If you’re here reading this blog right now, you’re probably planning to exclusively pump for your little one, you are pumping for your NICU baby, or maybe you are a mom who is struggling with nursing and want to give EPing a try. I was the latter! My daughter was born at 38 weeks in January 2020 by unexpected c-section. Along with a host of other reasons (mainly New Mom Anxieties), nursing, my daughter’s struggle to latch, and fear of her not gaining weight just stressed me out like crazy. Several Google searches later, I learned about exclusive pumping. It seriously changed breastfeeding for us! and YES, EPing is still breastfeeding! You are feeding your baby breast milk. Go you, mama!
Exclusive Pumping is different from nursing in many was and presents its own challenges. But I promise once you get into the swing of things, you will be so relieved and baby will be fed. Stress free! I started exclusive pumping for my daughter once we got home from the hospital, where she spent the first week of her life (but we’ll save that for another blog post). After many months of EPing, here is a list of things that helped me SO much that I think every pumping mama needs:
1. Pumping Bra
Absolutely a must! I spent way too long pumping eight times per day while holding flanges up to my boobs. It drove me crazy! It also made things kind of difficult when I was alone with our newborn while my husband was at work. A pumping bra allows you to hook up your flanges and actually use your hands while you pump. You can feed baby, do a crossword puzzle, check social media on your phone all while your breast pump does the work. This bra here works perfectly!
2. Pump Log App
This app was a life saver! Above you can see several days of my Pump Log. You simply put in how many ounces or milliliters you pumped and it keeps it all nice and organized for you. You can even look at your stats to see your daily and weekly averages, as well as log your “Freezer Stash” any time you are able to freeze your milk! Some of the features you can only access if you are using the paid version of the app, but for an EP mom it is seriously so worth it.
3. ‘Pitcher Method’ Milk Pitcher
For the first few weeks while I was figuring out exclusive pumping, every time I pumped I would just put the milk in a bottle and put it in the fridge. By lunch time it seemed like my fridge was so full of milk and it was hard to keep track of which bottle was pumped when. My sink was also full of bottles that needed to be cleaned! By using the pitcher method, you just collect all of your milk for the day in one of these handy pitchers! You can make the next days bottles the night before, and then if you like you can stash whatever is left over. I loved this because I didn’t have to wash a million bottles a day! This Dr. Brown’s Formula Mixing Pitcher is perfect for this method.
4. Properly Fitted Flanges
Honestly, this should be number one. Getting properly fitted saved my pumping journey. Most women who are using a breast pump are actually using flanges which are way too large! The ‘standard’ size that comes with most pumps, 24mm, is actually not a common nipple size. Your nipples should NOT grow three times in size after pumping or turn purple. Using flanges that are too big resulted in pumping being extremely painful for me, nipple vasospasms, reduced milk supply, and a dread of pumping. I was properly measured by an awesome mom and fellow EPer, Crystal from savethemilk.com. You can also join her facebook group and she can give you a free estimated size on there! Seriously, I went from 24mm to 13mm flanges and not only did pumping stop hurting, my supply increased. Check out the FB group here: Breast Pumping/Flange Sizing and All Things Related. The MayMom brand on Amazon has lots of smaller sizes flanges available!
5. Support From Other Exclusive Pumping Moms
This is a big one! Moms supporting moms is one of my favorite things. There will be moments when you just need to vent to people who know what you’re going through, or can help you if you are having trouble. Join facebook groups, browse baby forums, reach out to other women who are also exclusive pumping. EPing is not as common as nursing and can feel pretty isolating. A lot of people don’t understand why a mom would choose to pump and bottlefeed over nurse. Just know that you don’t owe anyone an explanation for how you choose to feed your child. Exclusive Pumping Mamas on Facebook was so helpful to me!
6. Hands-Free, Cordless Breast Pumping
After several weeks of EPing, I felt like I was chained to the couch while pumping with my Spectra S2. I love my Spectra, but I felt like I couldn’t get anything done with the amount of time I had to spend sitting and pumping. Investing in a cordless pump like the BellaBaby which can be used hands-free with a pumping bra will change your LIFE! It’s suction power is very strong, comparable to the Spectra S2, and you can get up, walk around, do dishes, eat a snack, whatever you need to do because you will not be attached to an outlet!
7. Pumping Station
As an EP mom, you will spent A LOT of time pumping. Some women can empty in ten minutes while others might be pumping for forty. Many mamas find it helps them along if they make themselves a comfortable pumping station to use during the day. I purchased a small cart on Amazon to keep my pump and extra pump parts on, as well as coconut oil for my flanges, nipple cream, etc. Access to a few outlets is ideal for your phone charger or heating pad. I claimed one corner of my couch for pumping and kept it cozy with comfy pillows and blankets. Anything you want or need to make your pumping experience as relaxed and comfortable as possible! Keeping water and snacks on hand is a great idea too. This also applies to you moms who are pumping at work! Put together a mobile pumping station in your pump bag. Bring headphones to listen to music or watch Netflix! Keep a photo of your baby with you to help your letdown. It’s those little comforts that make this easier and all worth the hard work in the end!
8. Sunflower Lecithin
Unfortunately I am one of those pumping moms who is really prone to clogged ducts. Even when pumping every 3 hours, it seemed like once or twice a week I would get an uncomfortable lump in my breast and it took a lot to work the clog out! I would take hot showers, do massages while pumping, use my heating pad. Still I kept getting clogged up. Once I started taking sunflower lecithin though, I stopped having clogs altogether! Sunflower lecithin helps to thin out your milk by increasing the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the milk and decreasing its stickiness. It also helps me empty much more quickly, which means less time pumping! You can order sunflower lecithin on Amazon or buy it in several different pharmacies.
Exclusive Pumping is quite a journey.
But you can do it! I promise you that you will get the hang of it, and you will quickly fall into a routine. If you are not pumping enough for baby, please do not be hard on yourself. Making milk for your little one can be difficult for some, so just remember that even a little bit of milk everyday will be beneficial for your baby. Supplementing with formula or seeking donor milk are great options. If you are struggling and find it hard to be kind to yourself, just remember that your baby is happy, loved, and fed. Good luck mama. I believe in you!