When my daughter was born, I started exclusively pumping from birth. I ended up exclusively pumping because my daughter was born prematurely and I knew I wanted to provide her with breast milk.
There were so many questions in my head and I felt unprepared for how to pump. After pumping for her for a year, I have a good handle on what it takes to exclusively pump.
So, how do you start exclusively pumping from birth? The best way to start exclusively pumping is to:
- Tell your nurses about your plan to pump when you arrive at the hospital
- Learn how to assemble your pump parts and the settings on your pump
- Ask for a pump immediately after giving birth
- Start pumping 8 to 10 times per 24 hour period
When you start pumping there is a huge learning curve. It takes a while to figure out your system. It also takes a while to figure out what works for you and your body when pumping.
You can help this learning curve by being prepared with a plan for pumping before and after delivery. I’ll go into more detail below.
Tips for Before Giving Birth
Here are my top 6 tips to prepare for pumping before giving birth, and then I have 8 more tips for after giving birth.
Tell Your Doctor That You Are Planning To Exclusively Pump
When you are pregnant it’s a good idea to tell your doctor that you are planning to exclusively pump after birth. Your doctor may have some suggestions for you such as renting a hospital-grade pump to start pumping immediately after birth.
Decide On Your Pump
My daughter was in the NICU, so when I started pumping I was able to meet with lactation consultants many times over the eight weeks during her NICU stay. The best advice they gave me was to pump with the Medela Symphony for the first few months while my supply was being established.
If you are considering pumping from birth, and you’ve never pumped or breastfed before, it’s a good idea to look into renting or purchasing a hospital-grade pump.
I initially started pumping with a Medela Symphony and then I switched to pumping with a Spectra S2 pump.
Check out all my best secrets for pumping with a Spectra in this article: How To Use A Spectra S1 or S2 Pump.
Your doctor may even be able to write you a prescription for the pump. You can also speak with your insurance about covering the cost of the pump. For more information about buying a Medela Symphony, check out this article.
I would also recommend calling the hospital where you’re planning to deliver. Ask them what type of pump do they provide for moms who have just given birth.
My hospital used the Medela Symphony, but there are a few other brands of hospital grade pumps. The Medela Symphony and the Ameda Platinum are two of the most popular types of hospital grade pumps.
You may have an easier time pumping in the hospital if you use the pump that the hospital provides. This is because the lactation consultants and nurses at the hospital will be familiar with how that particular pump works.
When you arrive at the hospital and are in labor, the nurses will ask you if you’re planning to breastfeed. It’s important to be very clear about your plan.
If you are interested in pumping and not interested in nursing, let the nurses know at that time. This is so they can provide you with supplies for pumping and feeding your infant.
Many insurance companies will provide a pump. Two of the most popular pump choices are the Medela PISA and the Spectra. To find out more about deciding between the two, click here to read the article I wrote.
Tip: Don’t forget to SAVE this on Pinterest to your Baby or Breastfeeding board so you can find it later![scriptless]
Talk To Your Significant Other About What To Expect
The second step is to make sure you talk to your significant other about your decision to exclusively pump. It’s important for the two of you to be on the same page about this.
You can talk to your husband or significant other about why you want to provide your baby with breast milk and the health benefits for the baby.
You may want to work together to come up with a list of reasons why you have decided to pump. For example, you may want to pump for the health benefits of breast milk, or so you can save money on formula.
You can also explain that when you are pumping you’ll need your partner’s help with a lot of things for the baby and around the house.
You can tell your partner that some of the ways that they can help out will be with cleaning the pump parts and bottles. your partner can also help out by feeding the baby while you pump.
Pumping is difficult especially in the first few weeks, and having your partner’s support will make a big difference. If you can make this decision as a couple, your significant other will hopefully be supportive when you need their help.
They may not understand how difficult pumping is. Having this conversation before the baby is born will help you both out after your little one arrives.
I was lucky that my husband was supportive of pumping. he wanted our daughter to have breast milk to give her a good start in life. He helped me out with cleaning the pump parts and bottles once she came home. This was a huge relief as I got into the groove with a new baby.
Pack A Bag Of Pumping Items For The Hospital
Before going to the hospital you may want to pack a bag with a few items you’ll need to make your pumping experience a little easier.
Your hospital may be able to provide you with some of these items. But, I’d recommend bringing them with you so you know that you have access to them and will not need to run to the store.
Hands-free Pumping Bra
One thing that was essential in the hospital when having a hands-free bra. If you only bring one thing for pumping to the hospital, make sure it is a hands-free pumping bra.
This is my favorite pumping bra (link to Amazon). It worked really well with my Spectra pump!
The day after I gave birth I sent my mom to Buy Buy Baby to buy a hands-free bra. it made pumping so much easier to not have to hold the flanges against my chest.
Pump And Pump Parts
A pump and pump parts might not be necessary to take to the hospital. Call the hospital you’re planning to deliver at and ask them if they have pumps that they provide the new moms.
Also be sure to ask the hospital if they have pump parts like flanges and bottles for the new moms. My hospital provided a pump and a set of pump parts to me.
You may also bring your own pump and pump parts to a hospital if you want to have the nurses and lactation consultant help you with learning how to use it.
Nipple Butter, Coconut Oil, And Soothing Gel Pads
A few other things you may want to bring to the hospital are nipple butter, coconut oil, and soothing gel pads.
Nipple butter or lanolin will help give your nipples some relief after your pump session is over. Soothing gel pads are also a great relief if your nipples are sore once you finished your pump session.
Coconut oil can be used to lubricate the pump flanges. You want to make sure you have a small jar of food grade coconut oil in case a tiny amount gets into the milk.
I would not recommend using lanolin to lubricate the flanges. This is because lanolin is very sticky and it can make pumping painful if you apply it before your pump session.
Pumping Or Nursing Cover
The last item I would recommend you bring to the hospital is either a pumping or nursing cover. I had a lot of visitors at the hospital and I needed to keep on my pumping schedule.
The other thing that kept happening to me was that people were constantly coming into my room at the hospital.
Family members, doctors, nurses, the lab tech to draw my blood, the person who delivered meals, they all were constantly coming into my room. I felt much more comfortable pumping when I had a nursing cover on.
Write Out A List Of Reasons Why You Are Pumping
Another tip for before you give birth is to write out a list of all the reasons why you want to exclusively pump. It’s a great idea to post this somewhere that you’ll see every day.
It will remind you during the tough times about your reason for exclusively pumping. This list will also help remind your significant other about your decisions to pump.
Decide On A Short-Term Pumping Goal And A Long-Term Pumping Goal
The last tip I have for before you give birth is to decide on a long-term goal and a short-term goal for pumping. You might have a long-term goal of pumping for 6 months or 1 year. But that goal can seem very far away when you’ve just given birth.
What I did was I made a short-term goal to pump at the very least for the length of my daughters NICU stay. Your short-term goal could be something such as, “After 6 weeks I’ll make a decision about continuing to pump or quitting.”
After I reached my short-term goal, I would make mini goals. As I met each mini goal, I kept extending the deadline.
For example, I’d say, “When my daughter is 2 months old I’ll decide if I want to stop pumping or keep going.” Then I re-evaluated again at 3 months, at 4 months, and so on.
Having these mini goals helped me have a sense of accomplishment while I was pumping. Some of the advice I received from other moms who pumped was to never quit on a bad day.
Tips For After Giving Birth
Here are the most important tips for pumping after you have given birth!
Ask For A Pump ASAP After Giving Birth
The most important thing to do if you want to exclusively pump is to ask for a pump as soon as possible after giving birth.
If you have a vaginal delivery remind the nurses that you need a pump. If you had a C-section be sure to remind the nurses while you’re in recovery that you want to pump.
The advice I received from the lactation consultants is that you need to start pumping as soon as possible. At the latest, you would start pumping within in the first six hours after giving birth. Ideally, you’d start sooner.
I’d also recommend renting a strong hospital-grade pump for the first few months after giving birth. It’s one of the best ways to help establish your milk supply if you are not directly nursing.
Every OB I spoke with recommended that I rent a hospital-grade pump during the first few months because I was not able to directly nurse my baby.
Figure Out Your Flange Size
The next thing to do after giving birth is to figure out your flange size. Most hospitals will provide one or two different flange sizes along with the pump after you’ve given birth.
The hospital where I gave birth provided 24 mm flanges and 27 mm flanges. You can also ask to meet with the lactation consultant or to ask a nurse to help you figure out the right size flange for your body.
The right size flange should feel comfortable while you are pumping.
Learn How To Assemble Pump Parts
If you’ve never pumped before, you’ll also want to make sure that you know how to assemble the pump parts.
Right after giving birth and pumping for the first time I disassembled the parts to wash them and allow the pump parts to air dry.
The problem was the next time I went to pump, I didn’t understand how they should all be put back together again. I had to call the nurse for help.
Then the first nurse didn’t know either, and she ended up having the call another nurse. The second nurse knew more about pumping and was able to help us figure out how to assemble the pump parts.
Be sure you know how to assemble the pump parts, because if they’re put together incorrectly you could possibly not have enough suction. This could impact your milk supply down the road.
How Frequently To Pump And Length Of Time To Pump
You also want to understand how often you should be pumping and how long each pumping session should be.
The lactation consultants at my hospital recommended that I pump between 8 and 12 times per 24-hour period. They also recommended that I pump for 15 minutes during each pumping session until my mature milk came in a few days later.
Hand Express To Remove Colostrum
Colostrum, which is the first milk, can be difficult to remove through pumping with an electric pump. You may want to try hand expressing to get the colostrum out. Another option is to try using a manual pump to help remove the colostrum.
How Much Should You Pump For A Newborn
During the first couple of days after you give birth, you will only be pumping a very tiny amount. Understand that this is normal.
I pumped only a few milliliters per pump session until the fourth day after I gave birth. Some women have their milk come in on the second or third day, so this can vary from woman to woman.
Try not to be discouraged by the low volume of milk. The most important thing to do is to continue sticking to your pumping schedule. Trust that your body will do what it needs to do to produce milk.
Pumping Once Your Milk Comes In
After the mature milk came in, the lactation consultants advised me to pump 20 minutes or longer, depending on how long it took me to feel empty. In order to help establish your milk supply, make sure that you pump until you are empty.
Then, add an additional 5 minutes to your pump session. The extra five minutes where no milk is coming out will help send signals to your body to continue increasing your supply.
Decide How To Feed Your Baby Before Your Milk Comes In
You will need to decide how you will feed your baby before your milk comes in. Depending on your medical condition, you can ask your OB or doctor if you can pump or hand express the week before you deliver.
Be sure to ask your doctor about this because pumping while pregnant may bring on premature labor.
Another option is to ask for donor milk. If you have a friend who had a baby recently they may be willing to give you some of their frozen milk.
You can also ask for milk donations through organizations like Human Milk for Human Babies or through Eats on Feets. Accepting donor milk will depend on your comfort level in accepting milk donations from friends or strangers.
A third option is to use infant formula for the first couple of days before your milk comes in. Your hospital should have all the supplies to feed your baby formula after you deliver.
Learning Curve With Pumping
It’s important to understand that there will be a learning curve with pumping. Try not to get discouraged, and keep reminding yourself of the benefits of pumping.
After giving birth, you will need to figure out the best pump settings for your body. You’ll also need to figure out what flange size is most comfortable for you.
You will need to develop your schedule to feed the baby, pump, clean bottles and pump parts, and store and organize milk in the refrigerator and freezer.
Stay positive because pumping is hard work. Personally, I found it very rewarding to pump and provide breast milk for my daughter, and it did get easier after those first few weeks.
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