By Jessica Sacher MN, RN, IBCLC
Can I just pump? This is a question that I am often asked. There are mothers who cannot put their babies to breast because their babies are hospitalized and not yet ready to breastfeed, and there are mothers who for various reasons cannot or choose not to put their babies to breast, but want to provide breast milk for them.
The answer is yes. You can exclusively pump if that is your choice or your need. The decision to just pump often happens when a mother is having some difficulty managing breastfeeding.
I had a client a few years ago who was working in a very demanding job and she wanted to set up a pumping schedule that worked best for her. She didn't want to breastfeed because she wasn't going to be home long enough to establish a breastfeeding relationship with her baby, but she wanted the milk to be hers.
I had another mom who desperately wanted to breastfeed, but despite her best efforts, her baby refused to latch. She successfully pumped until her daughter was 13 weeks old and one day she thought “what the heck” and offered the breast. To her surprise and delight, the baby latched and nursed as though she had been doing it all along.
No matter the reason, here are some helpful tips for the exclusively pumping mother:
Pump! In order to establish the milk supply a mother must use the pump as though it were her “surrogate” baby. This means pumping 8-10 times in 24 hours. She also has to coordinate her pumping routine with her baby’s feeding pattern. A lactation consultant can add support and guidance as a mom goes through establishing a milk supply.
Milk supply isn't static. You can usually raise or lower the supply by pumping more or less. If the baby needs more milk, add a pumping until the supply picks up. Do the opposite if less is needed.
Choose the right pump — this is crucial. Often a hospital grade pump will be the best choice for initiating and establishing the milk supply. Once a mother feels that her milk is “in” and she is getting sufficient volumes, she may choose to buy a pump. It is also important that the pumping experience be comfortable and that the breast shields fit her breasts and nipples correctly (the standard Medela nipple shield diameter is 24mm, but larger sizes are available and feel much better to many women).
Grease up. Some mothers find that lubricating the tunnel of the breast shield with a food grade nipple cream will increase their comfort while pumping.
The Pump Station is always happy to help address and provide the support a mother needs in order to achieve her goals in providing milk for her baby. Give us a call at 866-842-7867.