Here are some common FAQs about exclusively pumping for a newborn baby, including how often to pump, how long your pumping sessions to be, when you should be pumping, and how to make exclusive pumping easier.
How often should I pump?
With a baby under three months of age, lactation consultants often recommend that you pump every two to three hours, or 8 to 12 times a day, because this mimics how often your baby would nurse if he or she were nursing.
My thoughts on the subject are a little different – to me, it really depends on when you are starting to pump exclusively. If you are starting it straight out of the hospital (maybe you decided on exclusive pumping before your baby was born), I would recommend at least eight but no more than ten pumping sessions per day.
If you start exclusively pumping a little later, and you’ve already established something of a supply – maybe too much, maybe too little, or maybe the right amount – I would adjust the seven to ten pumps per day guideline based on where you are at. If you have low milk supply and want to bring it up, it might be a good idea to start at ten. If you have oversupply, seven might be enough.
When should I pump?
When my son was a newborn, I pumped whenever he ate – my routine was to bottle feed him, change him, and then lay him down on my lap while I pumped. He would fall asleep, and I would transfer him to his bassinet once I unhooked. Other moms prefer to pump on a schedule, at certain times of the day regardless of when baby eats.
There are advantages to both methods. Pumping on a schedule means that you know when you’ll need to pump and can plan accordingly, while if you pump when baby eats, you might get stuck out of the house with no pump and need to re-adjust. On the other hand, pumping when your baby eats is an easy way to ensure that you are pumping frequently enough as it mimics nursing. It also eliminates extra night wakings if your baby doesn’t wake up when you’re scheduled to pump.
Many people recommend that one pumping session be between 1am and 4am, as most women tend to have a high output at this time. If you are concerned about supply and are not currently pumping during this time, it might be a good idea to try this.
How long should I pump for?
If you are exclusively pumping, you should be pumping for two hours or 120 minutes per day. To determine how long you should be pumping for during each pumping session, divide 120 by the number of times that you’re pumping and set that as your goal. So if you’re pumping 8 times per day, you should pump for 15 minutes at a time.
Tip: If your pump doesn’t have a timer on it (like the Medela Freestyle), set a timer on your phone so that you can see how long you’ve been pumping and how much more time you have to go. It’s easy to overestimate how long you’ve been hooked up to the pump (at least, for me it is).
How much should I get each time I pump?
This varies widely. Ideally, at each pumping session, you would get enough (plus maybe a little more!) for baby’s next feeding. However, it often doesn’t work out that way. Some women will get 4oz for their newborns and others will get a few drops.
However much you get, you are doing great.
How much breast milk will my baby need?
On average, most newborns will drink 1.5-3oz per feeding, or 20-25 ounces per day. (I did a survey on this topic, and you can read more about the results here. The average for 0-1 month olds was 22.3oz; 1-2 month olds averaged 26.3oz.) My son was huge and was up to 30oz by one month of age, so this can also vary widely.
If you don’t make enough breast milk and find that you need to supplement with formula, here are some tips for doing so.
How can I make this easier?
I think there are three things that make exclusively pumping manageable. First, get into a routine – make a schedule for yourself and stick to it as much as you can. Second, there are a few shortcuts that can help make things more doable. Third, there are a few products that really help, such as a hands-free bra, extra pump parts, etc. A full list of what you might find helpful as an exclusive pumper is available here.
Last but not least – subscribe to the Exclusive Pumping newsletter to get tips and support sent to you every two weeks. Being an exclusive pumper can feel lonely sometimes, but you’re not alone, so join us!