This is a post I’ve been looking forward to writing for a while. I know so many new moms who are struggling with breastfeeding/pumping and I want anyone who may be reading this to know that you are not alone!
I decided before Audrey was born that I was going to exclusively pump starting the day we brought her home from the hospital. I gave it a ton of thought and ultimately decided that pumping instead of nursing would be best for our situation. You can read about the many reasons I chose to exclusively pump (plus a few words of encouragement) in this post.
Today I wanted to share my pumping schedule from birth to 5 months and a few tips on how I increased my supply and stored my milk. Check out this post for a few pumping supplies that I found to be essential during this process.
BIRTH – 1 MONTH OLD
Pump: Every 3 hours during the day
Every 4 hours at night (7 pumping sessions/day)
4-9 oz/session (average 54 oz/day)
Eating: 2-3.5 oz every 2-3 hours
My milk started coming in about 3 days after Audrey was born and my supply increased tremendously over just a couple of days. I went from making 19 oz/day on day three to making 50 oz/day on day seven.
I credit this mostly to Fenugreek. I started taking it the night we came home from the hospital and would take 2 tablets twice a day starting out.
Also, I intended to wake up and pump every 3 hours at night but my new mom sleep deprivation caused me to often turn off my alarm in my sleep. I decided I would try and get an extra hour of sleep and only get up every 4 hours at night.
*Many articles/posts that you read about pumping recommend pumping every 2-3 hours for the first 2 months or so. I think this is absolutely crazy and would NOT have worked for me. It would take about 45 minutes or so to get everything set up, pump, and clean up so basically I’d only have about an hour between each pumping session. With a newborn and a two year old this just isn’t plausible.
Pump: Every 4 hours (6 sessions/day)
7-11 oz/session (50-55 oz/day)
Eating: 2.5-3.5 oz every 2-3 hours (sleeping 8 hours at night)
Around 6 weeks or so I decreased to pumping every 4 hours around the clock. Just that one extra hour between sessions made it feel like I had so much more free time!
I was still producing way more than she was taking in so our freezer was filling up fast. I was storing about 30 oz/day. At 8 weeks we had to buy a deep freezer. I already had over 1600 oz in the freezer! (More on how I organized my freezer stash in a minute.)
Pump: Every 4-5 hours during the day
Every 6 hours at night (5 sessions/day)
8-14 oz/session (50-60 oz/day)
Eating: 3.5-4oz every 2-3 hours (waking up once at night between 4:30-6:00)
At some point during this month I tried dropping down to every 5-6 hours in preparation of going back to work but noticed a dip in supply. I increased back to every 4 hours during the day and supply came right back up after a couple of days.
Pump: Every 6-8 hours (4 sessions/day)
8-12 oz/session (35-45 oz/day)
Eating: 4 oz every 3 hours (wakes up once at night between 4:00-5:00 – she hit a growth spurt around this time)
My schedule got a little more complicated once I went back to work at 3 months. For the first couple weeks my work day pumping schedule looked like this:
So basically this got extremely tiring, especially trying to wake up that extra time in the middle of the night. This only lasted about 2 weeks and then I dropped the middle of the night pump so I could get a little more sleep. I could definitely tell a difference in my energy level after I did that. I still hated having to come home and eat, get the kids in bed, wash bottles from the day, get stuff ready for the morning, AND pump instead of just being able to go to bed. But I was determined not to give up so quickly so I pushed on through a little bit longer
Pump: Every 8 hours (3 sessions/day)
9-11 oz/session (about 30 oz/day)
Eating: Same eating schedule
I found that it was becoming more and more difficult to take time away from my patients to pump twice at work so I decided to only pump once around mid-day. I also decided to only pump every 8 hours on my off days as well since I knew I would be needing to wean soon.
I was not storing much milk at this point since I was making less and she was eating more.
My goal was to make it closer to 6 months but I ended up stopping a little earlier than planned. (More on how I weaned at a later time.) David and I are going on vacation to Boston and New York next week without the girls and I wanted to be weaned by the time we left (she’ll be almost 6 months old). I didn’t want to have to worry about finding time to either go back to the hotel to pump during the day or lugging the huge pumping bag around the city. I have enough milk stored that it should last her until she’s about 10-11 months old so I’m not too worried about stopping early.
I was making and storing milk so fast that I learned very quickly that I needed some organization. I froze my milk flat in freezer bags and then put them in gallon sized ziplock bags. Each ziplock bag was numbered, had the dates of the bags inside, and how many bags were in there. By 2 months my regular freezer was busting at the seams and we had to buy a deep freezer. By the time I had stopped pumping my deep freezer was full and I had 3,172 oz stored!
– Fenugreek!!! You can take 2 tablets up to three times daily.
– Drink LOTS of water – like 3-4 liters a day.
– Take in enough calories. You burn about 20 calories for every ounce of milk expressed. So if you are making 30 oz/day then you need to take in 600 extra calories/day
– Pumping at least every 3 hours at first. Milk is made on a supply and demand basis. If you demand more, you’ll make more. It’s best to try and pump at the same times each day, although I know this isn’t always possible.
– Lactation cookies, bars, smoothies and teas. These have different ingredients in them such as oatmeal, flax seed, brewer’s yeast and fennel which can increase your supply. I tried some of these but didn’t use them much because I didn’t care for the after taste. You can find tons of recipes on Pinterest for lactation cookies and smoothies though.
– Steer clear of tight bras and antihistamines such as benadryl – these can inhibit milk production (good to remember when weaning though.)
– At first it was taking about 30 minutes to feel like I was completely empty. The time it took to pump decreased to about 25 minutes around month 2 and about 20 minutes around month 3. Some people say that they are able to fully empty in 10-15 minutes around month 3 but I never was able to. It always took at least 20 for me.
– Use cold, not heat for clogged ducts. It’s inevitable – you are going to get some clogged ducts. It is very important to clear these ducts out to prevent getting mastitis. Everything I read said to use heat to clear ducts so I bought these heating/cooling breast pads to help with this. I noticed that even when I would put a heating pad on them it took a loooong time to clear them up. Sometimes multiple sessions of heating and massaging and heating and massaging and soaking in a bath and massaging…..you get the point. It was very painful. Then a friend from church told me that her lactation consultant told her to use cold for clogged ducts instead of heat. It decreases the inflammation in the breast and allows for the milk to flow more freely. So I threw the breast pads in the freezer and gave it a try. It worked like a charm! And the cold feels pretty amazing when you’re sore. I’d use them all the time and never got mastitis.
– Another tip for clogged ducts is to massage centrally toward the nipple until the knot is gone.
-Milk may stop flowing around 10-15 minutes but if you keep pumping a little longer you will often have a second let down and end up getting a couple more ounces.
– Pumping instead of nursing is NOT Easy Street. I’m not going to lie – it’s tough. There are going to be lots of times when you’ll feel like you’re missing out on time with your baby or family or even sleep. Your baby will probably get hungry as soon as you start to pump. Or maybe all you’ll want to do is go out shopping for a few hours but you have to hurry to make sure you’re home in time to pump. Your entire schedule will revolve around pumping for months. It’s going to hurt like the dickens for the first few weeks, maybe even longer. But hang in there, Momma, it will get better. I promise.
I hope this helps anyone who is considering pumping weather intermittently or exclusively for their baby. If you have any questions or other tips you’d like to add, I would love to hear from you!
Update: It’s finally up! Check out my tips for weaning from the pump!