Thursday, January 19, 2012

What you should know if you exclusively pump breastmilk

Studies have shown that moms and babies benefit from breastfeeding at the breast, both physically and physiologically. But what if a mom and baby are having challenges, and at the breast feeding is not working out?

For instance, preemies sometimes don't have the strength or dexterity to latch on, and some older babies can have physical limitations that prevent them from latching on as well. So if these babies' moms still want to give their babies breastmilk, they choose to exclusively pump instead.

These moms often have a different set of questions about pumping than moms who feed at the breast. Here are some common questions I get asked about exclusively pumping, and my answers.

Question: How often should I pump my breastmilk?

Answer: Moms should set up their pumping schedule based on their baby's feeding schedule, generally every two to three hours around the clock if they are exclusively pumping. This includes at night as well, especially if you are establishing your supply in the early weeks after birth. After your breast is drained, continue to pump for five or so additional minutes to continue to stimulate milk production.

Question: What do I do with all my pumped milk?

Advice: If you're pumping every day, you need a place to put all that milk! Make sure you have enough room in your freezer, and remember to follow these guidelines for storing, warming, and using your pumped breastmilk.

Question: How do I still bond with my baby without breastfeeding at the breast?

Advice: Feeding at the breast fosters a close relationship with your baby, as well as security and comfort for moms and babies. If you are only able to pump your breastmilk, you can build your relationship with your baby in other ways. You can lay skin-to-skin together to promote bonding and know that you are providing your baby with your breastmilk. It has antibodies and nutrients that only breastmilk can provide, and your baby needs that for growth and development.

Question: Why am I so sore after pumping?

Advice: Moms who only pump might find they experience more soreness because they might be putting their pump on a higher setting, thinking that is the most effective way to draw out the milk. Pump to your comfort level and remember that babies suck vigorously at first but then tend to have longer, slower sucks. You can mimic those phases of breastmilk expression with your pump if you have separately adjustable settings. If your pump does not have these settings, start out slower and then gradually increase to your comfort level. It is a good thing to remember that by pumping, you are essentially tricking your body into letting down the milk. It can never be as efficient at drawing out the milk as a baby, so mimicking these actions can help your body adjust to pumping and avoid or ease soreness. Many moms like to use HPA Lanolin or Soothies Gel Pads to moisturize and soothe whether they are they are exclusively pumping or feeding at the breast.

Question: How do I avoid getting clogged ducts?

Advice: Moms who exclusively pump might also find that they pull out less milk than moms who feed directly at the breast. So moms who pump might have more clogged ducts. If this happens, continue to pump and position the pump flange on the duct, massage the breast with the clogged duct lightly, and take plenty of hot showers. To try to avoid this, moms should pump every few hours, even at night, so as not to get overly full.

If you have a question about exclusively pumping that I haven't answered here, feel free to leave it in a comment. I'll do my best to answer it for you!

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