Feeling confused by pumping and breastfeeding schedules?
You’re not alone, mama.
Having a new baby comes with many steep learning curves and adjustments.
And if you’re mixing breastfeeding and pumping, it can be hard to know where to even start.
So, from how often to pump while breastfeeding to how to alternate between the two—we’ve got you.
Here’s what you need to know about creating a pumping and breastfeeding schedule that works for you and your little one.
In this article: 📝
- How often should I pump while breastfeeding?
- What is the best routine for breastfeeding and pumping?
- How long should I wait to breastfeed after pumping?
- How do you alternate between pumping and breastfeeding?
- Sample pumping and breastfeeding schedules
- Should you pump after every time you breastfeed?
How often should I pump while breastfeeding?
This mainly depends on your existing feeding schedule.
As a rule of thumb, whether you’re pumping or breastfeeding (or both), you should think about getting milk out between 8 and 10 times a day.
Basically, it’s all about supply and demand.
And if you keep your schedule even (and rather packed), you’re less likely to end up with under or over-supply issues.
How many times should I pump a day?
The number of times you should pump while breastfeeding also depends on your reasons for pumping.
- If you’ve previously exclusively breastfed and are building up pumping gradually, think about starting just twice a day to get into a new routine.
- If you’re pumping because you’re going to be away from your baby for extended periods (say, returning to work), then pumping every few hours will keep things going.
- If you’re weaning or dealing with an oversupply of milk (which can lead to engorgement or conditions like mastitis), think about pumping after each breastfeeding session.
Do you still get benefits from pumping?
Both pumping and nursing carry big benefits for your baby.
Breast milk boasts all the nutrition your baby needs in their first six months, and pumping comes pretty close to ticking all the boxes.
Plus, a whole different set of perks, such as more control over feeding times, the ability to split feeding duties (no more late feeds for one), and a break for mom when she needs space to breathe.
And pumping still gives your baby a natural dose of healthy fats and antibodies, but where it comes up short is the feedback loop.
Simply put, breastfeeding baby allows their saliva to transfer chemicals to your body, encouraging your breast milk to adapt to their needs.
And it’s totally natural for your breast milk to change as your baby matures, from deep yellow colostrum to mature breast milk that comes packed with the right blend of fat, sugar, protein, and water.
While pumping doesn’t allow so much for ‘customized’ breast milk, it does prevent the build-up of a substance called feedback inhibitor of lactation—too much of which can slow down milk production.
Pumping can help empty milk from the breast (especially if baby cannot suckle) and ensure your producing enough for baby’s needs.
What is the best routine for breastfeeding and pumping?
Seriously, there’s absolutely no right and wrong here.
And there are no rules that are set in stone.
In general, it’s best to feed your baby first and pump second—this ensures they’re always getting the nutrition they need.
You can then pump any excess milk afterward.
Milk removal (of whatever form) should happen roughly every 2 to 3 hours.
This prevents potential clogs from fatty milk and keeps the ducts and nipples flushed from things like yeast and bacteria that cause thrush and mastitis.
If you’re creating a pumping and breastfeeding schedule for newborns, always take time to reevaluate how your plan is working for you.
Newborns can easily nurse up to 12 times a day (basically round the clock!), which might feel like there isn’t much left for pumping at all.
Start pumping gradually, and work on building this up as needed.
While the number and timings of pumping sessions will depend on your lifestyle and baby’s feeding, pumping sessions should follow (somewhat) along with your regular feeding times and lengths.
Each feed/pump in the early days is usually around 15 to 20 minutes, but can be anywhere from 5 to 40 minutes!
How long should I wait to breastfeed after pumping?
It’s best to wait at least 30 minutes (preferably an hour) after pumping to allow your milk supplies to build up.
Breastfeeding can then continue as usual, ensuring plenty of milk for your baby.
But, if your baby wants to breastfeed right after pumping (and, as any mama knows, this can be the case)—this is absolutely fine too.
When should I start pumping?
If you’re building up your milk supply, try pumping early in the morning.
Lots of mamas get the most milk first thing in the day, as feeding might be less frequent during the night.
It’s also common to struggle to pump after every feed.
Of course, this can make creating a schedule tricky.
In this case, pumping in the morning will also help.
It might just be a slight difference, but the volume of milk may increase over time.
How do you alternate between pumping and breastfeeding?
If you’ve already got a breastfeeding schedule in the bag, introducing pumping into the mix can feel like a big deal.
But it’s all about small steps here, mama.
For how to combine breastfeeding and pumping schedules, let your baby (and your own needs) set the pace.
What does this mean?
It’s all about allowing babies to feed on their schedule, even as you introduce pumping sessions.
In the early days, this will probably amount to feeding every two to three hours, with one feed at night.
Start by pumping after breastfeeding, slowly building this up.
If you’re going to be away from your baby and need to build up a stash, begin pumping for one or two sessions a day at least two weeks before you’ll need it.
This means you won’t have to suddenly alternate between exclusive breastfeeding and exclusive pumping—which can feel uncomfortable, especially if you’re new to pumping.
Sample pumping and breastfeeding schedules
With all this in mind, let’s explore what a pumping and breastfeeding schedule could look like.
Again, this will depend on your reasons for pumping and your existing breastfeeding schedule.
For many of these pumping and breastfeeding schedules, it can help to have a wireless, portable breast pump, so you can pump on the go.
We love the Lola&Lykke Smart Electric Breast Pump for a quiet, comfortable pumping session.
But here are a few possible scenarios:
Back to work pumping and breastfeeding schedule
Most mamas tend to use their morning and afternoon break times to express breast milk.
And you don’t have to wait until your breasts are full either to pump.
Ideally, aim to pump as much as you have been breastfeeding at home or for every feed your baby typically has.
A typical day of breastfeeding and pumping for a working mom could look like:
- 6:00 am: Wake and pump
- 6:45 am: Breastfeed baby
- 9:00 am: Pump soon after arriving at work
- 12:00 pm: Lunch and pump
- 3:00 pm: Afternoon pump
- 5:00 pm: Breastfeeding once back with baby
Newborn pumping and breastfeeding schedule
If you’ve got a healthy newborn ready and able to breastfeed (and you are, too), it’s ok to wait a few weeks beforehand expressing.
If breastfeeding exclusively is just not on the cards early on, you can start pumping between one to six hours after delivery.
From here, your schedule might look like:
- 6:00 am: Wake and breastfeed
- 7:00 am: Pump
- 9:00 am: Breastfeed
- 12:00 pm: Lunchtime breastfeed
- 1:00 pm: Pump
- 3:00 pm: Breastfeed
- 6:00 pm: Evening breastfeeds as needed
- 10:00 pm: Nighttime pump
Pumping and breastfeeding schedule for building supply
So, how often should you pump when building supply?
Take full advantage of the morning time when your breasts are at their fullest.
And if you’re worried about not having enough breast milk to feed your baby and build a stash, don’t.
After roughly three days of regularly pumping between feeds, your supply will increase—remember, it’s all about demand:
- 6:00 am: Wake and pump
- 6:45 am: Breastfeed
- 9:00 am: Breastfeed
- 11:00 am: Pump
- 1:00 pm: Lunchtime breastfeed
- 3:00 pm: Breastfeed
- 4:00 pm: Pump (if possible)
- 6:00pm: Evening breastfeed or pump (as needed)
- 10:00pm: Nighttime pump
Should you pump after every time you breastfeed?
You don’t have to if you don’t want to.
But if you’re pumping and breastfeeding, it’s generally recommended to prioritize feeding baby over pumping.
So pumping after feeds is recommended.
But you don’t have to do it after every feed if you don’t want to.
How often should I pump while breastfeeding to increase milk supply?
If you’ve noticed your milk supply dropping, power pumping, and increasing how often you both nurse and pump could be just the thing.
It’s recommended to pump or nurse 8-12 times a day if you’re struggling with low milk supply.
But every breastfeeding journey is different, so it can be worth talking it over with your doctor or a lactation consultant for something more personalized.
Can you pump too much while breastfeeding?
Yes, it is possible to pump too much—while your combination breastfeeding-pumping and while you’re exclusively pumping.
But “too much” will look different to each mama.
If you do experience breast engorgement, clogged milk ducts, or mastitis, those could be signs you’re overdoing it with the pumping.
Remember, these examples are only meant to be one way a pumping and breastfeeding schedule might work.
Every single mama and baby combo has unique needs and tendencies, so it’s all about finding a rhythm and routine that works for you.
Don’t be scared to change and adapt as you go.
However you decide to work it, you’ve got this, mama.
And if you need support along the way, your Peanut community is here for you.