Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Top Ten Tips For Exclusive Pumping Success

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I want to share with you all my best advice for pumping success. I wrote a few days ago about how I've exclusively formula-fed, exclusively pumped, and exclusively breastfed! Of the three, pumping was the most work, in my opinion. Here are my top ten tips for successful pumping:

  1. Pump often. Especially in the beginning. It is no fun at ALL to get up every three hours (or every two if you're having supply issues), but it must be done. Rest-assured, once you get your supply established, you'll be able to space out nighttime feedings more. It's the same as feeding a baby, really... well, except you don't have the baby to cuddle and THAT'S why it's no fun at all. But stick with it... it gets easier.
  2. If you can't have your baby with you (as is the case with a baby in NICU), keep a picture of your baby handy. You wouldn't think that would make a huge difference, but it does...
  3. Use a good quality pump. If you're just pumping occasionally here and there but mostly nursing, this isn't critical. But if you're pumping exclusively? Especially in the beginning, I'd really recommend looking into renting a hospital grade pump. It will save you time and frustration. (Contact your insurance company, too... they may pick up some or all of the rental cost if there's a medical reason you must pump for your baby.)
  4. Keep diversions handy. Pumping can be boring. Figure out what will entertain you while you do it. Magazines, an iPod, TV, whatever...
  5. Invest in quality, easy-to-operate nursing bras. You want to be able to easily and comfortably use your pumping equipment. The ones I had were by Medela and I loved them.
  6. Stay hydrated.
  7. Eat. Seriously. Unfortunately, for many women who are exclusively pumping, there are scary circumstances that led up to that choice, often a baby who is struggling. Stress can lead to forgetting to eat. Not a good plan. Nursing (and pumping!) burn more calories than being pregnant does. You wouldn't starve yourself with a baby in your belly... don't do so now either.
  8. Find a cheerleader or two. My husband was so supportive of me when I chose to pump for our 24-wk micropreemie. In those early days, he would get up with me in the middle of the night and help me get all set up. The NICU nurses also would sing my praises. Those "pats on the back" really helped keep me going when it got tough...
  9. Remember that even a little bit can make a big difference. I happen to be one of those women who produces a ton of milk. Not every woman is. And that is OKAY. Whatever you manage to pump for your baby will help your baby, be it four ounces or a half-ounce.
  10. Avoid saboteurs. Know that, like many aspects of motherhood, the decision to pump exclusively (even it's your baby's only viable breast milk option) may come under fire from some other mommies. I was told (more than once) that giving a baby breast milk through an NG-tube or in a bottle was SO inferior to nursing at the breast because of the delivery method, blah, blah, blah. Avoid people who try to make your feel like a failure when you're working so hard to do an amazing thing for your child!
Like so many things worth doing, exclusively pumping can be challenging and nerve-wracking. Stay the course and know that there are other mommies out there with the same worries and struggles as you. You're doing something amazing! Be proud of yourself.

This post is linked to Top Ten {Tuesday}

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