Pumping Exclusively – Why I Do It and How to Make It Enjoyable

My short story on why I pump, plus tips for pumping and enjoying pumping and products that will help!

Vincent was born this past October, and he is now almost 6 months old (where does the time go?!?!?).

Prior to his birth, I attended breastfeeding classes and also read up a lot on the benefits of breastfeeding and what to expect.

Turns out – shocker – breastfeeding is REALLY HARD.

My baby was born, and the first thing the doctors want you to do after he gets all checked out and you get a snuggle time is to try to get him to eat.

He grabbed on (with the nurses help) and my first thought besides “he’s so cute!” was “crap this hurts!”.

He ate well, and I was told by multiple nurses that my baby had “a good latch” so I was pleased, but by day three in the hospital my nipples were literally bleeding, and my toes curled and my eyes watered every time I had to feed my little nugget. It just wouldn’t stop hurting.

We went to the doctor for his 4 day follow up appointment, and I was pleased to hear that my son had regained to his birth weight (just an FYI, babies pretty much always lose weight in the hospital, and doctors want babies back up to birth weight by two weeks old, if not sooner). So obviously he was eating well and doing a good job. I explained to my doctor though about my pain, and she looked at my breasts, and she gave me a nipple shield.

LET ME TELL YOU that if you do decide to breastfeed for the full year or two years or whatever you decide, GET A NIPPLE SHIELD. It was night and day for me! I ended up buying a second one so I could always have a clean one handy. This is the Nuk Barely There Nipple Shield (with case) and it’s what I bought and used. Cheap and totally worth it!!

Pumping Nipple Shield

It took a couple feedings, but my baby was a champ and figured it out. Basically it goes on your breast just like it says, as a little barrier between your boob and their strong mouths, and it gave my breasts a chance to heal. FINALLY. After about 2 weeks of using the shield, I got off of it, and my breasts no longer bleed when I nursed.

I was so relieved, because everything I read and everything everyone says is that breastfeeding is best. Plus, I really liked the bonding experience between my son and I. It was something I could do that no one else could for him.

About a week before daycare (he started daycare at 12 weeks old) we decided to introduce him to a bottle. Partially because we wanted to make sure he would eat at daycare, and also because my husband was really excited to finally be able to feed our baby.

We did a little research, and we ended up buying a box of AVENT NATURAL FLOW BOTTLES AND NIPPLES. We started with the newborn/size 1. There are 2 bottles with size 1 nipples that each hold about 4 ounces (more than enough for a newborn-4 month old, then you might have to go bigger). We were told by our hospital, and by my online research, that these bottles did a good job replicating the shape and flow of a natural breast.

Pumping Bottle Avent Natural

I then pumped a couple of ounces, and we put it in the bottle “fresh” so it would still taste the same.

It took a couple of feedings (we fed him one bottle a day over the course of those two weeks) but soon he was drinking bottles like a champ.

The trick is to make sure he takes the nipple deep into his mouth, like your breast nipple, and also trying to keep the bottle horizontal rather than vertical. If you tip it too high the baby can 1) become overwhelmed by the quick milk flow 2) drink too fast and get gas/tummy aches.

I was still breastfeeding every 2-3 hours, and for the most part it was still going well. I definitely started to feel a bit like a human pacifier, especially in the evening when it felt like all he wanted was to suck on me from about 4-7pm. It also makes it a little difficult to hang out with family and friends or go out in public when your child needs your body every couple of hours.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem when other women breastfeed in public or in front of their friends. It’s just something I never felt 100% comfortable doing. I didn’t like feeling like people were staring at me, and plus, my baby would usually make a mess so I would end up walking around with wet clothes.

Breastfeeding turned me into a bit of a homebody, which the first month or two was fine, but after about 10 or so weeks, I was ready to get out of the house a bit more.  However, I really wanted to do what was “best” for my son, and so I continued to breastfeed and spend 99% of my time taking care of him.

I was completely devastated when I had to return to work. If my husband and I could afford it, I would gladly be a stay at home mom. I loved it. I loved my maternity leave and I didn’t want it to end. However, I returned to my job as a preschool teacher, and my son went to daycare.

After only about a week of daycare, we were back to square one with breastfeeding.

Now, this post isn’t about bashing daycare, because I totally respect and like the people who take care of my son from 9-5. However, most daycares are overwhelmed by the number of their kids, so it becomes necessary for babies to eat as fast as possible so they can move on to and feed another screaming hungry baby.

Whatever happened, he was no longer a pro-breastfeeder. His latch had changed. I was back to having tears well in my eyes every time I fed him at home, and sometimes I could tell he was getting extremely frustrated too. He got “nipple confusion”. I know some doctors and people tell you this can’t happen, but it totally did. He didn’t understand anymore how to get milk out of my breast efficiently.

After about a month of a lot of crying and frustration, I GAVE UP USING MY BREASTS.

The decision was not made lightly, and I cried over it. But I wasn’t enjoying feeding my son, and he wasn’t enjoying being fed, so what was the point? I didn’t want to use a nipple shield forever, and I wanted feeding him to be a bonding, enjoyable experience again.

I DECIDED TO PUMP EXCLUSIVELY.

What does this mean?

It means I pump my milk and feed him with a bottle instead of my breasts.

He’s still getting the best nutrition he can, and he’s gaining weight, and he’s completely healthy. He just had his check up a couple weeks ago and my doctor can’t stop raving about how “normal and healthy” he is.

I had ordered a breast pump right after he was born with the mentality of pumping while at work and to build a small stock pile for daycare/low supply days. I had already been pumping at home about twice a day to make my stockpile and for my husband to feed him a daily bottle, and I had been pumping at work twice a day as well to maintain my supply,.

This is the breast pump I use (6 months and going strong) and I have had zero issues. It’s called the MEDALA PUMP IN STYLE.

Pumping Medala Pump

The only negative is that it’s kind of bulky to lug around, but honestly I’ve seen a bunch of pumps and it’s about the same size, if not a little smaller, than others I’ve seen.

The Medala Pump In Style is quick (I can pump in about 10 minutes), efficient, easy to clean, and easy to use. I recommend it to all moms who ask me what I use to pump.

How to Pump Exclusively

It’s actually a lot easier than it sounds, and now that I’ve been doing it for about 3 months I actually really enjoy it. I think with baby number 2 I’ll probably do the same thing, because it’s become so easy and convenient.

I don’t have to worry about if I just a had a beer and am unable to feed him, I don’t have to worry about where I am when I feed him, I don’t have to constantly undress to feed him, and anyone can feed him now – not just me. At first I was kind of bummed, but honestly it’s a lifesaver to be able to give a bottle to my husband and say “I’m going to go grab coffee and read”.

Finally, I’ve been lucky enough to have a great milk supply and a deep freezer, so I can actually probably start weaning off pumping and still have enough milk to get him through a year old (my goal).

Now, in order to pump exclusively it’s pretty simple.

You need to pump about as often as your baby eats (for most every three hours) and you need to pump as much as your baby eats (or more).

So here is my sample schedule for when I first switched to pumping exclusively.

I had to pump at:

5am
8am
11am
2pm
5pm
7pm
9pm

Then I would also usually pump once over night. Baby usually woke up between 12-3, and after he was fed I would pump for about 10 minutes.

Now that he’s older and also has started not needing to eat in the middle of the night, and we started introducing rice cereal and blended food, I have now started “dropping” pump sessions.

I no longer pump at 2 am or 5 am.
Again, the rule is, you should pump as often as your baby eats. Once your baby no longer eats at midnight or five am, you no longer need to pump around those times either.

The exception would be if you are trying to increase your supply, in which case the more you pump the better.

My son right now eats about 6 ounces at a time, so each time I pump I always try to get at least that. However, most pumping sessions I make closer to 10 ounces, so I am able to freeze a few extra bags of milk each day in my deep freezer.

I use the Up and Up brand from Target. They’re cheap and good quality. They run out fast at my store, so I always buy a bunch at a time. I’ve never had a single one leak or become damaged. I even reuse the bags a couple times and still never had an issue.

Piece of advice? Buy in bulk. 50 bags sounds like a lot, but it’s not. Like with most things, the more you buy the more you save. And it really sucks to run out.

I prefer the bags over the bottles, personally. It is nice to have bottles though occasionally. Why? The bags you pretty much have to transport in a cooler, but you can put the bottles just in your bag as is (if it’s not a long trip) without worrying about them getting popped or poked. Plus, the bottles are reusable forever, not just a few times. I have both, I freeze extra milk in bags, but typically when I send my baby’s milk to daycare I send fresh milk in bottles which I carry in my work bag, and they rinse them/clean them at daycare after they’re used and send them home with me.

Tips for Enjoying Pumping

  1. Get a comfortable glider/rocking chair. Probably one of my favorite gifts I got was a glider from my parents. You’ll be spending A LOT of time sitting and feeding baby, you may as well be comfortable!!!

    Pumping Glider and Ottoman

  2. Get a Boppy Pillow. Seriously. They seem so dumb but they are excellent back rests or neck rests.
  3. Get a baby bouncer. My baby sits in the bouncer in front of me while I pump (it’s really impossible to hold a 5 month old baby and pump effectively – he’s too wiggly!). It’s nice because he’ll stay content and happy and in one spot, and I get a foot rest too! This one is by Ingenuity, and it vibrates and bounces and plays music.

    Baby Registry Baby Bouncer

  4. Get an amazing pump. Like I said earlier this post, I love my Medala Pump in Style. I recommend it to everyone.
  5. Go hands free. I actually made my own hands free bra by cutting holes in a sports bra. However, you can buy them for a reasonable price too, and for baby number two I probably will. Pumping is so nice when you can use a remote, check your cell, or tend to your baby easier. This is the
  6. Get a manual pump. These are saviors! For example, I recently went on an extended girls day/night and did NOT want to lug around my electric pump. I brought my handheld pump and a couple small bottles with me in my giant purse, and I was able to discreetly pump in the car between venues. Another reason for these? Long road trips. Great investment They take a little practice, but they are worth it. This is the Medala Harmony Manual Pump. It’s worth it.

    Baby Registry Manual Pump

  7. Keep your pump parts clean! Get a good routine down and stick with it! Your baby is going to be eating what your making, you want to make sure everything is sterile. I use the microwave sterilizing bags called which are super quick when I’m at work. At home I typically boil my parts at least once a week as well, or I soak them in warm soapy water and vinegar (vinegar kills mold) and let them air dry.
  8. Keep a routine. Your body is very conditioned. If you pump the same amount at the same time every day, your body will produce consistently. If you’re constantly changing it up, your body isn’t going to know how to react. I have kept my same routine for the past 4 months and have had zero issues with supply.

Feel free to share with me your experiences and tips!

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