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How To Exclusively Pump and Keep Up Your Supply

“How To Exclusively Pump and Keep Up Your Supply” is a guest post written by Tiffany Thomas. Many thanks to her for sharing her wealth of knowledge on this topic!

How to exclusively pump


This post contains affiliate links, meaning a small commission may be earned at no extra cost to you.

Having a new baby should be a wonderful, joyous time for mothers.  While it is not perfect (how can sleepless nights be anything but?), it can be one of the most rewarding things you do.

Nothing can ruin those feelings more than the stress of having an inadequate breastmilk supply, especially when you have to pump exclusively.

For both of my children (and for future little ones), I have only been able to pump.  Tongue ties combined with flat nipples, mixed with severe health issues on my part have created a perfect storm of not being able to nurse.

While there is nothing wrong with exclusively pumping at all¸ it definitely has its challenges.  The biggest stress of pumping is ensuring you have an adequate milk supply for your baby.

It can be so disheartening to pump for literally hours every single day and only come away with 3-4 oz – total.  

I’ve put together some tips that can help boost your milk supply.  As you read these, however, please, please, please keep in mind that every woman’s body is different.

No matter how much milk you provide, or how much you need to supplement with formula, what matters most is that your baby is shown your love and affection.  Don’t let the stress of “not enough milk” interfere with that.

If you are planning to exclusively pump, I highly recommend taking Milkology’s Ultimate Exclusive Pumping ClassThe ONLY online course specifically for exclusive pumpers, this course takes you through it all step by step in 11 video modules. Unlike courses that cover pumping in addition to breastfeeding, this course walks you through how to provide breastmilk for your baby only by pumping. It takes all the guesswork out of it and will help you figure out the ins and outs of pumping and maintaining supply.

How to Exclusively Pump Part 1: What you need

Get a good double breast pump

How to exclusively pump


The most important aspect of pumping is to have a good quality breast pump!  There are dozens of posts and reviews out there, so I won’t go into details in this post.  I give a few general guidelines, though:

  • See if your health insurance will provide a breast pump.
  • Try to get a hospital-grade breast pump.  My insurance company provided a rental (since these cost over $1,000) after my OB wrote a prescription.  Some hospitals will also rent them
  • While it is tempting to buy a used one, they are not able to be sterilized since the air circulates through the motor (unless it is hospital-grade)
  • Get a double breast pump.  Not only does this save time, you also don’t lose the milk from the other side when a let-down occurs.

Have the right supplies

There are a few must-haves (for me, at least) when I am pumping:

  • Hands Free Pumping Bra  The person who introduced this allows me to have both hands free while I pump.  I can then multi-task (like work or even play with my children) while pumping.
  • Something that smells/sounds/looks like your baby.  When you can see, smell, or hear your baby while nursing, it encourages more frequent, quicker let-downs.
  • Pumpin’ Pal Flanges  These are amazing.  Because they curve, you can lean back a little when you pump.  It helps my relax and not feel like my back is going to break!
  • Something to do.  Whether it’s work, reading a book, or even just browsing Facebook, you need to be able to do something other than sit and think about how much you could be doing if you weren’t pumping!
  • A comfortable place to sit.  Nothing will make you want to rush pumping more than feeling uncomfortable.

All of these things will help increase your supply because you will be less likely to be stressed and rush your pumping session.  If you are on edge or uptight, then you won’t be able to have as effective let-downs.

How To Exclusively Pump Part 2: Keeping Good Supply

How to exclusively pump

Stay hydrated

If you are not producing enough breast milk, one of the first things you should look at is how much you are drinking.  Water is preferable; you should avoid sodas, sugary drinks, and even sugary fruit juices.  Gatorade might be a bit better than water.

If you’re like me, and plain water makes you feel a bit sick, add some lemons or other flavoring methods.  I will water-down juice or powdered drink mixes, usually ¼ mix and ¾ water.  One thing that helps me is mix up an entire pitcher each morning and then leave it on the counter to drink throughout the day.

The average person should drink 64 oz per day, but that varies for each person. When breastfeeding, you should add an additional 32 oz to what you already drink (so around 100 oz per day).

Eat well

Did you know that you need more calories producing breast milk than you did being pregnant?  The average pregnant mother only needs an extra 300 calories in the second trimester and 400-500 calories in the third trimester.  However, when you are breastfeeding, you need at least an extra 500 calories per day.  (There are about 20-25 calories in each oz of breastmilk.)

So many mothers try to go on a diet to lose the extra baby weight, but what it really does is take away the calories needed to make healthy breastmilk for your baby.  You may also want to take a multivitamin, or continue taking your prenatal vitamin, so your breastmilk is full of nutrients.

Set a schedule that fits your body

Everyone’s bodies are different, so it makes sense that your body will produce and empty milk differently.  A baby will nurse until they are full, no matter how long it takes for the breast to empty.

For me, it takes forever to empty.  I do best pumping 5 times per day for an hour at a time. 

Yes, you read that right – an hour at a time.

It takes forever, I know, but I get 75% of my milk during that last 10 minutes of the hour.  I try to set a schedule that works, and my body gets used to producing the milk at that time.  In fact, if I am running late, I will still have let-downs during my scheduled pumping time, even if I am not actually pumping!

(Although I will point out that for the first month or so of my baby’s life, I just pump every time she eats, which is usually 10-12 times per day, for about 30 minutes each time.  Then I adjust to the 5 times per day.)

Try power-pumping

How to exclusively pump

When babies go through growth-spurts, they tend to nurse almost constantly, for short periods of time, for a couple of days.  The mother’s body will increase the amount of milk because of the high demand.

In order to mimic this in your own body, you can do “power-pumping” for a few days.  This will take more time, so it might be good to do this over a weekend (instead of trying to pump during breaks at work).

The way power-pumping works is that for each session you pump, you pump for 10 minutes, take a 10  minute break, pump another 10 minutes, take another 10 minute break, and pump for a final 10 minutes.  Repeat this 6-7 times  each day for 2-3 days.

This should increase your overall supply.  Nursing mothers will have full, uncomfortable breasts for a few days after a growth spurt.  Their body will then naturally lower the milk supply to match the baby.  However, since you pump, you should be able to maintain this increase!  When you need more milk, just power-pump again!

I tried to power-pump at least once a month when I had babies.

How to Exclusively Pump Part 3: Mental and Emotional Support

How to exclusively pump

Find a support system

Lastly, what you really need to have a good supply is a good support system.  If you are stressed about pumping and want to throw in the towel, having support is vital.

One of the best places I found support was through Facebook groups.  There are several different Facebook groups that are devoted to women who are exclusively pumping.  It’s a great place to ask questions, get advice, and interact with other women who are in the same place you are.  Odds are, they’ll also be up at 2 am pumping when you are, so you can have someone to talk to!

Keeping things in perspective

This may be a difficult journey, and exclusively pumping may not be what you had planned.  It definitely wasn’t how I envisioned I would feed my baby.  But I ended up loving it so much more than nursing, and it was the best fit for my family.

Just remember, every ounce of that liquid gold is worth it.

If you have to supplement with formula, you are not a failure.

Even if you do every one of these tips and only get 5 oz per day, you are not a failure.

Each ounce of breastmilk that comes from your body goes towards helping your child grow and builds their immune system.  But more important, fed is best.  If it just isn’t working out at all and is damaging how you feel about your worth as a mother, then let it go.  Purchase some formula, and enjoy snuggling your baby.

In the end, those snuggles and love will help your child more than anything.

Do you have any questions about exclusively pumping?

Leave me your question in the comments and I will answer!

And if you’re just starting out on your breastfeeding journey, don’t miss the 5 must-dos for breastfeeding success.


Tiffany Thomas is a former math teacher and SAHM who loves finding good deals!  She and her husband, who is an engineer, work together on The Crazy Shopping Cart.  They enjoy spending time with their family, geeking out over sci-fi together, and saving money.

Follow her here:



How To Get A Free Breast Pump

Did you know that since the start of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) it is now mandatory for insurance companies to cover breastfeeding supplies? So many people aren’t aware of this, and they waste their money buying or registering for a breast pump. Keep reading to learn how to get a free breast pump with insurance- the easy way!

how to get your free breast pump

This post was written in collaboration with Aeroflow Breastpumps, but all opinions are my own.

How To Get Your Free Breast Pump With Insurance

The process for getting your insurance to cover a breast pump can be a little confusing. If you’re an introvert like me, calling your provider for a prescription and then dealing with the insurance company may seem overwhelming. That’s why I was so excited to learn about Aeroflow Breastpumps, which will take care of all that for you.

What is Aeroflow Breastpumps?

Aeroflow is a company that was founded in 2001 and started their Breastpump division in 2013 in conjunction with the Affordable Care Act. They specialize in helping pregnant and nursing mothers obtain breast pumps through insurance. Their user-friendly website gives mothers easy access to all the information and supplies they need to have a successful breastfeeding experience.

If you go with Aeroflow, the process to receive your pump looks like this:

  • Fill out the Qualify Through Insurance form with your insurance info and demographics
  • Your dedicated Aeroflow Breastpump Specialist will contact your insurance company and verify your specific benefits
  • Your Breastpump Specialist will obtain the prescription from your provider
  • Aeroflow will contact you to review your benefits and pump options
  • Your breast pump will be shipped right to your door!

That’s a lot less hassle, which is a total win in my book. And the best part? Their services are entirely FREE.

Here’s an even simpler outline of the process:

how to get a free breast pump


How long does this process take?

After you fill out the Qualify Through Insurance form, your Aeroflow Breastpump Specialist will get in touch with you in 3-5 business days. Once your eligibility is confirmed and you’ve selected your pump, it will be shipped out to you as soon as possible at no charge to you. Aeroflow ships using UPS ground shipping and will provide you with a tracking number.

At what point during pregnancy should I contact Aeroflow?

You can reach out any time during your pregnancy. Depending on your insurance provider’s regulations, you can expect to receive your breast pump 30-60 days before your due date.

If you are in need of a breast pump after baby is here, you can even qualify for one up to a year after birth. This is a fantastic benefit because sometimes pumps can lose suction power with extended use- which happened to me when I tried using the same pump for Luca that I had used with Elle!

Breast Pumps

Your insurance plan won’t specify a pump brand or specific breast pump they will cover. Instead, they cover certain features. Your Breastpump Specialist will help familiarize you with the different options for features that you will need for your intended pumping use.

If you want additional features, you can choose to upgrade your pump by paying the extra amount out of pocket or with your Health Savings Account (HSA) or FSA. Upgrades might include extra sets of bottles and parts or a transportation bag if you’ll be carting your pump back and forth to work.

This chart can help you compare the different breast pumps available based on their specific features:

how to get a free breast pump

Different moms will have different preferences about their breast pump level of suction, size, noise level, etc. Think about where you will do the most pumping- will you have access to an electrical outlet? If not, make sure you get one with battery power.

A closed system pump is also a wise choice as it ensures milk can not flow back into the tubing. You want to keep your pump parts clean and dry to avoid the risk of mold.

That’s how easy it is to get your free breast pump!

Going through Aeroflow means more convenience for you, so you can have a happy and stress-free pregnancy.

Do you have other concerns about breastfeeding?

If you have concerns about the crucial first few days of breastfeeding, make sure you read this post about starting breastfeeding off right.

7 Things That Completely Shocked Me About Breastfeeding

With all the breastfeeding misinformation pregnant woman hear, reality is bound to bring you some breastfeeding surprises! Here are the 7 things that completely shocked me when I started nursing my first baby.

breastfeeding surprises

1. Breastfeeding REALLY hurt in the beginning- but not where you think.

Based on everything I had heard and read about breastfeeding, I was expecting my nipples to be cracked, sore, and bleeding once I started breastfeeding. For me this turned out to be completely untrue, even with my second baby who was tongue tied. I used lanolin on my nipples for the first few days each time, but they never cracked or bled and they barely hurt at all.

This is largely because my babies had a good latch, so you want to make sure you get that checked early on by a lactation consultant. If the baby has a bad latch it will almost certainly lead to nipple damage and pain.

Anyway, back on track. Where did I feel pain the first couple days of breastfeeding? In my uterus.

The pain felt very similar to labor contractions but was actually even MORE painful at times.

Prior to giving birth I had never even heard of this, but apparently when you breastfeed, your body releases the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin has several reproductive functions, but after birth it’s job is to stimulate your uterus to contract back down to size.

They say the pain is more if it’s your second (or more) birth, but I had serious pain even with my first baby. I was writhing in pain every time I nursed her in the hospital and had to request extra pain meds because of it.

Other moms I’ve talked to said it didn’t hurt them as much, so this can vary from person to person. But don’t be surprised if you have contractions as bad as labor contractions for the first couple days (and yes, it does completely stop after the first few days).

2. You don’t actually make breastmilk for the first few days.

Ok so maybe I was a little unprepared going into breastfeeding. I did take a class, but I must have been spacing out during the part where they talk about colostrum.

(By the way, if you are looking for an amazing breastfeeding class you can do from home on your own time, I can’t recommend this course from Milkology enough. I took it after breastfeeding two children and still learned things I didn’t know!)

So after you first give birth, when your baby nurses he is getting colostrum. It’s like a condensed antibody-rich super version of breastmilk. It is perfect because your baby’s stomach at birth is only the size of a marble, so the way they get a huge boost of immunity while taking in very little.

breastfeeding suprises

Colostrum tends to be thick and yellowish, so don’t be alarmed if you see it and don’t think it looks like breastmilk.

It also has a laxative affect to help babies have their first bowel movement and flush out jaundice. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

You will be even more amazed a few days later when you wake up with ENORMOUS, firm and sore breasts. Ta-da, your milk has come in!

Honestly, take whatever mental picture you’re imagining of how big your breasts will be and just double it. That’s how big they will be at first. Your body starts out thinking you’re feeding triplets and makes that much! With time it will settle down and regulate to the amount your baby is actually taking.

3. You don’t really have to drink gallons of water.

I’ve never been a big water drinker, and people had me thinking I’d need to choke down a gallon an hour in order to successfully breastfeed. It seriously had me scared that I’d never be able to do it.

Yes, your body will need more water than it did before. But lack of water is rarely the reason for having low supply. I’m pretty sure water intake is one of those easy scapegoats people jump to whenever there is a supply issue or other nursing problem.

When you feel thirsty, drink. When you think you might be hungry but it mayyyybe could actually be that you’re thirsty, drink. Don’t make it something to obsess over and drive yourself crazy about.

The official guideline for drinking water when breastfeeding is 100 oz per day, up from the normal 64 oz per day (not that I ever, EVER drank that much pre-pregnancy, but yeah, that’s what the rules say). 100 ounces roughly equates to 3/4 of a gallon, which is not impossible but still could be challenging for some people.

Here is my UNOFFICIAL guideline for drinking water when breastfeeding:

  • When you wake up in the morning, before drinking a coffee (more on that later) drink a glass of water
  • Make it a habit that anytime you sit down to nurse, you bring a glass of water with you and try to drink it while you’re sitting there mostly distraction-free
  • Any other time you happen to find yourself thirsty (or dizzy/sluggish), of course drink some water
  • Keep up a healthy diet including lots of fruits and vegetables, which are mostly made up of water

That’s it. No need to measure ounces and beat yourself up over water. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

4. Your breastmilk is not the same as it was 10 minutes ago.

That is to say, the milk that comes out at the beginning of a feeding is not the same milk that comes out at the end.

When you begin a nursing session, the milk that comes out is known as foremilk. It is lighter in color and contains less fat. This can be thought of as more watery milk, to quench baby’s thirst.

Gradually during the feeding, the fat content of the milk changes. The milk produced at the end of the feeding is called hindmilk, and it has a high fat content which helps baby feel full.

breastfeeding surprises
Foremilk on the left, hindmilk on the right. Photo credit: Wikipedia

The properties of foremilk vs. hindmilk isn’t something most nursing mothers need to concern themselves with. (Yes, if you pump all the milk will get mixed together and that is totally fine.) The only reason for knowing the distinction is to understand why you should NOT switch sides until baby fully empties one breast.

Do not take misguided advice of timing the feeding and switching sides after some arbitrarily determined time. You want to make sure the baby empties the first breast to get the fatty hindmilk before switching.

You will know it’s time to switch sides when baby stops actively nursing on that side. They may continue to suck on an empty breast, but you will be able to tell when they are no longer swallowing. At that point it’s fine to switch sides and offer them the other breast.

5. You can successfully breastfeed using just ONE breast!

At around 4 months old, my daughter went through a phase of preferring the right side only. Luckily, it didn’t last too long and I was able to get her back to eating on both sides, but during that time I did lots of frantic research about one-sided nursing.

It turns out tons of people have managed to do it! Remember that breastfeeding is regulated by supply and demand, so if one side is getting all the demand that side will produce the supply. The other side will dry out!

For the record, I was able to solve my problem with some baby trickery. I positioned her the way I would if I were going to feed her on the right, but twisted my body and offered her the left. This would eventually bother my back, so slowly during the feeding I’d scoot her over to a left side football hold.

6. You do NOT need to quit drinking coffee while breastfeeding.

It is a common myth that drinking coffee or other sources of caffeine will negatively affect your baby when breastfeeding.

While caffeine does pass through to breastmilk, it is at a rate of about 1%.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and La Leche League confirm nursing moms can drink up to 3 cups of coffee per day. There have been studies that show drinking 5 or more cups per day can cause irritability in babies, so stick to 3 or less to be safe.

This is great news for all the breastfeeding moms who are being woken up every 2-3 hours all night and REALLY need their coffee!


7. Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be hard.

I wanted to end on this positive note because I feel like the common dialogue pregnant moms hear about breastfeeding is always that it’s going to be SO DIFFICULT. Don’t get me wrong, for some people it really is. But for a lot of people, it actually does go smoothly.

It takes effort and commitment to breastfeed, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be hard. And if you have the support and knowledge, I truly don’t think it will be hard.

I can boil it down to three things:

  • your family being supportive of your desire to breastfeed, especially your husband/partner
  • having at least one close friend (or female family member) who is breastfeeding or has in the past
  • arming yourself with in-depth knowledge about breastfeeding

Read as much as you can about breastfeeding. A good motto is hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. You may not have any problems at all, but if you do, you need the support and knowledge to find a solution. You don’t need a partner who is going to say “just give him formula” the first time you encounter a problem.

There is tremendous value to feeling knowledgeable and confident at the start of your breastfeeding journey. Taking a class through the LLL or the hospital you plan to give birth at is a great plan. If you find the class times or locations are a hinderance for you (or if you just prefer to learn at home in your PJs), The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class is the best one I’ve found on the internet. And at $19 it’s very reasonable for the value you’ll get out of it.

breastfeeding surprises

What are your burning breastfeeding questions?

I am happy to answer any questions you have about breastfeeding, either here in the comments or in another blog post. Just let me know what you’d like to learn more about!