Exclusive Pumping: An Alternative to Breastfeeding

One of most discussed topics in the Mommy Wars is breastfeeding versus formula feeding.  Often left out the conversation is exclusive pumping, an alternative that gives  the child the benefits of breastmilk while  also providing the  flexibility of bottlefeeding.  According to Medela.com, there are many reasons why a mother may not be able to breastfeed, which include:

  • Premature or ill baby
  • Anatomic problems in baby
  • Baby who will not latch on to the breast.
  • Severe engorgement, pain, mastitis, inverted or flat nipples
  • Painful breastfeeding
  • Poor or no help with early breastfeeding causing mom to stop breastfeeding
  • Unnecessary advice recommending weaning
  • Temporary medical crisis involving medications
  • Mother who has psychological issue around breastfeeding, i.e. sexual abuse victims
  • Desire to pump exclusively without medical or other indication
  • Perceived low supply

Under these circumstances, most mothers are encouraged to formula feed, but exclusive pumping is a safer, less expensive, and more nutritious alternative.  If you are considering pumping exclusively, here are some tips to get you off to good start:

If Possible, Be Prepared

We all can’t predict if there are going to be issues that prevent us from breastfeeding.  However, if you know you want to exclusively pump or have been informed that your child will have some medical issue, prepare yourself before you go into labor.  Invest in a good pump and learn how to use it.  It is easy to get lost amongst all those tubes, bottles, flanges, valves and breastshields.  If you think you would enjoy pumping “hands-free” buy a bustier.  Don’t forget to pack your pump and supplies in your hospital bag.

Get Support

Tell your doctor and pediatrician that you plan to exclusively pump.  Join a community support group and attend classes to help you learn the basics.  Consult with a lactation consultant or breastfeeding peer counselor.  There are also many awesome online groups such as the Breastfeeding Muslim Mothers Support Group on Facebook. 

Tell Your Boss

If you will be returning to work, learn your company’s policies regarding pumping and breaks.  Make sure you tell your supervisor that you will need pumping breaks before your first day back.  In the U.S., you can take as many unpaid, reasonable breaks as you need to pump, until your child is one year old (See Workplace Support in Federal Law).   Also, your workplace must provide a private space to pump that is not the bathroom (U.S. only).

Pump Often & Early

Pumping in the first few weeks will help to establish your milk supply.  Once you have recuperated after delivery, start pumping every two hours for 15-20 minutes.  It may help to set a timer on your phone.

Have Sabr (Patience)

Initially there will only be an ounce or two in the collection bottles.   But remember, the more you pump, the more milk you will produce. Though you may feel exhausted, avoid trying to rush the process by putting the pump on high suction.  Start on the lowest setting and gradually work your way up to the stronger suction.  I highly recommend the Medela Pump in Style because it automatically switches suction settings after a few minutes.

Be Consistent, Be Consistent, &…Be Consistent

It is especially important to consistently pump in the first few weeks when your milk supply is being established.  This will help to prevent low milk supply, engorgement and mastitis, which can lead to an infection in the tissue of the breasts.  After sometime, your pumping schedule will slow down and you will only have to pump according to your baby’s needs.

Many women struggle with maintaining their milk supply because it can be easy to get in the habit of delaying (or skipping) pumping sessions.  Naturally, milk supply is better regulated when the baby directly latches on the breast but, this does not mean that you can’t be successful.  Be confident and try your best!

Make Dua

Committing to pumping exclusively can be challenging.  Pray that Allah (swt) provides you with the sustenance and patience to continue giving your baby breastmilk.

Store with Care

After you pump, ensure that the closure of your storage container is secure.  I almost cried when all my milk spilled into my bag on my first day returning to work.  If you will be returning to work, ask if you can store your milk in the refrigerator or invest in a cooler bag with ice packs. Breastmilk can be kept in the refrigerator for 8 days and in the freezer for 3-4 months.    For more information on storage guidelines, please refer to the following links:



La Leche League


Helpful Products

I love Lansinoh Storage Bags because they stand upright when filled with milk and have a double zipper which helps to prevent your milk from leaking out. In the past, I have lost my days milk using flimsy, cheaper bags.

These breast packs are a safe and natural alternative to those old-fashioned gel packs. Made of cotton and all -natural flax seed, they can be used warm or cold to relieve breast discomforts. Perfect for the Green Mama!

Lansinoh is not paying me, these really are my favorite nursing pads. They are the most soft, absorbent and leak-proof.

Here are some additional resources:

Articles- Kellymom

Book & Resources- ExclusivelyPumping.com

Blog- Exclusively Pumping Rules

Yahoo Group- EPers

Support Board- Exclusively Pumping

Great tips from an experienced mom- Laura’s Pumping Page

Free, Online Lactation Consultant Support from Medela

Jazakallah Khayr to the sister who gave me the idea for this topic.


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