How Often Should You Pump While Breastfeeding?


Breastfeeding has many benefits, but sometimes it’s hard work. One question that always seems to come up is “how often should I pump?” The answer isn’t as simple as one might think – it depends on many factors like what kind of job you have or whether or not your baby feeds frequently throughout the day. But there are some general guidelines which we’ll cover in this article.

My goal with this article is to provide some basic guidelines for how often mothers should pump while breastfeeding so that they don’t overdo it and end up hurting their milk supply! I hope these tips help make life easier for all those moms out there who are trying to balance their busy lives.

How do I start combination feeding my baby? (breast and bottle feeding)

Start to begin pumping for 10 minutes after each direct feeding session. This will tell your body to produce more milk, and you’ll begin to build a ‘stash’ of expressed milk. Use this surplus to introduce your baby to a bottle suitable for combination feeding before a breastfeed, making sure you’ve stored it correctly in the meantime.

When selecting a breast pump, consider both a manual and electric pump as well as practicing hand expression. Every woman’s body is different and will respond differently to different breast pumps and methods. Many moms will rent a double electric pump while they’re experimenting since they tend to be the most common one available through health insurance, and often enable moms to go hands-free during a pumping session.

Your increasing milk supply will mean you work your way up to having enough milk to replace an entire breastfeed, and hopefully, your baby is now used to a bottle too. Consider trying a few different bottles and read up on storing breast milk safely.

Build your way up to having a breast milk supply that meets the needs of your baby – how much you’ll need will depend on what your goals are. Read on!

How much milk should I pump if I’m also breastfeeding?

The amount of milk that your body will produce will depend on your baby’s age and weight. (Some babies need more than others.) Generally speaking, you’ll want to pump as frequently as your baby is feeding, so that you’re able to match your baby’s hunger and fullness cues.

While all babies are different, you can get a good guide for baby’s needs from formula feed charts. Often, babies feed with formula drink less milk than breast milk fed babies, so aim to have more in your ‘stash’ than is needed in the next few days.

I want to give dad/grandparents a chance to feed baby, but I will still be the primary source of baby’s needs

If you are combination feeding, but are only looking to have a little extra breast milk so that dad/grandparents can feed baby, or so you can have a night out, aim to pump after feeding your baby. This way you can be sure your baby gets what they need from you directly in priority.

I am going back to work and will need to have a supply for more than one complete feed a day

This was the position I was in for both of my boys from around 4 months old. If you’re heading back to work, at this point I would suggest speaking with a certified lactation consultant if you can. (There are online options too if you can’t get to speak with someone in person.) Try to do this well ahead of time so that you can make a plan and get the resources you need to make it happen.

Instead of pumping a little after each of your nursing sessions, you’ll want to look at how to power pump. Now will be the time to set up a pumping schedule to maintain production and meet your baby’s demand. Make sure to drink plenty of water – as your breast milk production increases, the demands on your body increase too.

In the end, many moms end up moving from breastfeeding and pumping to exclusively pumping, as was also the case for me. I was lucky in that I used bottles designed for combination feeding, so when my boys needed extra soothing or when I needed a boost to my supply, I could latch them and give my body the signal that it needed to make more milk.

Is it OK to pump once a day while breastfeeding?

If you’re looking to replace an entire feed a day (or more) for your baby, but you are still breastfeeding all of baby’s feeds currently, pumping once a day may not be enough to meet this goal. Ideally your pumping sessions are immediately after, and supplementary to nursing sessions.

This is not the case if you’ve been advised by a lactation consultant to pump breast milk once per day to relieve pressure, or slightly increase your supply. It might also be that you’re trying to relieve issues that are making breastfeeding painful. Take their advice on this one.

How often should I pump to increase my breast milk supply?

The number of times you should pump per day depends on what your goals are. You should pump when:

  • Your breasts are full and your baby doesn’t seem hungry.
  • You’re going back to work and need to have a supply for more than one complete feed a day.
  • You’re combination feeding and want to have a little extra breast milk so that dad/grandparents can feed baby, or so you can have a night out without the worry of diminishing supply.

As you begin to pump extra milk, you may find you need to pump one breast more than the other, or pump one breast with your baby nursing on the other.

Will pumping impact breastfeeding sessions?

The short answer is that there won’t be a lot of impact on your breastfeeding sessions. When you start pumping you may find that you need to space out your pumping and breastfeeding sessions in order for your supply levels to even themselves out, but you can also simply pump more frequently if needed.

Pumping too much could cause your body to decrease milk production, but pumping during the night will help increase production and prevent engorgement in the morning. If you’re going back to work, try to pump right before so that your supply won’t diminish while you’re away from the little one!

If you think pumping breast milk is having an impact on your milk supply, or it is affecting your normal feeding sessions, speak with a lactation consultant who can provide medical advice and support.

Pumping while breastfeeding can be a challenge!

It’s important that you find the right balance between maintaining production and meeting your child’s demand. You may need to pump more often or use bottles designed for combination feeding in order to maintain supply while away from your little one. Make sure you store your expressed breastmilk appropriately and get make a plan before you start pumping to increase your chances of success. A certified lactation consultant can help you with any questions about how much should be pumped per day and what pumping will do on your breastfeeding sessions so don’t hesitate to speak up if there are concerns!

Carly Wight

Mother of two young boys (6 and 3!) and an avid "Googler", Carly is the kind to research something to the nth degree. Be it about products, hacks, or techniques, she shares what she finds out at her website - Fairy Good Mommy.

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