BabyFeedingPumping and Breastfeeding Schedule: A Complete Guide

Pumping and Breastfeeding Schedule: A Complete Guide

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Have you just begun breastfeeding and breast pumping sessions and are trying to figure out the best schedule? Here’s our guide to help you get started. According to Carol Huotari, Breast Feeding Information Center’s director, the most challenging task is identifying when to feed your baby. The second trickiest task is figuring out how and when to pump breast milk.

This is where we can help you. We will provide you with a complete guide on breastfeeding and how to develop a breastfeeding schedule and pumping sessions. But before that, here are some things you should know about pumping and breastfeeding.

Things to Know About Pumping And Breastfeeding

Before moving on to the details of pumping and breastfeeding, take a look at our quick guide to breastfeeding basics and familiarize yourself with some basics about milk production and breast milk supply. The following is a guide about key elements of breast pumping.

Even though you can start pumping breast milk immediately or after one to two weeks, it’s not normally recommended to start pumping before three weeks postpartum. The nurses and lactation specialists will explain that this is normally to help establish a regular routine that’s defined by your baby’s needs. However, if you want to start building up a store of milk in the freezer, unless advised against it, you can normally start pumping and storing milk immediately.

As always, talk to your lactation specialist, registered nurse or doctor if you are concerned or want advice.

If you are planning on exclusively pumping, start within one to six hours of delivery. It’s recommended to use hand expression after the first two hours of delivery to ease the pumping process until milk begins to flow easily. After this, you could begin breast pumping.

Schedule of Exclusively Pumping Sessions

For exclusively pumping, as explained above, consider starting to pump within one to six hours after delivery. Massage your breast first until milk begins. After this, you should schedule a pumping session every two to three hours, but always check with your nurse or lactation specialist.

When Is The Best Time For Pumping?

The best time for breast pumping is the morning as mothers produce more milk in the morning. This is because the milk-making hormone, Prolactin, stimulates your body during night time. As a result, milk flow is greater, making milk production better.

Pump breast milk 30 to 60 minutes after nursing the baby to get a good amount of breast milk supply. This period will produce a bigger milk supply, providing enough milk for storing and feeding. Read this article if you’re concerned about a sudden drop in milk production or looking at ways to increase production.

How Often To Pump?

You should pump eight to twelve times per day if you choose exclusive pumping. Pumping more than this range can endanger a mother’s health. Spending 15-20 minutes per pumping session is enough. On average, a mother can produce 0.5-4 ounces in 15-20 minutes. 

Pumping schedules also vary for every mother and baby. For this reason, you must keep track of your infant’s needs to schedule nursing sessions. 

Pumping Schedule for Working Moms

Working with a newborn entirely dependent on you is not always easy. If you intend to breastfeed, you’ll need to manage your work life alongside a newborn without going for a breast pump. Even if you are going for nursing exclusively, you might find that it’s hard to get through this phase without building a milk stash.

On average, mothers must pump milk after every two to three hours. This routine will maintain milk production. Going without pumping for too long can decrease the milk supply as the engorged breasts can start to trigger your body to produce less milk.

Consider dividing up your day into three parts if you find it hard to pump so frequently during work hours. Schedule three pump breaks within eight hours and try and stick to this schedule and do not shift your pumping sessions. Continuous changes in the pumping schedule might adversely affect the milk supply. Take a look at our article on combination feeding as another option to consider.

Pumping Schedule During Nursing

It’s normally sensible to setup a pumping routine to help nursing and to schedule the pumping according to the nursing. For example, you could start pumping after one hour or 30 minutes of feeding your baby, which still leaves plenty of milk for your infant’s nursing session as well as building up a store.

Pumping And Breastfeeding Schedule For Building A Store of Milk

If you plan on building up a freezer stash to avoid milk wastage and give you a ready supply, there are a couple of different techniques depending on your own diary and if you have work commitments. Let’s start with building up a freezer stash if you are exclusively pumping. (Also worth reading our guide to warming breast milk out of storage.)

Exclusive pumping already includes extra pumping sessions, so you need to store the extra milk produced. If you are unsure about how much to keep, just follow your baby’s needs and see how much you can store.

Building Up A Freezer Store for Working Mothers

If you have work commitments or need to regularly travel away from home, you’ll need a plan. Most mothers build a milk stash before heading out for work. However, this can cause fatigue in the mother’s body and create health issues. We advise working mothers to build a milk stash for three to five days when they are in a comfortable situation and place. 

The reserve would generally be 36-80 ounces. However, if you think that 36-80 oz (a milk stash for two to three days ) would not last for these many days, you can try increasing the milk supply by pumping more milk. Conduct pumping sessions every one to two days to build a milk stash for the upcoming days.

Building Freezer Stash During Nursing

If instead of exclusively pumping, you prefer nursing, then things can get more challenging while working outside the house. A breast pump can save you precious time and effort in such a situation. Saving 15-30 ounces is sufficient for a start. This amount is perfect for part-time breast milk pumpers.

building up a breast milk stash

Tips for Building a Breast Milk Freezer Stash

Building a freezer stash is a process that takes multiple weeks. It is challenging to pump enough milk to breastfeed and store it simultaneously. Many mothers find it hard to build a freezer stash during the first three months after the birth of their child. However, the following tips may help you.

Note Your Baby’s Needs

Before building a milk stash, you’ll need to work out your baby’s own feeding requirements and needs. Building a freezer stash without knowing how often and when your baby gets hungry will cause problems. In such a case, the milk can get spoiled or go to waste.

A baby normally requires two to four ounces of milk per feeding normally. On average, a newborn breastfeeds 8 to 12 times per day, and a one to two-month-old baby breastfeeds 7 to 9 times in 24 hours. According to this, you must pump 24 to 25 ounces each day to fulfil your baby’s needs. You should save five to six ounces from this amount to create a milk stash of 36 to 80 ounces.

You can go for a lactation consultant in case you are having trouble producing more milk. The lactation consultant can help you with your milk production problems.

Create A Timeline

You can manage milk production and also build a milk stash with the help of an organized and scheduled timeline of the baby’s feeding schedule. Your body will change milk production as per the daily feeding needs of the baby. Hence, creating a schedule will help you regulate your body’s milk supply because your body will adapt to the pattern. 

If you are exclusively pumping, then consider a schedule where you pump every two to three hours for 15 to 20 minutes, daily. Similarly, if you are nursing at home, take note and pump according to the baby’s needs.

Working moms especially need a proper schedule for breast pumping. Long pumping sessions will not do you any good or help you produce more milk. Pumping continuously for a prolonged time can lead to breast damage.

How To Store Your Milk Supply

Breast milk storage bags are the perfect choice for building a freezer stash milk supply. Add a quantity label on each bag. Place the bags safely in the freezer in a stable container. Avoid keeping the bags in the freezer door as there is a high chance of spilling. Make sure you use the store in reverse order (that is, the oldest bags first) so the milk does not go bad over the days.

Choosing a Breast Pump

Breast pumps operate on the natural suckling pattern of a newborn baby. The pumps are designed to extract milk from nipples in the most natural way.

Before purchasing any breast pump, you should know which breast-pumping accessory is most suitable for you. The market offers a variety of pumps. However, choosing the one that suits you and your routine will require a little homework.

We’ve written handy guides to:

10 Best breast pumps

6 Best portable breast pumps

Best hands-free breast pumps

6 Best rechargeable battery-operated breast pumps

Here’s a quick guide to the most common types of milk pumps with pros and cons to help you find one suitable for your needs.

Electric Breast Pump

Electric breast pumps are the most commonly used pumps. Mothers have been using this pumping tool for decades. The benefit of an electric breast pump is that it is quick and easy to use. Specially designed for daily pumping, this tool will save you a lot of time.

If you have more than one baby to feed, opt for the electric double pump to help produce more milk. This tool will help you in double pumping, which means expressing milk from both nipples simultaneously in one pumping session.

Closed System Pump

Another type of breast pump is a closed-system pump. It comes with a milk barrier. The milk barrier will prevent the milk from leaking into the milk ducts. This pump is designed in such a way that it collects the overflowing milk.

On the other hand, the open system pump does not provide these functionalities. Hence, there can be unnecessary hassle and trouble with open system pumps.

Wearable or Hands Free Breast Pump

A wearable or hands free breast pump might just transform your life! These pumps are pretty easy to use and let you get on with other jobs (or even take a nap) as you pump. In addition to this, these pumps are noise-free and portable. Take a look at our guide to some of the best hands free breast pumps.

Manual Breast Pump

The simplest breast pump is the manual one. No technology or difficult-to-handle breast pump parts are involved. You can express milk easily by hand using the manual pump.

However, if you prefer exclusive pumping, the manual breast pump can be tiresome. You need to pump the tool in continuous motion. In such a case, we recommend going for a non-manual breast pump.

Expressing Milk With a Manual Breast Pump

As mentioned above, manual breast pumps require constant pumping using your hand. It is simple but time-consuming and tiring. We are here to help you understand how a manual breast pump works. Here are a few things you should know before you begin with a manual breast pump.

  • Before the pumping session, wash your hands thoroughly to avoid germs from getting into the milk. Do a little breast massage 5-10 minutes before pumping.
  • Thoroughly clean all the breast pump parts and the bottle or container you are pumping into. Relax. If you are using a new breast pump, sterilize it first.
  • Prepare your breast with a warm compress to make your body ready for the process. Now center the breast shields on your nipples and start breast pumping gently. Be patient. In a few minutes, your milk will start flowing.
  • Continue pumping until you feel there is no more milk left in your breasts. Remove the breast shield and carefully store the milk bottle in the refrigerator.
  • Thoroughly wash all pump parts of the machine.

Expressing Milk With An Electric Breast Pump

The efficiency of electric breast pumps is greater than that of manual ones. The pumping sessions take less time. The following is everything you need to know about expressing milk with an electric breast pump.

  • The initial steps are the same. Start by washing your hands, then the milk bottle and the breast pump parts. Carry out a little breast massage, and get comfortable and relaxed.
  • Place the breast shield on your nipple and turn on the machine. Set the pump at the lowest speed in the beginning. It will help you get comfortable with the pumping machine and nipple shield.
  • Once your breast milk starts flowing from the nipples, you can increase the speed. After 15-20 minutes, remove it, cover the milk bottle and refrigerate it for later use.
  • Thoroughly wash all pump parts of the machine.

Frequently Asked Questions About Breastfeeding And Pumping Schedules

Q: How often should you pump when you first start breastfeeding?

Newborns need to feed 8 to 12 times per day. A baby consumes two to four ounces of milk every session on average. Keeping this need in view, you should pump every two to three hours. However, you should pump only one to two times during the night because that will be enough. 

The breastfeeding schedule also depends on the baby’s age. A one to two-month-old baby needs feeding 7 to 9 times per 24 hours. You must time the pumping sessions according to your baby’s age.

Q: What is a good pumping and breastfeeding schedule?

During the initial few weeks, a baby consumes breast milk 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. You must pump 25-30 ounces of milk to fulfill your baby’s needs. Hence, it is best to pump every two to three hours during the day in the first few weeks of giving birth to maintain milk supply. Pumping for 15 to 20 minutes is enough.

If you are pumping during nursing, it is best to do it 30 to 60 minutes after nursing. Avoid pumping for too long. A long pumping session can damage breast tissue and decrease milk flow.

You should also know how much and how often your baby needs milk in a day. If your baby gets hungry after two hours, pumping every two to three hours is sufficient.

Q: Should I pump every time I breastfeed?

Yes, especially in the case of exclusive pumping. Usually, a newborn breastfeeds 8-12 times in 24 hours. To fulfill your baby’s needs, you should pump as much as your baby requires.

However, pumping breast milk after every few hours can be impossible while working outside the house. Building a milk stash can be an easy option for working mothers. We recommend building up a freezer stash of 36 to 80 ounces for two to three days. It will help to ensure your baby is fed on time even when you are not home.

Q: How many minutes should you breast pump a day?

The most straightforward answer to this question is the 120 minutes rule. On average, a mother should spend at least 120 minutes pumping daily. This healthy time will not affect the breasts adversely while maintaining pumping output.

You can evenly divide these 120 minutes per session. If you are pumping 8 to 10 times daily, spending 15 to 20 minutes per session is enough.

Spending more time pumping can negatively affect your breasts. It can cause breast inflammation, itching, an infection called Mastitis, and breast engorgement.

Summing Up

Managing both breastfeeding and a pumping session can be tricky at the start. You might experience pain and irritation initially. However, once you get used to your baby’s needs and this new milk removal process, things get easy!

If you are still deciding what pumping accessory to use, we have provided an ultimate guide to help you out. You can find different types of milk pumps, including manual and electric ones. You can avoid unnecessary hassle by using an electric milk pump (a manual pump require a fair amount of effort!).

This guide to setting up a schedule for your breastfeeding and pumping helps you understand when, how often, how to store, and how to setup a pumping schedule depending on your own diary and work commitments.

Written by

Anna Thornhill
Anna Thornhill
Anna is one of our expert writers and, as a mom of two lovely kids (a daughter and son), she has plenty of practical experience to draw on when writing guides and reviews. Anna writes about techniques she's used both during pregnancy and as a new mother, such as combination feeding, and guides to products that have made feeding and care of her kids a little easier.


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