Check out any baby nursery these days, and you're sure to see a breast pump sitting there, waiting for use. Pumping breast milk enables most moms to share feeding duties and keep breastfeeding even after they've returned to work. But for a growing number of moms, it's also the only way they're feeding their kids.
Sometimes called exclusive pumping or exclusively pumping, the practice of feeding baby breast milk only through a bottle is one moms may choose for a number of reasons -- from having a premature baby in a NICU who can't latch on to having inverted nipples that won't revert with stimulation. If you're struggling with breastfeeding the traditional way, pumping your milk can be a good way to keep baby on breast milk, says certified lactation consultant and doula Christine Santos, owner of Psalm 139 Studios in Florida. "A mom who exclusively pumps can make enough breast milk to sustain her baby," Santos tells The Stir.
So how do you exclusively pump? Here's what a mom needs to know to make it work:
1. Get an industrial grade pump. "The ones sold in stores aren't going to cut it," Santos warns. Industrial pumps can be purchased, but it's costly. To keep costs down, they can be also rented -- often from your local hospital.
2. Pump on a schedule. To keep up your supply of breast milk -- even if it will be fed to a baby via a bottle -- you have to act similarly to the way you would if you were breastfeeding the traditional way, says pediatrician Dr. Jennifer A. Gardner, CEO and founder of the Healthy Kids Company. That means pumping frequently throughout the day at fairly regular intervals to empty the breasts of milk. "It is this emptying that stimulates more breast milk production," she explains.
3. Use your baby! Baby may not be eating directly from the breast, but your body knows it's making milk for him. So use that! "To help initiate the let down reflex before pumping, it helps to have the baby nearby or look at a picture of the baby," Dr. Gardner suggests. "A blanket that the baby uses around the mom’s neck or shoulders can also help."
4. Drink plenty of fluids. Making breast milk is hard work for the body, whether baby is suckling from the breast or you're pumping. Liquid in helps with liquid out.
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5. Track baby's intake. "Breastfed babies do not drink as much as formula fed babies," Santos says, "and they eat more frequently." Exact intake will vary by baby, but moms should watch for steady weight gain, six or more wet diapers a day, and other signs that baby is eating enough.
6. Avoid supplementing -- if possible. As long as baby is getting enough to eat (something your pediatrician can and should assess), Santos advises moms who are exclusively pumping stick to feeding baby breast milk as this will help her keep up her supply. "If a mom who is attempting to exclusively breastfeed automatically begins supplementing, it begins a downward spiral where her milk supply will dwindle," she explains. "A newborn doesn't consume very much milk, so there is time for her milk to come in with adequate supply."
7. Ignore what other people say. Exclusive pumping isn't for everyone, but it can and does work for some moms, Santos says, so who cares if you're not breastfeeding the "traditional" way. And if it doesn't work out? "Whatever way you choose to feed your child, remember this: the greatest thing you can give a child is your love," she says.
Have you been pumping your breast milk? What are your best tips?
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