Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Postpartum: Exclusively Pumping

When I started pumping, I was so lost. Everything felt overwhelming... I didn't have a schedule. I didn't know what I really I needed. And I didn't know how to store the milk.  This post is my way of sharing all the insights I've learned while pumping.
Update: If you want to know how things have been since  I started back to work, read the update here.

Latest Pumping Series: http://beingmrsriley.blogspot.com/2015/05/postpartum-tales-from-pump-part-one.html?m=1

Personal Experience:
Now, I am beyond proud that my son has had only breast milk since he was born. After all the early trouble I had breastfeeding, I didn't think I would make it through the summer, much less be planning out how to continue into the school year. People ask me if I am still breastfeeding, and I answer "yes." However, lots moms in the bf'ing community would disagree with my answer. 

I don't understand why we are so harsh and judgemental of one another. Being a mom is hard enough without us throwing stones. I said I was beyond proud that my son has only had breast milk, but that in no way means that I think my friends' formula fed babies are not getting the best treatment. Those moms are NOT failures. Formula feeding makes some people a better parent. I would ask for a sane momma over a crazy, stressed-out breastfeeding mom any day. 

I get so tired of reading how moms who have committed to 100% breastfeeding are hard on those moms who chose to pump. Some people have circumstances that prevent feeding from the breast, and other just want to pump! It happens. I spent many weeks agonizing over what other people would think, but I am definitely over that!

I am an exclusively pumping mom. 

I didn't mean to get here. I'm not even sure all the time if it's how I want it to go. Admittedly, I do consider trying to convince Moose to nurse at least one time a day, but I just can't bring myself to do it because what we do works for us. That's the most important part about any feeding system. It has to work for you and your family!

I started pumping to get back a little bit of my sanity at 4 or 5 weeks postpartum. It was so nice to let my husband take a feeding, but then somehow things began to shift. It was "easier" to take a bottle for trips in public, so it started becoming part of the leaving the house routine. 

In hindsight, it is absolutely not easier to pump and take a bottle!! What it really meant was that someone else could feed the baby, and that I could be away from him for periods of time. Even as I found myself "free" from the baby's feeding demands, I was still trapped by the pump. Now, I find that I miss being the one he relies on and all the snuggle time. 

But... I have found many positives in pumping. As the end of my summer looms and the beginning of school is right around the corner, I am grateful that I've been pumping for a couple of reasons. 

1. I have quite a freezer supply, so I don't have to stress about what milk he's getting tomorrow. 
2. I can pump pretty efficiently these days. 

It's amazing how quickly you can learn all the little tricks about something. 

What I use for pumping:
Like I said in the beginning, I had no idea what I needed in order to pump. I have the Medela Pump in Style Advanced. This is what I keep with me in my pump bag.

Ten things I keep in my pump bag 
1. Disposable Nursing Pads - These are Tommee Tippee, but I also like the Lanisoh brand too.  I really prefer my Medela reusable cotton ones, but I say you have to keep extras on you!! (Learned my lesson on that)
2. Batteries - My pump has the option to run on batteries when I don't have access to a plug. This makes car pumping (Yep.. I said car pumping) possible.  You can also get the car adapter for most pumps, but I like having the batteries because you never know when you're going to have to pump in a closet.
3. Baby Blanket - This number looks like it labels nothing, but it's the striped blankie in the background.  I really like to use the Aden + Anais swaddle blankets because they are breathable.
4. Medela Quick Clean Wipes - When you are on the go and your pump parts need to be cleaned... I also keep mine in my cooler on the go.  It's the same principle as keeping them in the fridge so that they don't have to be cleaned as often.
5. Terry Cloth Burp Rag - I like these rather than washcloths because they are longer.  I can drape it across my knee, disconnect my parts, and lay them down on this rag.
6. Chip Clip - Ok this may be the oddest thing in my bag. When I started pumping at 4 weeks postpartum, I was about 20 pounds heavier than I am now.  The hands-free bra I bought was a large.  Now, it is too big, and I am too cheap to buy a new one.  This allows my to clip it as tight as I need.  This is great since my weight is still all over the place.
7. Hands-Free Bra - Worth every single penny.  I use this thing all day! I bought the Medela one, but I would think that any of them would be ok.
8. Manual Pump - I keep my Medela Harmony with me everywhere.  If you are going to commit to pumping, you have to commit to pump on the go. I try like crazy to have my backpack ready to pump on the go, but sometimes things happen... (like forgetting your flanges, happens too often). This little baby is a lifesaver.  If you are still nursing, this thing is awesome too because it means you can pump and feed with greater ease.
9. Lanolin - There is nothing worse than a crack or a blister... :( I don't use this every time I pump, but I keep it with me always.
10. Ziploc Bag - There's always a purpose for a ziploc. :)

How I store milk:
My bottles and flanges live in the fridge (or my cooler bag) during the day, so that they don't have to constantly be washed.  I have a piece of Tupperware in the fridge for this purpose. It also holds bags of frozen milk that are in the defrosting stage. 

I then transfer them to a flat plastic lid that I keep in the freezer so they will lay flat. (I double stack so lots can be freezing at once.) I keep them in the fridge freezer until I have 60 ounces, at which point I transfer them to a gallon size bag. That all goes out to the chest freezer. When I put some out there, I grab the oldest gallon bag of milk and bring it in to the inside freezer. I move one or two individual bags at a time into the fridge. It's basically a constant wheel of milk moving. I currently have over 1,800 ounces in the deep freezer, so I try to keep it as organized as possible.

My Schedule:
I have established a pumping routine, and at almost four months postpartum I am still pumping 7 times a day (most days) for 15-25 minutes depending on what time is available. Occasionally my schedule gets wrecked, but I try very, very hard to keep to it as much as possible. For me I have found that consistency is key. I had a different pumping schedule earlier in the summer, but I changed it around to make it more similar to the times I would have in the fall. I will still have to adjust it a bit, but currently: 

Pump 1: 4am
Pump 2: 8am
Pump 3: 11am
Pump 4: 2 pm
Pump 5: 5 pm
Pump 6: 8 pm
Pump 7: 10 pm

My goal is to push pump 5 to a little later and get rid of the sixth pump completely. I would like to crunch down to pumping 4 times a day, but I'm not sure how it would effect my supply. 

That's the other thing about pumping: supply.

That word is constantly used when it comes to pumpers. There is always concern about is this normal? How much should I get? How much will the baby eat? How can I increase my supply? And so on. 

I am personally very blessed by my oversupply. It does make me more attached to my pump than some other people, but I love that I make more than he needs each day and that I am able to freeze so much. I make around 60 ounces a day. I have read, though, that it is perfectly normal to only get an ounce or so with each pumping time. I guess it really does vary from woman to woman.

How I do it...
I drink a ton of water (but that's the norm for me). 
I drink Gatorade. 
I don't stress about the milk. 

To read about my updated schedule read the newest pumping post here.

My concerns with pumping are how to cut out a session. I have only managed to do this once when I got rid of the absolute middle of the night pump. I did that by sleeping as long as I could and waking to pump when I just couldn't stand it anymore. After a week, the 4am routine was established. I also worry about how to quit when I am ready. I would really like to keep it up throughout the fall (with football and cheer I'm not sure how that will work exactly), but my goal is to make it to December. 

Moose man will be 7 months at the end of November, and I should have two months or so in storage for him. That would put him drinking mommas milk until about 9 months I think. I find that to be both realistic and awesome!!! 

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night running my hands across my chest because I am certain I have fallen asleep all hooked up. (I never really have.) And I hear the phantom whoosh-whoosh of the pump in my head most of the day. It's a life and honestly it's much harder than I imagined. I am grateful that Moose is able to get my milk, but I never realized the sacrifices it would take on my part.

In 2014, I will really get back to running.
I will leave the house with only my purse in hand. I will sleep on my stomach. I will sleep for more than 5 and a half hours in a row. I will not wash bottles every single morning. I will not worry if my shirt is pumping friendly, and I might even wear a dress!

Happy pumping to all!

- Pumping at Work? Read my post about that here.

- Ready to Quit Pumping? Find out how I gave up my pumping days here.

- Breastfeeding the second time? I have had my second baby and am working to breastfeed (instead of exclusively pump) this time around. Read my post that gives tips for making it work the second time around.

Other Postpartum Posts: 


  1. I love this! You are just such a breath of fresh air! I totally agree with you about some communities or mothers being judgemental and maybe somewhat cultish at times. I had so many issues with breastfeeding my first son and lack of information so I gave up. He got breaastmilk for 6 weeks the last three of those solely pumping and for lack of supply, supplementing. My baby (hes on now!)is happy and healthy. Im 6 months with baby #2 and Im hoping I can eventually be where you are. Thanks for the info!

    1. Thank you! This whole experience has been quite the journey. I wish you lots of luck with baby #2!

  2. Hello, I am a high school teacher and I was wondering how it's been since school started? I'll be pumping at work after I go back in November. Any suggestions?

    1. Ok, so I won't lie to you it isn't easy! Pumping at lunch is a bit uncomfortable (even though I am locked in my classroom). The kids come back and wriggle the door handle. It can be a little stressful, but so far I've cut out one pump and am at 5 or 6 a day and am still getting 50ish ounces.

      My conference period pump is the easiest one at school, but it does mean I'm using my conference to pump. It's really tough to stay on top of lesson planning... so really I think as long as you have your classroom taken care of you're putting yourself in a good spot. Oh, and keep extra nursing pads!! (nothing worse than finding them soaked at lunch and stressing allll day that you're leaking through)

      Hope it helps! Keep me posted on your experience.

  3. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I've always felt good about my decision to be an exclusive pumper since ive had trouble breastfeeding my son, 3 months ago. But your blog and this post has made me realize that i am not the only one out there. Your experience and my own are SOOOOO similar its scary. So i just want to say thank you for letting me know im not the only one!

    1. Nicole, thank you so much for the comment! Exclusive Pumping is a tough job!!!

  4. Great job! I EP'd with my son for 7 months. It was hard but well worth it. Best tips I have for you, hand massage while pumping to increase let down. Only drop one pump session a month, or your supply can be affected. If supply goes down, "cluster pump" just as if he would do, to stimulate increased production. It takes about 3-4 days to see an increase, though.

    I was fortunate enough to have great support throughout the process from family, friends, and coworkers! This is essential!

    1. Awesome job making it 7 months!! I seriously applaud you.

  5. You may have already included this, but what type of pump do you use regularly? I will have to pump at work, and I wanted something that relatively quiet, comfortable, and proven to work for an exclusive pumper. Thanks!!!

    1. I use a Medela Pump in Style Advanced. I don't know how quiet other pumps are, but this one has the wrr-wrr-wrr. It's a joke between several of my friends and I who have pumped that the pump speaks to you this way! Haha

      I highly recommend the manual pump I use: The Medela Harmony. It is really effective when I cannot get everything with my electric.

  6. LOVED this! Thank you! I just made the leap to EP after BF complications galore and I hope I can do it as long as you have!!! You're an inspiration =)

    and i hear the phatntom whoosh all the time already! haha

  7. I exclusively pumped from 6 weeks pp to 12 months for my first son because I couldn't handle the nursing. The looks from some moms just drove me crazy! But I would make sure they knew it was breast milk :) I am planning on EP my second son due any day now. Thank you so much for the article :)

    1. It's definitely frustrating when other people are judge-y about what you feed your baby! I hope that EP-ing is going well this time around.

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