Tips & Tricks from an Exclusive Pumper

Before going into my tips & tricks, I’d like to lay down the reason WHY I chose to exclusively pump.

When my little Gent was born, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to handle breast-feeding. I knew I wanted to breast feed and I was going into it with an open mind and surrounded by many friends who breast-fed their littles and also those who chose to formula feed. I had heard the whole “breast-feeding is the hardest thing ever” and I also heard “its the most amazing thing you’ll ever feel.” I tried to keep all opinion on the table but to really embrace it myself as much as I could.

Breech Baby – I knew I was going to have a C-Section late in the game as my little did not want to turn from being breech the entire pregnancy. I tried hypno-babies, frozen peas at the top of my belly, stretches, exercises (within reason due to my bed-rest status) all of which did not work. I found myself having a pretty stressful C-Section when all was said and done. What I didn’t plan for, was my OR nurse to slap on a nipple shield less than a half hour of doing skin to skin with my newborn. Multiple Lactation Consultants after this have let me know that I did not need it. But since my little boy is a creature of habit, he would not let go of the nipple shield.

 

Heart Defect…What?! – We left the hospital, nipple shield and all only to head to the pediatrician the following day and find out my little guy was born with a heart defect. Three holes in his little heart confirmed by the Cardiologist later that day. ASD, PDA & VSD for all my heart baby Mamas to know. I was using the nipple shield up to this point and it was HARD. And MESSY. And ANNOYING. And difficult to use in PUBLIC. BUT I used it. I knew my baby needed my milk to heal those little holes in his heart. That’s what kept me going.

 

Reality – Coming home with a baby who is sick is not the easiest. We were extra cautious with just about everything… and everyone. For good reason. He couldn’t get sick. Needed all of the calories he could get. And most importantly couldn’t burn unnecessary calories carelessly. To put it into a better visual for you… hardly ANY one got to hold him, hand washing on overdrive, couldn’t let the baby cry and had to wake the baby up every 2-3 hours on the dot to feed. We had to treat him as a preemie.

 

Gaining Weight – First visit back to the Pediatrician he advised that the baby needed to gain more weight, quickly or he would be at risk of being hospitalized. He wanted me to start adding formula to my breast milk to pump up the calorie content. This is where my pumping life began. 

 

Our life for the next 5 months – Gentry wasn’t having the formula in his breast milk. He just became super fussy, gassy… it was not good. As a Mama I made the decision to not give the formula and just pump. Pump like CRAZY. Pump and record every bottle. Every ounce my little would get and just pray that this was what HE NEEDED to heal those little holes. Doctor visit after doctor visit going forward, there was nothing but positive improvements in my sons health. First one hole closed… then another… And now he still has the last hole {the VSD} but it is so small because his body is just about done healing it.

I lasted for 5 months exclusively pumping… Almost made it to his 6 month birthday. My hope is that another Mama will find that there is hope for exclusive pumpers and that you’re not alone! Hope these tips will help you!

 

I am NO way a doctor or a health care professional. Please review any changes to your routine with your doctor. These are my opinions only. 

  • Invest in good maternity bras – Get measured and get multiples, preferably in white, cream and black. You don’t want to have to plan your wardrobe around your maternity bra color. My favorite were from Motherhood Maternity. You can find them here.
  • Set up shop – Set up one area of your house where your pump will not move from. Choose an area of the house that you have access to an outlet and if you’re a TV watcher, make sure its in close proximity because you will need to be occupied with all the house you will spend at the pump.
  • Get an extension cord – Make sure your pump can plug into easily as well as your phone.
  • Use your alarm clock on your phone – I had to set my alarm clock for every 3 hours. It was extremely tiring. Just after I would pump, clean up, and feed my newborn I had just a little bit of time to sleep. If I can do it, you can do! Keep pushing through…
  • Utilize KellyMom to the fullest extent – They also have a Facebook group but it is difficult to work with. If you can deal with some politics of a Facebook group, then I highly recommend joining it.
  • Have community – Keep your breastfeeding friends within reach. They too have to pump at times and ask them for their tips they have come across.
  • Use your fridge for pumping parts – I didn’t figure this out for awhile but after I was done pumping, I would put my parts into a ziplock bag and keep it in the fridge. It would be good for a couple of pump sessions without having to wash each time.
  • Soak in alcohol – When you use your pump so often, your parts may get some build up that are in tiny little creases. Soak the parts in rubbing alcohol for an hour or so. Then clean your parts and make sure they fully dry before you use them again. You may have to plan this around a long sleep stretch the baby may take at night.
  • Cleaning your tubes – Pumping tubes will get wet, fast when you are an exclusive pumper. If your body (like mine did) adjusts to the pump very well, you will be able to pump…a…lot… of milk out and the pump may have a hard time keeping the milk in its designated areas. Clean out your tubes when you see milk in them or even some moisture. I squirt soap into the tube and ran hot water through. I then used a Medela steam cleaning bag and steamed them. After that I would swing my tubes in a big circular motion really fast and the water would quickly come out (be careful baby is nowhere near you when you do this!)
  • Use gloves – I live in DRY Arizona and I have NO idea why I didn’t start using gloves to wash my bottles and pumping parts from day one. Lack of sleep maybe? Well get you some… seriously. You will thank me later. And if you do start getting chapped dry hands, I recommend CeraVe lotion. You can find it here.
  • Pump like a boss – So when I pump, I pump both breasts at the same time. I learned this from my Lactation Consultant. Apparently, when you have one breast that has its “let down” you will notice the other breast responds to that and has a “let down” or mini “let down” at the same time. Rather than lose that milk to your breast pad, pump both at the same time. After you start to see one breast is done releasing milk, I take one breast off the pump and then focus on one breast at a time to get ALL of the milk out from each breast. Plus this helps bump up your supply if you are having issues with your supply. When you are pumping, make sure you are moving the flange around. Don’t just leave it in one place. You may find that just shifting the flange you will hit some more milk ducts and voila! more milk will release.
  • Use a burp cloth – When I would pump, I would roll down my maternity bra and then tuck a burp cloth between my bra and my breast. This provided an excellent “catch-all” for leaking milk.
  • Wipe off each breast when you are done – Don’t put your bra back on with wet boobies. Let air dry if possible but if you are in a rush, which more than likely you are, wipe them off.
  • Get mobile – You will come to a time when you will need to pump away from home. Get a sticky note and write down all your parts before you have to go anywhere. If you are pumping for a newborn, have mommy brain and lack of sleep, you do NOT want to accidentally leave one little itty bitty part that prevents you from being unable to pump, feed, release your milk so you aren’t engorged, or mess up your supply. And…bring an extension cord with you!
  • RELAX – Call me crazy but I think pumping is all mental. If I am stressed out, thinking of a million things, I pump less – Sometimes I can’t even pump any milk. Pour yourself a nice glass of ice water, have the baby nearby so you can watch him/her, play some music on your phone, watch a calming show on TV and at times, close your eyes and just visualize you pumping and releasing milk. Yes this sounds ridiculous (I would think it sounded ridiculous if I read this) but I think it works!
  • Oh how I love the MotherLove – If you are having issues with your supply, I HIGHLY recommend MotherLove More Milk Plus. They have a few herbs in them so you don’t have to purchase them all separately to see which affects your supply the most. My only recommendation to you is that if you start using these, use for a few days until you see your supply bump up, then STOP using the pills. Give your body a rest, a few days to a week and then take them again. I didn’t do this and my body got used to these herbs and was less effective as time went on.
  • See a Lactation Consultant – Can’t stress this one enough. I loved my LC. For even more than just breast-feeding support. I would honestly vent to her about my baby brain mishaps and flusters I would have more than anyone in my circle of friends. She just “got it”. After all she is around women ALL DAY who are trying to do the same thing as you. And if your decision is to exclusively pump until you can breast feed, then you DEFINITELY need a LC in your life!
  • More of my favs – I do not get paid for any of these links at all… they all go to Amazon. But these are my favorite pumping items that would surely be yours too! Breast Pads – Get them in bulk when they are on sale. You will need them! Breast Milk Storage Bags – Again get them in bulk when they are on sale. With Amazon, I purchase through this link and then I change the quantity AFTER I add it to my cart. Do not select “3” inside of the ad.

Have a tip you think would be good to add? Email me and let me know! I will add to this list as time goes on…

 

Brianne Geiger