Exclusive Pumping - The Benefits Outweigh the Challenges

Pumping Feb 3, 2021

Exclusively pumping, also known as "Eping" is a way for a mother to continue to give her baby breast milk, when breastfeeding has failed or is delayed.

Most mothers resort to formula feeding when breastfeeding problems arise, not knowing that it is possible to feed their baby, their precious breast milk via bottle or alternative feeding methods.

Most mothers who exclusively express breast milk, are capable of making enough milk for their baby's full nutritional needs.

To all those mothers out there, who have faced the odds and persisted in pumping exclusively, congratulations! You are a dedicated mother and should feel very proud of yourself.

Why Some Moms Resort to Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk

baby with bottle, cute baby

Exclusive Breast Pumping Tips

  • Massage in-between and during pumping sessions.
  • Get yourself (or rent) an electric, hospital grade, double action breastfeed pump. This is needed for the best results (hospital grade pumps are built to establish milk supply) Electric breast pumps cannot be compared to hand pumps, but can be replaced by a manual breast pump once your milk supply is established.
  • Make certain that your breasts are lubricated before pumping. Lansinoh, olive oil, and even your own breast milk will work well for this; this will also help for sore nipples. (Do not use your own milk, if you suspect a thrush infection – it could make it worse!)
  • How often should I pump? Pump at least eight times a day, but preferably every 2 hours.
  • Have a comfortable place to pump with a pumping station already set up for you.
  • Make sure that you have good back support while pumping.
  • Extra flanges and bottles can help, this will reduce the need to wash them immediately after pumping.
  • Don’t start any hormonal contraception pills until your milk supply is established, and then ask for the progestin-only pill (also called the mini-pill).
  • Make things more comfortable and easy for yourself, by using a hands-free pumping system.
  • Follow safe breastmilk storage guidelines.
  • Try pumping at least once during the night.
  • How long should you pump for? Pump for 20 minutes with each pumping session.
  • The speed on the pump should be set for comfort.
  • If you do not produce enough milk, the best thing to do, is to find a donor milk bank near you, so that you can supplement with breast milk, but it is okay if you need to supplement with formula; just keep to your exclusively pumping schedule and your milk supply will increase. Any amount of breast milk will benefit your baby.
  • Instead of cleaning your pump after every use, put the parts in a ziplock bag and store it in the refrigerator as soon as you finish pumping. This will save you a considerable amount of cleaning time each day, which you can use to relax or spend with your baby. Just remember to wash it once a day to be on the safe side. (source)

Benefits of Exclusive Pumping

The Challenges

What are the Challenges of Exclusively Pumping?

  • Exclusive pumping takes a lot of time and effort. takes a lot of time and effort.
  • Mothers sometimes struggle to maintain sufficient milk supplies when pumping breast milk exclusively.

What about Bonding between Mom and Baby?

  • Sometimes bonding can improve between a mother and a baby that has been struggling to breastfeed when they start bottle feeding instead of breastfeeding.
  • Make sure that your baby is held for feedings, as this will also ensure better bonding between you and your baby. Any other family members get to benefit from this as well.
  • Skin to skin benefits can still be taken advantage of.

Increasing Your Breast Milk Supply

Does It Get Easier?

Does exclusively pumping get easier?

After about three months of exclusive breast pumping, your milk supply should be fully established, which means that you can pump fewer times per day.

Exclusive pumping is the second best option after breastfeeding, but can sometimes be more challenging. It is possible to exclusively pump for as long as most mothers breastfeed, and longer.

Day in the Life of an Exclusively Pumping Mom

Wanting only the breast!
by Christina (Auckland, New Zealand)
"Hi everyone, I need some help.

My little one has been exclusively drinking pumped breast milk for 5 weeks. Baby sometimes drinks from a nipple shield, but he doesn't like it very much.

I have also tried to put him on my breast, but my nipples are a little flat (use to be inverted 5 weeks ago!) and he doesn't open his mouth wide enough or stay on. But for a minute on and off he will suck. I don't have milk supply issues, though I wonder if the let down is too full-on for him.

My lactation consultant told me to get him to suck on my nipple shield for 15-20 mins each feed, but I found doing it made his feed almost an hour long and with the need to pump as well, it took me almost 2 hours to do one feeding. By then I had to feed again or had to feed earlier and then couldn't pump.

My milk went down as I tried this for a few days. To be honest, I was too tired to continue doing it and went back to just pumping and feeding.

Now that I have a better handle on motherhood, I wanted to try again, but I don't want to go through weaning off a nipple shield. I would rather go from bottle feeding exclusively to breastfeeding exclusively.

Anyone know how best to do this or if there's a way to do this?
I'm dying to get this sorted as I have to return my rented pump next week. I originally was going to stop giving breast milk and go straight to formula when this happened. But I want to give it another go. I'd love to breastfeed if I could, for as long as possible. I no longer want to go to formula.
Please help!"

Re: Back to Breast
by: Lyssa

"Wow, Mama! Fantastic job, pumping so much for so long already! And it's great that you want to get your baby back to breastfeeding! Pumping is very exhausting, indeed!

Have you heard of a Supplemental Nursing System? Your Lactation Consultant should be able to help you buy or make one. It is a bag, bottle, or syringe of breast milk hooked up to a tube that you tape down at your breast; this helps the baby a) stimulate your supply by actively nursing and b) helps baby transition from the fast and instant flow of the bottle to that of the breast.

Another thing to try is correcting your baby's latch to be bigger and wider. Has your baby been checked for a tongue or lip tie, which could make a good latch difficult? Adjusting the baby at the beginning of each feeding may take a bit of time the first day or two, but he should catch on quickly to a correct latch if adjusted appropriately.

A bit of nipple stimulation just before you feed can help get your nipples to stand out a bit more to help your baby latch better.

Great job so far, mama! Keep it up!"

Breast to Bottle to Breast

"My son was born three weeks early and breastfed with no problems until my milk came in on day 3.

I had so much milk and was engorged. My son struggled to latch and was choking on all the milk, which was pouring out everywhere even when he wasn't sucking.

He failed to regain his birth weight as he didn't get much of the milk and whatever he did, came back up as he had reflux. I think looking back that laying flat to feed made the reflux worse.

After a week the midwife suggested that I express the milk and pump feed him in a bottle.

He took to the bottle straight away as he was fed in an upright position and soon started gaining weight. We began 12 weeks of exclusively pumping and the feeding in a bottle, which was exhausting. From weeks 10 to 12 he had grown increasingly fussy on the bottle and had taken to screaming whenever we fed him.

I think the reflux played a part in this. One day in desperation I decided to put him back on the breast. I didn't have much hope, but he had refused the bottle for 14 hours.

He took to breastfeeding straight away! I think he was just old enough to deal with my fast flow. It took a few days for the milk supply to settle back down, as the bottle always wastes more and there was too much milk. He has now been breastfeeding for 8 weeks with few problems and is gaining weight as he should be.

I hope this story gives hope to anyone who has had to express their milk and maybe encourages them to have another go when the child is a bit older."

Just Started EP at 11 Weeks...Please Help!
by Emily (Bedford, TX)

"Hey Ladies, I need some help, guidance, and advice! I went back to work at 10 weeks and since my little one is so impatient with nursing, due to getting the milk from the bottle so much easier. After 2 weeks of constant crying, screaming and an unhappy baby and mama (struggling with severe PPD), I decided to make the switch to exclusively pumping instead of EBF like we were doing before. At 11 weeks I had to supplement with formula, one bottle every other day because I couldn't pump what little one was eating while at daycare. So here is my question:

I've read so many articles that say: "once your supply is established from 12 weeks of EP, you can oftentimes decrease pumping sessions to 5/6 times per day." Others I've read say: "while EP you need to pump 7-8 times per day". I'm wondering if I nurse my LO first thing in the morning, how many times do I need to pump during the day? She eats 6 times per day...

Thanks in advance for all your help, I have a newfound respect for moms who EP."

Re: Pumping
by: Lyssa

"There isn't a hard and fast rule to how many times a day you have to pump. Most moms find pumping easiest in the morning and then slowly find themselves pumping less and less throughout the day.

When I EP'ed, I pumped every two hours during the day, and four at night, as I found this worked best with my schedule.

The pump is much less effective at getting milk than a baby, which is why your supply is probably lessening. Pumping more often will help increase your supply, as well as staying adequately hydrated. Once you have established a supply, then you can lengthen the time slowly between pumping sessions, but this may decrease supply. It takes a bit of work and trial and error to figure out what works best for you, your baby, and your body.

You sound like you are doing a great job feeding your baby! Keep up the good work!"

Exclusive Pumper
by Rinda

"My 6-week old baby has had a change in his stool over the past three days. He has had consistent diarrhea that is very smelly compared to the past. And today his stool is less runny, but green and mucousy.

I have been pumping exclusively since my baby will not latch on and is fed his breast milk by the bottle. I have produced a good amount since he was born and since breast milk is good at room temperature for 4-6 hours, he feeds from the same bottle until gone.

He has had colic like symptoms since day one - after every feeding he grunts, squirms, and brings his knees up and down for several minutes. He has even developed an umbilical hernia from his discomfort.

He is a happy baby, for the most part, he does not cry or fuss too much -only after feedings. He only goes 1-2 hours before he is hungry again day and night, even after eating anywhere from 2-4oz a feeding.

I am not sure if foremilk imbalance has anything to do work with this. Please help with any input or advice. Thanks"

Re: Exclusive pumping & bottlefeeding
by: Claire

"I noticed that you mentioned that you use the same milk from the bottle several times within 4-6hrs at room temperature. I have been advised not to let the milk stand more than 4hrs at daytime and nighttime, it's okay, since it is cooler, to let it stand up to 6hrs. However, once the baby has started drinking the milk, you have to finish the portion within 1hr from the first feed and discard the balance.

This is why it is best to store in 2oz quantities for each bottle so that the milk won't go to waste."

Re: Acid Reflux?
by: Jaclyn Pawlowski Love

"Is it acid reflux? All 3 of my boys had it and had those symptoms. We also went through that green stool phase around 4-5 weeks and our pediatrician was not worried. He just wanted to make sure he was producing 4-6 wet diapers."

Re: Pumping exclusively
by: Rinda (exclusive pumper)

"Well, I was under the impression that, yes, if I were to warm refrigerated milk, then it is only good for an hour, so it is best to serve in 2oz portions. But if I am using freshly pumped milk that I accumulated in 6-8oz portions and have not put in the refrigerator, then it is good for 4-6 hours depending on the room temp.

So it is okay to serve from the same bottle that I filled up from that pump session if he has not finished it, and it has not exceeded its time limit - then I thought it was okay.

I have not changed my diet at all. I don't think it is reflux because he does not spit or throw up more than usual. I am starting to think he may have an allergy because he also has a rash of tiny bumps along his neck and chest. He no longer has diarrhea, but green stools with lots of mucus in it.

I am starting to get discouraged, I so badly wanted to breastfeed, and it was so frustrating for both me and my baby when he could not latch. I wish to provide him with all the benefits of breast milk, but pumping exclusively is very hard, time-consuming, and takes a lot of dedication - especially since I am starting to work part-time again.

Now that I am having problems with breast milk allergies - having to adjust my diet (like cutting out dairy) seems to be another battle.

I am starting to lose hope and considering formula, but feel like a bad mom. Not to mention all of the frozen milk I have stored so far. Could that all go to waste if he has allergies to dairy?"

Re: My thoughts
by: Tracy

"Hi, yes, it could be foremilk/hindmilk imbalance. You could start block feeding/pumping to reduce the amounts of foremilk...

Here is a page on this.

Also here is a page on the safety guidelines of milk storage.

Formula cannot come close to breast milk and may cause even more hassles for your baby's tummy."

Exclusive Pumping Experience
by Laura

"Due to flat nipples and a baby who would latch, but refused to then stay on the breast, I have EP'ed since day two.

I have an excellent milk supply getting 6-10 oz from 10 mins pumping. It has given me the chance to feed breast milk but also be able to leave my baby with hubby for the day, with more than enough milk for her (and with little effort.)

I find exclusive pumping to be easy, convenient and it allows me freedom. If I have a second child this would definitely be my choice of feeding. I hated breastfeeding - I found it tiring and very painful. I have no guilt over EP'ing and think its fab!"

Re: Totally agree
by: Tracey

"Agree with you there. I too have flat nipples and tried so hard with my first to breastfeed, but she wouldn't latch.

My second latched great, but it was painful. I was dreading every feed and would sit there crying the whole time. I eventually went to pumping and found great relief.

With my third, I was determined to give him breast milk, but he didn't want to latch on, so I turned to exclusive pumping from day one. It was the best thing I could have done, although I never had enough supply, so I was still giving formula afterward.

It's a great option for mums who say they don't want to breastfeed. This is an excellent way to give Bub the best."

An Exhausted Single Mom of Two/Pumping Exclusively
by Katherine (NC)

"I'm a single mom of two and currently tied to a pump, trying desperately to give my two-week-old daughter the little milk I make.

She couldn't latch or transfer milk, so my lactation consultants suggested pumping, finger feeding, and ultimately bottle feeding. I am taking fenugreek, a milk supplement, and a tea.

My supply has doubled...to just below an ounce every three hours. I have had a breast reduction and revision and was unable to feed my first child.

He, however, latched like a pro and was fine nursing for drops then taking a bottle. I knew I would likely have a supply issue; I never thought about my daughter not latching.

Everyone keeps telling me to keep trying. I can't pick her up when I'm on the pump. I can't be with my son because I'm trying to sleep. And at 12 weeks I go back to work.

My OB has doubled my Zoloft because I'm so depressed and disappointed. I can't go anywhere or do anything because my daughter and the pump are not in sync. I am trying to convince myself 4 weeks is enough, but if anything happened to her that they tie back to formula (let's face it...from SIDS to a cough they can blame it on not breastfeeding)

I couldn't live with myself. However, I'm not easy to live with now. I'm a mess."

Re: Your best
by: Tracy

"Hey Katherine, you have tried your best; you know it's more important for the baby to have a happy mommy, even if you have to stop breastfeeding.

As a last resort, you could try keeping your baby at the breast with a "supplemental nursing system" SNS. It's a little bottle that you fill with milk (preferably donor milk in your case) The bottle has a small tube attached to it that goes into the corner of baby's mouth while you breastfeed; this helps the baby stay at the breast to build supply while supplementing.

You sound frustrated, and I think it would be less stressful if you just decided to stop (in my opinion). And this advice is coming from a very pro-breastfeeding advocate.

I would like to encourage you to find out about donor breast milk in your area."

Re: Be kind to yourself
by: Mandy

"My dear, you have gone above and beyond what many women would.

I am a mother of two with another due in a few weeks. I tried medication, tea, fenugreek, feeding tubes, you name it - we tried it.

Finally, our pediatrician told me that the girls would thrive just fine on formula after I got done crying with both of them I agreed & I now have two beautiful and healthy little girls.

My husband and I agreed we would try again with this one, I meet tomorrow to come up with a plan for nursing at the hospital, but if we have problems and struggle, I will be kind to myself & my family and stop much earlier to alleviate the unnecessary stress.

Know that you did all that you could and now take the time to enjoy your two bundles of joy at home! You will be so relieved and thankful you did."

Re: Single mom of two
by: Katherine

"We saw a new lactation consultant today, who was lovely. She started us on an SNS instead of the pump. However, my daughter still isn't transferring, by dinner, I was leaking and had to pump.

I'm hoping it gets better...pumping AND an SNS don't simplify anything. But I loved the SNS - I was able to hold my baby, and she did latch while we were with the consultant. At home was another story. She had trouble again, and as I said, it ended with pumping.

Her pediatrician keeps saying that if I try harder, I'll suddenly be pouring milk.

After seeing an OB for postpartum depression today and finding out I have lost 30 lbs in two weeks, my OB was the first to say: "do what you can, but if you can't, you're still a great mom."

So I'm giving it two weeks. I have every tool. I am hoping the SNS somehow works, but if not...I will give her a month and mourn that I couldn't do more.

I'm mourning now. But my girl has gained 2 oz a day since I started supplementing and pumping and is healthy and beautiful. That will have to be enough."


Tracy Behr

A homeschooling mother of two, breastfeeding helper, and lover of all things natural!

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