Breast Pumping Schedules, All You Need To know


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Guidance on breast pumping schedules 

Here at Wren we’re not really into encouraging breast feeding schedules, mainly because we don’t believe in a rulebook. We always think you should do what you feels right for your baby and you at the time. 

Recently, we ran a poll on our Instagram Stories to ask our followers “Do you follow a breast pump schedule?” 

19% said all the time, 16% started and then gave up, 30% used a schedule ‘some of the time’, however, 35% of respondents said they just pump when they are full. We would probably agree with the 35% of respondents, however we know that our thoughts never represent everyone which is why we try to keep a balanced view on everything when it comes to breastfeeding.

What do you do? We’d love to hear from you and gather as much insight as possible - drop us an email or DM us on Instagram and let’s get talking.

What’s the best breast pumping schedule?

Starting off pumping and wondering when the best time for an expression session is? Truth be told, there’s no single answer: it all depends on what’s right for you.

No need to put too much pressure on yourself here: the best pumping schedule is one that works for you and your baby.

Not all mums stick to a strict pumping regime. While some people feel better working to regular timings, others prefer to play it by ear and pump when they need to, finding a balance that fits in with their routine, day and night.

However you pump, when you do it depends on what you are trying to achieve.

Feeding a newborn

Premature babies or babies with a low-weight at birth can sometimes struggle to breastfeed until they’re a bit bigger. And if your baby has tongue-tie or an illness when they’re born, it may be hard to initiate feeding at first. But this doesn’t mean you can’t still treat them to mother’s milk.

Using a pump from birth will allow you to stimulate your supply and feed your baby until they are old enough or well enough to take to your breast. By filling syringes or smaller bottles with the milk you collect, you can still ensure they enjoy the many benefits of breastmilk and the magic of colostrum.

In this situation, try to pump regularly until you have expressed enough to meet your newborn’s demands. When babies are first born, their tummies are only about the size of of marble, so it doesn’t matter if you aren’t collecting huge quantities. They grow quickly though and would naturally start to cluster feed to make sure you’re producing enough milk to satisfy their appetite. 

Pumping up to ten times a day would mimic the amount you’d likely be feeding your baby at the boob in those early days, but once you give it a go, you’re sure to find a flow.

Boosting supply

If you’re pumping to boost a low milk supply, there are a few ways to go.

You could try to fit in an extra session or two throughout the day. Pop on a pump 45 minutes to an hour after your baby feeds to collect what you can and, within a few days, your body should start to produce more milk to meet the additional demand, just as it would if your baby were feeding more regularly.

It’s best to keep this to a minimum though, so you don’t exhaust yourself and accidentally reduce your supply instead. If you’re planning an extra pumping sesh, try to fit it in between morning feeds if you can, when your supply is naturally higher than it is in the afternoon or evening. And don’t forget to have a big bottle of water close by to help you stay hydrated.

Alternatively - unless you’re feeding multiples - you could pump on the opposite side when your baby feeds, to collect more milk for storing or to feed your baby if you don’t feel they are getting enough.

Exclusive pumping

If you’re planning to exclusively pump to feed your baby, you’ll have to get used to your own supply, knowing when your boobs feel full, when you get the best let down and how much you can pump and store in one go. Everyone is different!

To start the process, you could aim to pump every 2-4 hours throughout the day. The younger your baby is, and the larger their appetite, the more frequently you’ll need to pump.

If you’re exclusively pumping for a newborn, you may need to pump up to 10 times a day or more, for around 15 minutes at a time. With all that time spent expressing, a hands-free breast pump could free up more time and allow you to get on with other things while collecting milk.

Once babies reach 6 months and you start to introduce some solids into their diet, you’ll likely be pumping far less: maybe three or four times a day, for up to 20 minutes. But again, this will depend on your baby their appetite, and your personal milk supply.

Going back to work or sharing feeds

Being the sole parent responsible for feeding your baby can feel like a real strain at times. If you’re keen to share the load, expressing some extra milk will mean your partner or another caregiver can cover some mealtimes and give you more flexibility.

Fitting in a few extra pumping sessions or pumping on the opposite boob during a feed will allow you to store up extra milk for a bottle that can be given by someone else at a later point. As breastfeeds get replaced with bottle feeds, you’ll eventually find that you can pump when your breasts are full, or when your baby feeds, to keep your freezer stash of bottle milk nicely topped up.

Many mums start combination feeding before they start back at work after maternity leave, so that their baby can still benefit from their milk while they’re away.

It can take some time to get combination feeding established, so it’s wise to build in a routine at least a few weeks before you go back to work.

Your baby will need time to adjust to a bottle. The speed at which milk comes out of a teat isn’t quite the same as a boob and it may lead to nipple confusion at first. 

If you’ll be working a standard day job, try swapping out one daytime breastfeed for a bottlefeed at a time until your baby makes the transition. But keep on offering a breast when you’re at home, if this works for you.

You may find that it’s better for someone else to give your bubba a bottle to start with, as babies can smell their usual milk-givers and may complain until you give them a boob if you’re the one trying to phase in a plastic teat.

Relieving uncomfortable breasts

Pumping is a good way to make sure your breasts are emptying properly. By preventing a build-up of milk and uncomfortable engorgement, you’ll also avoid blocked ducts that can lead to mastitis.

At the end of the day, you’re the best judge of when you need to pump, whether you follow a routine or not. And if your boobs are making you feel like Pamela Anderson, chances are they’ll need relieving.

Example breast pumping schedules

Not every mum will want to pump to a tight schedule but for those that do, here’s an sample of how your day could go if you work 9am - 5pm and follow a set routine. Bear in mind that this is just a suggestion and will depend on you and the age of your little one. As you get into your pumping groove, you’ll likely find a set of timings that work better for both of you.

6am - Breastfeed

8am - Breastfeed before leaving for work or dropping off at nursery

11am - Pump at work

2pm - Pump at work

5.30pm - Breastfeed at nursery pick-up

8pm - Breastfeed at bedtime

11pm - Breastfeed (or pump)

3am - Breastfeed

What is power pumping?

Power pumping is a high-intensity way to build up your milk supply by mimicking the way a baby cluster feeds. If you are keen to give it a go, either immediately after a normal feed or while you’re away from your baby, you could aim to follow a power pumping schedule by:

  • Pumping for 20 minutes
  • Resting for 10 minutes
  • Pumping for 10 minutes
  • Resting for 10 minutes
  • Pumping for a final 10 minutes.

By fitting in an ‘hour of power’ a day you should see your supply increase within 3-7 days.