Breastfeeding is one of the most controversial topics among moms, typically dividing those who opt for formula and those who choose to nurse. Often left out of the dialogue is pumping exclusively -- an alternative that gives baby the benefits of breast milk and gives mom the flexibility of bottle feeding.

Moms who are unable to breastfeed, perhaps due to latching issues or because they know their schedules won't accommodate breastfeeding for the long haul, are often encouraged to go straight to formula. Pumping is a viable alternative that's rarely discussed. If you're considering pumping exclusively, here are four tips to set you and baby up for success!

Be prepared

Before you go into the hospital, invest in a good pump and know how to use it. You'll be too busy bonding with your bundle of joy to want to read directions or sort through nozzles and tubes. Pack your pump with your hospital bag and bring it with you when you check in.

Be consistent

Establishing your milk supply in the first few weeks is critical. Once you've done that, you can slow down your pumping schedule to suit baby's needs. However, make sure you keep a consistent schedule. Consistency is key for keeping your milk supply up, and for warding off engorgement and mastitis.

Pump early and often

It's important to establish your milk supply early on. Start on the day you deliver your baby (once you've regained some energy!) and pump every 2 hours. Set a timer on your phone and stick to it. You'll likely only pump 1-2 ounces in the beginning, but don't be discouraged. The more you pump, the more milk you'll produce. Start out on a lower speed and suction, and then work your way up according to your own comfort level. Try to pump for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

Store with care

Make sure you have plenty of breast milk storage bags (made specifically for storing expressed breast milk) and back-up BPA-free milk storage bottles. While feeding your baby fresh milk that was recently expressed is always best, you can store breast milk in the refrigerator for approximately 8 days or in the freezer for approximately 3-4 months. If all of that pumping gives you a surplus, you can always donate the extra milk to a milk bank, or mix stored breast milk into your baby's first solid foods.

With a little preparation and a lot of commitment, pumping exclusively can be a breastfeeding Plan B that gives mom the convenience of bottle feeding, while giving baby all of the benefits of breast milk.

Breast pumps I recommend

Medela Pump

PRICE: $267
Medela PIS

Lansinoh storage bags

PRICE: $9
milk storage bags

Medela Pump In Style Advanced Backpack features two-phase expression technology, which mimics a baby's natural nursing patterns. It's designed for frequent use, making it perfect for moms who are pumping exclusively. The backpack style also makes pumping on-the-go convenient and frees up your hands so you can juggle your baby and diaper bag, too.

Lansinoh breast milk storage bags are durable, leak-proof breast milk storage bags that are pre-sterilized and BPA-free. Simply pour your milk in, zip it up, write the date on it and store.

Booby Tubes

PRICE: $20


Booby Tubes®
 (Earth Mama Angel Baby, $20) are natural breast packs with a 100 percent cotton cover that can be used to ease swelling, tenderness and engorgement. Microwave and use them for warm, moist heat to encourage milk flow, maintain open milk ducts, promote let-down and comfort mastitis symptoms. Or, store them in the freezer and use them as a cold compress to relieve swelling.

More about breastfeeding

Making breastfeeding work
Mama, where's the (breast) milk?
Breastfeeding basics

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