Exclusively Pumping Tips - breast pump

All you need to know about exclusively pumping, courtesy of lactation experts

For some moms, nursing is just not an option. Whether your baby is unable to latch properly or you simply don’t like breastfeeding—hey, no judgment here—there is still a way for your baby to benefit from nutrient-rich breast milk by exclusively pumping. This means using a breast pump and feeding your baby through a bottle—and it’s a path that many women take! To make it easier for you to get all the facts, we connected with our resident Internationally Board-Certified Lactation Consultant Katie McGee to answer the most commonly asked questions on this topic. From knowing how long to pump to increasing milk supply when exclusively pumping, here’s what she had to say.

Exclusive pumping tips from a lactation expert, plus some helpful advice from the Ashland Breast Pumps team

When should a mom who wants to exclusively pump start?

Start early and pump often. If you can, try to pump within the first hour after delivery. The first two weeks are a critical period of lactation establishment, and once this time passes, it is a lot harder to boost your breast milk supply. If a mother is exclusively pumping, she is pump dependent. The pump is essentially “tricking” a mother’s body into production, establishment and maintenance of the milk supply by mimicking the newborn’s stimulation and removal of breast milk during breastfeeding.

Tip: If you need advice on how to increase your milk supply while exclusively pumping, connect with a lactation consultant from the Lactation Network. They can help guide and prepare you through all the ins and outs of your lactation journey—whether it involves breastfeeding or not!

What kind of breast pump should an exclusively pumping mother use? 

Exclusively pumping mothers should start with a hospital-grade rental with an initiation pattern to establish supply at the beginning of your beast pumping relationship. Pumping both breasts at the same time is both a time saver and sends a bigger surge of milk-making hormones throughout your body compared to single pumping. You should be able to rent one from your hospital or by reaching out to the Ashland Breast Pumps team. After the first month or so, your supply should be well-established enough to transition to a personal double electric pump.

Tip: Here at Ashland Breast Pumps, we’re experts on getting moms the right breast pump for their needs! For exclusively-pumping moms, standard double electric breast pumps work well. If you’re pumping around the clock, having a strong, versatile option is key. You may also want to keep around a battery-operated option on hand for when you’re out and about or invest in an extra just for work. To figure out which option might work best for you, check out our favorite insurance-covered breast pumps or take our quiz.

What else should exclusively-pumping moms do to prepare?

Get to know your breast pump top to bottom. Learn how to set it up, practice assembling and disassembling all of the pieces ahead of time and get a second or third complete kit of pump pieces—you’ll be glad you did. Also know how and when to wash and sterilize the pieces. Your breast pump’s manual or YouTube channel will be an excellent resource here. Make sure you understand the settings and how to best use them in order to maximize the stimulation and emptying of your breasts. Doing everything right in the first two weeks is important to maximize your ability to make enough milk long term.

Tip: Like Katie, our team recommends stocking up on all the extra parts and accessories you may need. For an exclusively pumping mom, a missing piece, broken valve or misplaced breast shield can be paralyzing. Thankfully, we offer breast pump accessories such as extra tubing, breast shields and breast milk storage bags covered by insurance. Fill out an order form today to request accessories.

How long should each pumping session last?

Never pump for more than 30 minutes per session. Most breast pumps will leave it up to you to choose a starting and stopping time, so have a phone or use an app to help stick to a schedule. It’s OK to plan daytime sessions closer together early on to allow for a stretch of four or five hours of sleep at night. Sleep is important for new mothers, but know that going longer than that causes your body to protectively slow milk production. A long break, especially in the first two weeks, may negatively impact the establishment of your supply.

Tip: We know it’s not always easy, but even if your baby starts snoozing longer—fingers crossed that happens sooner rather than later—still try to get up and pump at least once during the night! Those extra ounces will make a difference, and after the first 12 weeks you can try dropping one session each month or so and see how your milk supply does. If you see a dip, just add a breast pumping session back in. For those late nights, we recommend the Spectra S2 Double Electric Breast Pump, which comes with a night light and timer to ensure quick, easy and safe pumping when you’re tired.   

What’s the best exclusive pumping schedule?

After the first month when lactation is considered fairly well established, the lactating breasts are more forgiving when a mother varies her breast pumping routine slightly. Most women can switch up the timing as long as about eight sessions per day are completed in 24 hours. For example: If a mom has plans in the afternoon, she can squeeze her morning sessions closer together and stretch out the afternoon sessions. There is flexibility in the timing, but the number of minutes at the end of the day should stay about the same. For completely breast pump-dependent mothers who do not nurse at all, pumping less than six times in a 24-hour period will generally not be adequate for maintaining milk supply.

Tip: Whether you’re a working mom, stay-at-home mom or anything in between, it can be difficult to find the time to pump. Here are some tips for sticking to a schedule and more tips from a lactation expert.

After the first two weeks, how should exclusively pumping mothers adjust their routine to see continued success?

A lactating breast is never totally empty, so a mother can maximize her chances of success by continuing a routine that regularly empties her breast as completely as possible. The “empty” breast is the trigger for more milk production once lactation is established. A hospital-grade breast pump rental for at least the first month is a good investment for mothers with the goal of exclusive pumping without nursing. After that, most women can transition to a double electric personal pump and return the rental. 

An assessment from a lactation consultant can also be extremely helpful to a pump-dependent mother. She will receive feedback regarding the type of breast pump, sizing of breast shields and other equipment and timing of sessions that is right for her specific situation, which will help make the most of her breast pumping sessions.

It’s not easy to commit to exclusively pumping. But mom, we’re here for you. If a pumping-only lifestyle is the one that works best for you, Ashland Breast Pumps is here to help. From baby bump to breast pump, we have the resources and knowledge to help all moms achieve breastfeeding success. Get started by ordering an insurance-covered breast pump today.