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One of our favourite writers, HK, returns to tell us about how she turned to exclusively pumping when she wasn’t able to breastfeed her little one. Here are her tips on how she did it, what she used, and how to cope.

From someone who was unable to breastfeed for numerous reasons, but really wished for my son to drink my breast milk, I turned to pumping. I began pumping from the night I came home from hospital where I was on the verge of mastitis and running a high temperature. This was following three painful days (in hospital) of breastfeeding with the occasional bottle of ready-made formula. Luckily, my sister was there to lend me her pump and aided me in my ‘cup-feeding’ that night. Little did I know that I would end up exclusively pumping (EP) for 6 months!

Due to lockdown, I was predominantly at home. However I was arranging my day not only around his drinking sessions, naps, cooking, cleaning, shopping etc. but also pumping! Here are a few hacks, which I learnt on the job, to help any mamas who decide to EP for their little ones. 

1. Create a clear routine

Now this doesn’t have to be rigid but try and stick to something that works for you. Whichever way you decide to feed, creating a routine is hard so don’t worry if you have to change it multiple times – it’s about “trial and error”.

If you’re EP and giving freshly pumped milk (as opposed to storing milk in the fridge / freezer and heating), you have to take into account the fact that you must pump the milk before baby is hungry and needs a feed. It takes time to discover their cues, but it’s worth doing some research into “newborn hunger cues”. This way, you can calculate the time needed to pump to get it ready for their feed.

Personally, I used to wake up 30 minutes earlier in the morning to fit in a 20 minute pump before my son woke up. When he used to have his morning nap, I again used to pump ready for his ‘lunch time feed’ and so on and so forth. It does mean sacrificing some sleep and carrying out some night-time pumps, as well as arranging your day around pumping sessions. 

2. Get creative with your little one

My son wasn’t always sleeping when I pumped (and using wired pumps) and, as he got older, pumping with him around became more difficult! I had to become imaginative in terms of activities for him to do; especially when he was 5 months onwards, crawling and pulling everything.

I used the following to keep him entertained:

  • Bouncers / swings 
  • Teddies and soft animals
  • Teething toys
  • Rattles and other toys that made noises; my son loved sensory things
  • Soft books
  • Ask for help: ask a family member to keep them for 20 minutes whilst you squeeze in a quick pump!

3. Investing in a good pump

Now this may seem obvious but there is a large market out there! How do you know what works best? There are different types of pumps ranging from wired to wireless ones as well as manual to electric.

I used the Spectra S1 wired electric pump which, personally speaking, was the best. It suited me in terms of sizing, was cheap to replace parts, easy to clean and use, and was powerful. One con was that it wasn’t wireless which made me invest in an Elvie single pump. This was an expensive investment, and due to my decision of no longer pumping, I didn’t use this for very long. This pump wasn’t as powerful as the Spectra, however it meant that I could pump whilst I was cooking and was again easy to clean.

I encourage everyone to carry out some research (see the next hack) to ensure they capitalise in the best pump. The top six pumps available are:

  • Elvie 
  • Medela
  • Willow
  • Spectra
  • Tommee Tippee 
  • Haakaa pump (useful in a hot shower whilst massaging the tissue!)

4. Create a ‘pumping essentials’ station

EP is breastfeeding so in the same sense, create a little area for you to access the “goods” whilst you’re pumping. Investing in some high quality products can also help as you may want to reuse them in the future, or alternatively, pass them to someone else.

Items you’ll need around would include:

  • Storage bags (I used storage bottles after a while as I found too much waste with bags)
  • Water bottle 
  • Snacks
  • Breast pads (reusable ones are also best)
  • Hands free bra
  • Bottle brush (for washing the pumping parts)
  • Drying rack (only for use of pumping parts / bottles)

Related: Newborn Baby Essentials Checklist

5. Use social media

Due to COVID-19, I was unable to attend lactation clinics and visit people. Despite this, social media really helped me out and I learnt most of my strategies from Instagram. There are a few pages that I followed that provided amazing tips and ideas surrounding how to store milk, best times to pump and even pure motivation to continue. Remember the EP community represents only 6% of mothers globally.

Here are the pages I recommend from Instagram:

6. Stay positive

Having a positive mindset and making small goals can make all the difference. There were good days and bad. Some days I felt like I had really nailed it; pumping on time and sufficient amounts. As well as days where I cried and said I would give up. Nevertheless, I kept saying one more month to myself and eventually I ended up EP for six months! Set yourself small goals and work towards it. Reward yourself at the end of another successful month – you deserve it mama!

I hope these tips help you or another parent who decides to exclusively pump. Whatever decision you make, remember, feeding is best! 

Disclaimer: The NHS hospital did help me to breastfeed, along with the health visitor (on the two occasions that they visited), however due to COVID-19 there were no lactation clinics available. The information above are tips and advice from my own EP journey, but please seek help from a medical professional (midwife, doctor or health visitor) if you wish to EP also.

The social media pages and products listed are not advertisements but based on personal use and experience.

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