the 101 on breast pumping

Breast feeding is seriously a full time job!  How many mothers out there feel that way?  It takes patience, motivation, physical pain (at the beginning) and a serious commitment of your time.  Is it worth it?  ABSOLUTELY!  Not only is it a major cost savings, the amount of nutrients you are giving your child can’t be replaced with anything else, on top of that bond you are building with your baby.

I breastfed Ayven for a year and was that crazy mother who was always scared her milk supply would run out so I became obsessive about pumping.  I did travel for work so it required a lot more pumping but through all those sleepless nights and dreading pumping, especially in the winter, I felt so good that I had accomplished my goal.  But like any first time mom, I had a ton of questions on pumping and the best advice I got was from other moms that had gone through the whole process.  Here are some questions I asked myself when I started pumping.

Breast Pumping

When do I start pumping?  I actually started pumping in the hospital right after Ayven was born.  Look at it this way, the more times you pump, the more milk your body will think it needs to make.  It did not do my body any harm starting to pump in the hospital and I will probably do the same thing with  my new one on the way.  Especially if your baby does not nurse for the first 6 hours, start pumping, it is only going to benefit your milk production.  Also starting earlier helped me practice pumping and learn to relax.

How long do I pump for?  The general rule is 15 minutes but it won’t harm you to pump for a few extra minutes after your milk stops coming out.  You are just telling your body it needs to make more milk.  The whole point of pumping is to empty out your breasts completely, so that extra five minutes you pump will help!

How often do I pump?  When you first start out this can be tricky because your baby is not on any type of schedule or when your baby hits a growth spurt because then they will cluster feed.  I started out by adding in one pump a day when I thought my baby would sleep the longest.  If your baby wakes up, DON’T STRESS about your milk supply you can either stop pumping or finish pumping and give that milk if you don’t have a backup.  As the weeks go by start adding in additional pumping sessions one by one.  If you are one of those that are lucky enough that have a baby that sleeps long hours during the night, make sure you get up and pump!

What if nothing comes out when I start pumping?  This is very NORMAL!  I freaked out at first because I couldn’t even get a full oz out of my body but then learned your body will make how much your child drinks.  It will take a few weeks for your milk to come in but don’t give up on pumping..if you give up you are telling your body to stop producing milk.  To get tips on increasing your milk supply, check out our post mommas, six ways to increase your milk supply and recipe: mommas, eat oatmeal to increase milk supply!

Do I need to pump on the highest level?  NO..pumping at the highest level does not mean you are gonna get more milk out.  Start out on a very low level and increase as your body gets used it it.  You want to imitate your baby drinking on you so as your baby starts sucking harder, you wanna increase your pump.   If you start pumping on the highest level, I feel sorry for your nipples!  Don’t rush it..because it will just be painful for you.

What if I miss a pump because of work, will my milk production go down? No, missing a pump does not mean your production will go down but it does mean you need to try to fit in a pump soon or at least an extra one that day.  You wanna stay as consistent as you can with your pumping schedule so your body knows to keep producing even if the baby is not nursing on you.

If my baby sleeps through the night should I pump? This is a personal preference.  If you are going back to work full-time and need your milk supply built up, then YES you need to.  Some moms don’t care to wake up in the middle of the night and that is just fine.  But since your baby is sleeping you will have a good amount of milk to pump out and help build up your stash in the fridge.

When do I know when to stop pumping:  This is a personal choice.  I say if you feel like you have given it your all and it is to the point where the amount of milk you are making is really not worth the time and effort you are putting in then call it quits.  Think about yourself and see how it is affecting your stress level, personal well-being and physical well-being.  This is a decision that only you can make but be smart about it..make sure you give it your all before you stop.  If you are ready to wean, here are some tips on no more mommaโ€™s milk: when youโ€™re ready to wean.

Stay motivated mommas!  Pumping is a full-time job on its own but just remember you are doing this for the health of your baby!  You are fortunate enough to produce milk so don’t give up on it ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Heidi W.

    Great post Neesha! I am a firm believer in the more you pump, the more you produce. My first wouldn’t nurse regularly so I was pumping 6-7 times a day for the first month or so. We moved when she was six months old and had to throw out like 200 bags of breast milk. It was sad. I tried to donate it, but they wouldn’t accept it because I was taking fenugreek (herb). Maybe the Chai Mommas can post some milk donation locations and their requirements?

    On the point of pumping on the highest level, I wouldn’t start that way either. I thought I could start on high when my second was born because I was used to it from my first. Boy was I wrong! I had to work up to pumping on the highest level. So watch out! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Neesha

      Thanks Heidi and that is a great idea for a post on where to donate your milk ๐Ÿ™‚ We will def work on that! Mine had fenugreek in it also so ended up throwing it away! I am glad I have a fellow pumper ๐Ÿ™‚

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