How often should I pump? It should be a simple question, but it all seems so complicated. Should I pump every two hours? Every three? Why does everyone else just seem to know how to do this?
Don’t worry, mama. You’re not alone. So much of mamahood is figuring it out as we go along. Here is our guide to your personal pumping schedule.
How long should I pump and how often?
The first thing to know is that every body is different, every lifestyle is different, and every work situation is different. You may need a hybrid feed-pump schedule or an exclusive pumping schedule. No one way is right or wrong. You find a flow that fits your specific set of variables.
Having said that, yes, we can help with the basics.
Let’s kick off with some context:
There are two hormones that are directly involved with breastfeeding: oxytocin (the so-called love hormone) and prolactin. When milk is expressed, these hormones get to work, signaling to your body that it can make and release milk to feed your baby.
So basically, pumping and feeding are not just about getting the milk out—they’re also about telling your body how much milk to make.
Pumping will help you:
Increase milk supply. Essentially the more your body expels milk, the more it wants to make. You demand and your body will supply.
Stave off milk build-up that can lead to painful complications like mastitis. (It might work for you to pump after you feed to make sure it’s all out.)
Navigate latch issues. (If you’re struggling, mama, reach out to your healthcare provider or other moms. Check out this support group on Peanut. You don’t have to navigate the breastfeeding journey alone.)
Do things on your own terms. Quite simply, the pump works for any situation when you need to feed your baby from the bottle rather than the breast. For whatever reason.
How many times a day should I pump?
If you’re exclusively pumping and wondering how many times should Ι pump?, think between eight and 10 times a day. That’s about as often as you would be breastfeeding if you were doing that exclusively.
If you’re combo feeding, aim for eight to 10 total sessions of pumping and/or breastfeeding.
When to start pumping
It’s a good idea to wait until your baby is about six weeks old before you start the pumping journey. That gives you some time to kick off the breastfeeding journey in those early days.
Having said that, there are many reasons why starting earlier might be beneficial to you. If your baby has a low birthweight, is having trouble getting milk from your breast, is jaundiced, or you’ve had to be separated for whatever reason, you might want/need to start pumping earlier.
(Again: no two feeding journeys are alike. There’s no one way to do this.)
How long should I pump on each side?
As a rough ballpark, think about pumping for 15 minutes on each side per session.
Try, if possible, to fully empty the breasts as this helps to prevent milk build-up and increase supply. Be patient with yourself. (Yup, even with that Inbox pinging and that To-Do list piling up. You’re allowed to just sit with this until it’s done.)
Another fun trick: the double pump. That’s when you pump on both sides at once if you have the option to do this.
How often should I pump at work?
Think every three to four hours for 15-minute sessions. And know that you have a right to do so in a comfortable, private space.
How often should I pump to increase milk supply?
The standard eight to 10 pumping/feeding sessions should get your milk supply at a good level. There are some instances where extra pumping sessions can work to increase milk supply, but it can be exhausting and isn’t guaranteed to work. It’s better to get the most out of your eight to 10 sessions by making sure you’re using an efficient pump and the right size pumping parts for your breasts.
So, in a nutshell:
Feed or pump 15 minutes per side about eight to 10 times a day.
Let’s get that milk flowing, mama!