With increasing awareness on the importance of breastfeeding, exclusive pumping has emerged as a feeding alternative, and it is growing in popularity. This basically means that mothers are expressing and giving their babies breastmilk, without directly feeding baby from the breast. This is of course made possible by advanced technology producing excellent quality breastpumps to help mothers reach their feeding goals.
As with all other options there are pro’s and cons, and you should evaluate these carefully before choosing this option.
Why choose exclusive pumping?
- It provides an immediate solution for babies refusing to latch.
- Babies who are in NICU or are unable to feed due to medical reasons.
- Many women are worried that their babies are not getting enough milk, as they cannot accurately monitor the milk intake. They may feel safer when pumping and feeding baby with a bottle.
- It makes it possible for other people to feed baby with a bottle.
- A mom who is separated from her baby for long period of time can continue providing breastmilk.
- It’s an option for mothers who dislike nursing, for a variety of reasons.
- Lastly, many simply choose to do so.
Why go to the hassle?
With exclusive pumping a mother can offer her baby all the advantages of drinking breastmilk even if breastfeeding itself didn’t work out. And from this perspective it is a wonderful option to explore. So many women carry grief and sadness in their hearts because they couldn’t breastfeed. This can lead to postnatal depression and it can unnecessarily steal a lot of joy. Exclusive pumping can be empowering and bring healing. With more and more women choosing this option there are various support networks available on social media, and she will not be in it alone.
But would I recommend exclusive pumping?
To be honest, as a lactation consultant and a mother who expressed milk for two children I would reserve exclusive pumping as a last resort. Allow me to explain.
With all the joys of a new baby comes lots of hard work and challenges. It is possibly the biggest adaptation that you would ever have to make. Exclusive pumping will take massive commitment and a lot of time and effort from mom. To maintain a milk supply you will have to express regularly and religiously. This on top of all the other responsibilities that a new baby brings will be very challenging. It may look like a viable option in the moment, but in the long run it’s going to be tough to do.
You should always attempt to do all you can to get your baby to latch and suck from the breast. For this you may need the assistance of a lactation consultant.
However, if you have really tried it all and are still not managing, and if you feel that this is an option that is going to work for you, then I am fully supportive and would do all I can to support a mom on this road.
Choosing a breastpump
If you are planning to exclusively pump your breastpump may well be the factor determining your success. You would need a pump with a strong enough motor to provide enough stimulation to maintain milk supply. A double pump will half the time that you spend expressing. You need a pump that is silent and portable, as you will have to take it wherever you go.
READ MORE: How to choose a breastpump
You should consider the BabyWombWorld’s Double Electric Breastpump which is an affordable pump that truly will fulfil in all your expressing needs.
Maintaining your milk supply – the biggest challenge
To build and maintain a supply in the early weeks you would have to express breastmilk every 2-3 hours in the day, and at least 2-3 times at night. This will decrease as baby grows older, so don’t despair. Remember that expressing takes practise; don’t despair if you don’t immediately get it right. Be diligent with your expressing routine in the early weeks, as this is the period where your milk supply gets established. You will reap the rewards in the months to follow. (Link this section to the article on maintaining supply)
What to expect if you are exclusive pumping
Mothers who opt for this route will experience common challenges and emotions. Be realistic about these and focus on maintaining a healthy perspective on the situation.
- Many women continue to struggle with feelings of guilt, isolation and inadequacy because their initial breastfeeding attempts didn’t work out the way you planned.
- You may feel that you failed expectations – your own, your partner’s, those of society. Remember that these expectations were set before you knew what situation you would need to deal with. Take the time to re-evaluate and adapt these as you go along.
- You may feel cheated out of your breastfeeding experience – why do others manage but you have to struggle?
- Unfortunately your partner and your family may not always be fully supportive. They may get irritated with you for submitting yourself to the demands of this process, and my push you to ‘just give the baby formula’. This can make you feel alone and under pressure. Try to explain to them where you are coming from and why you need their support. But ultimately remember that you are the best person to make choices for your baby.
- Maintaining milk supply will remain a challenge and a source of anxiety throughout.
- Many mothers feel that they are chained to the pump and unable to do anything else.
- On a more positive note, you will also have reason to feel proud of yourself and may feel elated at being able to give your baby breastmilk.
- This will build your determination and motivation to proceed.
- As time goes along you will develop coping skills and savvy that that will make things easier for you.
There are great social media groups for exclusive pumpers where mothers can connect with others who are in the same situation. They can offer emotional support and share their coping skills.
The support of your partner and those around you is crucial, as it’s going to take a lot of time and effort. Sometimes you will need a practical hand, for example someone to watch baby while you are expressing, or help with washing and sterilising equipment.
But what if you can’t produce enough breast milk?
If you can manage to keep expressing enough to only feed baby breastmilk it is great. But if not, there is nothing wrong with giving formula when necessary. Any amount of breastmilk given is worth gold, even if it’s one bottle a day. Remember that you are doing the best you can.
You are the best mother there is for your baby. The simple amount of hours and effort that mothers put into exclusive pumping speaks of massive love and dedication. Be proud of yourself, treasure this time and recognise it as a gift that you are giving your baby.