Exclusively Pumping

Since Raegan has a cleft palate and is unable to breastfeed, I decided that exclusively pumping (EP) was going to be how I fed my daughter. It's not the normal way, but it is becoming more common and I thought I would write a blog post about how I have made EP a little easier for me.

First off, I wanted to explain why Raegan can't breastfeed, not because I have to justify why we aren't breastfeeding, but to help you understand what she deals with each day to eat. She has a U shape hole in the back of her mouth. If you put your tongue on the roof of your mouth (hard palate) and move it back until it gets soft, you'll feel where Raegan's hole is. It is a blessing that it's just in her soft palate because that is muscle and not bone. The surgery to repair it will be much easier.

Since she has this hole she cannot get good suction. Imagine trying to drink out of a straw with a hole in it. That's how it is for her. She can get some milk, but not enough to sustain her. So she learned to eat from a special bottle and hasn't looked back since. She is very efficient and has even strengthened her suck. She can take a bottle down in 3 minutes if she's really hungry!

So while we were in the NICU I began pumping round the clock. Every time she ate, I pumped. At the beginning it was just colostrum, but soon after turned to yellow milk, then that beautiful white milk. And when it came in, it came IN! I was producing so much! And this brings me to my first tip.

1. Always pump after baby eats.

If you choose not to and go longer between pumps, you're not giving your body the right message and it may start producing less since you aren't pumping when baby would be eating from your breast if you were breastfeeding. I've done it and had to work hard to get my supply back up.

Next, well really this should be first, but it didn't flow with my post ;)

2. You need a good quality pump.

I have the Medela Pump in Style Advanced and when we were in the NICU I used the Medela Symphony which was amazing, but costs a pretty penny! If you ever have to rent a pump, go with the Symphony. It is big, but it's amazing!

3. You need a hands free pumping bra.

I have the medela hands free pumping bra and it has changed my life! For the first few days I had to hold the pumps to me and I couldn't do anything while I pumped, but now I can eat, write blog posts, entertain the baby if she's cranky, and so much more! Doesn't this mom look like she's having a blast?

4. Set up a place to pump.

My designated pumping area is at our kitchen island. I have my pump, my pumping bra, my towel (things can get messy), my Lanolin cream, and my itzbeen timer to time my pump. And during the winter, my space heater, because who wants to have to strip down to pump in the middle of the freezing night?!

5. Refridgerate your pumping parts.

Let me explain. At the beginning, I was pumping 8 times a day which meant I was washing pump parts and bottles 8 times a day. After I pumped, esspecially at night, I just wanted to be done! Here's the solution. Pump, pour the milk into a new bottle, and put it all in the fridge. The fridge keeps any of the milk in the pump parts and pumping bottles cold so it won't sour. At the end of the day is when I will wash the pieces and then it'll be ready for me for the next day, ehh early morning.

6. Label your bottles with a dry erase marker.

Labeling your milk is important and using labels or masking tape with the time written on is messy and a pain to pull off. So use a dry erase marker. My only other piece of advice is to wipe it off before you warm the milk. For some reason the steam makes the ink not come off the bottle as easily. It made labeling so much easier!

7. Get a car adapter.

One of the downsides of pumping is it's hard to leave the house because I'm on a 3-4 hour pumping schedule and if I'm out when I need to pump, I go longer between pumps, which affects my milk supply, and it can snowball from there. So I got a Medela car adapter and it's been amazing! I can't tell you how many times I have pumped in the car, and yes, I have pumped while driving when I had to be somewhere, but I had to pump. Guilty as charged! Wonder how that conversation would go if I got pulled over?

8. Get a pumping bag for when you travel.

All of our family lives near us so we spend a lot of the weekend at someone's house, so I have to lug all of my pumping supplies with me. Having a nice big bag with plenty of space is a necessity. I use the Vera Bradley "Get Carried Away" Tote. It's very roomy with lots of pockets to put all my bottles and parts in. AND some of the colors are on sale for $42, regularly $92, you're welcome!

9. Get a pump parts baggie.

I love the Vera Bradley 3-1-1 bag. It's the perfect size and whenever I pump while I'm out, I just clean the parts either in the sink or with the Medela wipes if I don't have a sink, and put them back in the bag ready for the next pump.

10. Get a pumping cover.

Just like a nursing mom, you want to cover up the goods. So I have an adorable pumping cover from Etsy. You can find them everywhere! It was purchased for nursing, but works just as good for pumping!

I hope this list helps you if you've chosen to be an EP mom! Any other tips that have been great for you?


  1. I pump at work so I have to use the wipes during the day- I've found cutting them in half works just as well and stretches my supply out, since they're pretty expensive. I too store my parts in the fridge while I'm at home, but keep them in plastic bags to ensure that no drips get on the fridge and things stay super clean. Mother Earth hates me.

  2. I AM SO SO GLAD YOU POSTED THIS!!! We just got the news that we are inducing Baby C early (IUGR issues). I probably will have to be an exclusive pumper, as she will be too small to breastfeed (at least right away). I need all the tips I can get, and I've only been reading on breastfeeding, not so much pumping. Thank you and glad to see that you are doing well :)

    1. I'm so glad you can use this for sweet baby C! You are going to be a great momma no matter when she decides to enter the world! Prayers for you friend!

  3. Such a good post! I did all of this and wasn't even fully EP! You're a rockstar.

  4. so since you went to EP, what is your schedule? How many times a day do you pump now? i had supply issues from the beginning and am debating whether i try to go almost totally EP for when i have to return to work (although i'll be working from home 4 days a week).

    1. I pump every time she eats during the day. And then twice at night. So I'm pumping 6 times a day. When she was little it was 8 times because that's how often she was eating, but now that's she's older and sleeping longer during the night, I've had to start getting up to pump. So my normal schedule is something like this, 1:30am, 5:30am, 8:30am, 11:30am, 2:30pm, 5:30pm, 8:30pm and then start over at 1:30am again. I know that is 7 times per day, but I don't always make every pump at the exact time I listed. They are just roughly how she eats. The only for sure ones are the 1:30am and 5:30am because I set an alarm and get up. Sometimes the 8:30am pump gets pushed to 9 or 9:30am then every pump after that gets pushed too and somehow by the end of the day, I'm only at 6 pumps. It all depends on her eating schedule for the day. She can go from 3-4 hours between meals. I normally don't pump past 9 or 9:30pm because I'm going to bed by then. I had to be diligent and make sure to get 6 pumps a day because my supply was really taking a hit. I was going longer between pumps because I wasn't getting the full sensation I got at the beginning. So it had been like 5-6 hours and I hadn't pumped. It wasn't good and I had to make it a point to pump after I fed her. Kind of my pumping alarm clock.

      I hope that is helpful to you! Let me know if you have any other questions!

  5. My little brother was born with a cleft palate too, so I know all about that! Im glad you wrote this post - I learned so much!!!

  6. I found your blog through Instagram. :)

    My 26 month old daughter was also born with a cleft palate (also discovered not long after birth - talk about catching us off-guard). She had her surgery at six months and minus the week after (so hard to get her to eat), has been a straw-sucking, verbal gal ever since. I also EPed for 13 months (occasional supplementing after 9 months) so I just wanted to type this as encouragement and to say you're a rock star!

    1. I'm so glad we were connected!!! Love meeting new cleft palate mommas!

  7. I need to get the car part. Do you recall how much it is Ashley? Because I am at that point where I want to continue pumping/but weaning is in back of mind so I probably wouldnt use it much longer so if it is a fortune...get my thinkings. Your blog is so helpful/Inspiring. -saralee


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