Labor and Delivery/Postpartum

Back to Breastfeeding After Exclusively Pumping

When I was getting ready to have my first baby, I was much more clueless about preparing for breastfeeding than I thought I was. Through various issues, I was unsuccessful at getting my breast pump ahead of time (for my second child, I used AeroFlow, so easy!). When we brought our baby home, I was engorged and recovering from a c-section, and he was hungry and had jaundice. Needless to say that was a very stressful first night or two. A family member loaned me their old breast pump until I got my own. I know that’s not best sanitation practices but I needed to feed my baby. This is my long back story as to how I got onto exclusively pumping. Now I would like to share with you on how I went from exclusively pumping back to breastfeeding.

I will say there are so many factors that leads someone to exclusively pumping and so many factors for breastfeeding to work. There is no one size fits all approach. There are women in my life that exclusively pump and it works great for them and some (like me) that really struggled with it.

Just know that whatever breastfeeding issues you may have, there are many options to explore to find the best fit for you and your baby.

Please note: this post is to share my personal experience with exclusively pumping and breastfeeding with you. This is not to serve as medical advice. For medical advice or other professional information, contact your healthcare provider.

How to switch from exclusively pumping back to breastfeeding

The very first step I highly recommend is to work with a lactation consultant!!! Seriously! The lactation consultants that helped me even helped mothers breastfeed their adopted babies, they are amazing!

If you don’t click with one consultant, try another one.

A good lactation consultant will help support you for however long you decide to breastfeed without judgment.

I called lactation and told them my concerns and struggles about exclusively pumping. We then setup a time to bring my baby in and I tried again breastfeeding and they helped trouble shoot latch, position, etc.

Here are the main things to consider when going back to breastfeeding after exclusively pumping:

Be super patient with both you and baby during this process.

There were plenty of times where my baby had zero interest in breastfeeding and just wanted the bottle, and it broke my heart. Even though it’s not true, I felt like a failure.

Keep in mind that for how many weeks or months, your baby has grown accustomed to getting milk out of the bottle. Just like adults, babies are creatures of habit too.

There is still suckling involved with a bottle, but they will have to work harder to extract milk from your breast. Naturally, we all would like less work when it comes to our food.

This helps explain the resistance a little bit, any transition takes time.

Experiment with the timing of breastfeeding attempts too

For some babies, it works to put them to breast when they are hungry and maybe willing to breastfeed so they can get fed.

Other babies, like mine, get way too frustrated if they are hungry. In that case, it may be less stressful to try it in between feedings.

This all depends on the personality type of both you and baby. My baby was very strong willed and let me know that he was not happy! That caused me to get too stressed out. And if you are stressed out, your baby can sense that and may not to try breastfeeding at all.

Definitely keep the pressure off for both of you.

Do TONS of skin to skin with your baby

The smell of your skin and the smell of your breastmilk will be very familiar and comforting for your baby.

Let your baby lay on your bare chest and the two of you bond. It might seem weird, but you can express a little milk and put it on your baby’s lip using your nipple.

This can help remind your baby that they can find milk from your breast and not just the bottle.

Try using a nipple shield

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links to which I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

Nipple shields are really helpful if you have injured nipples, but they also really helped me in my transition back to breastfeeding after exclusively pumping.

The shield is rubbery, so it gives the feeling of a bottle nipple, but gets your baby close to your breast as well.

Once my baby and I got super comfortable using the nipple shield, I would try without, and it would work!

A tip just from my own personal experience: after my milk would let down, I would let milk “pool” into the nipple shield. Then my baby would get more instant satisfaction like a bottle and was much more willing to do more suckling.

They do come in various sizes, so make sure you get one that fits you comfortably!

How long does it take to wean off of exclusively pumping?

This typically varies depending on how long you have been breastfeeding your child. Our bodies are very quick to adapt based off of demand.

Personally, I would switch out a pump session and replace it with a nursing session. If at the next session, my baby wanted the bottle that time I still pumped but would pump two or three minutes less.

For myself, I saw that my body adapted to these changes in about a week. But you may have a different experience.

Once you are fully transitioned back to breastfeeding after exclusively pumping, you may find that you aren’t producing as much milk when you pump as you did previously.

Typically, pumping causes your body to produce higher volume but “watery” milk. Instead, you may see less but your milk will have higher fat content and is more dense.

If you are ever concerned about your milk supply, contact your lactation consultant and/or pediatrician.

Is exclusively pumping easier than breastfeeding?

The answer depends on who you ask! Like I said before, I know mothers that prefer to exclusively pump, and it works really well for them. There are also mothers who do it but find it really difficult.

Something to consider as well is your current family situation too. Do you work outside the home or stay at home? Does another caregiver want to regularly feed the baby as a way to connect too?

As a stay-at-home mom, I found that I was doing double the work of pumping, feeding, and sterilizing bottles around the clock. Thankfully I was able to transition back to breastfeeding and it greatly reduced my stress.

If you’re interested in trying to go back to breastfeeding after exclusively pumping, give it a shot! What do you have to lose?

No matter how you feed your baby by breastmilk, formula, or a combination, it should be what’s best for you and baby!

Even as exclusively pumping, I still got to sit and bottle feed my baby and sing, talk, and stare at my beautiful baby.

Having that special time together is what is most important. 🙂

Please share your feeding experience below. Did you pump, formula, nursed, all the above? Thanks for stopping by!

Kathy

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