Survival Guide: how to survive feeding plans, exclusive pumping and still manage to get sleep!
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
With both of my sons, I found myself on a feeding plan in those early weeks. Even though I was as prepared as humanly possible, the impossible happens. The first time I was on a feeding plan, my head exploded! I was emotional, sleep deprived, unorganized and mostly, overwhelmed. I distinctly remember thinking "I can never, ever put another mother on one of these terrible plans again!"
With my second son Zach, the truly unexpected happened. Zach had a major health emergency and I found myself exclusively pumping...again. This time I was prepared, I had my station organized, my tools prepared and my frame of mind around pumping was different. The best thing (other than my awesome breastfeeding relationships with both of my sons) to come out of my experiences is that I have built quite a library of knowledge around making pumping efficient, finding ways to cope and mostly, finding ways to sleep.
My favorite thing in this career is helping moms and families find ways to adapt and thrive in the situation they are in. I hope you find this information helpful if you find yourself in a situation where you are pumping and feeding.
- Pump at the time of your feedings! IF you try to pump between feedings, when baby is asleep, or you need to sleep, believe me, it will never happen. Baby will wake up, you will fall asleep, or chose a shower over pumping etc. Pump when directly after feeding your baby. Use the milk from the previous feed to feed your baby this feed. Remember that breast milk can be left out a room temperature for up to six hours.
- Ensure you have a double electric pump. Single pumps do not produce the same results as double electric pumps and most importantly, double your pumping time.
- Ensure your pump is designed for increasing milk supply and frequent use. Some pumps are not designed to increase your supply but only to empty your breasts when away from baby. (Ask me if you are using the right pump!)
- Pumps are designed for single user use. Meaning if you borrowed a pump or bought one used, that pump may be contaminated and may not work effectively for removing milk and building a milk supply. A Hospital grade rental pump (if financially possible) is recommended for increasing milk supply.
- Ensure Pump parts are replaced frequently, especially any part that moves such as: the little white flap on the Medela pump and the duck bills on the other pumps. Duck bill type parts last longer and are available on Amazon.
- Make a pumping station. Don’t cart your supplies all over the house, your baby is much more portable than all of these supplies. Your station should include: a small table that can hold your pump, supplies, bottles or feeding tubes, nearby outlets, coffee cups, snacks, pumping bra, nipple balm, tablet, book etc. Have a comfortable chair to sit in and a night light nearby so you don’t have to turn,on the lights in the middle of the night.
- Have a washing station on the same floor as your pumping station. Move your bottle washers, dish soap and a dry towel to your nearest bathroom and wash your pump parts there after each feed instead of heading up and down the stairs at night. Remember that you only need to sterilize your pump parts once daily if pumping often (unless you are pumping for a preemie or ill baby).
- Buy sterilizing bags to sterilize pump parts. These make things fast and easy, I suggest doing them before bed and you will be all set for the am.
Making Feedings Faster
- Ask your support person for help! Especially at night. If you are breastfeeding your baby before pumping, ask your partner to get your pump parts and feeding device set up for you while you breastfeed the baby.
- Once you are done breastfeeding (or attempting to breastfeed your baby), ask your partner to do the feeding via whatever method you are using and you begin to pump right away.
- Once the feeding is done...one person can clean the pump parts while the other
changes and comforts the baby to sleep if needed.
- Remember! You can nurse your baby to sleep even if you’re on a feeding plan.
- Hands on pumping WORKS! using breast compressions while pumping helps you thoroughly empty your breasts which helps boost your milk supply.
- Keep the lights low! Unless absolutely necessary, don’t turn the lights on. Ensure you have night lights throughout your bedroom and nursery...this helps everyone stay in the right frame of mind to get back to sleep.
- Avoid tv, screens etc while up for night feeds (unless they prevent you from falling asleep during a feed!) Again this will hinder you getting back to sleep.
- Remember that breast milk is safe to feed to your baby if it is at room temperature for up to 6 hours. Keep what you need for your next feed handy to avoid having to go to the kitchen.
- If you are alone, keep a bassinet or baby swing handy for you to help keep baby calm. - If these don’t work and your baby is crying, don’t stress. Stop pumping and comfort your baby. Continue if you can, once baby settles.
- Pump right after your breastfeeding session, try not to pump between feeds. If you do, you will never get any sleep and you won’t be able to pump often enough to increase and maintain your supply.
- Get the sleep you desperately need. Safely sleep with your baby in your bed using the “Safe sleep 7” rules for safe co-sleeping (https://www.llli.org/the-safe-sleep-seven/). Even if it’s just for one night, a few hours in a row can renew your mind. Safely co sleeping on a firm mattress is much safer than falling asleep with a baby on a couch, rocking chair or other unsafe surface.
How to have a life and leave the house while pumping
- Ensure you have a pump with a portable battery or a hand pump for occasional use while out.
- Have a wet bag or large zip lock bag to carry wet pump parts while out.
- There are pump cleaning wipes available for when you won’t have access to soap and water.
- Have a separate bag for your pump and parts from your diaper bag.
- Have a small cooler bag or insulated lunch bag and ice pack handy to store your milk for up to 24
- Pour your pumped milk into storage bags after each pumping session so that you only have to bring one set of bottles.
- Pump immediately before leaving the house.
- If going in the car, pump on the way there and the way home! You can either do so in the passenger seat or back seat , even cover with a nursing cover if you’re uncomfortable. You can also pump while driving if you have a hands free pumping bra. To do this...get in the car and set up and attach your pump before you drive away and remove pump when you arrive or pull over to remove. Put your parts in a wet bag and clean when you arrive.
- Don’t feel bashful about leaving social events to pump. Everyone completely understands that you have a new baby and will often help you to hold the baby, change the baby and provide you with a comfortable place to feed and pump.
- If going to an unknown venue...call ahead and let them know you’ll need a space to use a breast pump. Most places are very accommodating and will help you to be comfortable. - A bathroom stall is an absolute last resort to use your pump. Pump in your car before you do that to yourself or your baby! Yuck!
REMEMBER! Breastfeeding and pumping in public is legal ANYWHERE in Canada.