Whether you're a new mom or a veteran milk-maker that's been out of the baby game for a while, the truth is, it's going to take some time for your body's milk production to adjust itself. And if you're returning to work soon, trying to boost your supply, or building a breastmilk reserve, adding pumping to the equation will come with its own learning curve. Remember, no matter what category you fall into, there is no one-size-fits-all method for a pumping and breastfeeding schedule. Every single body — and every baby — is different. But if you're struggling with how to combine breastfeeding and pumping, there is hope.
Scary Mommy asked Molly Petersen, Certified Lactation Counselor at Lansinoh, the most common questions mothers have about combining breastfeeding and pumping. The biggest takeaway? Balancing the two varies widely and is surprisingly intuitive — a reassuring thing for moms who feel the pressure of their baby's milk needs. If that sounds like you, these pro lactation tips should help take some of the guesswork out of finding the right balance for you and your baby.
How many times a day should mothers pump while breastfeeding?
Pumping frequency while breastfeeding depends primarily on your body, lifestyle, and your baby’s nutritional needs. Though, if you're just getting started with a pumping routine, gradual additions of sessions are recommended.
"When you decide to start adding pumping into your routine, start with just one session per day," says Petersen. "Once your body gets used to this pumping session, usually within a week or so, you can try adding in another session during the evening after baby goes to bed or really any other time during the day that works for you. The best thing to do is to add sessions gradually, if possible, each time allowing a few days to a week for your body to adjust before adding another one."
Generally speaking, it’s usually beneficial to pump for every missed or skipped breastfeeding so you can keep your milk supply up and aligned with your baby’s feeding demands. An average feeding cadence for a newborn might be every one to three hours, whereas an infant might want to nurse every three to four hours. During cluster feeding, a baby might feed as often as every hour at times.
How can mothers alternate between pumping and breastfeeding?
"Many moms find it helps to pump during or right after a feeding session. Maybe you have a feeding where your baby only feeds from one breast. If that's the case, you can pump on the other side while baby is feeding. Sometimes babies feed from both breasts but don't empty all the available milk during the feed. Pumping right after a feeding session allows you to take advantage of the letdown already created by baby's feed. You can also schedule pumping sessions anytime during the day when baby normally goes for a longer stretch without feeding, possibly during a nap time," says Petersen.
As for how long you should pump, try to spend 15 to 20 minutes hooked up to the pump. It may not take as long or it may take longer, depending on your body’s milk production. Ideally, you’ll pump until you notice your breasts feel well-drained, at which point the milk will likely have slowed.
An important note: Don’t forget to clean your pump’s breast flanges after each use.
How long after pumping can mothers breastfeed?
If we're being honest, pumping can sometimes feel like just another thing to add to the to-do list. So giving your body the chance to produce more milk between breastfeeding and pumping can help maximize the amount of breastmilk expressed, saving you time and energy.
According to Petersen, "Every body and every situation is unique, but you'll usually want to give your body at least an hour or so after pumping to be ready for another feeding session."
What kind of breast pump do I need?
When it comes to pumping, breastfeeding parents have two options — manual and electric. Manual pumps require more physical effort and are usually more affordable, so they're great for the occasional pumper. But if you pump daily, electric ones help you get the job done fast and save time.
*It's also important to have a goal in mind. Do you want enough milk to switch between breastfeeding throughout the day, or do you want enough for when you're away from baby? Having a target pumping objective for yourself will put less pressure on you and your body.
Is it OK to pump just once a day while breastfeeding?
Any mother who's struggled to find the most comfortable breastfeeding position (read: least awkward and backbreaking) probably knows that pumping can be equally as uncomfortable without a good set-up. And let's face it, a hands-free pumping bra can only go so far, meaning pumping more than necessary isn't on most mother's wish lists — leaving many wondering if it's OK to pump just once per day.
Petersen's reassuring advice will hopefully leave moms juggling breastfeeding and pumping breathing a collective sigh of relief: "There is no specific number of times a day that works for everyone. Try not to let pressure about pumping overwhelm you. Find the routine that works best for you, your baby, your life, and your family, and work that."
Molly Petersen, Certified Lactation Counselor at Lansinoh
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