Do you want to give your baby breast milk but aren’t able to nurse directly, for whatever reason? Do you feel trapped by the choice between breastmilk and formula? Well, thanks to the marvelous invention known as the breast pump, many mamas are choosing exclusive pumping (AKA EP’ing). This makes it possible to feed your baby breast milk even if you can’t or don’t want to nurse directly from your breast.
In this article: 📝
- Is it OK to exclusively pump breast milk?
- Exclusive pumping schedule
- How long can you exclusively pump breast milk?
- Exclusive pumping tips
- Is exclusively pumping harder than breastfeeding?
Is it OK to exclusively pump breast milk?
Yes. There are so many reasons why pumping exclusively might be the best option for you.
Here are some of them:
- Your baby was born preterm or has a low birth weight.
- Your baby is ill.
- Your baby is having trouble latching.
- You have twins, multiples, or siblings close in age.
- You have to go back to work.
- You are separated from your baby.
- You are a victim of sexual abuse.
- Breastfeeding induces anxiety, makes you feel stressed out or weird, or fuels depressive symptoms.
Exclusive pumping can be a great choice, so it’s a shame many mamas don’t even know that pumping exclusively is an option available to them. We’re here to help!
Exclusive pumping schedule
Every mama will find their own exclusive pumping groove—and it usually won’t come right away.
Here’s a very rough guide to how frequently you might want to get your pump on:
- If you have a newborn baby. It’s a good idea to pump as often as your newborn baby would be nursing. Newborns usually feed somewhere between eight and 12 times a day, so try to get in that many pumping sessions every 24 hrs, ideally two or three hours apart. The aim is to produce somewhere in the vicinity of 24 ounces in a 24 hour period.
- If you have a baby who is older than three months, about four to five times a day should do the trick. Older babies eat more, but less frequently.
How long can you exclusively pump breast milk?
Each session should last somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes. Anything beyond that can be exhausting and might not yield much milk.
Be patient with yourself. Reach out for support when you need it. (Check out Peanut for this.) And try not to compare yourself with others. This is your journey and yours alone.
Exclusive pumping tips
- Physical bonding is important—both for stimulating milk supply and for your relationship with your baby. So, if possible, find time for that skin-on-skin contact.
- Hold your baby close when feeding them.
- Pumping frequently is a good idea, since this tells your body to keep the milk coming.
- Pump until you’ve fully emptied your breasts. This helps to increase milk supply and prevent engorgement, which can lead to a painful infection called mastitis.
- Double pumping might work for you (especially if you have twins) as it can help produce more milk quickly. Consider buying an electric double pump.
- Know your rights when it comes to pumping at work. In the United States, until your baby is a year old, your workplace has to provide a private space for you (that is not a bathroom) and give you pumping breaks. (Go here if you need evidence to show your boss.)
Is exclusively pumping harder than breastfeeding?
In some ways, pumping exclusively can be a little challenging. For one, it requires a whole lot more gear—and with that gear comes the need to keep it clean. Also, the actual act takes time. You have to pump, you have to feed, you have to clean. It’s a lot! So if anyone tries to judge you or get you into some silly “exclusive pumping vs breastfeeding” argument, you have complete license to school/ignore them.
That said, if you are wondering how to make exclusive pumping easier, there are a few things you can do. A hands-free pumping bra is a great way to multitask while pumping. Another way to save time is to have several sets of pumping parts and put them all in the dishwasher at the end of the day, rather than washing one set of parts after every single pumping session.
Good luck, mama. You got this.