Where to begin with your pumping schedule
Pumping schedules are one of my most common topics of conversation.
When should I start pumping?
If you've always planned to exclusively pump, then start pumping a few hours after birth. Ensure you've had plenty of skin-on-skin beforehand as it's vital in those early hours of life. Your hospital should lend you a pump whilst you're on ward. If you're pumping journey begins later for whatever reason, start as soon as you've been introduced to the idea of pumping and keep going with it! A blog about pump types coming soon!
What is colostrum and how do I harvest it?
The first few days, you will see tiny droplets of yellow liquid on your nipple or in your pump - this is colostrum. You can hand express or use a manual pump to stimulate the breast. It shouldn't take too long to see some. Each time you see a droplet on the nipple, pause expressing and use a colostrum collector to catch it. Each drop is precious and packed with immune enhancing components. The collector tubes can be used to feed baby, can be put in the fridge or freezer. Your midwife will be able to help you with this.
When will my milk come in?
Do not be disheartened when there's no milk in the bottle at the end of a pump, once you've had your baby, milk will follow around 3 days later. Once you're milk does appear, It can often be gradual so don't be saddened by not filling the bottle. I always tell my pumpers - don't value your worth on the number in your bottles. The milk will also be very yellow to begin with and that's absolutely fine. The colour is why we nickname it liquid gold. :)
How often should I pump for my newborn?
Newborn Pumping Schedule: Every 3 hours, for 15 minutes, approx 8 times a day.
It's not easy news to deliver but when pumping to establish milk for a newborn baby, you'll be wanting to pump the same amount of times your newborn eats (which is around 8 times a day). This way, your pump sessions stimulate your milk production just like your little one would. I know 8 sessions seems huge but if you're on a 3 hour schedule of pump, feed, burp, change, sleep, then you will wrack up the sessions quickly.
Whilst pumping, it's really good to boost oxytocin as much as possible; try watching your partner feed baby a bottle, look at photos of your baby on your phone or at night time I'd love to stare at my little pumpling peacefully sleeping - it was so calming.
Baby is feeding throughout the night schedule:
3, 6, 9, 12 (AM & PM)
When they stop feeding at night, you'll still want to pump in the early hours of the morning. This time is when your prolactin levels peak so best to empty the breast for the body to replace.
Baby sleeps through the night schedule:
3am, 6am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm & bedtime.
These schedules are tough but if this is a feeding choice you've made you will find yourself motivated to do it. It is tiring and of course if you feel your mental health is taking a hit then you'll want to tweak your schedule from what's recommended to make it work best for you. Pumping is just like breastfeeding, it's individual and you've gotta make it work for your family. These guidelines are in place only to try and help you establish your milk supply so always bare that in mind when wanting to change your schedule. Some pumpers will have less milk when they drop a session and some will maintain.
If you amend the schedule just try and make sure you follow these rules:
Pump every 2-3 hours
Aim for 6-8 pumps-a-day
Pump sessions should be approx 15-20 minutes on both sides.
Pump to empty your breast as much as possible (until your flow is very minimal)
How long before I establish my supply?
Research has suggested that at around 3 months post partum, you can begin to drop the number of sessions you do a day as milk supply isn't driven by prolactin as such but simply supply and demand. If you wish to drop a session, wean it off slowly over a couple of weeks, getting closer and closer to the next session timing where essentially you can remove it.
Example of dropping a pump session:
Normal Pump Schedule: 12pm, 3pm & 6pm
-Wanting to remove 3pm pump.
Week 1: 12pm, 4pm, & 6pm.
Week 2: 12pm, 5pm & 6pm.
Week 3: 12pm & 6pm
Successfully dropped a session.
I've found doing it weekly, decreases pressure on yourself and decreases likelihood of engorgement and blocked ducts. Less rigidity makes the process feel more natural.
How do you keep on top of it all?
At the beginning my pumping was all over the place, I wrote it all down because I'd forget when I last did it or I'd worry I'd not done it exactly on the 3 hour mark. I shouldn't have put myself under so much pressure but we are all guilty of doing it with something in our lives. I found some good pump tracker apps which made life so much easier. I stopped worrying as I had a reference point.
Pump tracker apps
I've flitted between all of the below apps but my most used is Baby+
PumpLog - recommend for it's stash tracking & setting reminders to pump.
Moms Pumping Journal - really simple interface also has a pumping goal setting
Baby+ - recommend for other trackers & info including: lullabies, milestone timelines, face-a-day.
I hope this helps new pumpers have an idea of what to expect and where to begin. I have answered a lot of the pumping schedule related questions that have been submitted via the Little Pumping instagram - make sure to follow to get daily posts on exclusively pumping. If you want to book in for an exclusively pumping workshop please use the contact form or email.