into this world, and work tirelessly to keep that human alive all day… Like, woah. You’re amazing.
With this all said, I rounded up the most asked questions I have received about exclusively pumping to hopefully help some of you with your own feeding journey. For starters, I have been an exclusive breast feeder, hybrid, and now exclusive pumper. I have pretty much done it all, and I am an open book about it. With Knox, I had to FIGHT for a supply and was exclusively breast feeding for the first two months. But, we just weren’t getting enough for him so I started adding formula to the mix with bottles at night and eventually adding a scoop or two to his breast milk as I weaned off of breast feeding. We did breast milk until almost a year with Knox, but about 4 months of it was pumping.
Why do you exclusively pump?
First, having breast milk on hand and doing bottles in addition to feeding has worked really well for us. It’s allowed Paul the ability to help with night feedings for both boys, and allowed us to really carry the burden equally together so we could both get sleep and take turns. We are both entrepreneurs and business owners, so we a. work non-stop jobs but also b. have the flexibility to take turns.
My plan with Rory was to breast feed again and hopefully with fattier milk to be able to avoid formula for as long as possible. To be super honest, though, I really don’t like breast feeding. *gasp* I don’t feel like I need it to feel connected to them, and in fact enjoy seeing their face better with the bottle. So when Rory ended up in the NICU the whole first week of life, starting night 1, I had to start exclusively pumping almost immediately. When you have a baby in the NICU, the nurses pretty much tell you to go home… I slept with Rory the first night but caught on they didn’t want me there as much as I was, and they had their reasons for it. I tried honoring their request as much as possible… but still went up for hours every day. Having a baby in the NICU is just freaking hard.
That said, I had 1. to pump milk to bring up to them to feed Rory with for when I wasn’t present to breast feed and 2. had a HECKUFA supply. I nearly lost all my baby weight that first week because I was pumping 90-100+ oz a day, y’all. [Random fact: 22 calories an ounce is what you burn]. Both a blessing and a curse, to be honest. By the time we brought Rory home, he was so well-trained on the bottle and I didn’t feel like fighting to breast feed, so I just ran with exclusively pumping!
How do you establish a supply?
As somebody who had a very difficult time with supply the first time around, I do really feel like I have something for you to try due to the STARK contrast of supply my second time around. I started pumping at 37 weeks, and began getting colostrum almost immediately in small doses. Then at 38.5 weeks I started eating MiracleMilkookies a few times a week. I believe I had 5 by the time I delivered, and my supply was already almost FULLY in by night 1 with Rory. I was pumping 8-10 oz. of COLOSTRUM y’all. All my nurses who came in were baffled by it.
Because I was getting SO MUCH MILK a day (normal pumping is like… maybe 25-40 oz. a day – I was consistently doing on average 100), it was only a matter of time until I got mastitis. And, boy, I got it BAD. My left side was nearly completely shot dry. I was getting maybe 3 oz. a day all of a sudden while my right side was still producing as normal. After a few weeks of pumping/or keeping the Haakaa on what felt like ALL DAY LONG to get anything I could, my supply started to build back up. But, it hasn’t returned to my original supply amount (but I am actually thankful for that).
How Often Do You Pump?
At first, every 3 hours 24/7. If I went too long after letdown, it was bad news and I had to work harder to get it all out. I tried my best to start pumping WHILE I felt the tingling of letdown. After Mastitis (in September), I dropped one pumping a night (the 11 PM) so that I could start getting a bit more rest. I literally was going to bed at like 7 PM and waking up around 2 AM to pump and then again at 5 AM, etc.
Scheduling Pump Times
It really just develops off your body’s natural rhythms at first, and then making sure you’re following the every 3 hours rule with letdown. It worked out where my pump times lined up exactly with feeding times, and they were like CLOCKWORK. This was sorta a drag in the beginning because it meant I was up at night every 3 hours no matter what [even if it was a “Paul feeding”]. Eventually I started to extend time in between for better sleep.
Breast milk is good frozen for a YEAR. It’s fridge life is 8 hours and “room temperature” is 4 hours. With that, we store my milk in Doctor Brown’s bags *not all bags are created equal!!!!*, and had SO MUCH that we had to keep in our spare freezer out in the garage in addition to 1/4 of our massive freezer in the main fridge. If you saw my stories, though… our garage fridge evidently died and we didn’t know. Our electricity briefly went out last week and we think it never came back on for that fridge. Y’all… I stopped counting how much I lost because it was too depressing. We are talking at least 2 months of overflow supply. SO, check your overflow freezer regularly. My biggest takeaway from that. *insert tears here*
Which pump do you use?
Well y’all, I have used it all… haha. Not really. But almost. With Knox, I had the Ameda that my insurance covered. It was great, but SO FREAKING LOUD. I got rid of it after I stopped pumping with Knox. Then, I got the Elvie for Rory and LOVED IT. It was a game-changer. I told everybody about it… and then… it just stopped working one day. Like, legit starting spitting my milk out everywhere. Obviously, as an EP-er, that’s a huge deal. Because I was losing so much milk, I would shorten my sessions which was cutting my supply. It was bad. Long story short, Elvie Customer Service was a hellish ordeal (and y’all had SO MANY stories of the exact same issues with product AND customer service) and I had to FIGHT to get to return my product. I originally just wanted to replace it because I really did love the product. But, after my customer service experience, I demanded a refund. I returned the product last month and have yet to receive my refund. *They claim a 30 day grace period before you see your refund – so I will keep you posted)
The Evenflo Electric pump is a favorite one and I really enjoy having it on hand. It’s just not discreet, which is shocking after you’ve had the Elvie. You also have to replace the flaps, which I didn’t know at first, and is why I was having trouble with mine recently. I am sure their double electric is probably just as great and would suggest giving it a shot! While having trouble with my Evenflo last week, we purchased the Lansinoh double electric pump and I really like it so far!
ALL IN ALL: I love exclusively pumping. I am currently trying to build back up my supply, because of how much I lost in our dead freezer. I was starting to wean down to only 30 oz a day because between both freezers, I had about 4 months of milk + my daily pumps. Basically, I was already prepping for weaning off pumping. Womp. So, it’s back to Miracle Milkookies and pumping a bit more frequently again to restock some spare. Pumping isn’t for everybody just like breast feeding isn’t. You make the choice for YOU. Do what’s best for YOU. If you’re a WFHM or have an office job, though (but EP-ing is NOT exclusive to only those categories!), I hope this helps because I really believe pumping makes it easier to still fully give your baby breast milk if that’s something you feel committed to providing while you go back to work. You can do this, momma!