Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk & Donating Breast Milk-My Experience
I have recently come to the end of my bottle feeding experience-Rupert’s now 14 months old and only has two bottles a day but really mainly drinks out of a cup (thank you Munchkin 360!). I thought now would be an ideal time to look back on my experiences exclusively pumping breast milk for baby Rupert and also my experience donating breast milk. Both were fantastic experiences for different reasons. In this post I’ve shared my exclusively pumping routine, the best breast pump and many tips. I’ve also filmed a video which you can find at the bottom of the post 🙂
Feeding my baby breastmilk was something I was determined to do. I am a believer that breast (milk) is best, although I do realise this sometimes just isn’t realistic. Moving from breast milk to formula definitely affected me more than my baby and to be honest feeding formula as opposed to pumping did make life easier. Whatever your choice is, it’s perfect.
Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk
I began exclusively pumping breast milk at about 4 weeks. I had struggled with breastfeeding prior to this and if you want to hear more about this then check out the video linked here. My milk supply was actually really good so I had begun to pump and capture some milk while I was still attempting breastfeeding. So the day I decided to move to exclusively pumping breast milk and feeding it through a bottle I simply swapped every feed Rupert wanted with a pump.
Creating a Pumping Schedule and Power Pumping
You need to be ahead of the game here. So when your baby cries and demands milk, you feed them straight away from your stored breast milk from the fridge. Then you pump directly after the feed. Well, this is what I did and it worked well. What I liked about this schedule was that it was based on the demand of the baby. I think this is why I managed to keep enough milk supply going. I also cluster pumped. Some people call this power pumping… Some babies will suddenly go through a growth spurt and demand milk ALOT. This is called cluster feeding and it’s an exhausting time. When Rupert did this I echoed him and pumped after each feed. Yup, this did mean I had no spare time at all, but it did mean my supply expanded with the growth of my baby.
How much milk should I be pumping?
I think if you pump in tune with your baby’s feeds you’ll be pumping the perfect amount of milk. Now, it’s very likely you’ll be pumping out more milk than your baby will actually need. If this is the case then you can store this milk in the freezer or look at donation.
Sometimes you’ll find your milk supply dipping…This happened to me and I freaked out so much! Things that helped were a good omega 3 and post natal vitamin. WATER!! Drink loads of it! Every time I pumped I drank a pint of water. Food, make sure you’re eating well. When I was in the hospital and waiting for my milk to come in, I made my husband smuggle me in bone broth! The nurses thought I was crazy until the supply came in and was so good! Other things that really effect milk supply is stress. Pumping can feel a bit awkward and stressful, I found reading a book or having Rupert chilling out in his bouncer next to me a great help.
Anyway, dont compare yourself to anybody else. If you find you only manage to pump a little milk than so what?! Something is better than nothing. Feed this to your baby and supplement with formula.
Manual Breast Pump VS Electric Breast Pump VS Hakka Pump
I hate to say it but there is only one winner here. For the purposes of exclusively breast pumping it HAS to be the Medela Maxi Swing. I can truely say I tried most of the other pumps and the Medela Maxi double pump completely made exclusively breast pumping possible.
The manual pumps were just not up to the job at all for me. They barely captured any milk and were very time consuming. The Hakka pump is a lovely pump and comes highly recommended by me but it’s important that you use it for the correct purpose. The Hakka pump is designed for capturing let down milk and it does this job beautifully. For example if you’re breastfeeding or pumping on one side then you can attach the Hakka pump onto the other side. You’ll find it captures alot of milk that would otherwise be wasted.
A single electronic breast pump does work wonderfully but if you’re pumping exclusively then it’s time consuming. I pumped for about 15minutes on each side (remember to set a timer!) so with a single pump that was 30 minutes of pumping and if you’re doing this every two hours and during the night that’s ALOT of extra time used up for just pumping as opposed to halving that with a double pump (plus you’re hands free with a double pump!. My biggest regret with my pumping journey was that I didn’t get a double breast pump straight away and this is partly why I’m writing this. No one told me!
Also another tip…Electronic breast pumps wear out. I made a mistake and purchased mine through ebay as I had spent a fortune on a single pump and manual ones and money was getting tight. The pump was pretty tired by the time I got it and although it lasted for the time I needed it I wont be able to use it for another baby or give it away and this is a shame. So my advice is to buy a new one.
Donating Breast Milk
Once you have established a pumping routine perhaps you’ll consider donating breast milk? When I came to the end of my pumping journey I decided to pump a little longer and donate all this milk to the human milk bank here in Northern Ireland. That milk went on the feed 6 premature babies. I cried so much when I received the letter from the milk bank telling me this. What a wonderful thing to be able to do! So, whether you’re breastfeeding or pumping please, please do consider this! It certainly made the transition from breast milk to formula a lot easier when I knew not only had I fed more only baby for 5 whole months with breast milk but also 6 premature babies. Do remember that you will need to store the breast milk in special bottles given to you by the milk bank, so do get in touch with them before you begin saving up that precious milk!
Like you, I have pumped exclusively and I know the work and time commitment involved! I plan to stop very soon. Any tips on the best way to stop? Gradually pumping with more hours in between each pump? Or how did you do it?