Exclusive Pumpers South Africa

Exclusive pumping for South African women

My Exclusively Pumping Story

While most new moms are fawning over their precious little bundle while breastfeeding (or bottle feeding), I sat for the first few months of J’s life expressing 2 hourly, washing and sterilizing pumps and bottles and syringes and then for 45 painful minutes every 2 to 3 hours I would hold my screaming, writhing, jerky baby and try syringe down as much breastmilk as I possibly could.

I would dread feed times, the screaming was unbearable, it was like I was pouring hot lava down her throat, she would choke, vomit, scream, go blue and by the end of 45 minutes I was sobbing and she had had a measly 10mls.

There were days and nights were I literally wanted to grab her face and scream “eat child! Eat! Or you will die!!!” I had very little support and almost no help. My husband slept in the main room as he had to be up at 4am for work so I slept on a little single bed with a newborn who did more screaming than sleeping, I had no idea what I was doing, I was alone, scared, frustrated and was running out of steam.

The expressing was difficult in the beginning, I think the reason it was so difficult was because I so desperately wanted to breastfeed normally, I tried at every feed to get her to latch and most times she would but then end up screaming, choking and then vomiting it all up and I’d have to start all over again, I tried laying down and feeding, all the different latch positions but latching seemed to upset her terribly.
My pump schedule was hectic when we got home from the hospital, I had loads of milk and wanted to keep it that way so I was expressing every hour to 2 hours, in between I had to wash my pump, storage bottles, and her syringes, sterilize it all and start again. Exhaustion, coupled with PND, anxiety about my childs well being and being isolated on the farm started to wear me down terribly.

I eventually managed to get her to latch onto the NUK prem teats once or twice, but she would get so tired and end up having very little milk. We ended up walking and bouncing her while feeding to Kerri Hilsons “Pretty Girl Rock”, it was the only way to get any milk into her! At that stage I was barely getting half the required amount into her.

At 5 months I managed to get her to drink from the NUK size 1 teat and we have been using that same sized teat ever since.

By the age of 6 months we had been in and out of hospital 18 times for poor feeding and dehydration, that was almost every 2nd week, the pead would hook up the IV and leave, no tests, no exams, nothing. She would pass it off as me being “high strung” and baby picking up on my emotions, sometimes I wanted to just punch her in the face, of bloody course I was high strung! My baby was barely drinking or sleeping and all she ever did was scream, I’d love to see any person on the planet hold their composure while dealing with everything I was.
We eventually changed pediatricians but I was still feeling despondent and irritated because he didn’t know how to help either other than to advocate for formula or push for feeding tubes. I literally tried everything, including watering down my breastmilk, to adding chocolate nesquick to it just so she would drink.

One of the doctors thought perhaps it was my milk, so we tried formula, we couldn’t even get the bottle into her mouth, the smell of the formula sent her into full out screaming mode, we ended up trying almost every single formula on the market, the little bit we eventually got in actually ended up making things worse as she would vomit up thick, yellow bile, so I decided to stay away from formula and continue to provide J with the milk that was perfectly designed for her.

During the feeding struggles I felt very alone, no one could get J to drink, we had the first pead try a few times and she would just hand J off to the nurses and get them to try and eventually I would be handed back a full bottle and a screaming baby, the sister at Storks Nest actually took J for 6 hours one day while I slept on the couch in the clinic room, she couldn’t get more than a few mls of milk into her either and suggested we consult with a different pead and try for a gtube, our new pead tried but got so flustered he didn’t even check on us in person at evening rounds, I had our domestic worker try, my mom, my sister, my step father, my husband, friends, everybody had a turn and no one could get her to drink, it became such a difficult task that people would be so scared to fight with this tiny little girl that it ended up being ONLY me who could sit for hours trying to get her to drink. It was draining!

Fluids became such an issue with me because I was so terrified of her being admitted again and having to hold her down while they poked around to get an IV in that I started keeping a “fluid diary” on every single ml she took, I thought it would help, that maybe she was really taking more than we thought but in the end it just scared me more because at one stage she was meant to be getting up to 700mls of fluid a day and she was taking between 200 and 250mls.

Around a year I had settled nicely into a pumping routine, it had become a way of life instead of a task, although I still longed with every fiber of my being that she would latch, she was just not interested.

This is the schedule i followed for the first year

This is the schedule i followed for the first year

At 14 months she was admitted for a stomach bug and that is when we discovered she had a Class 4 lip tie and silent reflux and a new diagnosis of sensory processing disorder, all things the delivering pead, lactation consultant and storks nest sister SHOULD have picked up at the many, many times I frequented their offices desperate for help.

For me breastfeeding via exclusively pumping became one single act I felt I had control over, it was exhausting, stressful and demanding, but it was in my control, and when you feel like you have lost control of everything else in your new role as a mother, it becomes something that you will fight for tooth and nail.

At 22 months I dropped down to 2 pumps per day, in a way it sort of felt freeing to not be tied down to a pumping schedule and luckily I was able to maintain my milk supply at 2 pumps per days for over 2 years.

I have a love / hate relationship with my pump, I feel lost when it breaks and need to replace parts, I hate anyone else washing it or touching it, let’s face it, you wouldn’t let someone else wash your boobs, would you?…. Its a part of my body, its hard to explain but I’m sure other EPers might know what I’m talking about when I say that it becomes our most precious yet hated possession.

January 2014 marked 3 years of exclusive pumping, looking back it has been a journey filled will late nights, fear, hardships and tears, but it is also a journey of dedication, self-growth and pure unadulterated love, and its a journey I wouldn’t change for the world!
*UPDATE: On July 22nd 2015, I officially weaned due to PCOS and insulin resistance related supply issues, I was able to provide breastmilk for 54 months with enough stash to make it just past my daughters 5th birthday, she is still struggling with feeding and sensory issues and has a diagnosis of ARFID which we continue to work on in the hopes that in the future she will develop a healthy attitude towards healthy food.

Exclusively pumping is HARD, but then again, nothing in life that is worthwhile doing is ever easy.

Pump On Mumma

Featured post

Featured Breastpump: Difrax BtoB Breastpump 

A few days ago, quite by chance I found myself entering a competition on Facebook, one of the requirements was to go check out a companys web page and see which product I found interesting, although sadly I didn’t win the competition, I did find a new pump on the market, one I had not heard of yet!

Difrax is a Dutch company from the Netherlands and has recently moved its market into South Africa.
Their Breastpump, the BtoB, is not only unique, but sounds as though it is something that many pumping moms have long been dreaming of and is the winner of several prestigious awards.

The design is beautiful to look at, and the features sound as though this breastpump could be what pumping dreams are made of, take a look at it here:

Features include:

  • Easy to clean tubing.
  • 3 different sizes of flanges
  • Hands free and discreet
  • The outer shell of the flange is soft and comfortable
  • Operates on AC power and batteries
  • Has two modes (let down and expressing modes)
  • Eight adjustable suction levels

The pump can be used with the handy storage containers or their unique s-shaped bottles.

The hands free flange design comes in 3 sizes and has a soft, flexible outer for maximum comfort and perfect fit, the small size makes it easy to achieve discreet pumping.

The pump will be launched at the Mama Magic Baby Show in Decemeber 2016 and will be available online through Difrax South Africa, but they are working with a retailer who will stock their products very soon.

They are open for pre-orders for anyone wanting to purchase a pump before the official launch!

Spares and after sale services are available through Difrax South Africa and once they have finalized a retailer they too will stock spares.
New things are always exciting to find, and we can’t wait to see how this pump does in the South African market!

Keep your eyes peeled on the blog and the Exclusive Pumpers South Africa page for an exciting competition coming in October where you could be the proud owner of a brand new Difrax BtoB Breastpump!
Would you be interested in buying a Difrax BtoB breastpump?

4 Weird Breastfeeding Myths (And The Truth)

There are SO many myths still around today, you would think in this day and age that most people would have their facts straight by now, but unfortunately, and often scarily, most of the common myths are spread by unknowledgeable health care professionals, but even scarier…. The weird and down right strange myths that are still hanging around today!
Here are 4 of the weirdest myths heard this year!
1. You Need To Use Surgical Spirits / Pumice Stones / Sunshine On Your Nipples While Pregnant To Prepare Your Nipples For Breastfeeding.

You seriously need to ditch this myth, you don’t ever need to prepare physically to breastfeed, what you need is a great knowledgeable support system, a realistic understanding of normal and biological infant feeding and sleeping behavior and determination. If breastfeeding hurts – then something is wrong, usually the latch or thrush, both of which are easily remedied by visiting a lactation specialist such as a Board Certified  Lactation Consultant or La Leche League Leader.

If you have been told the latch looks good but are still experiencing pain, keep insisting that a more in depth look at the latch is done, a latch can look good, but not be good, as explained by The Milk Meg here.
2. If You Breastfeed A Male Infant Past (x) Months He Will Become A Pervert / Homosexual / Rapist.

Jeesh, you have to wonder where these myths come from?!? 

There is absolutely no evidence showing sexual preference or misconduct later in life in relation to breastfeeding, we should be more concerned with the over sexualisation of breasts and women in general causing sexual deviance in young men, not nourishment in its most biologically normal way.

3. If You Engage In Sexual Intercourse In The First Three Month Of Breastfeeding Your Baby Won’t Reach Its Milestones On Time.

Just another silly myth to discourage mothers from breastfeeding and fathers from playing the extremely important role of first hand support. I’m not sure where this myth originated from, but I’m fairly certain it came from someone who lacks basic common knowledge!

4. You Shouldn’t Breastfeed After A Scare Or Traumatic Event.

This is one of the most detrimental myths out there, after a traumatic event what mom and baby needs most is that closeness and comfort! In fact the love hormones released during breastfeeding help calm both mother and child leading to less stress.

There are countless myths out there that continually circulate putting fear and doubt in the minds of new breastfeeding mothers, far, far to many to even mention, here is another list here, and a few more here, a couple more here too and some more here!
Education and confidence is your key to success and whenever you are in doubt, speak to a lactation specialist such a certified lactation consultant or La Leche League leader.

The WHO Code

The WHO code, or better known as the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, was designed by the World Health Organisation to help prevent predatory marketing tactics from artificial infant milk manufacturers that directly impact the “choices” new mothers are faced with when it comes to infant feeding.

Under the Code, the following stipulations apply:

  • No advertising of breast milk substitutes to families.
  • No free samples or supplies in the health care system.
  • No promotion of products through health care facilities, including no free or low-cost formula.
  • No contact between marketing personnel and mothers.
  • No gifts or personal samples to health workers.
  • No words or pictures idealizing artificial feeding, including pictures of infants, on the labels or the product.
  • Information to health workers should be scientific and factual only.
  • All information on artificial feeding, including labels, should explain the benefits of breastfeeding and the costs and hazards associated with artificial feeding.
  • Unsuitable products should not be promoted for babies.
  • All products should be of high quality and take account of the climate and storage conditions of the country where they are used.
  • No advertising of products under the scope of the Code to the public.

Products “under the scope of the code” include breastmilk substitutes, including infant formula; other milk products, food and beverages, including bottle-fed complimentary foods, when marketed or otherwise represented to be suitable, with or without modification, for use as a partial or total replacement of breastmilk; feeding bottles and teats. So basically, infant formula, follow-up formula, bottles and nipples.

Exclusive Pumpers South Africa strives to adhere to the WHO Code.

You can download the CODE here.

5 Questions You Should Ask When Buying A Pump

Buying a breastpump can be very daunting and confusing, there are so many types and styles of pumps out there and each mother responds differently to each pump, so here are a list of questions that might make your decision just a little bit easier.


  1. What is your budget

You don’t need the most expensive, top of the range pump in order to succeed, but getting the best quality pump that fits your budget is definitely the best option. Find out if your medical aid  covers a breastpump or not and then base your budget on what you can afford.


2. What does the manufacturer of your chosen pump offer?

Now that you have sorted out your budget, and looked at the options in your price range, it’s time to investigate what the manufacturer offers. Are spares easily available?  Do they offer after sale services in the form of repairs, telephonic troubleshooting or maintenance? Do they offer sized flanges?

Another good question to ask when looking into the manufacturer, is if the manufacturer is local, some international brands are not able to offer spares or maintenance and shipping in parts can become expensive and difficult.


3. Open or closed system?

Along with budget and after sale services, you also need to consider your environment and the possibility of resale. Open system pumps pose the risk of contamination from the air around you and the environment in which you will be required to pump. Open system pumps should not be sold or bought second hand due to the risk of contamination from bacteria, viruses, mould and allergens.

Closed system pumps are usually more expensive, but they also have a better resale value if looked after.


4. How often will you pumping?

Are you going to be exclusively pumping, or pumping at work? Or will you just be pumping occasionally for donation?

These are important questions to consider because some pumps are better suited for high intensity pumping, the worst thing would be to invest in a pump meant for occasional pumping and within a couple of months of returning to work, your pump breaks. Speak to other moms and look for reviews on the pump you have chosen.


5. Is your pump quiet, convenient and easy to transport?

With the high demand on moms to “do it all”, having a pump that is discreet, convenient and easy to transport are musts.

Can your pump be used hands free? What is the noise level like? Does it have a battery pack option? Is it easy to carry around?


When choosing a pump it’s important to get the best option that suits your individual needs, budget and demands, don’t be shy to ask lots of questions to the sales person where you intend to buy your pump, make sure that you are happy with the information given to you and make sure that you have the contact details for the manufacturer and supplier of your pump should you have any issues.
You can join the Exclusive Pumpers South Africa Facebook group to discuss pumps, pumping and get personal reviews from other moms who use the pumps.

Sulpirides and Milk Production



Eglynol and Esperide are from the group of drugs called sulpirides, they are predominantly used to treat schizophrenia and major depressive disorders, they are NOT merely a harmless antidepressant as so many claim, in fact, medical research shows that sulpirides are not effective as a stand alone treatment for depression or post natal depression at all and recommend several other, far more effective and safe treatments for PND.

These drugs are often prescribed off label (not for their intended use) as a lactation aide for breastfeeding mothers.

The regulated dose is anywhere from 1 to 3 tablets three times a day for schizophrenia and major depressive disorders such as bipolar and mania, lower doses taken in conjunction with antidepressants are used to enhance the effects of the antidepressants for patients with mild depression or panic and anxiety disorders, these doses coincide with the doses regularly recommended for lactating mothers.


Side effects of these drugs include:





Akathisia — a sense of inner restlessness that presents itself with the inability to stay still

Parkinsonism Somnolence (not a very prominent adverse effect considering its lack of α1 adrenergic, histamine and muscarinic acetylcholine receptor affinity)


Weight gain or loss

Hyperprolactinemia (elevated plasma levels of the hormone, prolactin which can, in turn lead to sexual dysfunction, galactorrhea, amenorrhea, gynecomastia, etc.)



Nasal congestion

Dry mouth


Blurred vision

Impaired concentration

Tardive dyskinesia — a rare, often permanent movement disorder that, more often than not, results from prolonged treatment with antidopaminergic agents such as antipsychotics. It presents with slow (hence tardive), involuntary, repetitive and purposeless movements that most often affect the facial muscles.

Neuroleptic malignant syndrome — a rare, life-threatening complication that results from the use of antidopaminergic agents. Its incidence increases with concomitant use of lithium (medication) salts

Blood dyscrasias — rare, sometimes life-threatening complications of the use of a number of different antipsychotics (most notably clozapine) which involves abnormalities in the composition of a person’s blood (e.g. having too few white blood cells per unit volume of blood). Examples include:- Agranulocytosis — a significant drop in white blood cell count, leaving individuals wide open to life-threatening opportunistic infections





Torsades de pointes

Unknown incidence adverse effects include

QTc interval prolongation which can lead to potentially fatal arrhythmias.

Cholestatic jaundice

Elevated liver enzymes

Primary biliary cirrhosis

Allergic reactions

Photosensitivity — sensitivity to light

Skin rashes





Diaphoresis — sweating without a precipitating factor (e.g. increased ambient temperature)

Hypotension — low blood pressure

Hypertension — high blood pressure

Venous thromboembolism (probably rare)


Clinical research regarding the use of sulpirides in pregnancy and lactation are as follows:


Pregnancy: Animal studies did not reveal any embryotoxicity or fetotoxicity, nor did limited human experience. Due to insufficient human data, pregnant women should be treated with sulpiride only if strictly indicated. Additionally, the newborns of treated women should be monitored, because isolated cases of extrapyramidal side effects have been reported.


Lactation: Sulpiride is found in the milk of lactating women. Since the consequences are unclear, women should not breastfeed during treatment.


If you are taking enough of a medication for you to have the effects of the noted side effects (ie: Hyperprolactinemia), then you are taking enough of the drug for it to affect the intended area of treatment, in this case, your brain.


There are several other options that are both safer and more effective as a galactagogue, none as effective however as the frequent removal of milk from the breast.


Additional resources : (click on the links to access the pages)

patient info

Clinical Insert


Pharmacy Book

What World Breastfeeding Week 2016 Means To Me

What does WBW mean to me?

This was honestly such an extremely loaded question for me as I face yet another difficult start to breastfeeding with my current unborn son. Due to a birth defect he will need a prolonged hospital stay as well as spinal and brain surgery shortly after his birth which will require me to exclusively pump for at least the first few weeks. The impending loss of yet another “normal start to breastfeeding” was devastating at first, but I have built the most amazing support structure around myself with breastfeeding experts, lactavists and pro-breastfeeding fighters! 

I KNOW I WILL SUCCEED and it’s due to the lactavists and breastfeeders and the information and unconditional support, love and concern that they continually share to help mothers like myself and others get access to true factual information and support in difficult circumstances.

So, WBW means support to me, it means education and it means it’s a chance for me to give back and help others as they so often have helped me.

Iv been accused of being anti-formula feeder so many times, and the honest truth is that I don’t like formula, I don’t think formula is as healthy or natural or even necessary in most cases, I however do acknowledge, respect and support mothers who legitimately cannot breastfeed due to illness, surgery, true low supply and other complications that have no choice but to lean on artificial infant milk, most new mothers who desperately want to breastfeed are told that they “don’t make enough” or “your milk is not nutritious enough” which plainly put is a heaping, steaming pile of BS, it is important that mothers get the right information and facts to help them make such a personal and heavy decision, that does not make me anti-formula feeder, it makes me pro-informed choice and pro-fact, it makes me pro-mom &baby. 

I support all mothers, I support facts and I support our planet, I do not support greedy formula manufacturers who pray on new mothers insecurities and use predatory marketing tactics to create imaginary wars to sell product, there’s a difference! 

On this last day of WBW, I wish more mothers had access to the amazing support system I found (granted it was 5 long months into my EPing journey), I wish more mothers had access to educated health care providers who had a deep understanding of breastfeeding and how milk production works and the importance of breastmilk to the human immune system and growing brain, I wish more mothers had the knowledge of normal infant behavior and were supported by health care professionals, family, friends and their employers. I wish all mothers knew that THEY DID NOT FAIL, they were failed by predatory marketing, lack of educated support and a society that places little to no importance on mothers and babies. I wish that society would stop sexualizing and demonising a natural act of feeding, heck I wish they would stop sexualizing women in general, we aren’t a commodity just to sell products, our bodies grow humans, the next generation and our bodies can nourish them too. We are more than just play things. I wish women would stand together in the importance of what we feed our children, because it does matter and it should matter and we should all be fighting for women’s rights to access education, support and better maternity practices so more mothers have the choice to breastfeed, not only for our children’s health, but for ours too, we should be fighting for our planet so we have something to actually leave our children.
I wish more mothers were given true information on the risks of not breastfeeding, and then were given quality hands on support to get started, to stay strong during those difficult first few weeks and then celebrated when they reach their goals. I wish human lives mattered to big corporations far more than their bottom line, I wish mothers knew that they have this amazing, life saving, beautiful gift to give to their children that benefits them far into their lives, I wish women KNEW what they were capable of, instead of being made to feel like their bodies are broken or “not enough”.

WBW means I get to be part of this amazing, supportive community who fights every day for these things, it’s something so much bigger than myself, or any singular breastfeeding relationship, so much bigger than a week and so much more important than so many realise.

It’s a chance to help save infants lives, to support women with honest, true information and facts, to empower women to trust in their bodies and their babies, to save women’s lives and to save this beautiful planet we call home, because breastfeeding matters and I am proud to be a part of it!

Galactagogues, Medications and Other Lactation Aides

Boosting supply is one of the most common topics in all breastfeeding groups, as mothers we tend to worry constantly over everything, and worrying about supply is no different.

Breastmilk supply is based on the basic principles of demand and supply, the more removal of milk from the breast, (demand), the more your body will produce (supply) to meet those demands. The most effective and safe way to maintain and increase supply is to empty the breast frequently and effectively, whether by feeding your baby on demand at the breast, or sticking to a schedule of 8 to 10 pumping sessions within 24 hours in the first few weeks of exclusively pumping.

Often new mothers are quickly prescribed medications by their baby’s pediatrician or by their gynae without first finding out if there is true low supply or what could be causing symptoms of low supply or slow weight gain. More often than not, it is due to something such as incorrect latch or a weak sucking reflex in baby, or unrealistic and unnecessary scheduling of feeds or sleep training, all of which are easily remedied without the need for galactagogues.

A lot of the times when a mother feels her supply is low it is due to perceived low supply, and not true low supply, as explained here and here.

If you feel your supply is low, it is best to consult with a breastfeeding expert such as a certified lactation consultant or La Leche League leader to address any underlying issues to help with supply.  

Stress, dehydration and exhaustion can all impact supply and on top of the underlying stressors of everyday mothering, the added worry can further impact supply issues, it is important to find balance and ask for help where needed, safe co-sleeping practices can help you achieve more sleep, keeping hydrated and making sure you eat a diet high in healthy fats like avocado, nuts and berries can help boost your energy levels, avoid high sugary foods and drinks or highly caffeinated drinks as they can spike your energy levels and leave you feeling even more drained once they wear off.
If you genuinely feel that medication is your only option, then it is important to discuss all side effects and information with your doctor.

Medications such as sulpirides (eglynol and esperide) are often prescribed off label as a lactation aide, but their primary use is for the treatment of schizophrenia and severe depressive disorders. If you are taking enough of a medication to “benefit” from the side effects then the medication is having an effect on your brain. Weaning from anti-physcotics should be done slowly and under the guidance of a certified medical practitioner.

Other medications such as Domperidone (Motilium) can have adverse reactions with mothers who suffer underlying heart conditions, but according to Dr Jack Newman, this option is still safer than other medications such a sulpirides.

Always consult with a certified lactation specialist such as a Le Leche League Leader or certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC or SACLC) with regards to supply issues, unfortunately not all medical practitioners specialize in breastfeeding and have a very limited and outdated knowledge on breastmilk and breastmilk production. It is important to rule out any easily resolved issues before leaning towards medical or herbal medicines for supply issues.

If you are looking for trusted breastfeeding support, check out this link for names of certified lactation consultants and La Leche League leaders near you.
Herbal supplements, although natural, are not always safe or free from side effects, you should discuss taking any supplement with a knowledgeable practitioner. Always be aware of any changes in behaviour and bowel movements with baby when starting supplements. Most galactagogues are anecdotal and offer only temporary increases in supply.

Some mothers or babies can be allergic to herbal supplements such as fenugreek as explained in this article.
Jungle juice is frequently recommended for use to boost breastmilk supply, however there is nothing in jungle juice that is considered a galactagogue.

Jungle juice is simply a very sugary hydration solution, and as far as hydration solutions go, there are several healthier and more effective alternatives to this high sugar, high calorie drink.

The ingredients in jungle juice can cause thrush due to the very high sugar content, can lead to weight gain and is extremely dangerous for mothers who are insulin resistant or diabetic.
Jungle juice does not increase supply, it increases hydration, which can aide in lactation. Some healthier alternatives to jungle juice are: plain water, homemade fruit infused water and coconut water.

It is important to understand that there are no magic pills or foods that will increase your milk supply if breastmilk is not being removed effectively and frequently from the breast.

One of the most effective and safest manners in which to increase and maintain supply is to pump often, feed on demand if nursing or using techniques such as power pumping.

World Breastfeeding Week Day 1

This years World Breastfeeding Week theme is sustainable development.

It is amazing how breastfeeding has such a huge and profound direct impact on so many things, from water preservation to reduction in poverty.

As breastfeeders, we have a duty to educate and encourage new mothers to breastfeed, not only for their health and that of their infants, but for the sustainability of our world.

Today EPSA is focusing on water preservation.

With water in serious short supply here in South Africa it is our DUTY to our planet and to our country to not only protect breastfeeding mothers, but to promote breastfeeding for a sustainable future and preserve the very little water we still have.

#breastfeedingsaveslives #breastfeedingsavestheplanet

Exclusive Pumping As A Long Term Viable Option When Breastfeeding Isn’t Possible

The World Health Organisation lists optimal infant feeding practices in the following order.

  1. Direct breastfeeding.
  2. Expressed breastmilk from the mother.
  3. Donor milk from a registered donor organization.
  4. Artificial infant milks.

And yet in most cases when breastfeeding is not working out mothers are quickly pushed from first option, to fourth with very little consideration for long term viability of option number 2, mothers own expressed breastmilk.
Breastfeeding is the biologically normal way to feed an infant, human breastmilk is made in the mothers blood and contains important nutrients, proteins, fats and immunological properties that are perfectly designed for growing human babies. Nursing at the breast provides far more than just nutrition, it provides comfort and a sense of security and is the perfect mothering tool to fix any and all complaints our tiny humans have, but due to certain circumstances, a mother may find herself unable to get baby latching.

A few of these circumstances are:

  • Premature birth
  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Severe tongue and lip ties
  • Birth defects
  • Sensory disorders in either mother or baby
  • Poor milk transfer / immature suckling reflex
  • D-Mer (dysmorphic milk ejection reflex) or past sexual or traumatic experiences
  • Working away from baby from early on for long periods.

Although several of these circumstances can be overcome with knowledgeable support from certified lactation specialists such as an internationally board certified lactation consultants or La Leche League leaders, some mothers are unable to overcome them and often turn to alternatives to formula, such as exclusive pumping or donor milk.

So what does exclusively pumping entail?

Well for starters, it demands extreme dedication, just like direct nursing, the same principles of breastmilk production apply. The more often milk is effectively removed from the breast, the more milk your body will produce. An exclusive pumper should aim to pump between 8 to 10 times within a 24 hour period in order to maintain supply, and while this seems extreme and undo able, it is actually quite easy to accomplish with the right equipment and techniques.

Understanding the basics of how breastmilk production works and how your milk is made within your body can give you the added confidence and knowledge to succeed with exclusive pumping.

Choosing the right pump

Choosing the correct pump for your personal needs is obviously a huge factor, there are so many options out there for mothers to choose from, but there is no one single type of pump that is better for exclusively pumping than another, I personally exclusively pumped for 4,5 years using a good quality manual pump, while other mothers have been able to master the marmet technique of hand expressing and exclusively pumped for well over a year using just their hands, many mothers however prefer double electric pumps to pump breastmilk, it is important to understand that choosing a breastpumps is a unique experience, not every pump is going to work for every mother.

Using your hands to help stimulate the breasts and milk ducts while pumping is a fantastic way to not only speed up the emptying process, but also to achieve a higher yield while pumping. This technique is aptly named the “hands on technique” and as an added bonus using this technique regularly also helps to cut down on blocked ducts.

Flange Size

Flange size and spares are foreign words to most new moms, but exclusive pumpers learn the importance of these words very quickly, the standard size flange, which is measured from the diameter of the nipple, not breast cup size, is 24 mm, this size only fits 45% of all mothers, flange size can greatly impact your ability to effectively pump breastmilk, it can cause friction burn, pain, and blocked ducts. Finding a pump which offers sized flanges is extremely important if the standard size does not fit you or causes pain.

Spares and maintenance 

Spares are the removable plastic pieces such as the diaphragm and duck bill, microscopic tears can drastically impact your pumps ability to function optimally so spares should be changed every 3 to 4 months or as soon as your pump begins to start feeling sluggish. 

So does exclusively pumping mean that I will have to top up?

No, not at all. If a mother sticks to her schedule and maintains her pump correctly, she can successfully feed her infant well past the WHO recommended 2 years with only her breastmilk. Unlike artificial infant milks which are static in their ingredients, breastmilk is a living substance that is continually changing to meet your baby’s individual needs, therefore, unlike formula, the amount of breastmilk needed after the age of 6 months pretty much stays around 120 to 150mls per feed.

As I just mentioned, breastmilk is a living substance full of not only essential nutrients, fats, sugars and proteins, but also antibodies, stem cells and hormones, so storing and heating breastmilk are extremely Important.

Breastmilk can be stored for approximately 5 to 8 days in the back of a refrigerator, 3 months in a fridge freezer, and up to a year in a freestanding chest freezer.

Heating can also damage or denature the enzymes and nutrients found in breastmilk that can impact absorption of those nutrients. It is not recommended to heat breastmilk in a microwave or bottle warmer as the temperature rises above body temperature quickly, these methods can also cause dangerous hot spots within your milk, instead it is recommended to warm gently under warm water or in a bowl of warm water, some baby’s will happily take cooler milk while others are a bit more picky and prefer the perfect temperature of approximately 34 degrees.

Bottle Feeding your Breastfed baby

Bottle feeding is something we have all witnessed in society, but bottle feeding breastmilk is best done using paced bottle feeding or respectful bottle feeding. Feeding your baby using paced bottle feeding can reduce choking hazard, gas, over feeding and stomach complaints in breastfed infants. The basic principles of paced feeding are to:

  • Feed baby in an upright position
  • Bottle should be parallel to the floor and not tipped up.
  • Baby should be encouraged to actively suckle for milk.
  • The bottle should never be forced into baby’s mouth.
  • Baby leads the feed, baby should not be forced to finish the feed.

Often moms report baby guzzling down the milk and the crying for more, but more often than not those cries are misconstrued as hunger when they are more likely due to discomfort.
Because breastmilk is much thinner in consistency, a baby left lying down with a bottle is often overwhelmed by the flow from the teat, they are unable to regulate the flow so they gulp the milk down in an attempt to not choke and protect their airway, this gulping of milk can lead to painful tummies, gas and reflux symptoms which leads to crying after a feed, which is why it is so important to always use feeding time as bonding time and hold baby as upright as possible while bottle feeding breastmilk.

Using a number 1, slow flow teat is the only teat you will ever need as breastmilk does not change in consistency like formula.

Increasing supply

Increasing supply is a popular topic in all breastfeeding circles, there are many supplements, foods and medications that mothers swear by to increase supply, however many only offer superficial boosts to supply, the most effective and safe way to boost supply is to empty your breasts frequently, regardless of how many galactagogues or medications you take, they will never have the desired effect if milk is not being removed. Power pumping is a good example of how to increase supply using frequent stimulation and removal of milk from the breast.

Lastly, I want to touch on support systems.

Support is such an important part of mothering in general, often finding a support system that understands and respects your choices can be challenging, and sometimes you need to become your own support system. If you are looking for support with breastfeeding or exclusively pumping, I cannot recommend La Leche League South Africa enough, alternatively for more specialised support specifically for exclusive pumpers you can join the Exclusive Pumpers South Africa group on Facebook. 

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