The decision to breastfeed is a personal matter, and if a mother is unable to breastfeed or does not want to breastfeed her baby, she can always choose to formula-feed her baby. If you’re a new mom and nursing isn’t working for you but you believe that breast milk is the best food for your baby, you can opt for exclusive pumping (EPing). Exclusive pumping is a great way to ensure that your baby gets the nutrients from your breast milk.
What Is Exclusive Pumping?
Exclusive pumping (EPing) is a process of feeding the breast milk to a baby by a bottle, a tube, or an alternate feeding method. Exclusive pumping, also known as breast milk feeding, requires a mother to express or pump to remove the breast milk from her breasts at regular intervals throughout the day. Exclusive pumping is a great idea for moms who can’t or don’t want to nurse but want their little ones to get the benefits of breast milk.
That said, exclusive pumping is not easy. It is time-consuming and exhausting for a mother, especially when she has to pump so many times of the day.
Reasons Why a Mother May Choose to Exclusively Pump
How a mother chooses to feed her baby is her choice, and she shouldn’t feel guilty about it, especially if she chooses to exclusively pump. A new mother may choose to breastfeed and formula feed or she may choose to exclusively pump, and it’s completely fine. But here are a few reasons why a mother may choose to exclusively pump.
1. Health of the baby
- If the baby is premature and hospitalised, he/she may not be able to feed directly from the breast.
- When the mother has to monitor the amount of milk consumed by the baby.
- To make the separation process from the mother, less stressful for the baby.
2. Latching problems
A mother may choose to exclusively pump if the baby has difficulty latching on due to various problems such as inverted nipple, tongue-tie, etc. If the baby is sleepy or is weak, he/she may find it difficult to latch on, in that case too, a mother may opt for exclusive pumping.
3. Health of the mother
Some women may find breastfeeding to be a painful experience, hence may decide to pump. If a woman has twins or triplets, breastfeeding them may too tiring and stressful for the mother. She may also not be able to produce sufficient milk for the twins or triples when breastfeeding, so she may choose to exclusively pump.
This method helps in transferring the feeding task of the baby with other members of the family. It frees up a mother to get much-needed rest, especially when she is sick and still recovering from a difficult delivery.
Because of some past trauma, direct breastfeeding might not be an enjoyable experience for some mothers, and they may decide to exclusively pump.
Women who need to return to work may decide to exclusively pump their babies.
Breastfeeding or Exclusive Pumping
As a mother, you’re likely to wonder if your baby will get the nutrients of breast milk if you decide the pump him. Your concern is obvious, but here’s what you need to know about nutrition in breast milk.
As per a report, the interaction of saliva of the baby with the breast milk helps in providing need basis nutrition and antibodies to the baby. But there is no evidence to prove that breastfed babies grow up to be healthier than pump-fed babies.
So if you’re worried that the quality of breast milk changes when exclusively pumping, then the answer is no. Pumped milk is nutritionally on par with breastfed milk and a better option than formula feeding.
2. Convenience & Affordability
Direct breastfeeding has no or very little expenditure. It also doesn’t need any preparation and can be done conveniently from anywhere.
Whereas for exclusive pumping, you need to invest or rent a quality pump system. After every session, the pumping and feeding pieces of equipment have to be cleansed with hot water. You need to come up with a method to store and keep the milk fresh. When you travel, you need to carry the entire pumping station setup, and to pump the milk, you need a private and safe space.
The nutrients are not lost in case of exclusive pumping, but yes, it can be expensive and exhausting. You can decide what you’d like to do after considering your baby’s health and your health, and of course, your choice.
How Much Milk Will You Be Producing When Exclusively Pumping?
Each mother will produce a different amount of breast milk. Usually, a mother pumps anywhere between 20 and 30 oz of breast milk per day. It is also equivalent to how much babies consume per day.
How Often and How Long Should You Pump?
The answer depends on how young your baby is and how often and how much they feed. Hence the pumping schedule varies as the baby grows older.
A newborn baby consumes a small quantity of milk every 2 to 3 hours a day, that is 8 to 12 times a day. As the baby grows older, they drink more milk with a long break between the feedings. That is 3 to 4 times a day. It may further reduce to 2 to 3 times a day once the baby starts eating solid food until they are finally weaned off the milk.
Many experts suggest mothers follow the schedule of breastfeeding to produce sufficient milk through pumping. Hence for the first few months, the mother should pump every 2 to 3 hours for at least 20 minutes. As the baby gets older, the mother may have to pump more milk, but less often.
When pumping, the mother should pump for at least 20 minutes in each session. It may take a few minutes to stimulate your breast to let down the milk. Wait patiently. Once the milk starts getting collected in the bottle, continue and wait for about 5 minutes after the milk supply has stopped. This extra stimulation sends a signal to the brain for your body to produce more milk for the next feeding.
Helpful Exclusive Pumping Tips
Here are some tips that will make the exclusive pumping process easier.
1. Invest in a good electric pump.
Explore and learn all the available milk pumping machines in the market and invest or rent a high-quality pump that you can afford. Learn to use the pump to your requirements to make exclusive pumping a relaxing experience for you.
2. Enjoy the journey.
Exclusive pumping is a very stressful journey for most moms. There are many tools in the market – the hands-free pumping and nursing bra, hydrogel pads, and good breast shields, which increase pumping efficiency and make it an enjoyable journey.
3. Learn to relax.
Exclusive pumping might be a completely new process for many women. So remember, mistakes may happen with some setbacks in achieving your goals. Don’t stress. Take care of yourself by eating good food and getting enough sleep, and learn to let go.
4. Have a support system.
Being an exclusive pumping mom is the most laborious and testing method. Having support groups to motivate and loving family to help you out will keep you going in this year-long journey.
1. Can I exclusively pump my newborn?
Yes, you can exclusively pump your newborn if you. But if you want to do that, here are a few points you need to remember.
- For the first 2 to 3 days of your baby’s birth, your body mainly produces only colostrum. It will be full of nutrients and antibodies essential for the newborn. The baby consumes this in fewer quantities. The thick consistency of this makes electric pumping more difficult than hand expressing. So on the first day, press out colostrum every 2 to 3 hours using your hands.
- After this period, if it is comfortable for you, switch to an electric pump or use only your hands to express milk. You can even pump or express to produce milk.
- From the fourth day onwards, as your body starts producing colostrum-free milk, you can use an electric pump every 2 to 3 hours to pump the milk.
2. How much milk do babies need per bottle when exclusively pumping?
The amount of milk required by babies will not be the same.
Some observations suggest a baby nursing from the breast doesn’t drink the same quantity of milk in every feeding. As per a report, the milk consumed by a healthy breastfed baby falls within the limit of 20 to 30 oz per day. So on average, milk consumed by a baby in a day is around 25oz.
3. How can I maintain the exclusive pumping schedule?
You can follow whatever schedule works for you as long it meets your baby’s needs. Consider the below points when you plan your schedule.
The needs of your baby decide how often, how long and how much to pump the milk. So keep a journal to track changes in your baby’s needs and tweak your schedule accordingly.
You or one of your family member can feed the baby frequently based on their demand.
3. Storing and cleaning
Set aside some time in your schedule for maintenance work after every pumping session. Refrigerate any extra milk produced so that in case you express less on certain days, your baby’s milk requirements are taken care of.
Amid all this tight schedule, make sure to squeeze in some rest time for yourself, so that you feel energized when you have to pump again.
4. How much milk should I be producing when exclusively pumping?
If your baby is getting enough milk and growing healthy, don’t worry too much about the amount. It is not the same for every woman. But if you find even a small hint of an issue, it is better to contact your paediatrician than making assumptions.
Exclusive pumping is not an easy method, but in case you opt for it if you can’t or don’t want to nurse or due to some other reason, you can be assured that your baby will get the nutrients of your breast milk.