Are you an exclusive pumper with a baby past the newborn stage? Below are some FAQs about exclusively pumping for an older baby (over three months old).
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How often should I pump?
This all depends on how old your baby is and what your supply situation looks like.
If your baby is on the younger side and hasn’t started solids yet, or if supply is an issue for you, you might want to pump six or seven times per day. If your baby is older and less reliant on breast milk, or if you have oversupply, you could try going down to two to four pumping sessions per day.
For reference, here are the number of times I pumped each day with my son at different ages (here are some sample pumping schedules):
- 3 months: 5 pumping sessions per day (6am, 9am, noon, 3pm, 10pm)
- 6 months: 4 pumping sessions per day (6am, 10am, 2pm, 10pm)
- 11 months: 3 pumping sessions per day (6:30am, 2pm, 10pm)
- 12 months: 2 pumping sessions per day (6:30am, 7pm)
- 13 months: 1 pumping session per day (7pm)
- 14 months (and pregnant again): weaned
That’s just my experience though – there is no one answer. One woman I met on a forum pumped one time per day for two hours and got 30 oz. For me, one pump per day was a total supply killer and (along with my subsequent pregnancy) pushed me into weaning.
If you are currently pumping more often than you’d like, you can experiment with dropping pumping sessions down to a level that works for you.
When should I pump?
With an older baby, you can be a lot more flexible, both because you will need to pump less often and because your supply has likely regulated, meaning that your breasts won’t become uncomfortable or engorged as quickly as they did when your baby was brand new. Additionally, it’s easier to get on a schedule once your baby is no longer a newborn and likely has some routine around when he or she eats and sleeps.
This means that you can figure out what works best for you as far as when you should pump, rather than doing it every 3 hours or so around the clock.
If you work outside the home, you will be doing some pumping in your workplace and will need to adjust your schedule to fit your work responsibilities.
For me, it was easier to pump at work than at home – I could work from the lactation room on my laptop. For some jobs, though, like teaching or working in retail, it’s not as easy to pump at work, so it might make sense to pump more at home or in your car.
If you stay at home with your baby (and possibly older children, as well), your pumping schedule will need to fit around theirs. When you’re with your baby, it’s often easiest to pump while your baby is sleeping, when your partner (if you have one) is able to care for your baby, or when you’re in the car.
Unless you are really concerned about low supply, I would try to drop the middle of the night pumping session by six months if you feel you can. Being chronically sleep-deprived isn’t good for anyone!
How long should my pumping sessions be?
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, divide 120 by the number of times that you’re pumping and set that as your goal. So if you’re pumping 6 times per day, you should pump for 20 minutes at a time; if you’re pumping 4 times per day, you should be pumping for 30 minutes.
If your pump doesn’t have a timer, consider setting one on your phone – otherwise, it’s really easy to overestimate how long it’s been. This is especially true when you get into the longer (30 minutes plus) pumping sessions!
How much should I get each time I pump?
This will vary widely and totally depends on the individual. Ideally, you’d get enough each day to feed your baby; most older babies drink between 24-35oz per day, with 27-28 ounces being the average (you can see more details about this here). However, this isn’t always possible.
There are some methods you can try to increase your milk supply.
However much you get, you are doing great! If you find that you need to supplement with formula, here are some tips for doing that.
How can I make this easier?
My biggest struggle with exclusively pumping for an older baby was that it was difficult to do with him underfoot – he would always want to play with my tubing, or a bottle would get spilled, and it was basically a stressful disaster.
Here are some tips how to handle caring for an older baby and pumping at the same time.
Does it matter if I don’t pump at the same time every day?
There’s no research about this that can give us a definitive answer. My thinking on this is that nursing babies do not eat on a strict schedule – while a baby may generally eat every three hours or so, sometimes a nap will go long and he might eat at 2pm instead of 1pm, for example.
As a result, it seems reasonable that minor variations in the time lactation occurs are likely fine, which means it’s okay to move a session up or back a bit as necessary.
My suggestion is to test it out for yourself, and pay attention to whether or not you see any differences when your pump times need to vary a bit. If you don’t notice a difference, it’s probably fine to vary the times.
How long do people usually exclusively pump?
This varies quite a bit. Some moms have a goal of pumping for three months, some for six months, some for a year or more. Personally, I exclusively pumped for 14 months.
(I did a poll on how long people planned to exclusively pump on instagram, and the average answer was about 9-10 months.)
Is it worth continuing pumping if I’m only pumping X amount?
This is a tough question to answer because you are the only one who can weigh the trade-offs of continuing versus stopping. No matter how much you’re pumping, it’s awesome for your baby to get some breastmlk.
At the same time, in my opinion, a happy mom is MORE important than breastmilk.
Think about the pros and cons of your individual situation and decide what you want to do. If you’re still not sure, try dropping one pumping session and reevaluate how you feel.
What should I watch out for with regard to milk supply while exclusively pumping?
One common question that I get on instagram is some variation of “does milk supply automatically drop around 6 months when you’re exclusively pumping?” (Sometimes the question will say 7 months, or 8 months, or 9 months.)
There is no magic time at which milk supply can become an issue. However, there are a few things to think about:
- As time goes on after you have your baby, it’s more and more likely that you’ll get your period back. Menstruation can affect milk supply. Here are some things that you can do if you find that your period has impacted your milk supply.
- As your fertility returns, it’s also possible that you will become pregnant again. Pregnancy can also have a negative impact on milk supply.
- I would suggest avoiding contraception that contains estrogen, and it can affect your supply. More info here.
- Make sure to keep up a schedule of 120 minutes of pumping per day to protect your supply long-term.
- Remember that your worth isn’t measured in ounces (credit to Jessica Shortall for this), and that you are doing a great job.
Thinking about weaning from the pump? No idea where to start? Worried that you’ll get a clogged duct or mastitis when you stop pumping? Grab my one-of-a-kind guide here.