Thanks to feminism and science, breastfeeding now comes in many different forms, and every mom uses the technique that best suits her family. If you work full time or if your baby isn’t latching on properly, you may need to try exclusively pumping, which is truly another form of breastfeeding. But because a breast pump isn’t able to give you cues of hunger like your baby would, you should know how to create an exclusive pumping schedule so that you can maintain a good supply of milk for your growing baby. (And not lose your mind from washing all those pump pieces.)
The first thing to note, says Jennifer Jordan, director of Mom and Baby at Aeroflow, is that every woman is unique, so there is no standard time frame when it comes to pumping and supply. Jordan says that in order to maintain or increase your milk supply, you need an empty breast. “The speed of production depends on how full or empty the breast is,” she says, “and an empty breast produces milk at a faster rate.” So more pumping means more milk, and less pumping means less milk.
If you are starting out soon after your baby is born, your pumping schedule should try to mimic a newborn's feeding schedule as much as you can. Jordan says that most newborns nurse about eight to 12 times a day in a 24-hour period, so moms should do their best to match that routine in a way that works for you.
Kelly Mom suggested that in the first few months, if possible, try to pump at least once, if not twice, during the night. The website suggested pumping with a durable, double electric pump for about 15 to 20 minutes, even if there is no milk flowing, so that the nipple stimulation can give your body cues to increase milk supply.
As your baby gets older, noted Exclusively Pumping, your frequency of pumping may drop. As your baby grows, and is introduced to solids, they may become less reliant on breast milk, so you may not need to pump as often. But if you find your supply is decreasing more than you’d like, you will need to pump a few extra times throughout the day to increase supply.
Taking the time out to analyze your lifestyle and schedule can help a lot in creating a pumping schedule, added Exclusively Pumping. The website suggested creating a routine that best caters to your work, home, or sleep schedules, so that your pumping sessions are convenient and productive. If that means setting an alarm to pump every two hours, go for it. If your work day requires you to be in meetings for four hours, then make sure to add an extra pumping session somewhere into your day. By carving out chunks of time strictly for pumping, you can feel less overwhelmed. And just remember — breastfeeding in any form, whether it be at the breast or by pumping alone, is a huge commitment, but a good game plan will make it more comfortable.