Most mothers want to breastfeed their baby. They are committed to giving their child the best start in life and sharing the many nutritional, developmental, immunological and cognitive benefits of drinking human milk.
However, sometimes in life, things don’t work out the way that we plan. For some mothers, there are situations that arise after the baby is born that may prevent her from being able to breastfeed directly from the breast. This might include medical conditions, having a baby who cannot or will not latch properly, or for several other reasons.
A mum may assume that she really has no option but to feed her baby formula and give up the hope of ever breastfeeding. As a dedicated mother however, she only wants the best for her baby and deserves all the support needed as she works out an alternative plan.
Feeding the baby formula is one option. The other, that many women adopt, is to exclusively pump breastmilk and feed that to their baby. This way the baby gets all the amazing goodness of breastmilk and the mum gets the satisfaction of knowing that her little one is getting the best nourishment.
The Unique Challenges of an Exclusively Expressing Mum
This decision to become an “exclusively expressing mum” is not easy. There are many challenges that a mum has to confront when only pumping breastmilk. Friends, family and even some professionals might insist that she won’t have enough stamina or even be able to produce enough milk.
They will perhaps offer well-intentioned (but hard-to-hear) comments to say that they “feel sorry” for her and how unfortunate it is that the bonding experience will just not be the same.
These attitudes from the people in her life often cause mums to feel emotions of failure, inadequacy and guilt. The exclusively pumping mum may think, “Every other woman in the world can do this one simple thing – and I can’t!”
She might feel isolated, exhausted and emotionally drained. Women tend to connect with a community of likeminded mothers when they start their journey as a new mum. Whether it’s exclusively breastfeeding mums or occasional bottle-feeding mums, exclusively expressing mothers do not fit into either camp. This is a difficult place to be.
The truth is that being a mum is complex, and feeding our babies doesn’t have to be an “either or” situation. There are great resources available today to make breastfeeding or pumping breastmilk fit your lifestyle.
All mums, regardless of how they feed their babies, deserve respect, appreciation and gratitude!
Even if exclusively pumping breastmilk poses some challenges, the choice is easy – your baby comes first and deserves to get the full variety of benefits from consuming breastmilk. So be proud about your dedication, and be confident about your choice to pump!
If you want to exclusively pump breastmilk, here are a few tips to make life easier:
Understand how Breastfeeding Works
Breastfeeding is a matter of supply and demand. Your body will produce more milk depending on how often milk is removed from the breast. Your body’s breastmilk is a complex, beautiful, self-replenishing system. So the more frequently you empty your breasts, the more milk you will produce.
Not having the stimulation of a baby sucking at the breast makes milk removal more challenging. A pump is obviously just not the same!
If you are building your milk supply, it is very important that you also pump during the night. Once you have established an adequate milk supply, you might be lucky to find that you don’t need to pump so frequently, but you will need to find what works best for your body. Ideally, you should pump even through the night.
Babies often night feed for several months (or longer) after birth, so you will want to have milk available even in the midnight hours. It might feel like you are expressing “all the time” – but with patience and focus, it will become easier, faster and more natural.
Get a Great Pump
Choosing the right breast pump is especially important for exclusively expressing mums. Choose a pump that is fit for everyday use and that can efficiently enable the volume of milk that you will need as an exclusively pumping mum. For example, a hospital-grade rental pump, such as the Medela Symphony is a great option for exclusively pumping mums.
Or if you prefer to own your own breastpump, you could choose a double-electric personal use pump like the Swing Maxi or Freestyle. Check out this article on how to choose the right breastpump, and it’s also a good idea to talk to a lactation consultant about your needs and to develop a working relationship for professional support and encouragement.
Whatever breastpump you choose, once you decide, it’s time to get in the right frame of mind and be fully committed to exclusively expressing breastmilk.
Make peace with the reality of feeding expressed breastmilk to your baby. Put all worries aside about what’s “right” or “wrong” or what you “wish” was different, and just give expressing your absolute best effort. You’ll feel better and enjoy the process more if you make this mental “switch” up front.
Use the Best Feeding Solution
The way a baby drinks from a bottle is very different than how a baby would nurse from the breast, so even if you will not be breastfeeding, it’s still important to give your baby the best advantages of bottle feeding that feels natural.
Consider using the Medela Calma feeding solution, which allows the baby to apply the same feeding behaviour as natural breastfeeding. How does this work? Just like when breastfeeding, the baby latches onto the Calma feeding solution by creating suction. Once suction has been established, babies use tongue movement to increase or decrease the level of suction.
This is exactly what happens during breastfeeding. When suction is at a low level, breastmilk will not flow through Calma, and when a baby increases the level of suction, breastmilk will start to flow for as long as the baby decides.
How to Increase Milk Supply
Exclusively pumping mums often wonder about what they can do to increase their milk supply. As we mentioned above, probably THE most important thing to remember is to pump often and pump long enough to soften (or “empty”) the breast.
A Few Notes on Storage
There are some great breastfeeding accessories available that can help make life easier for exclusively expressing mums. Consider buying Medela Pump & Save breastmilk storage bags, which are made from food-grade BPA-free materials, and are compatible with all Medela breastpumps.
Pump & Save storage bags are made with a sterile double membrane protective oxygen barrier, which preserves the healthy nutrients in breastmilk throughout refrigeration, freezing and warming.
What About Bonding?
Breastfeeding is often described as a once-in-a-lifetime chance for bonding with your baby, and exclusively pumping mums might feel left out of this experience. But keep in mind that bonding is bigger than breastfeeding alone! There are many ways to bond with your baby during feeding times that have nothing to do with whether or not the baby is suckling from a breast or from a bottle.
Regardless of whether it looks like society’s traditional idea of how breastfeeding is “supposed” to work, the most important thing is that as an exclusively expressing mum, you are feeding your baby breastmilk. Good for you for making the extra effort and sacrifices to give your baby the best nourishment possible!
For more information about the considerations involved with being an exclusively pumping mum, read this great article on exclusive pumping.
Do you know any mums who exclusively pump breastmilk? Are you? What has your experience been like with pumping and bottle feeding your baby? Leave a comment in the comment section to share your thoughts, or join the conversation on our Medela Australia Facebook page.