Written by guest contributor, Vicki @ The Mummy Bubble:
Do you want to try exclusively pumping your baby’s feeds but aren’t sure how to make it work for you?
Exclusive pumping, or EPing as it is often referred to, is where mom expresses all feeds for her baby and then offers the breastmilk from a bottle. I managed it for 20 weeks with my first baby, but other EPers do it for the first year and well beyond!
My reasons for EPing were that breastfeeding just never fit for me. We couldn’t get the latch right and then my baby was refusing feeds. Finally, she went on the bottle and never got back to breastfeeding.
When I realized I was managing to pump quite a lot of milk while at the hospital, I decided to just keep at it. Soon I discovered the EPing community online and found it was totally possible to feed your baby this way for as long as you wanted to!
So, how do you go about exclusively pumping for your newborn baby? Here’s your guide to EPing!
Why choose to exclusively pump your breastmilk
Exclusive pumping can combine the benefits of both worlds when it comes to breast and bottle feeding.
On the one hand, your baby continues to get all of the goodness that comes from being breastfed. They will be receiving immunity-boosting nutrients from breastmilk, along with vital vitamins and minerals to help their physical and mental development.
On the other hand, mama will also be enjoying the benefits of bottle feeding. These include:
- Being able to leave the baby for longer stretches of time
- Letting family and friends help with feeds
- No struggle with finding the perfect latch – and therefore no sore nipples
By exclusively pumping, you will also avoid one of the big cons of bottle feeding with formula, which is having to spend a ton of money on formula!
So EPers gain some freedom, save money, and continue to give their baby all of the nutritional benefits of breastmilk!
Related Post: How I Lost All the Post-Baby Weight While Breastfeeding
Exclusively pumping essentials
There are a few key items that are vital to your exclusive pumping journey. These are:
This is not a place to skimp on the costs. It’s well worth investing in a double electric breast pump as these are the most efficient pumps out there. This will cut your pumping time in half at every session, as you won’t have to switch sides.
When it comes to exclusive pumping, a manual pump just will not cut it for efficiency. I highly recommend the Spectra S1 double electric pump. I have tried a bunch of different pumps and this one is the best out there as it doesn’t have to be plugged in, leaving you hands-free and not tied to an outlet at all times!
Now, most health insurances will cover the cost of a breast pump 100%. They can be pricey so this is very valuable! Check out Aeroflow Breastpumps to confirm whether you qualify through insurance.
They make it so easy to determine your eligibility and contact the insurance and physician directly for you. Aeroflow then takes care of all the required paperwork between the supplier and your doctor and gets the pump sent straight to you for no cost at all!
Some insurance policies also offer additional incentives during pregnancy besides the pump, but you have to call and ask. Mine sends 150 free breast milk storage bags every 30 days and sent me a pregnancy gift bag with some other freebies.
2. Extra breast pump parts and accessories
Don’t forget to order additional parts and accessories for your pump too. The pump typically only includes one set of parts (flanges, valves, bottles, etc.) to start with.
With the number of times per day that you will spend pumping, you will definitely want to have extra parts on hand. This way you will always have extra sets in case one is in the dishwasher or needs to be washed.
This is a lifesaver, and a must, to give you full hands-free capabilities while pumping. Even though you still may need to be close to an outlet or wall, at least you have the use of your hands during the many times a day you will spend pumping.
4. Plenty of bottles and teats
In the early days, your baby will have only a few sips of milk at a time, but by six weeks they may be drinking four to five oz per feed. Feeds will typically be between five to seven times per day by this point.
Make sure you have plenty of bottles and teats that your baby likes. You’re not as bound to the shape/size of the nipple if your baby isn’t going back and forth between breast and bottle. They shouldn’t be too picky.
Stocking up with a large supply of bottles will also reduce the stress of washing them constantly.
You can store your expressed breastmilk in the freezer or refrigerator depending on how soon you will be using it. The freezer is best for long-term use.
These breastmilk storage bags are much easier to store as you can stack them and they are super durable and sanitary. They are necessary if you plan to build up a freezer supply. Don’t forget to label them with the date the milk was pumped. Breastmilk can be kept in the freezer for six months.
Making sure all your pump parts and bottles are clean and sterilized is very important. There are lots of choices on the market when it comes to sterilizers.
You could opt for a cold water sterilizer, which involves dropping a sterilizing tablet into tap water in a bucket, a microwave sterilizer, electric sterilizer, or just microwave sterilizer bags. They all get the job done, in my opinion, but at much different price points.
7. Breast pads
If you forget to pump, or skip a session, you are going to leak! Also if you pump on just one side, you will experience a letdown on the other. Stock up on reusable or disposable breast pads to avoid big wet patches on your shirt!
You may still get sore nipples in the very early days of exclusive pumping. This could be because your nipples need to just toughen a little, which won’t take too long with regular use.
You just rub a small amount of Lanolin cream on your nipples for quick relief. Remember not to turn up the suction too high or you can really hurt yourself!
Even though you are not technically nursing, you still need easy access to your boobs. Get a couple of comfy nursing bras.
With the large amount of milk in your breasts, you will find that underwire and tight-fitting bras will be very uncomfortable. They can increase your risk of getting clogged milk ducts.
For sleep and day-to-day, you’ll want really comfortable, easy opening bras.
10. Pump bag
If you are returning to work, or just have a busy life involving lots of days out, you will need your pump to be mobile! Get a bag, like this one, that fits your pump and provides storage for the milk (preferably insulated), all while still being somewhat fashionable.
How often should you pump?
The answer is: A whole lot in the early days!
You need to be pumping as often as your baby would be feeding. So for most newborns, that would be every two to three hours, around the clock. Seems more than a little daunting, right?
It’s best to aim to pump for around 15 minutes each side, so 30 minutes in total if you have a single pump. This is where having a double pump makes life so much easier!
Pumping this frequently may feel extremely tricky in the early days, as your baby will be demanding a feed, while you’re hooked up to the pump! The key is to get a stash going in your fridge and freezer so that you have a bottle ready to feed them ahead of time.
Try to work your routine around your baby’s feeds. So try to feed your baby first and then when they are content, get your pump on.
Once your baby is around eight weeks you can pump every three to four hours, if you are producing a good stash to keep up with your baby’s feeding.
It can be very easy to be discouraged in the early days, when you may find that you hardly manage to get a trickle of milk from both breasts. However, you need to keep at it.
Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand! Your baby suckles, signaling your brain to make more milk, and so more milk is produced.
Just replace your baby with the pump! You need to be using it regularly. Pumping once a day for two hours is not a replacement. The pumping sessions have to be evenly spaced out, just as your baby’s feeds would be.
All of this means that your pump is going to become your new best friend!
Related Post: 13 Ways to Stimulate and Play with Your Newborn
How to store and use breastmilk
You can store your pumped milk in either breastmilk storage bags or bottles. If you plan to freeze, pumping directly into bags is the most convenient.
A freshly pumped bottle of breast milk can be left out for six hours at room temperature. This is one of the huge perks of exclusive pumping, in my opinion. While a bottle of formula must be discarded after two hours, an expressed bottle of breastmilk is safe for a whole six hours!
You can also store pumped breastmilk in the following ways:
- In the fridge for up to eight days.
- In the ice compartment of your fridge for two weeks.
- Up to six months in the freezer.
Should I pump in the middle of the night?
During the first few months, it’s best not to leave too long between pumping sessions.
During the day, you’ll want to be pumping at least every three hours once your supply is established. At night you shouldn’t leave longer than six hours between pumps. So you’ll want to fit one pump session in during the middle of the night.
If your baby is sleeping quite well, this might be difficult to accept. I managed to drop the night pumps at around eight weeks.
However, many mamas find that the night pumping sessions are when they get their best yield of milk. For this reason, it may be best to keep your night pumps for longer. See how your supply is, and if it dwindles or is not keeping up with your baby’s demands, try adding a night pumping session to your routine.
If you don’t pump in the middle of the night, your best pumping session should be first thing in the morning. Never miss this session because you should get the most amount of milk as soon as your wake up.
Top tips for exclusively pumping
1. Hold a picture of your baby when pumping
Looking at a picture of your baby will cause the love hormone, oxytocin, to go racing through your body. This is key to sparking the letdown, which is where your milk ducts contract to release the milk from the nipple.
Always have a picture of your baby with you when pumping, especially when you are pumping at work or somewhere else away from your baby.
2. Stay hydrated and eat a great diet
All of the same rules apply as if you are breastfeeding your baby. You’ll need to stick to a healthy diet and drink plenty of water, which will also boost your supply.
Look after your body and get plenty of rest. These are the best things you can do to help your supply along the way.
3. Check your flange fit
Your breast pump will come with a flange, however this may not be the right fit for your breasts! Many mamas find they need to buy a size up or down depending on their size.
If too much of your areola is pulled into the flange tunnel because it is too big, then it can cause sore nipples. If the flange is too small, then your milk may not flow as efficiently.
Research the available sizes and find what works for you!
If you’re tensed and stressed out, you will find you get less milk! Try to pump in a place where you are comfortable, with things for you to do or read that will keep you relaxed.
If you are pumping at work, ask to sit in a room with a comfortable chair when you need to pump.
5. Set a timer on your phone
The relentlessness of motherhood can make it easy to forget your next pumping session, especially if you have multiple kids. Have a timer on your phone set to go off every time you need to be on the pump.
6. Don’t overdo it
If you consistently pump for extra minutes after your milk has stopped flowing, you will stimulate more supply from your breast. However you may also cause an oversupply issue.
Tread carefully when it comes to stimulating your supply. You need to have the time to extract all of that extra milk. If you don’t extract the milk, then you will become engorged and that means you risk getting clogged ducts and infections.
7. Know how to unclog your ducts
For me, clogged ducts were a big problem when pumping. Maybe I was pumping too much in the early days? Whatever the reason, a clogged duct is not a nice feeling!
- A warm shower and hand express/massage – Rub the area very gently in circular motions while in the shower. The heat and movement can help get things moving.
- Massage the area while pumping.
- Avoid tight-fitting bras.
Read more tips on unclogging ducts here.
Hopefully, these tips have given you an insight into how to go about exclusively pumping for your baby. While it might seem like a lot of work, exclusive pumping has a whole lot of benefits!
Vicky Smith is a British mama of two and blogs at The Mummy Bubble. Her little corner of the internet is all about coping with pregnancy, the first year with a baby and toddlers. She also loves to review toys! She is a former journalist who turned to blogging as a hobby, before finally deciding to have a-go-at-it as a career.