Sometimes, by choice or necessity, moms end up exclusively pumping (AKA EP'ing). This means baby never latches/nurses, but they are still breastfed via bottles.
(Yes, EP'ing mama, when you're asked if you're breastfeeding the answer is "yes"!)
There are benefits to exclusively pumping, like knowing exactly how much you're producing and being able to do it on your time table.
There's also disadvantages, like knowing exactly how much you're producing and having to do it on a time table.
No matter the reason, exclusively pumping is hard AF.
There's a few things to make it a little more bearable so you can make it to your pumping goal.
1. Handsfree pump bra
I've said it before and I'll say it again - a good hands free pump bra is life changing! It allows you to make such better use out of your pumping time, especially when you're pumping 8-10x/day. You can:
- pump & feed baby at the same time using a rock n play or boppy
- ONLINE SHOP
- work.... I mean, if you have to
- make dinner - yes, I have been so desperate as to pump in my kitchen while standing at the stove
You gotta do what you gotta do!
2. Wear "Nursing" Shirts
When you're pumping every few hours, the time you spend getting dressed/undressed in enormous. Get yourself a nursing bra paired with a nursing shirt or nursing hoodie, and just use your hands free pump bra right over it. No taking your clothes off, just unclip your bra, put the hands free pump bra on, and get to pumping.
3. Store pump parts in the fridge
One of the best tricks I learned was to keep your flange and associated pumping parts in the fridge in between pumps. By putting your parts in the fridge for a 24 hour pumping period, you don't have to wash them every single time. When you're EP'ing, you are washing bottles and pump parts more than you can fathom. Eliminating anything that needs to be washed is a huge help in getting some time back for other things in your day!
If for some reason you're not comfortable with that, grab some Medela Quick Clean wipes and use those in between washes.
4. Pump 8-12x/day to mimic baby feeding
For the first 12 weeks, you'll be pumping A LOT. You want to mimic how often a baby is feeding, so you want to pump every 2-3 hours as if you were feeding a baby.
After 12 weeks you can start to slowly decrease pumps per day, and increase time for each pump. Monitor your supply, and if needed you can add pumps back or power pump if you have a low supply.
You can always supplement with formula as well! Your sanity and rest is just as important as a well-fed baby.
5. Pump at night
Middle of the night pumps can be very beneficial for many women. As I covered in How To Increase Breast Milk, your highest level of the hormone prolactin occurs between 1am & 5am. Pumping during this time helps establish and maintain your milk supply.
6. Pump at least 20 minutes
You can monitor your output when pumping for different lengths of time, but I know many women (as well as myself) who are able to get a third let down between 15-18 minutes of a pump session. Try it out, and see what works best for you.
The longer you pump, the more milk you'll drain, and the more milk you drain the more milk your body is signaled to make.
7. Use a GOOD pump
You're gonna put some hours on a pump. Do yourself a huge favor and make sure it's a good, dare I say Great, pump.
You can rent a Medela Symphony, the Cadillac of breast pumps, or I recommend the Spectra S2. If you use a hand-me-down, consider having your LC test the suction to make sure the pump is working at maximum capacity.
8. Get a script for Newman's nipple cream
You can certainly try OTC nipple creams, but with the amount of pumping you're doing you may need something special for the nips. If you're in pain and nothing is helping, ask your doc for a prescription for Newman's Nipple Cream.
9. Multiple Flange Sets
Similar to #3 above, getting multiple flange sets can be a huge help in decreasing the pressure to wash bottles. Sometimes, you just want to go to sleep... but if all your pump parts or bottles are dirty, you'll be washing bottles at 4am.
10. Smart milk storage
If you're EP'ing and have a decent milk supply, you will need freezer space for a large number of frozen milk bags. Keeping them organized will save you time as you rotate the old milk out and new milk in.
Freeze your milk bags flat, and store them in gallon bags to save space and make them stackable. Read more breast milk storage tips.
11. Use the right size flange
If you're using the wrong flange size, you'll be in pain and your milk supply will suffer. Medela has a breast shield size guide that you might want to check out if you think your flange size is off.
12. Change valves and membranes
With the frequency you're pumping, you're really working all your pump parts. To make sure you're as efficient as possible, change out your valves/membranes/tubing is you notice decreased suction.
13. Use your flange as a funnel
No more crying over spilled milk, just use your flange as a funnel when pouring milk into your storage bag. Watch the video on how to do this.
Exclusively pumping moms are heroes in our eyes.
What tips did we miss?
Tell us in the comments!