Exclusive Pumping Tips and Tricks
Explore the benefits of exclusive pumping for your baby’s nourishment and well-being.
Exclusive pumping, although not widely discussed, is a valuable feeding option for babies. This approach involves the baby feeding from bottles containing pumped breast milk or a combination of breast milk and formula. In this post, Moms on Call’s CEO, Morgan Eddy, explores the benefits and logistics of exclusive pumping.
I exclusively pumped with my third child, Poppy, since she was born. I was also exclusively pumping with my first two children once I went back to work. This approach has worked really well for our family!
In this post, I will answer 5 questions about exclusive pumping:
- Why are you exclusively pumping?
- What pump do you use?
- When do you pump?
- How do you prepare bottles?
- What are your top 3 tips for exclusively pumping?
There are so many beautiful ways to feed your baby, and if exclusively pumping is part of your family’s feeding journey, I hope my story, tips, and tricks will help support you on your journey!
Why do you exclusively pump?
Poppy decided for me and, looking back, it’s exactly what our family needed!
To be perfectly honest, I had been on the fence my entire pregnancy about whether I wanted to attempt breastfeeding for a third time. It was incredibly stressful with my first two kids for various reasons. And knowing what a labor of love breastfeeding is, I was nervous about missing time and not being present with my two older kids. I had so many friends who loved breastfeeding and made it look so easy; I decided that I wanted to try again, hoping for that “effortless”, beautiful experience.
Poppy had a posterior tongue tie and a lip tie. She also has a high palate. The combination made it impossible for her to create suction at the top of her mouth to properly latch. We had her tongue and lip ties revised when she was 1 week old, allowing her to create suction. However, she really liked the immediate gratification of the bottle and had no interest in sucking hard enough or long enough to induce a letdown while breastfeeding. Continuing to try to force breastfeeding would have been a very tedious, stressful, and un-enjoyable process for both me and Poppy. She’s our perfect, lazy baby. (Which I mean in the most loving and endearing way possible!)
Because I’m fortunate to have a good supply and have figured out how to pump efficiently, I decided to exclusively pump until it became stressful and/or my supply dropped. When that happened, I switched to formula. I made sure to have the formula on hand at home ahead of time so it was one less decision to make.
Using bottles and pumping gave our family of 5 so much flexibility. I was able to be present with all 3 of my kids. Poppy’s weight gain was been fantastic. We know exactly how much milk she took, and when she started sleeping through the night at 6-7 weeks, we were totally comfortable because we knew she was getting enough calories during the day. Yes, it’s a lot of work and parts to clean, but it was my most enjoyable and least stressful feeding experience of the 3.
What pump did you use?
I used 3 different pumps with each of my 3 children.
Important: Health insurance covers breast pumps!! Make sure you take advantage of this. Even if they don’t offer the pump you want, they will often subsidize other models.
My two priorities were suction strength and portability. The Baby Buddha pump that I used with Poppy is small but mighty and my favorite of the pumps I’ve tried. It can be “hacked” to work with all flange models and collection cups. It also comes with its own flanges, but I was used to my Spectra flanges and decided to keep using those with the Baby Buddha. I also used Freemie Collection Cups with the Baby Buddha when I was on the go because the cups just tucked into my bra, and the tubing could be hidden under my shirt.
When did you pump?
Once she got bigger, it was harder to pump and feed simultaneously because there was less real estate between my chest and her legs.
I’m an early riser, so I would pump right when I woke up before anyone else was awake for the day. It was my best pump of the day in terms of production and made mornings much less stressful as we were trying to feed everyone breakfast and get them off to school.
I work full-time, and Poppy was with a nanny during the day, so I tried to pump around the times she fed. It was not always perfect, but consistency kept my supply stable! My last pump of the day was after the kids went to bed.
How did you prepare bottles (e.g., fresh milk or previously pumped)?
All my pumped milk was combined in the fridge in a large pitcher. The combined pitcher of milk made her bottles for the next day. After I pumped in the morning, I made all of her bottles for that day. I froze leftover milk every 4-5 days.
What are your top 3 tips for pumping exclusively?
1: Make pumping as efficient as possible.
- Use a portable pump.
- Keep your pump bag fully stocked and ready to go. Even if you’re just at home, this keeps everything in one place. Here’s what I kept in my pump bag:
- Do not wash your flanges in between each pump! Just stick them in the fridge in between pumps and wash them at the end of each day.
- Per CDC Guidelines: If unable to clean well, you may rinse, store in an airtight container, and store in the fridge for a few hours. If your little one has immune issues or is premature, then clean thoroughly after each use per the manufacturer’s instructions. See the CDC FAQ page for more information.
2: Make pumping as comfortable as possible.
- Invest in a few good pumping bras. I’ve tried a lot, and my favorite was The Larken X.
- Make sure your flanges fit! I also swear by BeauGen’s Breast Pump Cushions.
3: Have a good milk storage and freezing routine.
Here’s what worked for me:
- Combine all of your milk into one pitcher that you keep in the fridge.
- Every few days, freeze extra milk in 5oz portions.
- To freeze, lay the bags flat. I stacked my bags in a rectangular or square Tupperware container to freeze.
- Once frozen, you will have “breast milk bricks.” Put all of your “bricks” from that date into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag.
- Pick 1 day a week that’s your “frozen milk” day, and use the oldest dated milk in your freezer first. This ensures that you’re using up frozen milk before it goes bad and cycling your inventory.
- Pro tip: If your baby is a little finicky with frozen milk, do ½ fresh and ½ frozen.
For more about different feeding options, check out our post, “Breast, Bottle or Both?” Our podcast episode, “How is Feeding Going?”, is also a great listen for an inclusive perspective of the modern-day feeding journey.
If you need more personalized advice, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our Moms on Call consultants. The Moms on Call Consultant Network is a trusted resource for parents seeking guidance. Our team of experienced consultants is ready to provide helpful advice tailored to your specific needs.