Breast feeding is a funny thing – sometimes I feel like it is talked about A LOT (i.e. the ‘breast is best’ debate) and sometimes I feel like it is not talked about enough. What I mean is a lot of moms leave the hospital thinking that breast feeding is something that should come naturally and easily and if it doesn’t they are doing something wrong – ladies, this is SO far from the truth. With my first baby I experienced a major over supply of milk, which made breast feeding nearly impossible for us. My son couldn’t latch and when he did he would choke on the flow of milk. It was heartbreaking and I felt like a failure. Fortunately I have a wonderful pediatrician who encouraged me to try to exclusively pump. It was tough and took a lot of dedication but I am so happy and grateful that I was able to feed my son breast milk even if he couldn’t breast feed. If you’re like me and you are unable to breast feed, you might want to consider exclusively pumping. I’ve tried to answer basic questions on how to get started below. I would also encourage you to check out Lindsey’s super informative breast pump review and breastfeeding accessories posts.
How often should I pump?
What worked best for me was pumping every 2-3 hours in the beginning or whenever my son was feeding. I would often feed him while I pumped (this is where the hands free bra comes in) to make sure that I was pumping long enough and to ensure that I was keeping my supply up. In a lot of ways exclusively pumping is more cumbersome than breastfeeding because while you can easily breast feed in public, it is a lot harder to carry around a large breast pump and discretely pump milk (veteran moms know… those things are noisy). With careful planning and time management I was able to schedule errands, lunches, etc. around my pumping/feeding schedule.
How long should I pump for?
Again, I pumped while I fed my son so when he was finished, I was normally finished pumping as well. My son’s pediatrician recommended that I pump for 5 minutes after I had finished expressing milk. Usually pumping only took about 20 minutes.
What do I need?
A good double breast pump. I recommend the Medela In Style Advanced Breastpump. I love that this pump comes built in to a tote bag with storage for parts and bottles – it is so convenient. This particular model also comes with an insulated bag for easy storage of expressed milk. A double pump is important because pumping takes time – up to 20 minutes for each breast, so pumping with a single pump could take close to an hour each session.
Milk storage. I used a mix of bottles and bags for pumping. I like the Medela brand bottles and bags. I kept bottles in the fridge and bags in the freezer. One thing to keep in mind here is that it is very important to keep your milk labeled with dates. For the bottles I wrote the date on stickers and placed them on the caps. For the bags I just kept a sharpie on hand and wrote directly on each bag before I threw it in the freezer. Another important thing to keep in mind is that bottles should be sterilized after every use and milk storage bags should be disposed of, these are not reusable.
Extra parts. Its always nice to have extra tubing, breast shields and valves on hand. Keep in mind that these things must be sterilized after EVERY use, so in the beginning that is up to 8 times per day. Having an extra set of parts will save you some much needed time, especially with a newborn.
Hands free bra. This was a lifesaver. In the beginning I tried to use my double pump by holding the shields to my body – I was basically incapacitated while I pumping, it was miserable. I couldn’t tend to my baby, I was bored and honestly it was pretty uncomfortable. After a few days I bought a few of these Medela Easy Expression bras – they are great because they make pumping hands free, so I could tend to my baby and even change the TV channel if I wanted 😉
Patience. Pumping is not a natural thing – it is often uncomfortable and inconvenient. I remember waking up so many nights to pump and feeling like I just wanted to throw the stupid thing agains the wall but I pushed through it because in the end it was important to me for Jax to have my breast milk even if he wasn’t able to breastfeed. I’m grateful that it worked out and count my over-supply as a blessing that allowed me to stop pumping several months before Jax finished our freezer supply of milk.