Pumping: When Should I Pump?

Unless you need to pump and bottle feed your baby for other reasons, such as to boost supply or to keep your supply up while your baby is off the breast, there's really no need to pump at all.

However, if you're like many mothers who aren't having any trouble breastfeeding, you'll eventually reach a point where you start thinking about pumping. You're either planning to go out for a few hours without your baby, need a break or just want to make sure your newborn will take a bottle. This usually happens after a few weeks, when both you and your baby have mastered breastfeeding and your baby is thriving.

If you'd like to try pumping, here are some tips:

  • For the first bottle, try pumping for 15 minutes after the morning breastfeeding session (keep in mind that double pumping is most efficient). The reason for choosing this time is that you're usually fullest in the morning, and since your prolactin levels are higher at night, your supply is higher in the hours after that peak (prolactin is the hormone that needs to be elevated for optimal milk production).
  • Even if your baby drains your breast at the morning feeding, you might find you can pump a few ounces afterward. After a few days, you should have accumulated enough milk for a full feeding. However, if you still have very little milk after those first morning pumpings, try pumping after an additional feeding during the day.
  • During the first 2 months or so, don't pump before a nursing session unless you have a very good milk supply. Doing so can make it hard for your newborn to get a full feeding from the breast, since he needs a good, strong flow of milk to feed efficiently.
  • For a 4-week-old baby, a full feeding can vary from 3 to 6 ounces, depending on how hungry he is and how much time has passed since his last feeding. If you're planning to be away from your baby for 3 to 4 hours, plan on leaving about 8 to 10 ounces; then you'll be covered if he takes more from the bottle than he usually does from the breast.
  • Be patient with this process. Remember that with regular pumping, your supply should increase slightly and give you higher yields.
  • You may want to be home when your baby is given his first bottle to make sure things go well. Either offer the bottle yourself or have your partner or caregiver give it to him while you watch.
  • When you return from your outing, pump to replace the missed feeding. Doing this also ensures that you're a bottle ahead for the next time.

Tips for success:

  • Double pumping—pumping both breasts at the same time—produces optimal milk yields, since you get higher prolactin peaks during the pumping sessions.
  • Hand pumps tend to work best in the early months of nursing, when your breasts are more full and taut.

This information is courtesy of Bravado Designs, the brand synonymous with women's breastfeeding success for 18 years.

Source: Heather Kelly is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who also sits on the Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council Heather has been practicing in New York City since 2001.

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Heather Kelly
Heather is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
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