Why Exclusively Pumping Instead of Breastfeeding Isn’t As Bad As You Think

expressed milkBreastfeeding is a personal decision and I am still an advocate of breastfeeding for its many benefits. But even if mothers really want to give it a go, there are ceratain situations where it just doesn’t work out.

Moms still want to feed their babies breast milk. After all, it is still the best choice for babies. Doctors do recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, and continued breastfeeding for a year or so.

So instead, they opt for exclusively pumping instead of breastfeeding. It simply means that babies are exclusively fed expressed milk in a bottle.

Exclusive pumping (also known as Eping) is the second best option after breastfeeding. Sometimes though, it can be more challenging. But you know what, it is possible to exclusively express for as long as most mothers breastfeed and even longer.

Premature babyEping can be the best option when mother and baby are separated. Mothers may have a medical condition that hinders them from breastfeeding. It can also be that babies are premature and are in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Or perhaps, they are medically unable to suck directly at the breast. It can be medical conditions like cleft palate. tongue-tie, heart problem, congenital defect, or neurological defect.

I remember when I was initially having some attachment issues during breastfeeding, a nurse thought that my baby was tongue-tied and that I had to have it checked. I didn’t even know what that was, and I was afraid that I need to have it snipped.

Apparently, it is a piece of skin under the tongue that restricts the movement of the tongue. It then makes it difficult for the baby to suck well, so it causes breastfeeding issues like nipple feeding.

Thank goodness it was a false alarm. Brought my baby to two doctors who said it was nothing and they don’t see any tongue-tie. Whew!

You are aware how much milk you are producing & how much milk your baby needs.


When exclusively pumping, it is important to use a good double electric pump or hospital-grade pump designed for long-term use.

Medela hands free breast pumpYou can also purchase a pumping bra so you can go hands-free. This way, you can do other things and multi-task. You can even pump and feed your baby at the same time!

Don’t forget to have a hand towel ready to wipe off dripping milk.

The same breastfeeding principle applies, feed as often as you can. Bottle-feeding should mimic breastfeeding a baby.

At the onset, you should be pumping every 2-3 hours for about 15-20 minutes (which is about 8-10 times a day). If a breastfed baby feeds every 2-3 hours, you should be doing the same. Prolactin levels are highest between 1-5am, so be sure to pump during that time. This hormone allows you to make more breast milk.

To increase milk supply, you can even continue to pump for 5 minutes after your milk stops to flow to stimulate your nipples. This tells your body that you need more milk.

Medela breast milk storageFull milk production is 25-35 oz. (750-1,035 ml) per day. This takes commitment and hard work since you have to do it several times a day (even through the night). Frequent pumping is key to building milk supply. Maintain a consistent pumping schedule.

At 12 weeks, your supply will be established. You will know how often and how much your baby feeds. Since you are pumping, you can easily track the milk volume. By then, you can drop the number of times you pump in a day. Once mothers have reached full milk production, most can maintain their milk supply by pumping 6-7 times a day.

Once solids have been introduced, the amount of breast milk needed will depend on the solid food offered. Remember, breast milk is still the most important source of nutrition for the first 12 months.

You can get help in feeding your baby.


dad and babyIt’s time to get dad involved. I’m pretty sure that they will enjoy feeding baby as much as you do. Family and friends can also help you when they are around. Accept it when they offer to help.

You can use the time to rest, relax, or take a bath. You can also watch TV or listen to music while you express milk. Just enjoy the free time that you have to yourself.

You really have to feel proud of yourself because as much as exclusively expressing takes a lot of commitment, it is also a HUGE accomplishment!

You can also establish that special bond with your baby.


Mothers worry that they may not be as close to their baby compared to breastfed babies. Since you are still the primary caregiver, you can still develop that closeness through skin-to-skin contact or even lots of cuddles. You should feel good knowing that you are doing everything you can for your child.

simple wishes hands free breast pumpIf you continue to worry about your milk supply, you can massage your breast as you pump. You can also replace one pumping session with a power pump. Just pick one hour and follow this pattern:

  • Pump for 20 minutes and rest for 10 minutes.
  • Pump for another 10 minutes and rest for 10 minutes.
  • Lastly, pump for 10 more minutes.

You’ve then pumped for 40 minutes within 60 minutes. Results vary, but you can expect it within 3-7 consecutive days of power pumping.

In conclusion, I do think that some mothers don’t breastfeed long enough because they don’t get the right information and support. They need to believe that they can produce enough milk and that their breastfeeding goals are attainable.

If you can, I still encourage you to go for breastfeeding. Babies can suck more milk from your breasts than a pump. Breast milk is also readily available – no need to warm it up and it is portable. Plus, you don’t have bottles and pump accessories to wash. You can instead spend that extra time bonding with your baby.


 

I would love to hear your personal experience on breastfeeding and/or expressing. This is a great way to support other moms who are in the same boat. Please leave your comments below.

23 comments

  1. Holly Glover says:

    Breast pumping instead of breastfeeding is not a bad thing, it’s just an alternative of it. It’s a simple thing that babies are exclusively feed by the expressed milk in a bottle. The baby may be unable to suck directly at the breast or due to any other kind of medical conditions Moms want to feed their babied through exclusively pumping.

  2. Licia says:

    Hi,

    My baby spent a few weeks at the hospital so i had to exclusively pump. When he finally came home he was used to breastfeeding with a bottle and wouldn’t latch. He is ten months now and i still pump for him.

    I love exclusively pumping because it helps me monitor how good (how much) he feeds each time

    I normally get enough breast milk for three feeds, which saves me lots of time.

    It’s mobile, no need to worry about where or how to breastfeed him. no matter where I am, his breast milk is always ready.

    It’s a hard work, but it worth it, considering the benefit. I hope mothers will BF their babies

    • Raquel says:

      Thanks for sharing this, Licia! It really takes commitment, and I must say that you’re doing so amazing!! Just continue to pump as breast milk will really do wonders for your son, plus it will help keep your supply up.
      All the best!

  3. Teresa says:

    I have a friend who was so committed to breastfeeding her three children but had problems getting each to latch. She ended up exclusively pumping and providing her babies breastmilk for the first 6 months. I thought that was really impressive. I was really blessed to have two babies who were excellent breastfeeders – they latched pretty quickly with minimal issues – but I had to start pumping once I went back to work and it’s so much easier to breastfeed than pump. At least at my job, we had a very nice lactation room equipped with a refrigerator and television!

    • Raquel says:

      It’s wonderful that your workplace was breastfeeding-friendly! Moms would benefit much from that same arrangement as well upon return to work, rather than pumping in the toilet. Definitely admire mothers who exclusively pump!

      Here are some tips on the right attachment, in case you know of other moms who need some help – How to Attach Baby to Your Breasts And Avoid Pain. Thanks Teresa!

  4. jschicanha says:

    Babies are a huge blessing from God and to the family. I have heard a lot of doctors advise mothers on the many benefits of breastfeeding. Going through this article has made me realize how important it truly is.

    Thank you for caring for the young generation. Keep it up!

    Cheers,

    Jose

  5. Kams says:

    Thank you for this article Raquel. After two weeks of trying to breastfeed my son, who wouldn’t latch properly I ended up with extremely cracked nipples that wouldn’t heal and decided to start expressing milk instead. It worked great, I was producing more and more milk every day, the nipples healed, everything was fine. However the downside was that the whole feeding process would take more than double the time. First you have to express milk and then feed the baby. I ended up exhausted, but at least I could feed my baby with my milk rather than give up on breastfeeding altogether.

    • Raquel says:

      Yes Kams, there’s more to do when expressing given that you still need to wash and sterilise the equipment. But I’m glad to hear that you went on with expressing to feed your bub breastmilk. It’s a wonderful alternative! Your baby still gets to enjoy all the benefits of breast milk. Thanks for sharing!

  6. jCamden says:

    Hey Raquel, I’m a mother of three boys who never really liked pumping. I prefer breastfeeding like you said at the end, but I like the reasons you’ve outlined here. One of the hard things about breastfeeding is that you can’t be with your baby 24/7 and their will inevitably be a time when somebody else needs to feed your baby. When this time comes they’ll ask how much the baby needs to eat, how often they should burp the baby and we honestly have no answer! When you’re breastfeeding you don’t know how much you’re baby is eating just how long they eat at each feeding!

    Another reason is that if you exclusively breastfeed then once or twice a week feed your baby a bottle, many babies simply will not take the bottle because they really don’t know how to drink it! I experienced this with my first two sons and they both grew frustrated and angry anytime I had to leave them with someone else because they couldn’t eat!

    For me, the biggest reason to pump over breastfeeding is because I only have a couple weeks after my baby’s birth that I can take off time from work. Once that time is up I have to go back and as much as I’d like to I can’t bring my baby with me. I can however bring a pump and pump privately every couple hours. So using a pump would enable working mothers to nurse their babies for longer 🙂

    • Raquel says:

      Hi Jessica. Its really challenging when you have no idea how much your baby is eating when breastfeeding. You probably know how long, but now how much. The best way to find out is when you pump and can see the actual volume. Returning to work will mean that you have to pump more and do direct breastfeeding when you are at home.

      Like you, my baby also isn’t used to feeding from the bottle. But she was able to when she was younger. You’re right about training them a few times a week to take milk through a bottle, otherwise they will go hungry whenever you are away.

      Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

  7. Pitin says:

    Hi Racquel!

    I wasn’t able to breastfeed my daughter on the first two months. Reason being – I was completely clueless that I have to do it. Idiot right? I started to relocate on my third month. Took domperidone as prescribed by a lactation consultant and even resorted to donated breastmilk since I was desperately wanting to give my baby the liquid gold. Exclusively pumping every 2 hours for one week, I was able to see a drop of milk come out! It was like winning the lottery. The main problem then was my daughter doesn’t know anything about breastfeeding at all. It was a struggle making her latch. Two months later, I gave up. 🙁 Exclusively Pumping really Instead of Breastfeeding Isn’t As Bad As You Think – I agree. But it is extremely exhausting especially if you work full-time. You need discipline, patience and all the support you need. It is a “dangerous” situation to handle and can lead to depression if you don’t become successful. The key to succeeding is DISCLIPLINE. Stick to your pumping schedule to produce constant milk supply, LATCH at home (when your little is ok it ), otherwise be prepared for some handwork.

    • Raquel says:

      Hi Pitin,

      It is really challenging for new parents, you need to learn so many things! Especially moms, who need to learn to breastfeed, pump, settle the baby, start with solids, and the list goes on and on. You have to cut yourself some slack. If no one is helping you, its tough to learn – latching no less! I had a hard time too with that. I just made sure that I bugged the nurses every time before I left the hospital to give me confidence that I can do it on my own. I even asked my husband to watch and help me in case I have problems when we leave the hospital.

      It does take dedication, patience and commitment. I still have to give it to you for trying really hard. The things moms would do for their kids, right? 🙂

  8. Steve says:

    I think this post is very informative and I sure it will help your readers. I am reading from the DAD prospective and I do have 7 children. That youngest two breast fed exclusively for over a year.
    Fortunately, my wife was able to be the the babies, pretty much the entire time. She has never had much luck with the pumps. I know she tried a few different pumps.
    My sister spent some years as a lactation specialist nurse and I am sure she would love your site.
    Thanks
    Stephen

    • Raquel says:

      Thanks Stephen! Great to hear that your wife went breastfeeding too – with 7 kids – wow! 🙂

      Feel free to share this along. 🙂

  9. Shannon says:

    Wow I’ve never heard of Eping -much shorter! I had a friend that exclusively pumped as a stay at home Mom – it sure is more work but doable. I guess all in the routine that you are used to. I find it admirable that Mom’s go to such great lengths to take care of their little ones 🙂

    Breastfeeding can be hard work at times but it is so rewarding – I have successfully breastfed 4 children (all with tongue tie or lip tie or both). Tongue tie and lip tie is often underdiagnosed – most doctors are not fully educated on the topic. Make sure to find an IBCLC lacation consultant – it made a world of difference for me. Posterior tongue tie is almost always overlooked by pediatricians.

    • Raquel says:

      Yes, both pumping and breastfeeding take commitment and hard work, but definitely doable! 🙂 Moms are truly amazing! Thanks Shannon! 🙂

  10. Linda C. says:

    What an awesome post.

    Like another one of your website visitors, I too am a mother of 5. I breastfed all of my children and, for the most part, all of them until they were 3 years old. In Bible times, mother’s breastfed MUCH longer than we do in our modern world. Do you know if this is practiced today somewhere in more remote cultures?

    Now that is in some minds silly, but these children grew into intelligent, well adjusted young men and their sister is a beautiful, intelligent and accomplished artist.

    I struggled with breastfeeding with my first child. I was isolated and started having severe problems with the nipple getting raw, bleeding, and scabbing. It was a very difficult time! Being a young first-time mom and isolated I didn’t tap into resources,(no internet then), and no wheels to get to a La Leche meeting either in order to keep the process going.

    My second child spent several of her early days in the hospital with a high bilirubin count. I was so bummed becasue I really wanted to succeed at breastfeeding the second time around. My milk came in while she was there, but I knew that once I got her home we would together work on bringing my milk back by her demand of what she needed. Supply and demand! It took a couple weeks, but I stuck with it and saw her do well. No colic such that my first little one suffered with.

    Nursing my children was the best experience! If such sage advice as this post makes available was available to me then I expect I would have done better with my first who only nursed for around three months.

    Thank you for what you are accomplishing here. I feel very strongly that the best start in life comes with mother’s milk even if it has to be expressed. “-)

    Linda

    • Raquel says:

      To have breastfed 5 children till they were 3 years old is such a huge accomplishment! Nothing silly about that, you are amazing! So glad you stuck with it and pursued, inspite of the challenges you faced. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Linda! 🙂

      It is really hard at first especially when you don’t know what to do and it hurts. Without information and support, some moms already give up. But if they know what to expect and do, hopefully more and more moms go for breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months (and continue for at least a year). You’re spot on, there are folks who breastfeed much longer. I think till about their kids are somewhere between 4-7 years of age.

  11. Dara says:

    Pumping is a very good choice when a mother is unable to breastfeed directly. I consider myself fortunate that I’ve been able to directly breastfeed all 5 of my children well over the 12 recommended months. I’m also glad that I
    have a breast pump to use when I need it; I occasionally wake up engorged and need to express a little without having to wake the baby prematurely. It’s also great to have for those rare date nights, when I leave the baby in the care of a sitter. There are bottles ready to feed to him and I’m able to pump off what he didn’t take right from the tap!
    Isn’t it required that insurance companies cover the cost of a breast pump for mothers? I remember getting my Medela at the hospital before we were released.

    • Raquel says:

      Thanks for sharing this, Dara! Its wonderful to hear that you went for breastfeeding, coupled with pumping for your kids. 5 children – wow! You must be a supermom! 🙂

      What I do know is that not all insurance companies cover the cost of breast pumps (wish it was covered here!). In the US, if your plan is governed by the ACA, you can check with your insurance company if they cover it and what kind of pumps are covered. Most would cover lactation equipment and support, but its still worth checking eligibility for a free electric pump or if there’s a need to co-pay.

      • Shannon says:

        We have Tricare and I had a baby 4 months ago and a breastpump was included. I think they recently changed the laws that it is required for insurance to provide a breastpump to nursing mothers. Call your insurance company and ask. It was super easy!

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