When you’re an exclusive pumper, it’s important to make and stick to a pumping schedule in order to maximize supply and minimize issues like clogged ducts. Here are some sample pumping schedules that you can tweak to fit your life.
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(Not an exclusive pumper? This post on pumping schedules at work might be helpful for you!)
Figuring out a pumping schedule when you are exclusive pumping is a balance between your need to pump enough milk for your baby and the rest of your life. Here are some things to consider.
How often should you pump when you are exclusively pumping?
This depends on a few different things:
- Your baby’s age. When you have a newborn, you may be pumping as frequently as every 2 to 3 hours; as your baby gets older, you may not need to pump that often.
- How long you plan to pump. Pumping more may help protect your milk supply long-term, so you may want to be more conservative when dropping sessions if you plan to pump for a year or more.
- Your milk supply. Pumping more frequently may be beneficial to milk supply.
If you have a newborn baby, aim for seven to ten pumping sessions per day. Then, after the newborn phase, you may be able drop some pumping sessions. (You will be able to see examples of how often I pumped at different ages in the sample schedules below.)
How long should you pump?
Most exclusive pumpers should aim for a minimum of 120 minutes pumping per day, unless they are weaning.
So just divide 120 by the number of pumping sessions you have, and set that as your goal.
Note: Some women prefer to pump for more than 120 minutes per day, and that’s fine. Also, some women find they are able to maintain their milk supply long-term pumping less than 120 minutes. Everyone is different, so just take this into account as a general guideline, and go from there.
If you find that you still have a lot of milk in your breasts when your pumping time is up, here are some things that might help you pump faster.
How long of a break should you have between pumping sessions at night?
Pumping in the middle of the night can be important for establishing your milk supply, especially when your baby is a newborn.
In the newborn stage, I would aim for one or two sessions at night. I did two from birth to about eight weeks, then transitioned to one from 8-12 weeks. Then at 12 weeks, I went back to work and stopped pumping at night.
What type of pumping schedule should you have?
There are a few different ways you can structure your exclusive pumping schedule:
- A set schedule where you pump at the same time every day
- An “every x hours” schedule, where you mark your next time pumping from your last pump time
- A schedule where you pump whenever baby eats
Different set-ups might work for you at different times in your pumping “career.”
I found that a schedule of pumping when baby ate was easiest for me in the newborn phase, when life was so unpredictable, but a set schedule was better once I’d gone back to work.
This article contains examples of set pumping schedules, but any of these ways of doing it are fine as long your get the sessions and pumping time in! Do whatever works best for you.
Sample Pumping Schedules with a Newborn
With a newborn, most things that you read say that you should be pumping 8-12 times per day, because that’s how often newborns eat.
I think eight or nine is a good goal to shoot for, with seven as the lower limit and ten as the upper limit (as noted above). With more than that, you probably won’t be getting enough rest or time with your baby. (More information about how often and how long to pump for a newborn here.)
Below is a sample pumping schedule with eight pumping sessions in 24 hours. A schedule like this will give you three and a half straight hours of sleep (from about 12:30am-4am, once you’ve finished pumping) – assuming your baby lets you sleep! These times can obviously be adjusted however you like.
7am, 10am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm, 12am, 4am
Below is a sample pumping schedule with ten sessions in 24 hours. This schedule will give you four and a half straight hours of sleep (from 7:30pm-12am), with the added benefit that if you have a partner he or she can care for the baby during this time before going to bed themselves.
7am, 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm, 12am, 3am, 5am
(Related: Finding pumping around the clock to be a challenge? Check out my pumping resources page for things that can make it easier!)
Sample Pumping Schedules with an Older Baby
Below are some sample pumping schedules for older babies. These aren’t rocket science, and you can adjust them to a schedule that fits your needs; I’m just including them as an example of worked for me as my baby got older.
(Note: As you drop pumping sessions, in order to maintain your milk supply, you should increase the amount of time that you pump in each session so that your total pumping time per day stays the same.)
Six pumps in 24 hours (I used this from 3-4 months):
6am, 10am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, 10pm
Five pumps in 24 hours (I used this from 4-6 months):
6am, 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 10pm
Four pumps in 24 hours (I used this from 6-11 months):
6am, 10am, 2pm, 10pm
Three pumps in 24 hours (I used this from 11-12 months):
6am, 12pm, 10pm
Two pumps in 24 hours (I used this from 12-14 months):
A one pump per day schedule is a supply killer for many women (including myself), so attempt it with caution if you decide to go this route. Between dropping to one pumping session per day (at 7pm) and getting pregnant again, my supply crashed to nothing at 14 months.
How Important is Sticking to a Pumping Schedule?
Sticking to a pumping schedule can be a challenge – as the mom of an infant, you are likely sleep deprived and busy, so it’s easy to forget to pump.
Skipping a pumping session every now and then is not a big deal. Just try to make up the time during a later pumping session that day or squeeze in a power pumping session.
If you’re finding that you’re missing pumping sessions regularly, there are a couple of tools that you can use to remind yourself. I got an Itzbeen as a gift when I had my first baby, and you can set an alarm with it (either a silent flashing light or beeping) to let yourself know it’s time to pump. Alternatively, the iOS Milk Maid app has a reminder function that allows you to enter your pumping schedule, and it will notify you every day at your defined pumping times.
(Want to download this information so you can refer back later? Sign up below and you’ll get an email with these sample pumping schedules in your inbox!)References
- KidsHealth. “Breastfeeding FAQs: How Much and How Often?” https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/breastfeed-often.html