Today’s question deals with waiting for your supply to regulate and dealing with engorgement when exclusively pumping for a newborn.
I’ve had a really tough time with the whole breastfeeding experience, as it seems like a lot of your readers, including yourself, have had. My baby girl wouldn’t latch at all the first day and was a big baby at 9 lbs 7 oz. She was screaming bloody murder because she was so hungry, so I supplemented with formula. Since then, I’ve been pumping enough to give her exclusively breast milk.
She’s five days old, and I got engorged around three days postpartum. I’ve been pumping every three hours, and these are my questions:
1. How long does it typically take for your supply to become “regulated”? I get so swollen after three hours and am worried that I’ll never be able to develop a schedule like you suggested.
Supply regulation means that your body no longer uses postpartum hormones but rather the supply/demand cycle in producing milk. (This means that your supply is based on how much your baby – or your breast pump – removes from your breasts.)
Supply regulation happens sometime within the first 12 weeks postpartum. One thing I want to note – a lot of times, I see the 12 weeks number thrown around in Facebook groups like it happens at the stroke of midnight on the day your baby turns 12 weeks old. This is not the case. Instead, 12 weeks is when the vast majority of women’s supply has regulated. Your supply may regulate much earlier than that.
For me, it was happened between two and three weeks postpartum with the baby I exclusively pumped for, and a little later – around six weeks – for the babies I nursed.
When your supply regulates, you may notice you stop leaking as often, are less engorged, and your supply might adjust to fit your baby’s demand. So, it might just be a matter of waiting a few weeks and waiting for your body to adjust.
If the engorgement is bad in the meantime, you can try using cabbage leaves to help. Just don’t overdo it, because cabbage can reduce milk supply.
2. Is there a problem with pumping your breast dry each pumping session while you are becoming regulated? Everything I read out there says that you need to feed as much as possible to get over the engorgement period, but that pumping will make you increase your milk supply in a bad way. I think this is referring to breastfeeding and pumping, not just exclusively pumping, but I was wondering what you thought. I don’t want to get into a cycle that I have to pump more and more frequently to get relief.
The advice not to pump too much is really for women who are nursing AND pumping, as you said. When nursing moms have oversupply, babies can have a hard time handling all of the milk, they can get sprayed in the face, and there can be issues with foremilk/hindmilk imbalance.
It’s less of an issue for exclusively pumping moms, because your baby eats from a bottle that does not spray them in the face and has the foremilk and hindmilk mixed together.
However, if you find you have oversupply after your supply regulates, there are steps you can take to reduce it. I wouldn’t recommend limiting your pumping now because you might get a clogged duct, or when your supply regulates it might not be as much as you end up wanting to have (that happened to me).
3. You said that you pumped according to your baby’s feeding schedule. I was doing that when she was feeding every 3 hours, but now she’s feeding every 1.5 hours off and on. Obviously, I don’t want to pump double what I’m already doing. Do you just pump one of every two sessions, or how do you handle “extra” sessions and variability in the newborn feeding schedule? Is this going to affect how and when I need to pump in the future?
As far as pumping when your baby eats – I think it’s totally fine to just pump every 3 hours, especially if you’re getting enough milk to feed her. I should clarify – if my baby cluster fed I wouldn’t necessarily hook myself up to the pump every single time my baby started eating – it was more that I pumped the next time he ate after it had been at least two hours. You can also just put yourself on a schedule that independent from when your baby eats. Either way will work fine!
More info on exclusively pumping for a newborn here:
Finally, if you do end up exclusively pumping, it absolutely can be done long-term! It is a lot of work, but rewarding and totally doable. It is worth it to keep trying to get her to latch if you are up for it, just because it will be less work for you over the long term. Some babies just don’t cooperate though!References
- Barger, Jan, IBCLC. “How Many Days Will It Take for My Milk to Come in?” https://www.babycenter.com/404_how-many-days-will-it-take-for-my-milk-to-come-in_8897.bc
- Bonyata, Kelly, IBCLC. “My breasts feel empty! Has my milk supply decreased?” https://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/breast-fullness/