How To Survive Breastfeeding When You’re Exclusively Pumping

Tips and resources for giving your baby breastmilk, when nursing isn’t an option.

Can breastfeeding survive if the baby can’t or won’t latch? If a mother and her baby are separated because of illness or other circumstances?

The answer is yes!

survive breastfeeding while pumping

Women exclusively pump (EP) their breastmilk for many reasons – because they are away from their baby, because of difficult latch issues, because the baby is premature or ill, or any number of other situations.

Whatever the reason, EP moms deserve a spot in the breastfeeding hall of fame. It is hard work, but giving your baby the benefits and protection of breastmilk is worth the effort.

If you find yourself considering EP, here are some key tips and three helpful resources to support you on your EP journey.

  • Get a good pump. Some women with a bountiful supply might be able to get away with a single manual pump, but a double electric pump is most efficient. Rent a hospital grade one for the first few weeks if you can possibly afford it.
  • Be strategic about washing. Either buy extra pump parts so that you’re not washing them between every pump, or store rinsed parts in the fridge during the day and wash them all once at night.
  • Get comfy and try to relax. It’s easier said than done, but important to try! Create a comfortable pumping station and practice deep breathing. It’s harder to get a let-down when you’re tense. Visualizing the milk flowing and looking at your baby (or photos) can be powerful ways to encourage more milk.
  • Find a cheerleader. Or even better, a community of them. Because many people don’t realize that EP is a feasible feeding option, not everyone will understand your motivation and the unique challenges you face. Seek out people who will encourage you when you’re feeling down and celebrate with you when you meet a goal.

Here are three resources for more information and support:

  • The book Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk by Stephanie Casemore. A Canadian mom of two, Casemore exclusively pumped for her first child for just over one year, and the experience led her to write an entire book. Now in its second edition, the book is a much-needed manual that addresses everything from the practical (what pumps and accessories work best, how to maintain/increase/decrease your supply, weaning information) to the mental and emotional (how you feel about EPing, building the confidence you need to meet your goals). Highly recommended by EPing moms!
  • The website exclusivepumping.com. Written by a mom who exclusively pumped for her first child, this website has almost a dozen guides that address common topics (ranging from “Exclusively pumping for a newborn baby” to “Multi-tasking: Pumping while caring for baby” to “Help! Everyone thinks I’m crazy”). Best of all is the “Start here” guide – a quick place to get your bearings and figure out a plan.
  • The Pumping and Exclusively Pumping sections of kellymom.com, a well-respected breastfeeding resource website. Get tips on how often and how long to pump, how to bottlefeed, and much more. 
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