Exclusive Pumping

Have you ever found that a default or defect in one situation was actually an asset in another? It can be a really rewarding experience.

I’m one week into pumping. I never planned to pump but my run-in with mastitis made it necessary; it’s not a good idea to let milk sit stagnant in one’s breasts when one is trying to prevent another infection.

I started pumping 6-7 times a day, just like the doctor ordered. When I was home this was possible, just barely. When I started going out and doing things, it became less so. When I found myself alone more with both children it became impossible.

Now I pump four times a day. This isn’t great when one is trying to prevent mastitis but it seems to be keeping the infections at bay. I do make sure to fully empty each breast, massaging the tissue until nothing is left. I suppose that is enough right now.

The incredibly news is how much milk I make pumping only four times a day. Currently I’m making over 30 ounces, more than enough to feed my breast milk exclusively. I have one more week before I am able to start weening myself, and that process is due to take a long time. I may just keep pumping for the duration of my maternity leave, giving Monito breast milk via a bottle until I go to work. I may even keep pumping after that.

I never thought I’d be an exclusive pumper. Reading about others who did so I felt an incredibly amount of admiration. I was also incredulous. How could anyone tie themselves to a pump a certain number of times a day for week or months on end? I was sure I could never do that. But now that I see how much I can make pumping just four times a day, it seems silly to walk away. Finally my oversupply, which caused such problems when we were breastfeeding, is an asset. It feels good to have something negative become a positive. Pumping this much milk makes me feel good about my body again, and that is a valuable thing.

So for now I plan to pump. I have come to a place of absolute acceptance about giving my baby formula so I don’t think I’ll be tied to the pump out of guilt later on. If it gets to be too much, or I just don’t want to do it anymore, I will stop. For now it feels like the best of both worlds: I get to bottle feed my baby breast milk. And I’m saving money!

Of course there are some draw backs. I still have to pump 4-5 times a day. Pumping is no fun and even if I’m only doing it an hour a day total, it’s still an hour of my life dedicated to something I don’t really enjoy. And there are the dishes. My poor hands are so chaffed from all the bottle and pump-part washing. And of course there is the physical discomfort; at the end of a six hour space between pumping session I am FULL and it is uncomfortable. Plus there is the random let downs I have to endure (I hate that feeling) and the nursing pads I have to wear. I also have to make sure that I will be able to pump when I need to, which requires foresight and planning. In my sleep deprived state, those can be hard to come by.

For right now, I feel the pros outweigh the cons. I have to pump to one more week anyway and from there I’ll take it day by day. I only have six more weeks of maternity leave left so I’m guessing I’ll make it through that time relatively easily. After I go back to work I’ll have to see how I feel.

I’m so glad that this mastitis happened when it did, that I realized exclusive pumping was a possibility for me. It really does feel like the best fit for me at this time.

13 responses

  1. Oh that is so great! Also, so ironic that the oversupply ended up a bonus now! Four times a day is much better than 8-10. I think I would have gone this route too , and I had thought it through many times, believe me. Because at least for now, he is still getting your milk. All that being said, you deserve props for doing all this AND recovering from mastitis. Take care of yourself. You’ve been through a lot.

  2. Wow, you only have to pump about 15 min to get 7-8 ounces?!! I pumped 4x/day while at work from 2 months – 11 months, and I’d get about 3-4oz in 30 minutes (so I’d spend about 2 hrs/day pumping for 15-16 oz). That is awesome production you have!

  3. To help yourself out on the dishes, put your pump parts in a ziploc bag in the fridge in between pumping sessions-if you keep them cold, they don’t need to be washed. This might not be applicable if you are still battling thrush, but you can keep them cold and only wash once a day if there is not a problem with microbes. Another strategy is to get a few sets of pump parts and wash a few at a time. That way you are only drying out your hands a few times a day.
    I hope this helps! And awesome job! I’m glad to hear that you are feeling better about pumping.

  4. I exclusively pumped for 6 months with my first who never latched properly. It was tough, and my supply was nowhere near as good as yours (it was…until I got my period and went back to work and stopped waking up in the middle of the night to pump anymore because UGH).
    I’m glad you are finding it rewarding and can finally take advantage of the amazing lactational abilities you have!!!

  5. As a former exclusive pumper, I applaud you. It’s not easy being tied to a pump, but it is SO worth it. And only having to do it 4-5 times a day as opposed to 8-10 like I did makes me kind of jealous! Good for you for finding the good in this. Sending you hugs lady!

  6. Wow! I pumped 7-9 times a day on my maternity leave, and I don’t think I ever got more than 11 ounces. yesterday I pumped 3x at work and totaled 3.5 ounces. So I am jealous of your supply! And really glad this is an option that’s working for you, at least right now. Breastfeeding is not all-or-nothing. 🙂

    (and thanks for the award. One of these days, I’ll have time to do it)

  7. I’m so glad it’s working out for you. I was able to produce a lot as well when I was pumping for B, and that helped to heal my heart after feeling that I failed her during the pregnancy. I also still felt the oxytocin that I feel with nursing. I did find the more that I pumped, the more I produced which gt to be too much. Keep with your four times a day. And I’m impressed that you get 30 ounces with an hour total all day! I spent an hour just on the first pumping! Good for you!!!!

  8. It sounds like this may be the best solution for you and that you are also happy with it which is key. Saving money is also a big plus (which is why i hope to bf or pump until a year- we’ll see).

  9. I ended up pumping for about a year for my twins (almost exclusively — one baby would nurse once a day, and we always had to supplement with formula). However, I didn’t have an older child — not sure how you manage everything, but my hat is off to you!

    What ended up working for me is that I never thought, “Oh, I’ll pump for a year, plus a little while after that to wean off slowly.” First, while the babies were in the NICU, I thought, “Well, I can pump for six months” (the time period for which I rented the hospital-grade pump). Then I thought, “Well, I’ll re-up for another six months and see how far I get; even a month or two will be a wash in terms of monthly rent vs. 6-month rent.” Went back to work when kids were 9 months old (I know — I am unusually fortunate) and thought, “Well, I’ll see if I can juggle work and pumping.” And then…you get the idea.

    I tell new moms who are pumping now who ask me for advice to do exactly what you’re doing — don’t feel that you have to commit to a LONG time period of pumping up front, and try not to see formula as the enemy. You know you can pump for another week? Great! Do that, and see how you feel at that point. When it no longer works for you, stop, and break out the formula. SO grateful we live in the 21st century, and in the first world with easy access to clean water and safe alternatives to breast milk; wish I could wave my magic wand and make the same true for every mama on the planet…

  10. Exclusive pumping is definitely not for the faint of heart! I commend you for keeping at it. I’m so very jealous of your supply, though. 🙂 I’m pumping 8 times a day for the girls, and on my best day, I get 45 ounces. So far, I’m able to feed them exclusively with breastmilk, but their daily intake is going to increase over the next few weeks and I know I’ll need to supplement. With Piglet, I ended up pumping for a year and he got 75% breastmilk that year (I kept track, it was one of the only things that kept me going) and supplemented with formula. I agree with the commenter above in that setting small goals is the way to go. Also, I only wash my pump parts once a day. I keep them in a ziploc bag in the fridge when I’m not using them. I also have two sets so that the next day I grab the dry set and wash the set from the day before. If you don’t have a hands-free bra, I definitely suggest getting one if you find you want to continue pumping. I use the Simple Wishes bra (you can find it on Amazon) and it allows me to do a ton of stuff while I’m pumping, including holding a baby to feed her. Finally, I have a car adapter for my pump that I plug into the cigarette lighter. I drive and pump. Some may consider that too dangerous, but I honestly get some of my best outputs that way because I can’t keep checking the bottles to see how much I have. Good luck! You’re doing a great job!

  11. I don’t think I’ve commented before, but I’ve been reading your blog since you were pregnant with your daughter (our oldest two are close in age). I exclusively pumped with my oldest too. A lot of what people have said above is really helpful. A handsfree bra helps so much! This page has some other good tips:

    http://exclusivepumping.com/pumping-made-easier/

    Good luck and hopefully there will be no more mastitis. That is the worst!

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