A Look At Exclusive Pumping

Everything But the Breast

Exclusively pumping (Eping) is a viable way to feed a baby. “I had always planned on breastfeeding my son,” says Laura Amos of Royal Oak, Mich. “In fact, we never even bought bottles before he was born, because I never expected that nursing might not work out.”

Breastfeeding didn’t work out for Amos, but she didn’t want to feed formula. “It was all very hard to keep up with in the beginning, a newborn baby, washing all the bottles, pumping seven or eight times a day to keep up my supply, and it would have been very easy to switch to formula,” Amos says.”But I knew how wonderful the breast milk would be for him, and I was proud that I could provide that even though nursing didn’t work out.”

Why Not Formula?

Most lactation specialists agree that breast milk is far superior to formula, whether it is delivered from the mother’s breast or a bottle. “Is breast milk superior enough to formula to encourage all mothers to provide breast milk in all possible circumstances?” says Sherri Garber Mendelson, international board certified lactation consultant at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center.”The research literature is clearly in strong favor of exclusive breast milk feeding for infant nutrition.

“The benefits of breast milk for both the infant and the mother have been demonstrated repeatedly,” she says.”There are certainly additional benefits beyond the breast milk to the infant by feeding directly at the breast. These have to do with bonding, breathing and heart rate organization and regulation and temperature regulation. However, if given the option of breast milk through pumping versus formula, the choice is clearly in favor of pumping to provide infant nutrition.”

About Breast Pumps

There are several types of breast pumps. Battery, electric and manual pumps are available in both double and single models. Double models pump both breasts at a time. Single models pump one breast at a time. Breast pumps are available for purchase and for rent. They are available to purchase online or through most baby specialty shops. Information on renting them, as well as performance of specific models, can be obtained through your local La Leche League, your area hospital or lactation consultant.

The pump itself requires almost no care. If you get milk on it, a baby wipe usually does the trick. If you have an extra set up (breast shields, valves and membranes) on hand you won’t have to clean your parts immediately after pumping. Some moms rinse the parts then place them in a large Ziploc baggie and stick them in the fridge until the next use. They wash them either by hand or in the dishwasher (top shelf) at the end of the day. Replacement parts are easily purchased online if needed.

Pumping, Storing and Preparing

To meet babies’ nutritional needs you must build a plentiful milk supply. For the first 12 weeks you will be pumping often. Every three hours for 20 to 30 minutes should be enough. The more you pump, the more milk your body will produce. After your milk supply is established you won’t have to pump as often. If you have trouble with low milk supply contact a lactation consultant.

Human milk is not homogenized, so it separates quickly after pumping. You might notice the different “layers” of milk as it settles. Gently swirl the bottle to mix the layers. Never shake breast milk as it breaks up the molecules, ruining some of the immunity properties. Breast milk may also have different scents and colors depending on your dietary intake. A small trace of blood in your breast milk is quite common and poses no health threat to the baby.

Breast milk is commonly pumped directly into bottles. It is very convenient to then place a nipple on the collection bottle and feed your baby. You can also choose to transfer the milk from the collection bottle to a storage bag to freeze for later use.

You can store milk that will be served within a few hours on your kitchen counter if the temperature in your house is lower than 77 degrees. The bacteria-fighting properties of breast milk protects it from harmful bacteria. If the milk is to be served between 10 and 48 hours later, it should be stored in the refrigerator.

Frozen breast milk is good for about six months. Breast milk can be frozen in plastic baggies made just for this purpose. Date the bags so you can use them from oldest to newest. Double bagging is a good idea to decrease the likelihood of accidental punctures. Place the milk in the baggie first, freeze it and then place it in a gallon freezer bag. Every time you freeze a new serving you can add it to the gallon bag.

Most babies accept room temperature milk with no trouble. To thaw frozen milk, place the whole bag in a pan of warm, not boiling, water. Follow this same procedure with milk stored in the refrigerator. Never warm milk in the microwave; it destroys the natural properties of the breast milk and produces “hot spots” that can burn your baby. Heating the milk in boiling water also destroys nutrients.

Your Concerns

What about pumping in public?

If your pump comes with battery capability you can pump in your car. Restroom stalls and changing rooms have been used for pumping, as well as ladies lounge areas. If you don’t have a pump with a battery adapter, you may want to consider purchasing a manual hand pump for your outings.

What does Baby do during pumping?

Some moms feed their babies while pumping, either by holding them (if using hands-free accessories) or with Baby seated in a car or infant seat. Baby may be sleeping in the swing or happy in the arms of another adult while you are pumping. When Baby gets older, playing at your feet or exercising in a jumper provides a fun distraction.

What about bonding during feeding?

When feeding your baby, hold him close to you, make eye contact and speak lovingly. Never leave Baby with a “propped” bottle. Not only do you miss an opportunity to bond, but bottle propping is a potential choking hazard.

Are you breast or bottle feeding?

Believe it or not, this question comes up often, especially at your pediatrician’s office. As an exclusively pumping mom, I always answered: “My baby is taking my pumped breast milk from a bottle.” That usually covered it.

Your baby might not be nursing, but he or she is a breast-milk-fed baby! Don’t be afraid to declare it. Be proud of the sacrifice you are making for the health of your child.

Trouble Shooting

If you experience any pain of the breast or nipples because of pumping there are several things to consider:

  • Are the breast shields the right size for your nipples? The shields that come with the pump are the “standard” size. You can order larger or smaller ones online.
  • Check your pump settings. Faster, at a higher suction, does not equal more milk. Find the settings that are most comfortable for you, and only increase them if you can tolerate it painlessly.
  • If you experience no let down or slow let down, relax as much as possible. Stay hydrated, and eat a nutritious diet. If you still have trouble, warm compresses applied directly to the breast can help expedite the let down reflex.
  • If you are unable to empty your breast, keep in mind that your breasts are never truly empty. You can encourage more milk by doing breast compressions (gently squeezing and massaging breast).
  • You are still vulnerable to complications of conventional breastfeeding. If you suspect you have plugged ducts, mastitis or thrush, contact a health professional or lactation consultant.

Exclusively pumping may not fit your dreams of breastfeeding Baby, but you can be proud of giving your child the best nutrition, for as long as you are able.

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