3 Tips for the Exclusively Breast Pumping Mom

3 Tips for the Exclusively Breast Pumping Mom

(While I’m snuggling my new baby, I’m delighted to share this guest post by JessieLeigh from Parenting Miracles.)

I jokingly refer to myself as an unofficial expert on ways to feed babies– I have exclusively formula fed, exclusively pumped, and exclusively breastfed. Of the three, it is my opinion that pumping exclusively is the most challenging. It seems to involve all the work of both the other options without some of the fun perks. Still, it is sometimes the best or only option a mother has. Such was the case for me when my second baby arrived four months early and was fed through a feeding tube.

If you find yourself in a situation where you must rely on pumping for all or most of your baby’s feeding needs, whether because of a medical condition or work situation, I do have some tips to help you establish a successful pumping relationship!

3 Tips for The Exclusively Breast Pumping Mom

1) Take care of yourself.

Eat nourishing food and drink plenty of water. It is sometimes harder to make the connection between pumping and baby than, say, nursing at the breast and a baby. Still, your body is working every bit as hard and burning extra calories. Make sure you’re meeting those needs.

Try to rest when you can and realize that, especially in the beginning, successful pumping requires getting up a few times during the night just like you would if you were nursing a newborn. This can be challenging as it’s not nearly as fun to sit with a pump as it is to snuggle a sweet baby. Know that, just like if you were able to feed the baby at your breast, these sessions can and should move farther apart with time.

2) Make sure you have the proper equipment.

If you’re going to be pumping once or twice a day, you may very well be able to get by with a standard pump you’d pick up at any baby store. If you’re going to be pumping all or nearly all the time, it’s worth it to look into renting a hospital grade pump. These pumps are more powerful, efficient, and customizable. Update: Check with your insurance company to see if they cover a breast pump.

Be sure, too, that you have comfortable, easy-to-maneuver nursing bras that will work well with your pumping equipment. You don’t want to be fumbling around or struggling to fit the pump properly.

If you’re away from your baby, you may also want to keep a photo of your little one or a worn article of clothing nearby. The sight and smell of your baby will help stimulate let-down and will make the first few minutes of pumping easier.

3) Surround yourself with encouragement.

You’re doing something wonderful for your baby and it’s important that you feel supported. Seek out the people who provide that encouragement– these might include your husband, nurses, or women who’ve walked in your shoes. Don’t diminish their compliments and be willing to pat yourself on the back.

On the flip-side, try to avoid the nay-sayers. There may be some people (likely women) who try to make you feel bad for using a bottle in any capacity. Realize that these people are not in your corner and are not going to help you. Smile and move on. You’re doing something wonderful and hard. Don’t let anyone make you feel like “less” for it.

Bonus Tip from Rebekah:

If you are doing any amount of pumping and milk storage, be sure to educate yourself about excess lipase activity!

Pumping can sometimes feel like a challenging, thankless job, but, for babies whose mamas can’t be with them all the time or who can’t yet eat at the breast, it can be a huge blessing. Realize that, no matter how much or how little you are able to express, you are giving your baby an advantage and fantastic nutrition through your efforts. As one who managed to successfully pump and provide breast milk for the entire first year, I am a huge supporter of women who use this feeding method and I wish to provide nothing but encouragement.

Have you ever relied on pumping for some or all of your baby’s feedings? What was the greatest challenge you faced?

A mother of three, including a 24 week preemie, JessieLeigh is a determined advocate for even the tiniest of babies.  She can be found celebrating life’s (sometimes unexpected) miracles and blessings at Parenting Miracles.

All Photos by JessieLeigh.

Excess Lipase Acitivity


  1. I had to go back to work 8 weeks after I had my daughter. I worked bizarre retail hours so I relied on pumping to give her milk and keep my milk in. I did it until she weaned herself at 11 months. She was supplemented with formula for two feedings a day, as well.

    1. Eleven months is a LONG time– good for you! When I was pregnant with my third, I told a nurse that I had never “truly” breastfed before but that I had exclusively pumped. She told me that it’s very, very rare for anyone to pump past a few months. (I have no idea where she gets this statistic/info from, but I guess I’ll believe her. :))

      1. I guess that nurse was talking about mothers who EXCLUSIVELY pump. I know many, many moms who worked outside the home and pumped at work but breastfed at home, for a lot longer than a few months.

  2. My first baby was very jaundice and not gaining weight from breastfeeding due to being a lazy eater, so to ensure that she was eating I decided to pump exclusively. This only lasted for about 3 weeks b/c it was super overwhelming and lots of work. I admire those who are able to do it for a long period of time. It got so discouraging for me that my pump began “talking” to me during the night time feeding/pumping sessions…it was saying “Why pump? Why pump?” I agree that if you want to do this, a strong support system is needed. This wasn’t there for me so I eventually talked myself out of pumping and gave my baby formula, which there is nothing wrong with that.

    1. That support system really is critical, Michelle… at least, it was for me. My husband was very supportive but, perhaps even more importantly for me, the nurses were so helpful and supportive. I was fortunate in that I produced a lot of milk at each pumping session and, as a result, “banked” a lot. Because the reality? Was that once I got home with a 4mo (on oxygen, an apnea monitor, and a feeding tube) and a 14mo (who didn’t yet walk), I quickly became overwhelmed and wasn’t able to pump as well. I relied heavily on the milk we’d frozen from before.

  3. I tip my hat to pumping mamas. I tried pumping with my first when thyroid was sabotaging my supply. I just couldn’t do it (the supply issue certainly didn’t help). With my other 2 I’ve struggled to find ANY time to pump while chasing them around! It certainly is a hard job but very worth it.

    1. I pumped once a day for 13 months with Grace. Now that Noah is here, I’ve started pumping again. I completely agree with you that it is hard with more than one kid!! I’ve already found myself discouraged and it has only been 1 week. Will I make it 13 months??? Probably not, but thankfully I don’t really NEED to pump since I stay home.

  4. I agree that if you want to do this, a strong support system is needed. This wasn’t there for me so I eventually talked myself out of pumping and gave my baby formula, which there is nothing wrong with that.

    1. I’m a huge supporter of breastfeeding, but I don’t know if I could exclusively pump. I don’t blame you for turning to formula. Pumping is not fun. I think every pumping mom should have a personal cheerleader encouraging her with every single feeding. 🙂 Those moms are just so amazing!

  5. I admire those who are able to do it for a long period of time. It got so discouraging for me that my pump began “talking” to me during the night time feeding/pumping sessions…it was saying “Why pump?

  6. I didn’t have a very good support system with my first two, so I only nursed them for a few weeks each. But by the time I was pregnant with my third, we had made some huge lifestyle changes and I had learned so much more about successful nursing, I decided she would be different and I would do the very best I could. Due to some medical issues (me), she was unable to nurse past a few days, so I started pumping (with a high grade pump) and pumped exclusively for her for 6 months. I literally took it one day at a time and at 6 months when I had had too many days in a row of being completely overwhelmed, I decided to start weaning. Fortunately, I had tons of milk stored because I produced a ton and was able to supply her for another several weeks from my stash. Pumping for that long and having 2 other children, plus the newborn, was definitely a commitment, but I’m thankful I did it since she ended up unexpectedly being my last child.

  7. I went back to work when my son was 3 months old and pumped at work for about 10-11 months. After that he kept nursing while we were together for another year, but he would not take a bottle anymore, and of course by then he was eating plenty of solids. Here is my advice on pumping at work. It went very well for me. I guess my biggest challenge was just keeping up with all the logistics! But whenever I began to think it might be too complicated, I would think about the logistics of formula and conclude that that would be almost as complicated anyway!

  8. From a Mom who exclusively pump, it truly is mind over matter. When my first preemie was born, 32 weeks, I exclusively pumped for 14 months. No supplements at all, besides his medications. Then 2 ½ years later had my second premature birth, but this time was for twins at 30 weeks. I again exclusively pumped for both of them for 7 months. After that my body just decided it wasn’t going to with-stand the pumping anymore and ended up getting repeated mastitis infections. Last infection landed me in the hospital, after that I conscientiously gave up on exclusively pumping for my twins. Pumping is hard work, not to be taken lightly and my best advice for any Mom on pumping is to pump round the clock on a schedule. Yes, don’t get me wrong sleep is important but remember to sleep when baby is sleeping. Have confidence in yourself and your body, it’s capable of miracles beyond belief.

  9. I exclusively pumped for my first child for a year. I produced so much extra milk that I was able to donate 1000 ounces to three different families over the course of that year. I was determined to actually nurse my second, but it didn’t happen. Now she’s 11 weeks old and pumping is going great, though it’s slightly more challenging to pump while also keeping track of a 22 month old. I’m determined that both my children receive breast milk for the first year of life, so it’s worth the extra effort for me.

    1. Abby, that is AMAZING. Seriously. You are giving your little ones such a gift – plus those 3 other families!!

      Go take a nap. And a bath. And eat some chocolate. You deserve to be pampered. 🙂

  10. I couldn’t breastfeed my 1st because of some medicine I had to take so he was a soy formula baby but I exclusively pumped all 3 of my girls after trying to breastfeed them. Breastfeeding hurt so badly that I ended up pumping only for 9 months with my 2nd child, 11 months with my 3rd & 14 months with my 4th. It takes lots of dedication, especially while working as a teacher. I had several family members say to just stop but I knew it was the best for them and it helped financially as well. If I could carry them for 9 months then I could definitely feed them for 1 year with my own milk!

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