So my son Vincent just turned 6 months old last week.
He’s healthy (20lbs, 27 inches) and happy (see below for smiling adorableness). My doctor is completely thrilled with his development overall.
I love being his mom, and I have loved nurturing him and taking care of him.
Along with that, I love knowing that my body has produced enough nutrition to allow him to thrive.
However, in my journey of motherhood (he’s my first baby afterall) I have learned that breastfeeding is not for me, at least not this time around (see previous post on Exclusively Pumping). However, I still wanted to provide him with the best nutrition possible.
I’ve been exclusively pumping for about 3 months now. That means that instead of breastfeed, I pump and feed him with a bottle (or he gets bottles of breastmilk at daycare which I send with each morning).
Again, I LOVE knowing that my body is taking care of him. However. I HATE PUMPING.
This isn’t surprising since I’ve never once heard a mom say “Yes, pumping is AWESOME!”
No. It’s time consuming, tedious, boring, and uncomfortable.
I figured this out after only pumping a few times.
So, I created a goal for myself.
By the time my son was 6 months old I WANT TO WEAN MYSELF OFF THE PUMP but still HAVE ENOUGH FOOD/ BREASTMILK FOR HIS FIRST YEAR.
In other words, I needed to create a stockpile.
As you can see, I achieved my goal. I have done the math, and if I begin to wean myself now (a process which usually takes a few weeks to do it properly) I can be done pumping by the time my son is 7 months old, but still have enough food to HOPEFULLY make it to his first year without using formula or other substitute.
(deep freezer full to brim – I also have a good pile in my regular freezer)
How did I achieve this? Well, I’ll fill you in.
Whether your baby is 6 months old or you are preparing yourself for your future little one, you can start your stockpile now. HOWEVER I will say one of my benefits was starting early because I was able to train my body right away.
Start Pumping Early
I started pumping when my son was about a month old.
The doctors recommend waiting to pump/bottle feed until a child is about 8 weeks old, because it can take about that long for your milk supply to figure itself out and that’s about the best age (so they say) to introduce a bottle to avoid nipple confusion (which my son got anyways even though he didn’t get a bottle until about 9 weeks old).
Why did I start pumping so early?
Well, I wanted to train my body to produce enough milk for me to both nurse and pump. As previously stated, your body takes a couple months to sort out its supply (as in how much to produce for each feeding and how often your baby feeds).
I knew I wanted to create a stockpile for daycare or for trips out of the house in the future, so I wanted to start pumping and freezing milk.
Since I started pumping early, my body was trained to think thats how much milk I needed to produce.
The only potential downside to this method is that you create an oversupply. You are telling your body to make more milk than necessary.
An oversupply can lead to a fast let down, clogged ducts, or foremilk/hindmilk imbalance.
To help avoid this, you need to get on a set pumping schedule, and it can help to pump first BEFORE feeding your baby so your baby doesn’t have to deal with the fast let down. Also, I recommend only pumping twice a day (unless your supply is extremely low). I usually aim to pump 4oz on each side per session. I freeze my milk in 4-5oz bags, so essentially pumping twice a day I freeze 3-4 bags of milk.
Get a great pump like mine.
I have the Medala Pump In Style. It’s quick – usually only takes about 15 minutes for me to completely empty both breasts, sometimes only 10 – and I’ve NEVER had an issue with it.
I just have to wash all the parts regularly (I wash them quick with soap and water after every use and sanitize the equipment thoroughly almost every night) in order to prevent mold.
I have talked to moms about their pumps, and no one every raves about them. I totally brag about mine to my friends, and I plan on keeping it for baby #2 !
Seriously, you want an effective, easy to use pump so you don’t dread pumping and so you can pump quickly and move on with your day (or to caring for your little nugget).
Pump in the morning
Your supply is highest in the morning, so the morning is the best time to get a routine going and get used to your pump. I could usually feed my baby then still pump 4 ounces on each side.
I tell all my friends if they are going to pump only once a day, do it in the morning. Your supply will always be lowest at night, and trying to pump in the evening can be extremely frustrating.
If you have a goal in mind like I did, it can also be EXTREMELY helpful for creating and maintaining a large supply to pump in the middle of the night.
My little nugget typically woke up around 2am, and I’d nurse him. When I was done I would pump the side he didn’t finish nursing on (usually at night he’d only do one side) and get about 4-5 oz. Early morning-mid morning (2am-8am) you are going to get the highest amount of milk.
Once my baby started sleeping through the night (around 4 months old) I still got up and pumped around 2am every night for about a month to help build my stockpile. It was a pain, and I admit that, but now, like I said, my little guy is 6 months old and I’m ready to start weaning off the pump. I will no longer be a slave!!
Get on a set schedule for feeding and pumping
Your body will thrive under a routine. It’s seriously creepy/amazing.
For example, this was my feeding/pumping schedule for my first 3 months
You can do different variations of that. However, I recommend pumping at least once in the very early morning, and again whenever you start your day. Your supply is best then.
I always pumped late at night too to try to increase my supply (since it’s always lowest at night). But that’s your call.
The strange/creepy thing is that seriously like clockwork I can feel my boobs start to letdown/leak at around 11am every single day, and again around 2…etc etc…. They know they’re going to get used soon. Your body thrives on a schedule, and your body “remembers” how much milk to produce when. If you stick on a routine of when you pump, you will train your body to have that much milk ready for you. Crazy! But it works!
Note: I was fortunate enough to work in an environment which made pumping at work on a schedule fairly easy.
Be preemptive though. Talk to your boss before returning to work about your ideal schedule. THE LAW SAYS THEY HAVE TO LET YOU PUMP! KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!
Yes, it’ll be a pain some days. But trust me, it’s worth it.
Also, keep your work schedule in mind when you are creating your pumping/feeding schedule.
It also helps to have a manual pump like this one:
Why? Sometimes it’s really tough to coordinate finding a place/time to pump with your electric pump. For example, a long drive or going to a concert and dinner. If you want to maintain your schedule, you’ll need to pump. Having a hand held/manual pump can be a major life saver. They’re tricky to use the first couple of times, so I recommend practicing before you actually need to use it, but you get the hang of it pretty fast.
Stay Hydrated and Eat Right
It’s SO HARD, even on maternity leave, to have time to take care of yourself. You’ll be either holding a baby, trying to get a baby to sleep, or feeding a baby 99% of your time. And when you’re not, you’re probably trying to sleep.
MAKE SURE YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
Breastmilk is basically water, fat, and protein.
I could EASILY notice a difference in my pumping on days I wasn’t drinking water or would forget to eat. Seriously.
I never made any special breastmilk increasing meals, but I made foods that were easy but full of protein. I also stocked up on gatorade and powerade or vitamin water (whatever was on sale at my gas station or grocery store) and tried to drink at least 2 of them a day.
My favorite easy snack was just dipping apple slices in peanut butter. I also ate a lot of peanut butter toast. Anything that you can eat with one hand that isn’t hot (in case you spill on the baby you’re holding) is the best.
When my husband got home from work, he was in charge of dinners. We ate a lot of chicken (cheap, easy to cook, full of protein) and vegetables (we love brussel sprouts, potatos, and carrots).
We also tried to make foods which would create a lot of leftovers for us so that way I could have easy lunches when I was home with the baby. You won’t have much time for cooking, so having easy meals will help you continue to eat.
For example, usually once a week we’d make some form of pasta (which is always enough to feed an army). We’d have enough leftovers for a day or two. Then we’d make something else leftover-focused such as stew or enchiladas (my personal favorite) or meatloaf. Again, I’d then have leftovers for a day or two. It was a good system.
I was also fortunate enough to have an amazing mom who made a few freezer meals for us while I was in the hospital (she came and stayed at my home for about a week) so when we were really in a pinch we could throw something from the freezer in the microwave. She made us pulled pork, chicken wild rice soup, and lasagna.
Pump for at least 15 minutes OR until you hit your desired amount.
I always aimed to pump about 5 ounces on each side.
If you’re trying to increase your amount- for example if you are only getting 2 ounces- don’t get discouraged. Keep pumping for a few minutes even after you get your last drop. Your body will learn that you need “more food” for your baby and respond appropriately after a couple days.
Get comfortable and relax
One of the best things I ever did was go hands free. Get a hands free bustier for your pump like this one:
OR make your own by cutting holes into a sports bra or belly band.
Either way, having your hands free to eat lunch, flip through a book, or scroll through your phone makes pumping so much more enjoyable.
Another tip is to get a comfortable chair and set up a special pumping zone. I have a great glider, and I keep a small end table next to it stocked with my pumping essentials as well as usually a book. I always bring some water with me or sometimes a snack. I also keep a baby bouncer like this one:
in front of my glider. That way if my baby is awake I can put him near me and still talk to him or sing to him or watch him play with toys.
Often thinking of your baby or even looking at pictures, and especially being near your baby, can increase your production.
Finally, relax. Being stressed out about pumping is going to do you more harm than good. Trust your body.
Along with this, pumping shouldn’t hurt. Don’t use the maximum setting, just use whatever setting is comfortable (I’m just barely past medium). Make sure your shields and all equipment are the correct size and set up correctly as well.
Thank you for reading! Hopefully you enjoyed my tips! Feel free to share yours as well!