In last weeks post (The Realities of Exclusively Pumping), I talked about my journey exclusively pumping and challenges I faced. I exclusively pumped for my twins for 9-months. It was extra demanding because I had a two-year-old to take care of as well. It is one of the hardest things I’ve done, but I managed to find a few ways to make it a bit easier. If something is easier, you’re guaranteed to be more successful at it!
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Tips to Make Exclusively Pumping More Efficient
pump while you’re feeding baby
For a few feedings a day, pump and feed baby simultaneously. Use a hands-free pumping bra and set your baby in a baby bouncy seat, Boppy pillow, (this one is awesome if you have twins. It was one of my most used items!) or somewhere else they’re comfortable. Your hands will be completely free to give them their bottle. *I am not at all suggesting you put your baby down, prop their bottle, and leave the room to pump, just so we’re clear!
To help with letdown, hold one of your baby’s blankets and look at pictures of them. I did this while my girls were in the NICU and it helped tremendously. After a few weeks, my body got used to the pump and letdown happened quickly.
washing pump parts
The Center for Disease Control recently released new guidelines for properly washing pump parts. I’m gonna put those there and let you read them and then tell you the method I followed.
Before I assembled my pump I washed my hands really, really well. I used hot water, plenty of soap, and washed for a long time.
After I pumped, I washed my hands again before handling the breast pump parts, and then I properly stored my milk.
I then rinsed my pump parts with very hot water, placed them in a plastic bag, and put them in the refrigerator.
At the end of the day, I washed them in a separate bin (not letting them touch the sink), in hot, soapy water. Sometimes I ran them through the dishwasher. I also used a Microwave Steam Sterilizer Bag at the end of the day.
No, I did not wash my pump-parts after every use, but I made sure that I never touched them with dirty hands and put them straight into the refrigerator where bacteria can’t grow. If I had washed my pump parts after every use, I might not have continued pumping for as long as I did. You have to make a choice that is sustainable for your family and also one you’re comfortable with.
make sure your flanges fit you properly
The flanges are the little things that look like funnels that touch your breast. They come in different sizes, and the standard that comes with breast pumps is a 24 mm. This size worked for me with my first child, but with the twins, it was way too small. You can read this breast shield sizing guide if you’re not sure of what size to get. There’s even a picture for reference!
The Logistics of Exclusively Pumping: When and How Long
In order to keep up your supply, you should pump every 3-hours, or every time your baby takes a bottle. My twins were in the NICU for the first several weeks of their lives. During this time, I was able to pump every 3-hours and that really boosted my supply. After they came home, I just physically did not have the time to take care of them AND our two-year-old, AND pump every 3-hours. I also knew it was important to get as much sleep as possible to keep my supply up, so I opted for a 5-hour chunk of sleep.
The experts say you should pump for 15-20 minutes. I pumped for about 15-minutes, or 2-3 minutes after I stopped getting milk. Don’t stop pumping when you stop getting milk! Continuing to pump when your breast is empty will signal it to produce more milk.
Here is the schedule that I followed. If you don’t have an oversupply (and a 2-year-old) to take care of, I do suggest that you try to pump at least 8 times throughout the day. I got away with 6, but my supply dried up around 9-months postpartum. I do wonder if this would have been the case had I managed to get more pumping sessions in. Definitely, strive for pumping as often as possible in the beginning.
- 7:00: Pump and feed the babies at the same time; toddler was still asleep.
- 10:00: Feed babies
- 11:00 Pump while babies nap and toddler watches TV
- 1:00 Pump and feed babies at the same time; toddler naps
- 4:00 Feed babies
- 5-6ish: Pump after husband gets home from work
- 7:00 Feed babies
- 9-10ish: Pump before bed
- 10:00 Feed babies
- 1:00 AM: hubby feeds babies
- 4:00 AM: I feed and pump at the same time
How to Keep Up Your Supply While Exclusively Pumping
There are supplements you can take, however, it is best to see what your body can do on its own and supplement if you have supply issues. I was advised by a lactation consultant to do it that way because if you start with supplements right away, your body could become dependent on them to produce milk.
- Eat highly nutritious foods. Especially if you’re pumping for twins.
- Drink LOTS of water. This is my favorite cup. It’s stainless steel and keeps water cool for a long time and the straw makes drinking easy.
- Get as much rest and sleep as you can. If you can get a solid 5-hour chunk at night, it might be better to sleep than to pump.
- Make sure you have a good quality, double electric pump.
- You can power pump once a day, or every time you pump for a few days. Power pumping is when you: pump for 20 minutes; rest 10 minutes. Pump another 10 minutes; rest for 10 minutes. Pump again for 10 minutes; finish. Power pumping signals the breast to produce more milk, but for some reason, never worked for me.
- Supplements (check with your Doctor first!): Mothers Milk Tea, Fenugreek Gaia Herbs Lactation Support Liquid Phyto-Capsules, 120 Count are ones that I took and worked really well for me.
I hope this post was informative and helpful for you. My choice to exclusively pump happened so last minute that I really didn’t have time to do any research or seek out advice. Be sure to check back next week for my list of essential supplies for pumping mamas!