This post may contain affiliate links that I may receive a commission from if you click & buy. In addition, the information on this site is NOT intended to be medical advice. See my full policy for more information.
“When should I start pumping?”
As a lactation consultant, this is one of the most common questions I get from new moms. While not every breastfeeding mom uses a breast pump, the vast majority do, and they want to know how to combine breastfeeding and pumping.
It’s essential to get the timing of pumping right. You want to pump to enhance your breastfeeding experience. You don’t want it to interfere with nursing your baby.
Top Three Reasons Moms Combine Breastfeeding and Pumping
- Having enough milk is a common concern of new breastfeeding moms is. So it comes as no surprise that keeping up their milk supply was stated as the most common reason for pumping (Source).
- Another frequently cited reason women express their breast milk is so that someone else can feed their baby (Source).
- Working moms who want to continue to breastfeed make up another large percentage of moms who combine breastfeeding and pumping.
An Important Reason to Combine Breastfeeding and Pumping
As an experienced lactation consultant, I encourage all moms to consider offering their baby a bottle. A bottle that their baby will take similarily to the breast, like this one. It not only allows for flexibility, but it can be crucial in the event of an emergency.
You may plan to get home from that dentist’s appointment in time for the next feeding. However, traffic doesn’t always cooperate. You will experience much less stress if you know that your baby is familiar with a bottle.
A breast milk stash in the freezer is vital to be prepared for the unexpected.
When To Start Pumping When Breastfeeding
A new mom should start pumping (with a high-quality breast pump) when she has a reason to pump. A mother who gives birth prematurely should start pumping within the first few hours after giving birth. Other mamas won’t need to start pumping until their baby is several weeks old
If breastfeeding is going well for you in the early days, focus on getting comfortable with the basics before thinking about how to combine breastfeeding and pumping.
- Learn how to breastfeed in two or three different positions
- Master getting a good latch
- Learn your baby’s feeding cues
- Recognize when your baby is swallowing
- Become aware of signs that your baby is full
Once a mama feels like she has an easy rhythm established with her new baby, she can start to work on combining breastfeeding and pumping.
The Best Time To Pump For Baby
If you are going to miss a feeding, you will want to pump as close to the missed feeding as possible,
If you are working on building a freezer stash of breast milk, the ideal time to pump is right after a feeding at a time when your milk supply is most abundant.
Most women have their most abundant milk supply of the day during the early morning hours. Although you might get more milk if you pump right after the 2 am feeding, you will probably be happier to pump after the 8 am feeding.
The rationale for pumping right after a feeding is that you want to take the leftover milk. You don’t want to take milk away from your baby’s next feeding. Moms who pump between feedings will get more milk, but their baby will get less milk at his next meal.
Some moms who have an abundant milk supply and only feed on one breast at a feeding may be able to pump from the other side.
How Often Should I Pump?
Pumping frequency should be individualized according to your needs. Your goal for how much milk you need and your timeline will help you determine how often you need to pump.
You may only need to pump once or twice for the date night bottle. Building a freezer stash will take more time.
To build a freezer stash, consider these variables:
- How much do you typically get when you pump?
- Do you have a deadline for when you need the stash?
Start by pumping once a day. Increase the frequency if your stash is not growing as quickly as you need.
If your baby is sleeping a stretch longer than 4 hours at night you can experiment with pumping an hour or two after her last feeding. If she begins to shorten the length that she sleeps you will know to go back to pumping after feedings.
Moms who tend to overproduce may want to only pump every few days to avoid making an oversupply problem worse.
Tips on Breastfeeding and Pumping
- Do some breast massages before pumping to encourage your milk to flow.
- Hands-on pumping helps increase milk production (Source).
- Put a little bit of lanolin cream or nipple butter on the inside of the pump breast shield right where the shield bends to make pumping more comfortable.
- To save time, try pumping while breastfeeding.
- Breastfeed on the first side
- Pump that side while the baby is on the second side.
- Freeze your expressed milk in two to four-ounce amounts to minimize the need to discard unused milk.
- You can combine milk from different pumping sessions.
- When adding milk to frozen milk, refrigerate the new milk for at least one hour.
- Never add a larger volume of milk to what is already frozen.
Which Pumped Milk Should I Use When Feeding My Baby?
- Freshly pumped milk is always the best option.
- Any milk in the refrigerator will be the next best choice.
- When using frozen milk, you should use the oldest milk.
Must-Have Pumping Accessories
When combining breastfeeding and pumping, there are some products that can make your life easier.
- Hands-free pumping bra
- An alternative is a wearable breast pump that goes right into your bra, like the Willow 3.0
- A staging mat, so you have a clean place to put your pump parts on.
- Spare parts – different pumps have different pieces that have to be replaced regularly. Find out what these are for your pump by reading your pump’s manual and have extras on hand.
Does the combination of breastfeeding and pumping mean you’ll have an oversupply?
Depending on when and how you structure your nursing and pumping routine, it could impact how your breast milk supply is established.
For example, if you’re nursing and pumping back to back (within the first 6 weeks after your baby is born), there is a good chance you may increase your milk supply beyond what baby actually needs.
However, if you only pump WHEN NEEDED, you’ll have a much better chance of establishing a normalized supply.
Things To Keep In Mind When Combining Breastfeeding and Pumping
It can be very satisfying to a new mother seeing her breast milk fill up bottles when she pumps. It can be very reassuring. However, while some moms love pumping, other women hate pumping. Neither feeling is right or wrong.
Don’t compare how much you can pump with other mothers. Some moms like to show off by posting their freezers full of milk on Instagram or Facebook. Your supply is perfect just by making any milk for your baby.
With these tips and some planning ahead, you should be able to combine breastfeeding and pumping successfully.
Other BREASTFEEDING Posts You’ll Love:
This post was written by Andrea Tran, RN, MA, IBCLC (International Breastfeeding Certified Lactation Consultant, and owner of Breastfeeding Confidential. Andrea has spent over 25 years helping moms successfully breastfeed their babies (yes, this includes pumping too!) and started her website devoted to breastfeeding in 2017 to reach even more moms across the world!