What Moms Need To Know Before Committing To Exclusive Pumping

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If there's one thing new mothers can agree on, it's that breastfeeding takes a lot of time out of your day. Doctors advise new moms nurse as often as possible, but that means fitting breastfeeding into a busy schedule and possibly having to do it at, er, inconvenient times.
The busy-ness of it all could add to the appeal of exclusively pumping. This is when, rather than breastfeeding, a parent expresses breastmilk to feed their baby via a bottle, and it has become increasingly popular among busy parents of late. It may seem convenient to pump, hand over a bottle, and go, but this isn't necessarily the best breastfeeding plan for everyone.
People are most often advised to exclusively pump in cases of prematurity, explains Gladys Vallespir Ellett, RN, IBCLC, LCCE, nurse coordinator of lactation services at NYU Langone Health. Preemies, depending on their size and health, might not be able to nurse, or they're confined to NICU while the mom is recuperating, and she simply can't get in there to nurse enough times a day.
Aside from having a preemie, you may decide to exclusively pump if your baby has a cleft palate, has started teething and now bites, or simply will not latch. Ellett recommends going through with breastfeeding normally if nothing medically bars your baby from nursing, but some moms simply don't want to breastfeed — but still want to make sure their babies get the nutrients in breast milk.
In these cases, it must be said that bottle-feeding breast milk doesn't necessarily offer all of the benefits that breastfeeding does. Ellett says that the act of latching can support the baby's jaw development and strengthen their oral muscles.
Additionally, Research suggests that the baby's saliva, as it's received through mouth-to-nipple contact, sends important information to the mother's body about baby's health and whether they need a boost in infection-fighting white blood cells. Of course, breast milk naturally adjusts its composition as the baby grows and develops, but, without the contact that accompanies latching, it won't change with the same speed and responsiveness.
Making and settling on a breastfeeding plan is a personal — and, often, quite difficult — process. If you find that exclusively pumping makes the most sense for you, there are a few things you need to know. Ahead, Ellett shares five important tips for exclusively pumping.
World Breastfeeding Week is August 1-7 this year, and the entire month of August is devoted to breastfeeding awareness. For more coverage on nursing, pumping, or choosing not to do either, head over to our Mothership page.
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Meet with a lactation consultant early and often.
Ellett recommends setting a prenatal appointment with a board-certified lactation consultant, adding that those who know ahead of giving birth that they wish to exclusively pump should make that clear to their consultant ASAP. They'll help you set up a pumping plan and share tips on how to establish your milk supply.
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Pump as often as you'd breastfeed.
Be prepared to pump anywhere from eight to 12 times a day, especially in the first two weeks of your baby's life. And don't think this gets you off the hook for overnight: You will still need to get up and pump during the night. You're "basically following what a baby would be doing at the breast," Ellett says. Sticking to a regular pumping schedule will help you establish and maintain a steady milk supply.
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Practice pump hygiene.
Ellett says to make sure the pump's flanges fit properly before pumping. The FDA advises against renting or sharing pumps, which means get a brand new one if you can (your insurance company may pay for it!). And be sure you clean the pieces that touch milk between uses. It's pretty simple to disinfect your pump at home, but read its manufacturer's cleaning guidelines just in case specific steps need to be taken to ensure your model is totally clean.
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Bond during bottle feedings.
Ellett encourages parents who exclusively pump to hold their babies against their bodies while bottle feeding. Breastfeeding comes with the natural benefit of skin-to-skin contact between moms and their babies, which can promote bonding, help moms breastfeed for longer, and it may even support the baby's heart and lung health. Exclusive pumpers shouldn't have to miss out on that experience, so be sure to get cozy during feedings.