Pumping is a great way for breastfeeding mothers to get the most out of their breast milk. It can make feeding a bit more convenient, and sometimes it can also help increase production. But with pumping comes so many questions, especially for new moms who have never been through it before. One common confusion is over what kind of pumping schedule to follow, especially if you should pump every time your baby gets a bottle. It makes sense, right? Baby drinks the bottle, now you need to pump to make up for it. But experts have some easier-to-follow guidelines for you.
Exclusive Pumping Schedule
Dr. Jessica Madden, board-certified pediatrician and neonatologist, tells Romper it can be beneficial for moms who are exclusively pumping to pump every time baby gets a bottle during the first few weeks of their life. She recommends that moms who are exclusively pumping — meaning your baby isn't taking any milk from the breast and is only receiving milk through bottles — should try to get in eight to 10 pumping sessions every 24 hours for the first six to eight weeks postpartum, which is the time it takes to establish a milk supply.
"Newborns breastfeed about every two to three hours, and pumping this often will help to ensure that you establish a full breast milk supply," Madden explains. "Once your milk supply is established, you will probably need to pump at least five to six times per 24 hours to make enough milk to feed your baby."
Pumping With Baby's Feeding Schedule
Not only does this help establish a great supply, but it can also help really drain the breast. Jennifer Ritchie, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and author of The Smart Parents Guide to Breastfeeding, tells Romper that pumping right after a feed will "fully drain the breast if she is struggling with feeling full, plugged ducts, or issues with mastitis. Pumping after a feed is typically an intervention used to help eliminate breastfeeding problems." Both Madden and Ritchie agree that, according to American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, pumping every three hours or so is ideal. This will often line up with baby's feeding schedule, especially in the beginning.
How Long Pumping Sessions Should Last
And you don't need to pump for very long, either. "An average pumping session lats about 15 minutes, but milk supply is demand and supply, so pumping for 5 minutes is better than not pumping at all," Ritchie says. Basically, if you don't pump at all, your body won't know to make that breast milk in the future for your baby. So squeezing in just a tiny session can help keep you on track.
But also remember that there is such a thing as too much pumping. Madden says, "Pumping too often, and/or for too long per session, can lead to a breast milk oversupply. Other problems associated with pumping too frequently include nipple pain and discomfort, and mothers not having time for other activities, including sleep." The horror.
Since pumping can help establish a good milk supply, you might assume that it's also the answer to your problems if you're having trouble producing milk. It kind of is — but it's also not that simple. "Mothers who are having trouble producing may benefit from increasing their number of pumping sessions per day," Madden says. "Some moms are able to boost their supplies via a method called 'power pumping.' One example of 'power pumping' is to dedicate one hour per day to pumping and follow a pattern like this: pump for 15 minutes, rest for 15 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, and then pump for 10 minutes." Still, she recommends that any woman struggling to produce breast milk should work with a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist as the best course of action.
If pumping at every feeding sounds like an exhausting and time consuming experience, that's because it kind of is! Pumping can feel really overwhelming, especially if you're using both of your hands to do it. Madden recommends trying hands-free pumping in order to make things feel a little easier. "There are an increasing number of dedicated hands-free pumps on the market, but it’s also possible to pump hands-free using a traditional pump with pumping bras and straps," she says. "One easy and cheap way to make a hands-free pumping bra is to cut nipple holes in an old sports bra."
So, yes, in the first few weeks of your baby's life, you will need to pump pretty often — but don't worry, it does get easier.
Dr. Jessica Madden, board-certified pediatrician and neonatologist, Medical Director at Aeroflow Breastpumps