Life as a parent who breastfeeds and pumps isn’t simple. Far from it. It's full of scheduling, supply monitoring, and milk storing, with lots of snuggles and nursing sessions thrown in between. When you’re feeding your baby via a combination of pumping and nursing, you've got to pay constant attention to make sure you keep up your supply without accidentally increasing it too much, or forgetting a session that might negatively impact your supply. Wondering how soon you can breastfeed after pumping is a common question on many a pumping parents’ mind, and like most areas of breastfeeding, there is no set rule on the subject. However, there are guidelines to help you out, depending on your feeding goals. To find out more, we reached out to Melissa Cole, an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and founder of Luna Lactation in Portland, Oregon.
How soon after pumping can I breastfeed or chest feed?
“You can breast/chest feed ANY time after pumping as it is an on-demand process,” says Cole. “Many parents report that waiting to nurse at least an hour after pumping seems like a good time interval.” The one-hour mark is not a magical rule, though. Breastfeeding or chest feeding is so much about getting to know your own body’s rhythms, and learning what feels comfortable and sustainable for you, so Cole recommends checking in with yourself about what your own pumping and breastfeeding goals are. For example, if your goal is to build supply, Cole says parents may “wish to bundle milk expression right after breast/chest feeding in order to fully empty and optimize production.”
Individual supply, schedules and needs vary so much, though, that Cole really emphasizes that there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of exactly how long after pumping you can breastfeed. “Timing when to pump after breastfeeding is very individualized and has many variables. Everyone's goals, milk storage/expression needs, anatomy and physiology, and schedule is different,” Cole explains.
Hoping to breastfeed after pumping? Morning may be a good time
Some breastfeeding parents pump simply to create a stored milk supply, others pump at work out of necessity. The best nursing and pumping schedule will look a bit different for every parent. If storing milk is your goal, Cole says that “expressing right after nursing session could help provide some extra milk for storage or baby’s needs. Some parents find this is most productive after a morning feeding session.”
Don't stress yourself too much about striking the perfect balance. “Like anything lactation and infant feeding related, there are many ways to express milk and feed a baby,” Cole reiterates. “If a parent needs individualized help in creating a pumping/feeding plan, they should reach out to an IBCLC (International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant) for support!” And remember, your body will let you know when you might be pumping too much and you can always simply cut back, if need be.
Melissa Cole, an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and founder of Luna Lactation in Portland, Oregon
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