Written by Kelli Bottolfson-Brown
Some moms find themselves pumping their milk and never putting their baby to breast. The reasons for this choice are personal for some moms and practical for others. Breastfeeding can bring out uncomfortable feelings for moms who are survivors of sexual abuse and their solution for meeting their own needs as well as their baby’s is to pump exclusively and feed the milk in a bottle. Babies with palate deformities, Down’s Syndrome or lack of muscle tone may be unable to nurse, at least in the beginning. Whatever the situation, exclusive pumping (referred to as “eping” in breastfeeding circles) is the next best alternative to nursing exclusively, and for some moms and babies eping is the only way to feed breast milk exclusively. Exclusive pumping can work, though it does take time, dedication, a good plan, and a good pump.
The first step to making exclusive pumping successful is to understand that the pump is attempting to mimic a baby and as such, you will need to pump as often as your baby would nurse in order to establish and maintain your supply. To establish your supply in the early stages, you will need to pump up to 12 times per day in the first week. Once supply is established, you can modify your pumping schedule to adjust to your baby’s needs. Ultimately, how often you end up pumping each day will depend on your ability to effectively drain your breasts and the storage capacity of your breasts. Moms with a smaller storage capacity will likely need to pump more often.
If you run into supply issues while exclusively breastfeeding, you will need to increase the number of pumping sessions per day and pump for 2 minutes after you see the last drop of milk. Herbals are also effective in helping maintain and increase milk supply. The key to maintaining milk supply with exclusively pumping is to make a schedule and stick to the plan. The plan may be as simple as always pumping immediately after you feed your baby, so that you have milk ready for the next feeding.