Are you struggling to breastfeed your baby? Is it painful, exhausting, overwhelming – or all of those things? Perhaps it’s time to try expressing.
Painful breastfeeding is such a common problem – and formula so readily available – that it takes huge determination to keep giving your baby breastmilk.
One way you can do that is by pumping exclusively.
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What does it mean to pump exclusively?
Exclusive pumping simply means that instead of latching your baby on and breastfeeding directly, you use a breast pump to remove the milk from your breasts. You then feed it to your baby with a bottle.
Surprisingly, it’s often not even mentioned as an option – even by some breastfeeding charities.
There’s an assumption that, if you can’t breastfeed, then formula is the best option.
But what if it’s not?
What if, actually, the most important thing for you is that your baby gets YOUR milk? By whatever means.
That’s why exclusive pumping is an important option to consider. It sounds like extra work – and it is. But if feeding your baby breastmilk rather than formula is a priority, it could be worth it.
Learn how to succeed with exclusive pumping from an expert
Are you wondering how you’ll make all this work? Figure out your milk supply and manage multiple pumping sessions and take care of your baby? Stacey from Milkology has put together The Ultimate Exclusive Pumping Class just for you.
You’ll learn all the practical strategies you need to grab that pump next nap time and get milk-making. And it’s all online and ready to go – for only $19.
Go ahead and check it out now.
Why exclusive pumping?
If you are struggling with breastfeeding – perhaps because a painful latch or thrush or tongue tie is making the whole process AGONISING for you – then you might even be considering quitting.
It takes a mother who’s particularly dedicated to feeding breastmilk to make exclusive pumping work. It can definitely be done – but it’s not easy. We’ve collected all the benefits and drawbacks of expressing for your baby in this post.
My friend, who pumped exclusively for months, also tells her story.
And then, if you feel like you want to give pumping a try, we’ve got a schedule to help you get started.
Exclusively pumping vs breastfeeding
If you’re deciding between trying to continue breastfeeding or switching to exclusive pumping, the best thing to do is weight up the benefits on both sides. Here’s a handy run-down to help you work out what’s best for you and your baby.
Why bother with exclusive pumping? Why not keep breastfeeding or switch to formula?
You can keep feeding your baby breastmilk without nursing
And that by itself is the biggest reason for exclusive pumping. So many women want their babies to benefit from the properties of breastmilk but find the act of breastfeeding painful.
Pumping your milk several times a day will allow you to keep feeding your baby breastmilk without actually breastfeeding. It’s a win-win – or so it seems – but there are a few drawbacks.
When you breastfeed, the milk is ready whenever your baby needs it – little to no prep is required. With exclusive pumping, on the other hand, you need to have a bottle of milk pumped and ready before your baby gets hungry.
No more pain for you
This is also an important reason to consider pumping long term.
With breastfeeding, the first days and weeks can be very painful for the mother. Sore, cracked – even bleeding nipples are common amongst new mothers, with toe-curling results.
With help from a lactation consultant, you may get through it – and that’s definitely something to consider – but if you don’t, pumping can let you keep feeding breastmilk without the pain.
When you are pumping, your nipples and breasts can still be sore if you’ve recently switched to pumping or if you have an underlying problem such as mastitis.
You can also find that the pump is rough on your nipples if it’s turned up too high or poorly positioned, but generally the pain will be much less.
Have your partner / mother / friend feed your baby breastmilk to give you a break
When you breastfeed, you are the person who has to feed your baby, whatever the time of day or night and regardless of how you are feeling at the time.
With exclusive pumping, you have to do the pumping (!) but you can get someone else to do the feeding – if you have someone else to hand.
Friends and relatives LOVE to feed the tiny baby and pumping your milk can make this possible. If you can get your baby used to taking breastmilk from a bottle, your visitors can get to know him or her while you take it easy for a few minutes.
Let them feed your baby while you relax – or wash the dishes – but you should relax.
Involve your partner in night time feeding – and get more sleep
Even when it’s just you and dad and the baby at home, it doesn’t ALWAYS have to be you who gets up to do the night feeds. That’s a problem with breastfeeding that pumping could take away.
Breastfeeding mamas often end up doing all the night time wakings because they have ‘the boobs’ but if you’re pumping, that doesn’t matter!
You could potentially share the load – and the sleep deprivation.
Many mothers DO pump exclusively for the first several months of their babies’ lives. That doesn’t mean it’s an easy option – it isn’t – but it is a real possibility and many have done it before you.
However, there are cons so here are a few more things you need to consider.
You will have to pump a LOT
If you are going to pump exclusively, you need to pump a certain number of times per day. How many will depend on your supply, your baby’s age and your baby’s needs. At the beginning, it likely to be between 8 and 12 times a day.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like it – baby needs to eat so mama needs to pump. Many, many times a day – especially to begin with, though you may manage to drop pumping sessions later on once your supply is established.
With consistency, many mothers manage to store milk and begin to build up a stash.
Expressing takes longer
Expressing your milk and then bottle feeding is two jobs instead of one. First removing the milk from your breasts and then feeding it to the baby will take up more of your time than nursing would.
This might be exhausting and frustrating – but at least it won’t hurt.
The night-time pumping
Even if Dad is doing the night feeds sometimes, you will need to get up in the night to pump in order to establish and maintain your supply.
After the first few weeks, once your supply is established, you may find you can drop night pumping in favour of a session early in the morning before baby wakes.
The loss of personal time to pumping
We ALL need a little time to ourselves and often that time is called ‘nap time’. If you are exclusively pumping, you will have to pump during nap times to keep up your supply and to cope with baby’s demand.
In an ideal world, it would be time for showering, taking care of ourselves or pursuing projects but often it’s time to do pressing household tasks.
It can be stressful to lose that time and you might feel resentful.
Exclusive pumping can be a lonely experience
You might feel fine breastfeeding in front of visitors but what about pumping?
If you prefer to do it in private, you could find yourself lonely since you will need to pump many times a day to keep enough milk ready.
If you have visitors, you could spend a lot of time on your own with your pump unless you feel comfortable pumping in their company.
Real-life exclusive pumping experience – one mom’s story
So what is the experience of exclusive pumping really like? Like breastfeeding, it varies from woman to woman but when you’re trying to make a decision it can help to hear from someone who’s been there.
My friend Suzanne pumped exclusively with her first child and kindly offered some insights into her experience. Words in italics are hers.
Early baby and low supply
The whole thing with (baby) was not planned. With a very low milk supply due to him being born at 36 weeks and a c-section I had to start pumping in the hospital after every feed.
Painful latch and decision to pump
His latch made my toes curl, so for me, pumping even with the inconvenience of everything taking twice as long was the easier option.
Initially pumping was my way not to make a decision. I just had a birth in the manner I did not want, and I could not and would not make a long term decision (about feeding).
Pumping was extra work, but for the first 8 weeks I had family.
Big downside … time.
Nap times become pump times so you can have a bottle ready for them to wake. You can’t pump easily with an awake baby on your own – you are plugged into two bottles and the pump is plugged into the wall. The Dad is at work, so it is all you.
Make pumping sessions time for you
Really, to succeed I think you have to make it time for you. Put on your favourite show (I watched subtitled series on Netflix) and enjoy a cup of tea in peace!
Exclusive pumping could be the answer to painful breastfeeding
If you can’t or don’t want to nurse any longer, consider giving pumping a try. It’s not easy, but like Suzanne, it could help you keep feeding your baby breastmilk without enduring the pain of latching on.
Ready to start pumping?
More breastfeeding and pumping tips:
For further information about exclusive pumping, try these articles: