Feeding a baby as an Exclusive Pumping momma is slightly different than if you were to nurse (obviously) or formula-feed (not so obvious differences). On this page you’ll learn about feeding a newborn, how much to expect a breastmilk-fed baby to eat, paced bottle feeding, entertaining baby while pumping, and pumping and feeding at the same time.
“Congratulations! Here’s a baby… now feed it!”
Babies need to begin suckling within the first few hours after birth, so if you are exclusively pumping, you’ll need to begin pumping/expressing within the first two hours after birth, and continue pumping every 2-3 hours around the clock. Colostrum, your first milk, is thick and sticky so it’s usually easier to hand-express or use a manual pump. Electric pumps can’t always get that thick milk out effectively. Feed any expressed colostrum to baby using a spoon, medicine syringe, or medicine cup. You can use a bottle when you begin getting slightly larger qualities of milk. (With frequent and regular expression, you should expect your milk to transition to mature milk within 3-5 days.) Image below is from medela.us
While every baby is different, most breastmilk-fed babies level off at around 25-30 ounces a day from 1 month of life onward, until they begin taking in more and more solids as they get closer to age 1. This is different than formula-fed babies because formula does not change. Breastmilk changes to adapt to a growing baby. (Yes even exclusively pumped milk changes!) Consult with your pediatrician if you are concerned about baby’s weight gain, as each baby grows along their own growth curve.
Feed baby on demand, using early feeding cues whenever possible. You can expect a new baby to eat every 2-3 hours around the clock. Your pumping schedule may or may not align with when baby wants to eat. An exclusive pumping mom should expect to pump on schedule (set reminders on your phone!) and feed on demand, night and day.
How do you tell if baby is hungry? Did you know that crying is actually a LATE hunger cue? Learning your own baby’s hunger cues can help you prepare to feed baby before they get too upset. Already red-faced and crying? Make sure to calm baby down before trying to feed. Skin-to-skin, holding and swaying while shushing close to their ear can calm them down enough to feed.
How do you tell if baby is FULL? Look for the following signs of satisfaction when feeding:
Baby will relax. Their clenched fists will open and their arms will become floppy. They may close their mouth, spitting out the nipple, and turn their head away. They may be awake and contented or drift to sleep. All of these mean “no more milk, thank you!” It’s important to learn your own baby’s full cues so you recognize when they are satisfied.
For bottle-fed babies, paced bottle feeding can help baby learn and communicate when they’ve had enough. Resist the urge to force baby to finish their bottle if they are showing signs that they are full. (Finish the bottle within 2 hours as per CDC recommendations.) Instead, offer a bit less milk next time so it won’t go to waste. Directions for paced bottle feeding can be found below.
Paced Bottle Feeding
It IS possible to overwhelm a bottle-fed baby and potential over-feed them. Use paced bottle feeding and watch for signs that baby is full and satisfied with the feed. Once baby can hold their own bottle, they may be able to pace their own feeding. Make sure to educate your partner or caregiver on paced bottle feeding so they do not rush a feed and leave baby demanding more milk.
** For those who are going to ask- for a very young baby hold as upright as possible, I realize they don’t have neck strength. Just don’t feed flat on their back with the bottle upside down!**
How to pace feed:
- Hold bottle as horizontally as possible with baby positioned as upright as possible.
- Pause and/or burp after every ounce
- Feed on hunger cues- not on schedule
- Hold and cuddle baby often, so baby doesn’t ask to feed just because they need to be held
- Feed in an upright position- not laying down
- Feed with neck extended- not with chin touching chest (think about your own neck position when drinking a glass of water)
- Allow about 10-15 min for a bottle feed
- Stop when baby is done
- Always use a slow flow bottle nipple (If baby is fussy around 4-6 months, you may switch to a faster flow nipple.)
Benefits of paced bottle feeding:
- Baby learns how to self regulate, which means they won’t need to feel super full each time they eat (because baby knows exactly what they need, and there’s no point in making them take preset amounts).
- Baby is able to coordinate suck/swallow/breath cycle without having milk flowing in their mouth constantly from a bottle
- We ensure baby isn’t over or under-fed (because the brain needs time to process satiety) YES breastmilk bottle-fed babies can be overfed. Please ask your pediatrician if you are at all concerned.
- Parent will not feel the pressure of pumping unrealistic amounts of milk if separated due to work
- Baby will not prefer bottle flow to the breast, if they also nurse.
Entertaining Baby While Pumping
What if baby wakes and becomes fussy while you’re pumping? Keep them close, keep them occupied. Don’t be afraid to help them get accustomed to NOT being attached to you… you are still working hard for your baby, and there are plenty of ways to bond while pumping! In the neighboring parts I show you hot to feed baby while pumping, burp baby while pumping, and even pump while wearing baby!!!
Sometimes it helps to see someone else doing it, even if it’s just a doll. I promise you I’ve done EVERY ONE OF THESE THINGS with my real human babies!
- Cradle baby on your outstretched legs, or on the crook of your legs if you are sitting with your legs bent. Tough, massage, and talk or sing to baby. Bonding IS possible while pumping!
- Lay baby right next to you on the couch or while sitting on the floor, so that the length of baby is touching your thigh. They can watch you and feel close to you when while pumping.
- Prop baby within reach on a boppy or pillow (just don’t leave baby unattended!)
- Allow a younger baby to enjoy time in a swing or lounger.
- Sit an older baby in a baby seat, bouncer, or with a basket of sensory toys next to you on the floor.
- This is a great time to practice tummy time!
- Allow any age baby time to play and look at the world around them on a blanket on the floor or ground outside. My grandma always said “Babies can’t fall off the floor!” Baby “gyms” are great when baby can swat at the dangly toys above them!
So what happens when you have tried all of the things and nothing works? Focus on survival today and try these tricks again another day. Some moms even figure out how to baby-wear AND pump at the same time! I tried it with my Ergo carrier in a side-carry position, and used my manual pump. You gotta do what you gotta do, right?
Feeding Baby While Pumping
UGH OH! You’re in the middle of pumping and baby gets hungry! What do you do?
First of all, it is OK to pause your pumping session, feed baby, and resume your session. But many mommas get good at feeding baby WHILE pumping, so why not just do both at the same time?
Here are 3 positions I’ve used myself to feed baby while pumping.
In all of these positions, I’m holding the bottle and the young baby is slightly elevated with no bottle-propping. Some positions work better for very young babies, but you may have to readjust when they begin to kick your bottles!
- Lay baby on your outstretched legs in font of you (works best on the floor) Prop them up with a pillow for paced bottle feeding
- Lay baby in the crook of your bent leg (this was my FAVORITE feeding position- I did it during pumping but also for feeding any time!)
- Prop baby safely on a pillow or boppy next to you, just make sure that baby’s chin is not touching their chest- that can be very dangerous as it restricts air flow and affects baby’s ability to swallow.
If your partner is home, now is an EXCELLENT chance for them to bond with baby over feeding! You are doing all the hard work, pumping at all hours of the day and night… don’t be afraid to communicate your needs. Remember, they are parenting too, not just “helping out!” It’s an important conversation to have with your partner before baby arrives, but can happen at any time. Choose a calm time to communicate that pumping is important to you and your baby, and list several ways they can assist you in caring for baby.