Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Exclusive Pumping: Quantified

Exclusive Pumping is no joke.  It takes a ton of time and dedication.  There are many different reasons that lead a mom into exclusively pumping, but few do it by choice.

Let's let the pictures do the talking on this one.

The first is all of my pump and bottle parts in the sink.  I have enough "stuff" to go almost 2 days between washes.  I had 8 sets of pump parts - then got my sister's when she was done.  Now that I only pump 3x a day, I'm totally set.

But you also need a vehicle to get the milk into the baby's mouth!  Ideally, he'd eat directly from the Medela bottle, but you know my baby is special, so he gets his Dr. Brown's bottles and accompanying parts.  I have 2 - 2 ounce bottles, 6 - 4 ounce, and 5 - 8 ounce.  I use the 8 ounce bottles for mixed formula.

The last picture is my favorite.  It takes some skill to get all of that mess to fit on a rack!  I love my First Years drying rack.  The one on the left is actually the inside racks from my sterilizer (which I obviously don't use much...whoops!).

The point here is really just to show the reality behind exclusively pumping.  It's not glamorous and it's not just the hours stuck to the pump that are a bitch.  And I don't want to leave out your WOHMs who are having to pump now that you are going back to work.  In many ways I think it would be even harder if you didn't "have" to do it.

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More about pumping:

I just came across a thread on a forum bemoaning low supply.  She mentioned that she is 11 weeks post-partum and pumps 6 times a day.  RED FLAG!!!!  If you are going to exclusively pump, do a little bit of research (or read some of my pumping posts)!

But here are the basics:

  • Pump at least 8x a day for at least 12 weeks (you need to simulate a baby's feeding schedule in order to produce enough milk for said baby)
  • Pump for 5 minutes after the last drop while building supply (I've never pumped less than 30 minutes)

Actually, those two facts are the basics.  Here is some more advanced info:

  • Try all different sizes of flanges - I use two different sizes - not because one nipple is bigger than the other, just because it feels better (one nipple would always angle and hit the side which hurt, so I use a bigger flange on that side).  You can also check out Pumpin' Pals.  Some people swear by them.  I hated them.
  • Drop pumps slowly.  You might think your supply has actually increased after you drop a pump.  But it takes about a week to really see the full picture.
  • You can lubricate with lanolin or olive oil.  I preferred olive oil.  You probably won't need anything after the first couple of months.  And lanolin stain shirts.  I learned this one the hard way...and learned slowly so I have quite a few tanks with unsightly spots.
  • Pump on the lowest speed that produces milk.  I turn my pump on to the very slightest spot where it's actually on.  I still don't find it comfortable, but at least I don't have blisters (I did the first week.  Lesson learned.)
  • At least once a day, do breast compressions while pumping.  Pumping is not as efficient as a baby and I find that if I don't "help the pump out" occasionally, I get plugged ducts or just don't empty well enough.  I basically squeeze the spots that don't feel empty.  I'll usually get a stream of milk while squeezing until that spot is empty, then I move on.
Last, if you EP, you WILL want to quit some day.  My advice is not to quit immediately when you're feeling desperate, because you'll probably feel better the next day.  If you don't...quit then.

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And now for some reader questions re: pumping.  Feel free to ask me any questions you want, but please remember that I am not a doctor nor lactation consultant.  I am speaking merely from my experience as well as my own research.  The best information I have gotten has been from and the Exclusive Pumpers threads on iVillage and BabyCenter.

Speaking of pumps...any advice? I know you pump exclusively and I'm really struggling to pump. I feed baby great off the breast but when I go to pump I can only pump 1.5 oz on average per breast. I need to pump so I can leave a bottle with the baby sitter when I go back to work. Any advice you have would be wonderful. 

  1. Actually if you could email me as well, I have noticed my supply falling somewhat as the weeks at work progress. 

JB - Since I exclusively pump, I'm not sure if I can help, but I will try.  It would be easiest if I could get some additional information.  How many times a day are you currently feeding?  How many hours have passed between your last feeding and your pumping session.  How many times a day are you pumping?

For reference, when I was pumping 8x a day, I got 3-4 ounces per session (I would call myself a moderate producer...not high, not low).  Now at 3x a day, I get 7 or 8 ounces.  Increasingly supply means pumping more times per day and it might take a few days for your body to catch up.  You can also try pumping for more minutes and DEFINITELY pump 5 minutes past the point of milk coming out to boost supply.

When you go back to work, you'll be pumping at work just make sure you can build up enough for a day or two, then you should be close to even with what you are currently producing.

Megan - Are you pumping the same number of times for the same amount of time?  Supply does ebb and flow a bit, but consistency is key to keeping supply steady overall.  I had supply drops only when dropping pumps.  At my peak, I was producing about 33 ounces.  Now I'm getting about 22 (but that's plenty for me since Dylan eats about 8 a day of breast milk so I wasn't extremely careful).

You can also look into oatmeal and lactation cookies and fenugreek and all of that - I never needed to.  My sister took every supplement under the sun include Domperidone and never significantly improved her supply.  They work for some people, but it's not a magic cure.


  1. pumping and feeding and nursing intimidates me more than anything. ill be a SAHM so i can nurse, but i would like to pump and introduce bottles to little one so hubby and i can have date nights and so he can feed him a bottle in the mornings. any advice on how/when to start?

    1. I would start as soon as you are sane. The first couple of weeks will be nuts! But once it calms down a little, pump after you nurse in the morning...that's when you often have more milk. It'll be way easier once your lo spaces out feedings.

  2. We introduced bottles at two weeks per our pediatricians recommendation.

    MGG-I feed every three hours from 7 am until 10 pm and then baby wakes up once around 2-3 am and I feed then. I've been trying to boost supply by pumping after feeding at the 7 pm and 10 pm feedings and I think it may be starting to help. Today I got 5 oz when I pumped since baby took a bottle when I was at work. I was so happy.

    I take fenugreek and blessed thistle and eat oatmeal everyday. I know these have definitely hurled me breast feeding!

    I have so much respect for you and EP. It's hard work!!!!

  3. You are a champ :) I nursed/pumped/supplemented for a month, then switched to exclusive pumping+supplementing with formula until the twins were 8 months. It was quite the adventure. I wish this post had been around when I was starting out--you give all sorts of good tips in a nice, concise way!

  4. THANK YOU! this comes at a perfect time. i'm freaking out a little bit about what to do about pumping. some friends are telling me to make sure i'm set up before the baby arrives and i dont even know where to start.

    echoing the other reader - do you have any suggestions on brands of pump? ones you hate, ones you love? did it even matter?

    thanks again!

    1. I am klutzy and kept tearing the little flap parts on a medela pump while washing, so I was thrilled when I got an Ameda pump in style because the similar white squishy part is a cone shape. I can't compare the actual pumps because I didn't have a double electric medela, just a single one, but that made a difference for me. The varied size flanges medela makes can be stuck into the Ameda flanges if you need a different size (and the ameda adjustable size flanges don't work so don't waste money on them).

    2. I used a hospital grade Medela Symphony which was AMAZING! I rented it for the first 3 months. Then I used the Medela PISA which was fine. You do have to be careful with the white membranes. If there is a hole, the pump will not work at all. And you have to replace them when they start to get thin.

  5. Thanks so much. There have been some times when I can't pump as long or as often as I want due to schedules at work. However I did read somewhere that it can take up to a week to get back into the swing. What I really need to do is set a timer to make sure I keep a schedule.

  6. Megan, i've found that too. My supply seems to start off higher at the beginning of the week and diminish as the week goes on. I feel like I am spending all my time at work pumping! (luckily, my office is fairly private and I can do that)

    Mrs GG, I still think you are very lucky with supply. Right now, I'm pumping 4-5 times during the workday and getting 6-7.5 ounces total (1-2 per session). I'm fine with an actual baby, but pumping just doesn't seem to work for me!

  7. I haven't commented much, but I am AMAZED at how far Dylan has come!!! I remember reading your posts all the way back to getting pregnant and everything you had to deal with before he even arrived. You are such a wonderful mom and he is thriving now because of you. Just wanted to say good job mom :) And thanks so much for all the informative posts. I don't know what I would do without all the blogs to go back to when baby actually gets here...they are all so helpful! Can't wait to see more pictures of your cutie pie :)

  8. Hello, i exclusively breast pump due to the fact that my husband and i were going to adopt. The parents "canceled" the adoption the day she gave birth. I was pumping so i could breast feed the adopted baby. Of course there isnt a baby anymore. I produce about 2-3 ounces every 4 hours. I pump and give it to my sister who just had a baby. I have no fertility problems its just always been in my husband and i heart to adopt. My husband and i would like to try and conceive now but i still pump. Can i still conceive while pumping?

    1. Some people have trouble conceiving while lactating, but others do not. I never had to deal with this, so I don't really know the answer. Good luck with everything!