Exclusive Pumpers: All Your Questions Answered
Being an exclusive pumper is not easy and comes with a lot of questions.
If you are a mom who is choosing to exclusively pump, you are making the sacrifice because you know that breast milk has so many benefits for your baby.
The good news is that exclusive pumping is becoming more main stream and many moms are choosing to become exclusive pumpers in order to provide breast milk for their babies.
Here are a few of the most common questions you may have about exclusive pumpers.
What Is An Exclusive Pumper?
An exclusive pumper is a mom who is providing breastmilk for her baby by expressing it, instead of directly nursing.
A mom who is exclusively pumping usually chooses to use a double electric breastpump. This is because a double electric breast pump can remove milk the most efficiently for the majority of moms.
She may also express milk by hand expressing, using a manual pump, or by single pumping one breast at a time.
The terms “Exclusive Pumping” and “Exclusive Pumper” came about as a way to describe moms who exclusively breastfeed but use a pump to remove milk instead of nursing. Some exclusive pumpers may also supplement with formula.
Exclusive Pumpers are different from nursing mothers in that they bottle feed their babies. However, their babies are still getting all of the benefits of breast milk.
Some exclusive pumpers started out directly nursing, but then chose to continue their breastfeeding journey by pumping.
Other moms exclusively pump because they really wanted to nurse their baby, but it did not work out for one reason or another.
They fall back on pumping because they tried everything to get nursing to work. When it did not work for them, they found that pumping was the next best thing.
Why Would You Exclusively Pump?
There are a lot of reasons why a mom may choose to exclusively pump. The biggest reason a mom chooses to pump is because she recognizes all of the great benefits of breast milk, and she wants to provide breast milk for her baby.
There are usually a few different factors that prevent a mom from directly nursing, and why she chooses to exclusively pump.
9 Reasons You May Choose To Exclusively Pump:
1. The baby is born prematurely
When a baby is born early, they are not strong enough to latch and feed directly from the breast. If a mom has a preemie, then their feedings need to be strictly measured and monitored while the baby is in the hospital.
This was the case with my daughter. We were not allowed to start latching until she was older than 34 weeks gestational age.
She started out on a feeding tube, and I started out pumping milk for her feedings and to build up my milk supply.
2. The baby has trouble gaining weight
If a baby has trouble gaining weight, then you may want to measure the amount of milk that the baby takes at each feeding. This way you can see if your baby is drinking enough milk to gain weight.
3. There are latching problems or pain
You may also choose to exclusively pump due to problems latching, or pain that you experience while latching.
Some babies may have lip or tongue ties which can cause pain while breastfeeding. Other babies may have a high palate in the roof of their mouth which can also cause pain for the mom when directly nursing.
My daughter had trouble once she latched and she was not efficient at transferring milk, which was one of the reasons why I exclusively pumped for her.
4. Mom or baby prefers bottle-feeding
Some mothers or babies may have a preference for bottle feeding. Bottle feeding an infant is less work for the infant and can make them less tired.
Moms may also want or need to have help feeding her baby. Feeding a bottle of pumped breast milk is one way her partner can also share in feeding and bonding with the baby.
Bottle feeding can give a mom some freedom to be away from her baby. For example, if she needs to work, or if she needs a few hours to herself for some self-care.
5. Baby has a medical condition which requires bottle feeding
Because we were in the NICU, we had some experience with other families with babies with medical conditions that made bottle feeding preferable.
Some babies have heart conditions and directly nursing is too strenuous for them.
Other babies may need to bottle feed for another medical reason, like a cleft lip or cleft palate. Or, the baby may need to be fed through a tube if they cannot latch onto a bottle.
6. Mom has a low milk supply
If mom has a low milk supply, then she may want to measure the amount of breast milk that she is producing and what the baby is eating. It is one more reason why she may choose to exclusively pump.
7. Mom has an oversupply of milk
If the mother has an oversupply of milk, she may need to pump to relieve engorgement or to prevent a forceful letdown. She may also want to build up a freezer stash to stockpile this extra milk for later.
8. Baby does not tolerate formula
If your baby does not tolerate formula well, then you may choose to exclusively pump. This could be with a baby who has only had breast milk in the past.
Some babies do not like the taste of formula and may refuse a bottle of it. Other babies may have uncomfortable tummy problems or alltergies when they drink formula.
For example, my daughter also had an intolerance to milk and soy protein. The formula that she could drink was very expensive and you could not find it in the regular grocery store.
9. Mom experienced trauma in her past
A mom may have experienced sexual trauma in her past, and that is the reason why she has chosen to pump instead of directly nurse.
4 Benefits to Exclusive Pumping
There are several benefits to exclusive pumping.
1. Baby Gets Breastmilk
One of the reasons you might choose to exclusively pump is because you have heard of all the amazing benefits of breastmilk! By pumping, your baby will still get the antibodies and benefits from breastmilk, but the method of delivery is just a little different.
2. Measure What You Produce
Another benefit to exclusive pumping is you can measure the amount of milk that you produce. You know exactly how much milk that you pump during the day.
You may have heard the term “what you pump is not the same as the amount you produce.”
This may be true for a mom who is nursing, or a mom who is doing a combination of nursing and pumping. However, it is not true for a mom that is exclusively pumping.
If you are nursing or doing a combination, then your baby may be more effective than your pump at drawing out the milk.
But if you are exclusively pumping, then you likely know the best ways to pump to get the most milk from each pumping session. Over time, your body knows to respond to the pump.
3. Measure What Baby Is Consuming
You may want to know exactly how much your baby is eating at each feeding. When you are pumping, then you know if your baby drank 2 ounces or 4 ounces (or more) from the bottle. This can help you to know when your baby may get hungry again.
4. Partner/Family/Sitter Can Help With Feeding
Finally, you may want to have your partner or family member help with some of the feedings. If you need to leave the house, you can prepare a bottle of milk for your baby if it is time for feeding.
This may give you a little more freedom than you would if your baby refuses to drink a bottle.
I know that I did not have the stress of worrying if my baby would drink a bottle on her first day of daycare. Even though it was tough to go back to work, I did not have to worry that she would not be hungry or thirsty when I picked her up.
You can also check out this article I wrote for more tips on pumping for daycare.
How Often Do Exclusive Pumpers Pump?
The number of times per day an exclusive pumper pumps depends on a few different factors.
- The number of weeks or months postpartum
- The amount of milk pumped per session
- If you need to maintain, build, or decrease milk supply
If You Are Fewer Than 12 Weeks Postpartum
In general, if you are less than 12 weeks postpartum, your breast milk supply is hormone-driven instead of supply and demand driven.
Many moms need to pump anywhere from 8 to 12 times per day to establish and maintain their milk supply when they are less than 12 weeks postpartum.
This is similar to nursing mothers, who generally nurse every 2 hours to establish their milk supply. However, pumping this often can be very exhausting because you also need to feed your baby with a bottle, fit in your pump sessions, and wash all of the pump parts and bottles.
If You Are Greater Than 12 Weeks Postpartum
If you are more than 12 weeks postpartum, then you may not need to pump as often.
Once you are more than 12 weeks postpartum, then the number of pump sessions needed per day depends on your milk storage capacity and if you are looking to build or maintain your breast milk supply.
Use the chart below to figure out how many times you should pump each day to build, maintain, or decrease the amount of milk you pump.
Here is a chart to determine how often you may need to pump depending on your milk supply.
Number Of Pumping Sessions Needed Per Day (the “Magic” number)
|Milk Storage Capacity|
|Number of Sessions|
Max Pump Yield
How Much Do Exclusive Pumpers Pump?
The amount of milk that an exclusive pumper pumps can vary a lot between women. The average amount of milk that a woman produces is anywhere from 24 to 36 ounces of breast milk per day.
Some moms pump just a few ounces per day, while others pump 90 ounces per day. This is because some moms need to produce enough milk to feed twins or even triplets.
Some women choose to pump more milk than their baby eats each day because they have decided to donate breast milk to another baby. They may also choose to pump more with the goal of finishing pumping and feeding their baby milk from their freezer stash.
I fell into the camp of being an under-supplier. My daughter was in the NICU and it was tough for me to fit in all the pumping sessions immediately after she was born.
However, I was ok with giving her as much milk as I could provide for her, and then supplementing the rest with formula.
Over time, I was able to build up my milk supply. One of the best ways to do this is by power pumping. You can read my full article about power pumping here.
How Long Do Exclusive Pumpers Last?
Exclusive Pumpers can last as long as they are happy with their decision. As an exclusive pumper, know that you can meet your breastfeeding goal, whether that is 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, or a year.
Many exclusive pumping moms last up to their goal of a year, and others even pump for longer than their baby’s first year.
You may have heard from someone that moms cannot sustain exclusively pumping for very long. Although there are many challenges to exclusive pumping, I want you to know that it is a myth.
Some lactation consultants or other moms who had successful nursing experiences can be “judgy” about exclusive pumping. Do not pay attention to them and know that you can make the decision about what is right for you and your baby!
How Do You Support An Exclusive Pumper?
Exclusive Pumpers can definitely use a lot of support! Some things you can do to help are:
- Washing pump parts
- Washing baby bottles
- Help with feeding the baby
- Watch the baby (or any other children) so mom can take a nap
There are also a few pieces of pumping gear that can help make an exclusive pumping mom’s life much easier. Here are some of my favorite items:
- A hands-free pumping bra (this is the one that works the best!)
- A portable breast pump
- A system to pump directly into milk storage bags, so there are fewer bottles to wash.
- Flanges that fit into a nursing bra, so you can multi-task while pumping.
More Pumping Tips
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