If you’re exclusively pumping meaning that you don’t nurse your baby, you only use a breast pump to express your milk then it’s important to know how often you should be pumping. In the beginning when you are establishing your milk supply you should pump 8 to 12 times a day. Some lactation specialists recommend 8 to 10 rather than 12.
Gasp…12 times a day. I know that seems like a lot but in the beginning you really want to establish a good supply so pumping often is key. Now you will probably hear that you should set a clock for every 3 hours to breastfeed. That’s a great idea but it doesn’t work that way for everyone. 3 hours can turn into 4 easily and you’ll find yourself stressing out because you missed your pumping time. What the La Leche League International recommends is setting goals throughout the day and having a plan for pumping.
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When I first started exclusively pumping I had a pretty set schedule that paralleled my daughter’s feeding schedule at the hospital. It was a 2-5-8-11 schedule. Basically she ate at 2am, 5am, 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, 8pm and 11pm. So the nurse recommended I follow a similar schedule that guaranteed I got in 8 pumping sessions a day.
A few tips for making sure you are pumping enough throughout the day:
- “Aim for 10, work for 8, never go under 6” –The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (TWAOB)
- “Place 8 or 10 pieces of candy near your pump and each time you pump eat a piece. By the end of the day they should be gone.”-TWAOB
- Find a series on Netflix to watch and each time you pump watch an episode. This helps keep you entertained and for me personally it kept me from falling asleep at 2am.
- Use a breastfeeding app to keep track of how often and how long you pump.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you missed a pumping session. Pump as soon as you remember.
- In the beginning don’t sleep through the night, get up and pump. One of my nurses told me not to go longer than 4 hours without pumping when you’re trying to establish your supply.
- “Adding a short nursing session is helpful, if you’re having trouble pumping often.” –KellyMom
Once your baby is a few months old you may find that you can get by with pumping just 6 times a day and manage to maintain your supply.