Home > Ovum Donor Pregnancy > My Guide to Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk

My Guide to Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk

I’ve been asked some questions about exclusively pumping breast milk.  Here’s some information – just from my perspective and experience.  I do not necessarily condone pumping exclusively; you have to be an insanely stubborn idiot like me.  I know some excellent mums who have had problems and give their bubs formula either exclusively or in addition to what they can pump.

  • Put them away when not in use.  This is easier said than done, but I do try to remember to put my breasts away when I’m not pumping.  However it’s almost inevitable that there will be some reason you run out on your front porch with them exposed.  Such as when your husband bounces bub after a big feed and said big feed is suddenly back up.  If you keep old towels for cleaning up the dog’s paws before she enters the house on your front porch, your neighbours are going to get a show.  Yeah, speaking from experience.
  • Try to get a grip.  If you are producing breast milk, this means you are a hormonal creature who is also probably facing some issues and stresses.  Keep this in mind and be kind to yourself.  But also keep in mind that there are worse things than having to exclusively pump – such as not having a baby to pump for.
  • You need a good breast pump.  I use a Ameda Purely Yours mostly, and a friend has very generously leant me a Medela Swing as it has a great design for pumping on the go.  (However I’ve only done this once.  You still have to clean all the pump bits and store the mild safely – which can be hard on the run.  Plus it can be hard to relax pumping in the back seat of you car  in a car park or in front of your mother-in-law’s house!)
  • Bite me.  I realised the other day I use this phrase a lot.  However it’s is quite useful.  If you’re out and giving your son a bottle of your preciously expressed breast milk and someone looks as you askance, give them a high five in the face and say ‘bite me’.  It’s no business of theirs what sort of milk you’re giving your bub.
  • Have a pumping station set up and ready.  It’s much easier than getting things out and away each time – you’re going to be doing this a lot.  Have a glass a pitcher of water within easy reach.  Have hands-free or single-handed things to entertain you within easy reach – your phone (I LIVE on Twitter and Facebook and playing minesweeper), a TV remote, whatever.
  • Massage your breasts while pumping.  Massaging or using compression on your breasts helps A LOT.  I’ve cured painful blocked ducts myself this way, but it also helps make certain you empty each breast well each time – which is important for maintaining supply.
  • Get some rest.  I’m chuckling as I write this because it’s really not that simple, is it?!  But I do notice that I have more milk if I’ve slept between pumps.
  • Run a 24/7 dairy operation. Yeah.  Unfortunately I don’t go longer than 3 or at the most 4 hours between pumps.  And that’s not between when you stopped and when you start again – that’s between when you started and when you start next time.  So even though my bub has been sleeping through the night for weeks, I’m still a zombie.  I pump twice in the night – at either 1:30 or 2:30 and 5:30 or 6:30.  Sucks, but it seems boobs don’t adjust as well to long stretches if you’re pumping as opposed to if you’re breastfeeding.  And if you’re dedicated to keeping your supply up you must pump routinely.
  • Put used pumping equipment in a bag in the fridge.  This way you can do bigger wash-ups rather than washing each time you pump.  But of course that’s optional.
  • Buy washing up gloves.  You don’t have to sterilise for breast milk like you do for formula feeding, but you do have to wash flanges, bottles, etc in HOT soapy water and let everything air dry.  If you don’t use washing up gloves you will soon have hands that are cracked and bleeding.  I speak from experience!  Also have a separate sponge just for breast milk stuff that you keep away from other washing up things.
  • Keep an eye on your husband.  He will do stupid things like use your precious, clean breast milk stuff washing sponge to wipe something off the kitchen floor.  Because husbands don’t understand clean.  He will also pick up tissues from the ground and wipe bub’s mouth.  Idiot.
  • If you’re too stressed or are not getting support, don’t be a martyr; give up.  I’m in the swing of things now, but there was a time when I should have given up.  Ditto with trying to breastfeed; at one point it was doing horrible things to my relationship with my son.  Don’t use me as a guide.  Keep in mind I did 14 ovum pick ups;  I’m just too stupid and too stubborn to give up when I should.  As the child health nurse said to me, there’s more to raising a child than breast milk.  There is formula out there to help.
  • Serving suggestions.  Some people will say you must bring breast milk back to body temperature  before you give it to your bub.  I think that’s a crock.  My son has a slow teat, so he only gets a small stream.  It warms up in his mouth pretty much instantly.  I’m not willing to warm up a whole bottle if he might not drink it all; no way do I want to set myself up for throwing any of my hard-won breast milk out!  If I’ve just expressed or I know he’s going to have a good feed he has it warm.  Otherwise he gets it cold, has done for weeks, and hasn’t complained or had stomach upsets.  Maybe that would be different in winter, but it’s late spring here in Tasmania.
  • Cream rises to the top.  Yes, even with human breastmilk.  Giggle the bottle to incorporate it back into the milk.  When you’re travelling and the milk it giggled, it might form little blips.  As long as you know the milk hasn’t gotten cold, these are just fine and a result of the chilled milk being jostled around.
  • Don’t let your husband mix batches from different pumping sessions.  He’s always trying to do this, and I want to be sure I know how old the milk is – you can find storage rules in your pump’s instruction manual or get these for your child health nurse.
  • Have a wine or beer!  Yes, sometimes I have a wine or beer straight after my last pump of the day.  I have test strips to check for alcohol in breast milk, but as long as I go 4 hours I’ve never had any trace of alcohol.
  • Rotate your stock.  If you’re lucky enough to have breast milk in the freezer, even if bub doesn’t need it yet rotate it every week or so.  I only have 3 x 200 ml in the freezer, but I’ve been rotating it (i.e. taking a bag out and putting another back in to freeze that day) every week or two.  Ready for that inevitable growth spurt!
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  1. a
    23/11/2011 at 2:16 pm

    You’re doing an awesome job! I’m sure the neighbors are enjoying the shows…

  2. Jen
    23/11/2011 at 6:10 pm

    EPing for several months tells me that yep, you are completely right!

  3. Sienna
    24/11/2011 at 2:07 am

    I’m 200% about giving up when you SHOuLD. I, too, am too stupid and stubborn to have given up when I should have. Having pumped exclusively for the first month and THEN breastfeeding exclusively. Baby girl is almost six months now and I have had the worst experience with both pumping and breastfeeding. Mostly bc I have too much milk and it hurts with all the leaking, engorgement, mastitis, plugged ducts. I should have quit at month 2, but she has refused a bottle since month 3 no matter what I do, so I am stuck in a crap situation. Next baby will be 100% formula fed!

  4. Meg
    24/11/2011 at 7:37 pm

    You are totally a pro now!

  5. Lydia
    28/11/2011 at 9:10 pm

    I’m writing this while hooked up to my Medela Freestyle at work. These tips are also great for those of us who pump part time too. I hope your husband is supportive of your pumping. Mine doesn’t see why I torture myself, and says it would be easier just to give formula. Congratulations on doing an amazing job.

  6. 24/03/2012 at 3:25 pm

    Another here who probably should have given up a while back (maybe quit like I said I would with mastitis?). Just love your handy hints… Have been reading your wonderful blog entries during the wee hours of the morning pumping. Thanks for your honest words. Us pumpers have to stick together 😉

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