Curious about exclusive pumping? We’ve got exclusive pumping tips from real moms, schedules, and all you need to know about how to exclusively pump.
Want to give your baby breast milk but aren’t able to nurse directly, for whatever reason?
Feeling trapped by the choice between breast milk and formula?
Well, thanks to the marvelous invention known as the breast pump, many mamas are choosing exclusive pumping (also called EP or exclusively pumping).
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.
Let’s explore exclusive pumping so you can make the right choice for you and your baby.
In this article: 📝
- What is exclusive pumping?
- Is it OK to exclusively pump?
- Can you go back to nursing after exclusively pumping?
- How long should you pump for if exclusively pumping?
- How long should you exclusively pump?
- How often should I pump if I’m exclusively pumping?
- How do you exclusively pump and still have a life?
- Is exclusively pumping harder than breastfeeding?
- How hard is exclusive pumping?
What is exclusive pumping?
Exclusive pumping is where you still feed baby breast milk, but they don’t drink it directly from your breast.
It’s often used by moms whose little ones have trouble latching, by those who would prefer not to breastfeed, but still want baby to get their nutrients from breast milk, or by those who want to free up their feeding schedule ‒ anyone can feed baby if the milk’s in a bottle.
Is it OK to exclusively pump?
Yes, of course!
Exclusive pumping is a great choice for many moms ‒ any breast milk you’re producing still gets used, baby still gets their nutrients from your breast milk, and other people can help feed baby.
And there are so many reasons why pumping exclusively might be the best option for you.
Here are some of them:
- Baby was born preterm or has a low birth weight.
- Baby is ill.
- Baby has 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.
- You just want to. Even no reason is still reason enough, mama. It’s your choice.
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.
Can you get mastitis if you’re exclusively pumping?
Yes, you can still get mastitis even if you are exclusively pumping.
Mastitis is an infection that can occur when you have clogged milk ducts, which can happen at any point in your breastfeeding or pumping journey.
However, with exclusive pumping, it typically tends to happen if the breast is not emptied after a pumping session.
Will I get my period if I exclusively pump?
No, whether you pump or breastfeed, that will not change when your period starts back up after having a baby.
Generally speaking, if you choose to formula feed (or sometimes combo feed with formula and breast milk), your period can come back sooner than if you were to breastfeed or pump.
This goes for exclusively pumping, exclusively breastfeeding, or a mix of the two.
Can exclusively pumping damage your nipples?
Sometimes, yes, but it’s not really the exclusive pumping that can hurt your nipples.
This can happen when the breast pump you’re using doesn’t have the right suction or latch for your nipple and breast shape.
But for most moms who choose to exclusively pump, there is an option out there for you.
It can help to chat with a lactation consultant to see what sort of breast pump would work best for you and your baby on your exclusive pumping journey.
Can you go back to nursing after exclusively pumping?
Yes, you can.
It might take baby a few tries to get a decent latch, but if you’re exclusively pumping and you want to try our breastfeeding, you can usually give it a go.
If you’re ever unsure about feeding your baby, it’s also a good idea to have a chat with your pediatrician.
How long should you pump for if exclusively pumping?
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:
Newborn exclusive pumping schedule
It’s a good idea to pump as often as your newborn baby would be nursing.
Newborns usually feed somewhere between 8 and 12 times a day, so try to get in that many pumping sessions every 24 hrs, ideally 2 or 3 hours apart.
The aim is to produce somewhere in the vicinity of 24 ounces in a 24-hour period.
So a newborn exclusive pumping schedule could look something like this:
Midnight to morning: Overnight pump (with a wearable breast pump)
You could pump while feeding ‒ bottle and baby on one side, pump on the other ‒ or you could get a wearable pump for hands-free pumping during the day and night.
Whatever works best for you.
Exclusive pumping schedule for babies over 3 months old
From 3 months, pumping about 4 to 5 times a day should do the trick.
Older babies eat more, but less frequently.
So an exclusive pumping schedule for babies over 3 months could look like this:
Overnight: Wearable pump
How long should you exclusively pump?
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.
And try not to compare yourself with others.
This is your journey and yours alone.
How often should I pump if I’m exclusively pumping?
If baby is less than 3 months old, pumping every 2-3 hours is recommended if you’re exclusively pumping, to ensure baby has enough nutrition.
If baby is more than 3 months old, you can pump every 3-5 hours.
But this isn’t prescriptive ‒ you and your baby may prefer (or need) more or less frequent pumping, so you do you, mama.
How do you exclusively pump and still have a life?
While you’re exclusively pumping, breastfeeding, or a bit of both, it can feel like you’re just a feeding machine.
Yes, it can get draining, but we’re with you, mama.
Now for some exclusive pumping tips and tricks from our Peanut mamas who have been there.
Take what works, leave what doesn’t ‒ we’re all different, and every motherhood journey is different.
Here’s some tried-and-true advice on how to exclusively pump, from real moms:
- 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.)
- A hands-free pumping bra is a great way to multitask while pumping.
- Get 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.
Is exclusively pumping harder than breastfeeding?
In some ways, pumping exclusively can be 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 of pumping 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.
Does exclusively pumping reduce milk supply?
No, exclusively pumping shouldn’t reduce your breast milk supply.
There are usually underlying reasons for a breast milk supply decrease, like stress, infection, and fatigue.
So if you’ve noticed a decrease in your breast milk supply, whether you’re exclusively pumping, breastfeeding, or a bit of both, it’s worth having a chat with your doctor or a lactation consultant to see what can help get you back to pumping fashion!
Does pumping get more milk than breastfeeding?
Not necessarily, but sometimes.
It’s often down to the type of pump you’re using, as some newer versions tend to mimic the feeling and action of baby suckling, to get more milk to come out.
It’s also a matter of personal preference ‒ what you mentally prefer and what you physically prefer.
But each mom has different preferences when it comes to pumping and breastfeeding ‒ a little testing and trialing should help you find yours.
One of the favorite breast pumps of our Peanut Community is the Lola&Lykke Smart Electric Breast Pump ‒ wireless, quiet, and portable, it works for most exclusively pumping mamas, so give it a go if you want to try your hand at pumping!
How hard is exclusive pumping?
There’s no denying it ‒ for some moms, exclusive pumping can be hard.
And some others prefer breastfeeding.
And other moms prefer formula feeding.
It’s all about what works for you and your baby.
So if you’re keen to try exclusive pumping ‒ whether that’s because it fits into your schedule, it makes you feel more comfortable, or simply because you want to, that’s all valid.
Exclusively pumping can work for so many mothers, so if you want to try it, go for it!
Good luck, mama.
You got this.