How often should I pump breast milk for an occasional night out? If I want a breast milk stash? How much should I pump if I want to return to work or will be exclusively pumping? How much depends on you, your baby and why you are pumping.
Feeding a baby seems like the most natural thing in the world, but there are so many technicalities that make it seem far more complicated. Determining how often to pump is one of those complications that get many new moms frustrated, but these tips will help to give you the information that you need to create the best pumping schedule for your needs because it all comes down to your lifestyle and your reasons for pumping in the first place.
Pumping to Supplement Breastfeeding
Pumping and storing your breast milk is a great way to allow your spouse and other loved ones to participate in feeding your baby without giving up the natural goodness found in breast milk. You may also choose to supplement with pumped breast milk if you aren’t always around to personally feed your baby and want to ensure that your supply of breast milk doesn’t diminish due to limited demand.
The easiest approach is to include pumping in your overall feeding schedule. You may pump extra milk within an hour of a breastfeeding session, saving the milk for later use. Once your baby starts sleeping through the night, you may also pump extra milk while they’re sleeping.
How often you do this depends on how often you’re supplementing with the bottle. The more bottles you feed each week, the more you need to pump. (Keep reading to learn about building a milk stash that can make it easier to handle emergency situations, vacations, and work days.)
Related Article > How to Pump More Breast Milk in Less Time
Exclusive Pumping Routine Pumping for 100% Bottle-Fed Babies
If you choose not to breastfeed but want your baby to enjoy the benefits of breast milk like this exclusive pumping mom, pumping and serving with a bottle is an option. This may also be your only option if your baby struggles to latch onto your nipple or if you experience problems with your nipples that make it too painful or difficult to breastfeed. (More about Exclusive Pumping here.)
If your pumped milk is your baby’s only food source, expect to pump up to 10 times per day. Depending on the age, babies can drink about 32 ounces of expressed milk per day. (Note: ALL babies are different and eat differing amounts so always plan to have MORE than you think you need! The schedule in the illustration is based on averages.) You want to pump before your baby gets fussy to avoid the frantic pumping as they scream for nourishment. You can always put the milk in the fridge (or freezer) until you’re ready to warm it up, so you don’t necessarily have to coordinate your pump schedule to your little one’s feeding schedule.
Your baby’s natural patterns, intake requirements and your breasts will help you determine how often and at what times you should pump each day. When you notice that your breasts feel full and heavy, it’s time to pump regardless of what your baby is doing. (For more exclusive pumping tips from an experienced mom, click here.)
How Often Should I Pump Breast Milk To Create a Breast Milk Stash?
A milk stash is simply a consistent supply of milk kept in the freezer. You build up this supply by pumping extra milk into a container after breastfeeding your baby. You may also choose to supplement with formula a few bottles each week, pumping the milk that your baby would normally consume during those feeding sessions into a container.
Milk is often stored in freezer bags (these are our favorite!) but there are other freezer-safe containers that you might consider. You can store milk in the refrigerator for short periods of time, especially if you intend to use the milk the same or next day.
The more milk you pump, the more milk your body should produce to meet increased demand. This means that pumping a little extra after each feeding shouldn’t harm the milk available for your baby at the next feeding. Many women find that they have more milk flow in the mornings, but late-night pump sessions may work if your baby is sleeping through the night.
There’s one rule to follow here: don’t pump extra milk one hour before your baby may need to breastfeed. Your baby may sometimes want to feed at unexpected times, so try to leave a two-hour window if you can. Some women also find that feeding 30 minutes after their baby feeds works out well. They have adequate supply for a good pump session, and there’s time to rebuild that supply before the baby is ready to eat again.
A consistent breast milk stash is essential if you want to spend some time away from your baby. Your little one can remain on their consistent feeding schedule while you head out for some alone time, take your significant other on a date, or simply enjoy a long nap and bubble bath while someone else watches the baby.
What about business trips and long work days? A breast milk stash will get you through it.
Related Article:> How to Build a Breast Milk Stash (and Why You Want One.)
Pumping Routines for Working Mothers
If you’re one of the lucky ones who receive maternity leave, you may want to build a milk stash before you return to work. This will give you some reserve milk to keep your baby eating happily even if you don’t always have time to stop working and pump at routine times during the day. There will be times when your work schedule interrupts your pumping schedule, and you don’t want to be stressed out over your milk supply when that occurs.
It is best to stick to a pumping routine as much as possible. This should signal to your body that the milk is still in high demand so that your flow doesn’t start to decrease. Pick times that fit into your work schedule as seamlessly as possible, but prepare for impromptu pumping sessions as needed. When you start to feel heavy or engorged, you will need to take a break and pump.
In general, you can expect to pump about every three hours that you’re away from your baby. This isn’t an exact science, so it depends on how quickly your breasts fill up. For instance, one woman may pump one time in the middle of an eight-hour shift while another women needs more frequent pump breaks to feel comfortable and avoid leaks.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
It may seem like there are no small issues when it comes to your baby, but you need to approach your feeding and pumping schedule with a sense of humor. Things are going to go wrong at times. Distractions are going to keep you from pumping at planned times. The baby is going to demand nourishment at inconvenient moments. He or she may even scream for food only to fall asleep the moment a nipple slips into his or her mouth.
If you expect that these inconveniences are going to happen, you can approach them without frustration. While it’s a good idea to stick to a pumping schedule, make it a loose schedule and don’t get too paranoid when distractions occur. Simply stick to the schedule as much as possible, trusting that you and your baby will sync into a happy rhythm eventually.
Articles Related to How Often Should I Pump Breast Milk?
- Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk: Why, How and Tips for Success
- Working Mothers CAN Breastfeed
- Expressing Breast Milk: Top Tips for Breastfeeding Moms