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Breast milk has numerous advantages over formula. Even if many mothers are unable to nurse every time, parents are taking the extra effort to ensure that their babies get the requisite amounts of this elixir of life!

This article will help you achieve your goal of providing breast milk to your child despite your constraints. There are several practical tips to help you achieve your breast milk goals.

Pumping breast milk and bottle feeding your baby can be daunting and stressful if you do not know what to do or expect. Without mincing words, let me tell you that pumping breast milk requires effort way beyond exclusive breastfeeding.

The additional effort, time, and money are needed to pump out the milk, store, and sterilize the bottles and invest in the breast pump. Pumping breast milk is a commitment, but the long-term advantages far outrun the effort in the immediate period.

All-in-all, know the facts, be prepared, follow the correct procedure, and have the right attitudes to have a satisfying and fruitful breast pumping experience.

How to Successfully Combine Pumping with Breastfeeding

You may be nursing your baby, and you choose to give additional ‘top up’ breastfeed. In this case, you will require to pump out breast milk along with breastfeeding.

Always pump breast milk AFTER breastfeeding.

The ideal time to do this is 30 to 60 minutes after nursing your baby.  It ensures that your baby has received the feed as per his/her requirement. Also, by pumping after breastfeeding you are stimulating milk production and let down.

You should not expect to have copious flow from the moment you begin. Initially, it may just be a few ounces, but do not get frustrated or disheartened. In a few days, the flow will increase, and you will be able to pump out decent amounts of milk. Pump for at least 20 minutes at a time.

Milk production and flow are maximum in the morning, and your pumping schedule should be more concentrated during these hours.

What if I am exclusively breastfeeding – how can I schedule my pumping?

Breastfeeding follows the rule of demand and supply.

Increase the demand by either nursing or pumping. The supply is bound to increase if you stay well hydrated and on a healthily well-balanced diet.

Follow demand feeding for your baby. For a newborn, recommended feeding schedule is every 2 hours to prevent sugar levels from dropping. If your baby is sleeping, you may need to wake him/her up after 3 or 4 hours for the feed.

Start pumping after about a couple of weeks of delivery to allow your baby to settle down to his/her nursing schedule.

If your newborn baby follows the normal rhythm and sleeps at night, a good schedule would be as follows: –

6 am – breastfeed

7 am – pump

9 am – breastfeed

10 am – pump

12 noon – breastfeed

2 pm – breastfeed

3 pm – pump

5 pm – breastfeed

7 pm- breastfeed

9.30 to 10 pm – breastfeed

1 am – breastfeed

3.30 to 4 am – breastfeed

If your baby does not sleep at night and demands feeds more frequently, pump once at night too between 1 am and 6 am when the milk flows are the maximum.

Also, as your baby grows, the duration between feeds can be increased to 3 to 4 hours.

To sum up,

  • pump after breastfeeding,
  • morning is your time to increase milk production and flow by pumping,
  • follow demand feeds,
  • customize your schedule as per the requirements of your baby and take tips from the above schedule,
  • relax and have realistic goals,
  • stay hydrated and eat healthily.

Sample breastfeeding and pumping schedules

The schedule of pumping depends on the reason for breast milk pumping, which includes any of the following: –

  • You need to join back work after your maternity leave.
  • Your baby may be premature.
  • You may do it to increase the flow of breast milk.

Consider exclusive breast pumping, the schedule should follow demand feeding. So, pump out milk every 2 hours for at least 20 minutes. You will need to pump out milk at least once or twice at night at 2-3 hour gaps.

Consider the following schedule – 6 am, 8 am, 10 am, 12 noon, 2 pm, 4 pm, 6 pm, 8 pm, 10 pm, 2 am.

Once your baby reaches 3 to 4 months of age, he/she gets stronger at sucking and takes in larger feeds. You could consider the following schedule: – 6 am, 9 am, 12 noon, 3 pm, 6 pm, 10 pm, 2 pm.

Maximum milk production and flow occur between 1 am and 6 am, use it to your advantage by pumping out at least once during this period.

How to create your breastfeeding and pumping schedule to match your lifestyle?

No mom and no child are identical – so do not expect ‘textbook’ nursing.

The provided schedules for breast pumping are representative and not gospel. Use it as a reference to prepare a schedule that works for you and your baby. Also, as your baby grows, you will need to tweak the schedule as required.

Follow your instincts and be responsive to the changing needs of your baby. Do not compare notes with other mothers as all mother-baby units work differently. So long as your baby’s weight is increasing in a satisfactory manner and milestones are achieved in time, you have nothing to worry about.

Schedules provided are considering that your newborn follows the normal circadian rhythm, i.e., sleeps at night. However, suppose the rhythm of your baby is disturbed that could continue for the first three months.  You need to adjust to suit the needs of your baby while trying to normalize the rhythm. Also, increase the intervals between feeds/breast pumps as your baby grows.

Pumping and Breastfeeding to Build a Freezer Back-up Supply

You may need to create a freezer stock towards the end of your maternity leave. The schedule is similar to the combined nursing/pumping schedule.

You will need to pump about half an hour to one hour after demand breastfeeding. Do this 2 to 3 times a day and within a few days, it should suffice to start creating a decent stock.

Also, use it to your advantage that milk production and flow are maximum in the morning. So, pump a couple of times during the morning hours and once during the afternoon.

baby bottle

How long do I need to pump at each session?

You should pump milk for about 20 minutes with each session

Breastfeeding and Pumping Schedule for Working Moms

This sample schedule is meant to help you create your schedule once you go back to work.

Remember, when at home, nurse your child.

Pumping at work may not be as frequent as your nursing sessions when you were at home. But ensure that you pump out at least twice if you are working for about 8 hours.

This will ensure that the demand and supply cycle is maintained, and your breast does not suffer problems like breast abscess due to engorgement or blockages.

Consider the following sample schedule: –

6 am – nurse

8 am – nurse

12 noon – pump

4 pm – pump

6 pm – nurse

9 pm – nurse

12 midnight – nurse

3 am – nurse

As your baby grows, the nursing time and the night feeds will reduce. Also, as your baby is weaned, the requirement for breast milk decreases.

Don’t forget to schedule some time to clean your breast pumping equipment.

How often should I be pumping?

The answer to this depends on the reason why you want to pump. If you are exclusive pumping, your schedule should follow the demand cycle of your child i.e., every 2 hours initially and then every 3 to 4 hours as your baby grows.

If breast pumping is supplementary to nursing, like when you need to join back work or create a freezer stash, you need to pump 2 to 3 times a day about an hour after demand feeding your child.

At work, pump at least once every 4 hours. Remember to pump in the mornings as it more satisfying then. Pump if your breast starts to feel engorged.

Power pumping schedule

Power pumping is a technique done to increase milk production and let down.

You will require an hour or two to pump in short spurts with short breaks in between.

A sample schedule could include: –

20 minutes – Pump

10 minute – Rest

10 minute – Pump

10 minute – Rest

15 minute – Pump

10 minute – Rest

10 minute – Pump

10 minute – Rest

10 minute – Pump

This schedule is to be followed for about one to two hours every day for about a week to ensure maximum benefits.

Ensure that your breast pump is set at moderate speed and the flange fits properly. This will ensure effective pumping and not damage your nipple-areola by rigorous action.

How soon can I drop pumping and still maintain supply?

Breast milk production follows a demand and supply cycle. In the above paragraphs, you saw how we increase the supply by increasing demand.

The vice versa is also true. If you reduce the demand by reducing nursing or do not pump milk for long periods, the milk production will reduce over time.

On average, if you do not pump or nurse for 5 to 6 hours or longer consistently, the milk production will gradually drop over time. This allows you to restart pumping or nursing if you so decide.

To wean off pumping, either reduce the frequency or cut the duration of the pumping sessions. But continue to breastfeed your baby whenever you can; maybe before you leave for work, after returning from work, and at night if your baby demands.

Nursing 2 or 3 times a day will ensure that the milk supply is maintained as per the demand while you gradually wean off the breast pump.

That’s a lot of pumping. Check out all the breast pumping accessories you will need to keep up that schedule. 

Do I need to keep a log of my nursing/pumping sessions? If so, how?

Maintaining a nursing/pumping schedule is helpful under the following circumstances: –

  • If your child is premature and you need to monitor the intake
  • If there is unsatisfactory weight gain
  • If you have reduced milk production and need to increase
  • If you are pumping milk and need it for labeling for future use
  • For first-time mothers or mothers with a busy schedule.

The log maintained should include the following information: –

  • The right or left breast
  • Nursing or pumping
  • Duration
  • Quantity of milk pumped
  • Any supplemental feeds given

Best way to prepare for a pumping session

Your pumping routine can be a satisfying and fruitful experience with maximum milk production if you follow some of the tips mentioned below: –

  • It cannot be stressed enough that you should not stress! Stress is anti-milk! Relax, sit back, think positive, think of your baby, and let nature do its job.
  • Pump alternately on both breasts.
  • Pump on the opposite breast while nursing from one breast.
  • Use double electric breast pumps which work on both breasts at the same time.
  • Stay hydrated and well-nourished.
  • Keep the flange and pump clean.

Summary

Pumping breast milk ensures that your baby gets your customized breast milk while you still have the freedom to pursue your commitments.

The key is to understand your individualistic needs and fall into a schedule that suits your needs the best. Be intuitive and responsive to the changing needs as your baby grows.

Stay positive, avoid stress, and have realistic expectations. Remember, there is no one you need to measure up to. As long as your baby’s growth and development are satisfactory, you are doing it right.

If you feel frustrated or cannot fall into a schedule, join a support group or meet a lactation specialist to help you correct the wrong. It is worth investing in a comfortable electric pump which will reduce time and effort.

In short, breast milk administered in the form of nursing or extracted milk has numerous advantages over formula feed. With the correct information and a little effort, you can plan your breastfeeding and pumping schedule to make it a positive experience.

Want to learn even more about breast pumping? Read our article about breast pumping to induce labor

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Dr Kavita Ramanathan

Dr Kavita Ramanathan is a practising pathologist with over 12 years of clinical experience. Having completed her MBBS and MD in Pathology from the University of Mumbai, she went on to work for several institutions in India. As a medical writer, she writes to give practical tips to the non-technical audience.

As a mother to a young girl, motherhood is a topic that is close to her heart. Her own experience in raising her daughter while balancing her residency and medical career has taught her many practical aspects of successful child-rearing. Her knowledge of medicine and skill as a writer appeals to a broad spectrum of parents and mothers.