Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Exclusive Pumping

***Warning - this is a post about boobs. If you're offended by breastfeeding, boobs or pumping, I wouldn't read the rest!

I went back and forth on deciding to make a post about exclusive pumping (aka EPing), but I REALLY think that some people, especially those that EP twins, could find some of my tips and tricks very useful!

I don't think that anyone, while pregnant, assume they are going to EP rather than breastfeed the "old fashioned way"! I certainly didn't. I am a stay a home mom and definitely thought that I would be 100% breastfeeding my girls, and just pumping "here and there" so daddy could feed them every so often. Yeah, plans change once baby (babies) are here! I love the health benefits of breastmilk for babies, and I thought the bonding would be wonderful.

Then babies come. They didn't latch well. AT ALL. Despite lots and lots (and lots) of help from lactation consultants at the hospital, we only had a few successful feeds via the breast, and we just had to supplement with formula. The girls were tiny and needed to gain weight. I understood this, and while I did NOT like the idea of formula one bit, I really didn't want to starve my newborn babies because they couldn't latch well at all. So the nurses and LC's had my husband bring my pump in so I could start pumping right away. It was really hard at first. Between trying to breastfeed two babies with a bad latch and pumping around the clock, feeding these girls was *the* single hardest thing about having newborns.

When we got home I cried to my husband. I thought breastfeeding would come so naturally, I mean, it IS the way God intended it. I tried breastfeeding before EVERY feed, but even if they did latch they were never satisfied. After my milk came in, I combined it with some formula since I wasn't making very much breastmilk yet. But I was happy that they were getting colostrum, even if it was just a little!

In hindsight, I wish I had pursued breastfeeding more. I wish I had gone back to the hospital to see the LC's again, or to meet with LLL. But I was exhausted, recovering from surgery, and honestly I was trying to adjust to being a new mom! Not only are these my first kids, I have NEVER babysat or had any experience with kids before this! The first diapers I changed were that of my daughters! So honestly, turning to the pump just became the easier option. The pump was there. It was expressing breastmilk, and my girls were satisfied after drinking a bottle. It made life easier.

After a few weeks, their latch DID get better, but again, they just weren't quite satisfied at the breast. They would nurse for 45 minutes then need to eat again 20 minutes after. And don't forget, this is x 2! If I had one baby, sure, I wouldn't mind BFing all the time. I am 100% sure I could have breastfed one baby and devoted ALL my time to it. Unfortunately, you can't give 100% to the baby you are breastfeeding while the other baby is screaming for attention. So what became the best option for US was to give them their bottle every 3 hours, and if after 1.5 to 2 hours later if they were rooting and seemed hungry again, I would breastfeed them to "hold them over" to the next bottle. This worked pretty well actually. I got to breastfeed and bond with my babies but they were still getting enough milk and I KNEW how much they were getting, which was important to me since they were just so small.

SO to make a long story short (yeah right, this is already too long!) we did this for a while, and after about 3-4 months, they stopped being hungry between bottles, so I didn't nurse. And that was that. We just sort of fell out of the habit and exclusive pumping became our new way of life.

One source of stress from exclusive pumping TWINS is, however, supply. If I had just one baby, I'd have a HUGE oversupply. I would honestly have to toss milk or donate it because my freezer would be overflowing. BUT with two babies, I *just* keep up. There was only one time around 4-5 months that I was making more than they were eating and I made a great little freezer stash which has served me well over the months! So here are some tips I have for increasing supply!

Tips for Increasing Supply
- Eat a bowl of oatmeal (not instant) with flax seed meal and brewers yeast mixed in every morning. It's like a lactation cookie but easier to make. And probably healthier.
-Drink lots and lots of water. This isn't hard for me, because I get insatiably thirsty before every let down. So drink a lot, especially while you pump. Keep a big bottle of water near you at all times.
-Play around with herbs and teas and find what works best for you. Fenugreek is very popular. I myself take More Milk Special Blend that has fenugreek along with a host of other herbs that are supposed to help with supply. The Goat's Rue is what helps me the most. This tonic also helps me quite a bit: Mother's Lactation Tonic.
-Some people turn to drugs to increase supply. You'll have to talk to your dr. about this. My dr. said the only one she knows of is Reglan but the risks outweigh the benefits. There is also domperiodone. I have tried this myself, but did not see any increase. Some people have great luck with it though.
-Pump, Pump, Pump! Especially in the beginning when you are establishing your supply, you need to pump *AT LEAST* every time your baby/babies eat! I only did every 3 hours for about a week, then soon realized I needed to pump every two hours. So I did every 2 hours during the day, and every 3 hours at night (every time the girls woke up for a bottle). Over time I kept up the every 2 hours during the day thing, but as the girls started to sleep better at night, I stopped pumping at night.
-On that note, if you have twins and REALLY need to keep your supply up, you really shouldn't go more than 6 hours without pumping, this includes night time. My supply was starting to drop at around 6 months and I knew I had to do something about it, so I started getting up at 2am to pump. I still do this. It sucks but it's only 30 minutes and I go right back to bed.
-Try power pumping! This is 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off for an hour. It mimics a cluster feed. This is helpful in the beginning when you are still establishing your supply.
-This is a crazy little drink that I have found REALLY helps with supply! I'm not the only one who has had success with it either, a few friends of mine have really had success with it as well! "If your breast milk is scanty, try this mixture of almond milk and herbs, soak ten almonds in water overnight. Then peel them, put them in a blender, add a cup of hot milk and puree them. Pour the almond milk into a glass and stir in a pinch each of ginger powder, cardamom and saffron and a teaspoon of date sugar (available in most health food stores) or honey. Drink this twice a day, morning and evening, to help strengthen the quality and quantity of your breast milk." Source: http://ayurveda-foryou.com/women/breastfeeding.html
- Make sure you love your pump! I started with an Avent double electric, but it really hurt a lot, was SO noisy, and I just didn't find it "fit" me well. I switched to a Medela Pump in style Advanced and I LOVE it. The best part about it is that you can purchase different size breast shields. I needed to go up 2 sizes from the 'standard' size and it has made pumping SO much more comfortable!

Tips to Achieve Success with Exclusive Pumping
-I truly believe that the only way you'll have success with exclusive pumping is to not hate it. Some people just hate pumping and in my opinion, these people will not be successful. And that's fine! It is CERTAINLY not for everyone. I feel like it's 2nd choice after breastfeeding, but a step above formula feeding. I myself just don't mind it. I never have. Do I LOVE doing it? not really. But it's just part of my daily routine now. I play on the computer (admission: I'm pumping right now!), crochet, catch up on my DVR, etc.
- You NEED, I repeat you NEED a GOOD hands free bra. At first I tried the old "hole in the old bra trick" and did not like it. Then I got a Medela hands free bra, but didn't like it because it didn't have shoulder straps. Then I found the simple wishes hands free bra. Best investment for EPing I've made. I literally wear it 24/7. I only take it off to wash it and to shower. It's essential.
-With a hands free bra, you can do a LOT of things while you pump. I feed both babies (one in a boppy next to me on the couch, and the other in the rock n' play sleeper in front of me) and pump. I have made dinner and pumped (although I don't love doing this!). I drive and pump all the time! In fact I prefer pumping while driving because I can't be interrupted and it kills two birds with one stone! What I do is wear my simple wishes bra, a nursing tank over that, and a loose shirt over that. I set everything up before I leave then turn the pump on and go! When I get to my destination, I find a private place to take off my pump things, put my milk in a cooler, etc.
-Another question that gets asked a lot is, what do you do with babies while pumping? Well the most idea time to pump is when they are napping, but that doesn't always work out. When they were very new, I used to just put them in the rock n' play or bouncy seats right in front of me and I just kept putting paci's in their mouth or tried to entertain them as best I could. as they get older it gets way easier. Like i said before, you can feed them while pumping or you can just stick them in a jumparoo or exersaucer! My girls will even play on the floor together while I pump.
-To avoid hassle during the day, especially when you pump a lot, keep everything in the fridge! The bottles, breastshields, membranes, etc. can all go in the fridge during the day so you don't have to constantly keep washing everything. I do a very thorough cleaning of all pump parts once a day, right before bed.
- For comfort, if you have the correct size shields and your nipples still hurt, use a bit of olive oil as lube on your nipples. Safe for babies and makes a major difference! (I haven't done this personally, but this was a recommendation from a fellow EP'er!)

Well, this was a novel so I'll end it here. I hope this was helpful to some of you! While I really don't think exclusive pumping is for everyone, nor do I think it should be your first choice after baby is born, I think it really is a great option for mom's who want their babies to have breastmilk but for whatever reason just can't breastfeed. I have been doing this for over 8 months now. My goal used to be a year but I honestly see myself going longer than that now. Happy Pumping!


  1. I'm an EP'er too. My daughter was born at 32 weeks and just never really got the hang of breastfeeding despite me showing up at the NICU twice a day for WEEKS in order to help her learn. Then for the entire first month that she was home, I tried and tried and TRIED. She got use to bottles in the NICU and I think after that there was no going back. Good for you for being able to pump for twins. I pump 5x a day now and make about a litre a day, sometimes a bit over. You're doing an excellent job and your twins are gorgeous (and I love the name Emily...that's my name!)

  2. I'm not an EP'er, but I do pump while I'm at work. These are some great tips - thanks!

  3. I saw your link on TheBump. I have never been able to produce enough for my twin boys and only one will latch on properly. They are just over 3 months now. Your tips and your dedication towards BM help me to remain motivated. I am using the More Milk Special Blend but have not noticed a great difference in my supply (granted it has only been 5 days and I think you have to wait 10). I will try the almond milk drink and some of your other tips. Thanks for posting.

  4. Great post! I have 32 week old twins and I think I will end up EP'ing too.

  5. I have eight week old twins and am also EPing. Mine were 37 weekers, but my boy went to NICU for 11 days. My girl weighed in at 5lb 9oz. I tried and tried to nurse her in the hospital, but her latch was intense. It hurt SO badly even with LC help, and she never seemed satisfied. I went back to lactation and did the before and after weighing on day ten. In an hour of nursing, she only got 12ml. Ugh. Then, I finally got to nurse my boy on day eleven. He had a better latch initially, but once we took him home, he started turning his bottom lip under. He also pulled off and got upset over and over. That hurt! I briefly tried the shield, but it was a pain. So, now I pump. The good news: I pumped part time with my first daughter, so this was not new. And I pumped from day two for my boy in NICU. My supply was awesome in the hospital. NICU nurses were really impressed with my liquid gold, which motivated me to do it more often. I did experience a drop in supply at four weeks, when I got sick and my hubby went back to work (on nights). What worked for me was oatmeal cookies, subbing in almond flour and honey. I LOVE the Baby Connect app. I have been able to track pumping, diapers, bottles, nursing, medicine, etc. I can see when my supply is dipping. Drinking more water and eating more protein seem to be the key to my success. I average 50oz a day (barely enough for my twins, but keeping up). The most comforting thing I've read: you will not need more milk than your babies eat now. They will space out feedings and eat more each time, but decrease the number of feedings. My short term goal is six months. Once I make it that far, they will start eating real food and drinking less. If I can keep pumping and start freezing excess at that point, by ten or eleven months I can stop all together and have enough milk left to make it to one year.

    Totally agree with you about the pump bra! Also love my extra wide nursing cover from RuffleMania on Etsy. (If you want one, PM her and ask for extra width.) It has boning on the top edge, so it stays out a little. You can see what your pumping without moving the cover, and it covers my sides completely.

    I am also in love with the Medela 2.5oz bottles for feeding/prepping ahead. They fit in the fridge and diaper bag more compactly. I also bought some vinyl name labels that work well on these because they aren't curved. If anyone reading this still has babies in NICU, stockpile the 250mL bottles while you can! Ask for some every time you drop off milk. I ended up with eight of the big bottles. They fit perfectly in the can rack in my fridge and hold my whole pump session. I label w dry erase markers, so I can keep tabs on oldest milk.

    So far, so good. I'm glad to know I'm not the only crazy person who pumps in the car or at 2am when babies are sleeping.

    Thanks for writing.

  6. I am a EP'er to boy/girl twins that are a little over two months old! This was an extremely helpful post! Thanks so much!

  7. I have been Eping for my twin boys for eight months and three weeks. It is difficult, and people rarely understand this journey. How long did you EP for your girls?