The postpartum period is often a challenging time. You will most likely be getting limited sleep while trying to learn and adapt to so many new things. If your baby needs to stay in the NICU right after birth or has some other concerns that lead to you choosing to exclusively pump you will need resources to be successful. This exclusively pumping schedule will take the thinking out of it and allow you to be more present for your newborn.
Now this schedule may need some personal adaptations based on your particular needs. Not all bodies are the same and production will vary between individuals. Use this as your starting point and adapt as needed. Exclusively pumping is a newer concept since the breast pump was developed. Only about 6% of mothers will choose to exclusively pump. So educate yourself and find a network of moms that can help guide you through this process.
In this article you will learn:
- History of Exclusively Pumping
- Where to begin
- How to create the right schedule for you
Table of Contents
Why Does No One Talk About This?
Exclusively pumping is a relatively new concept compared to breastfeeding or formula feeding. Breast pumps have come a long way since their beginning, but really they didn’t become common place at home until the 2000s. Where as, formula was developed in 1860 and breastfeeding has been around since, well the beginning of time (although it’s still a huge learning curve).
Most experts in the medical community are still trained to try to help mothers successfully breastfeed and only use pumping as a supplement. Now, I’m not trying to dis anyone in the medical community. I myself am part of that community. I can however admit to our short comings and that is at times we are a little behind when it comes to some topics. Medical professionals tend to lean to the best option scientifically without taking into account the person’s lifestyle and needs.
When I struggled with my breastfeeding experience I initially felt really terrible when I had to supplement for my first child. I no longer feel that guilt, but as a new mom it was a lot to handle. Some women that chose to exclusively pump have also shared that they went through a lot of pain and suffering before they found exclusive pumping. Mostly because it’s not really promoted or talked about.
How Do I Get Started?
So what’s the answer for moms that are struggling in their breastfeeding journey will little help from medical professionals. More and more women are sharing their personal experiences through social media. There are also more resources such as exclusivelypumping.com, which was created by a lactation consultant who chose to exclusively pump herself.
Understanding how milk production works in your body is the first step to a successful exclusively pumping experience.
How Does Your Body Know When to Make More Breastmilk?
Breast milk production is based on demand. So when your baby suckles on the breast it releases hormones in your body that tells your brain to produce and release milk. The more your baby eats the more your body will produce. In the case of exclusively pumping your pump steps in to stimulate the baby “suckles.” So as you stimulate the breast and pump on a regular exclusively pumping schedule your body will consistently produce what your baby needs.
Since your baby is not actually stimulating your breast you may produce more or less than what they need. You can adjust your schedule as needed based on your production. You can also store any additional milk as needed.
Pumping can come with its own challenges. So being prepared with the supplies and additional support can help you to have a successful pumping journey. If you are returning to work it’s important to have a plan. Many women give up on their pumping journey or aren’t successful in their pumping journey because of pressures at work. Understanding your rights at work when it comes to pumping can increase your confidence and help you to continue to be successful.
What Is The 120 Minute Rule?
This is not really scientifically backed, but is more a general rule in the exclusive pumper community. So take this with a grain of salt. As always, remember everybody is different. You should really just use this as a guideline to start your journey. As time progresses adjust your expectations for yourself based on your babies needs and your production.
The 120 rule is just that. You should pump each breast for about 120 minutes per 24 hour period. This rule assumes you have a double pump so that you are pumping both breasts at the same time. This will total 2 hours of pumping a day. If you haven’t yet received a free pump through your insurance I would make sure you choose one that can be hands free and a double pump. It will increase your productivity and decrease your pumping fatigue.
3 Types of Schedules
You have some options when it comes to developing your own exclusively pumping schedule. There are three general pumping schedules.
- At set times everyday: With this schedule you stick to the same time everyday. This leaves not a lot of room for flexibility, but if you are someone who likes routine this may be for you. You can always skip a session if there is a conflict and make up that pumping session as soon as possible. Try to avoid this as much as possible as it could lead to engorgement and mastitis.
- Pump at hourly intervals: This would mean your schedule revolves around pumping in hourly intervals (ex. every 2-3 for newborns) depending on your baby’s age. This schedule will vary every day depending on when you actually pump. Your intervals should change as your baby grows.
- Pump on demand: This can be more demanding and will follow your baby’s cues. You will either pump when your baby is hungry (someone else can feed while you pump) or you can pump right after you feed your baby. This way you don’t have to pay attention to the clock, you can just follow your baby’s cues. This may be a better option for someone that doesn’t want to be attached to a schedule.
How Can You Adjust Your Schedule for Your Needs?
The schedules above are a general guidelines and a great starting point. Not everyone is going to be ready to adjust their pumping schedules at the same time. Remember milk supply is based on demand. Your adjustments will be made depending on the needs of your baby.
Before you drop a pumping session ask yourself these questions:
- Are my baby’s feeding needs currently being met?
- Do I have enough frozen breastmilk to supplement while my supply adjusts?
- Is it time to drop the feeding or do I just want to?
There are no right answers to these questions, but I do want you to be honest with yourself so you can reach the your feeding goals.
When dropping a pumping session try to avoid dropping your early morning feeding or your middle of the night feeding. You will want to continue to try to space out your feedings day and night so you don’t have a long extended period that you aren’t pumping. This could drastically affect your supply. If you drop one night feeding try to adjust the time you are pumping at night so that you aren’t going too long without pumping. Check out this mom’s adjustment to her pumping schedule for some guidance.
Exclusively pumping is something you can do. Yes it is hard, but you can do some small things to make it easier. Understand that you milk production is based on demand and make adjustments. You should be fueling your body so it can make milk. Get the supplies you need to set yourself up for success. And finally use this exclusively pumping schedule as your guide and make adjustments as needed for your life. You can do this and you are not alone.
Jess is a registered nurse with over 6+ years of critical care experience for patients young and old and is the mother of two small children. After having her own children she felt inspired to provide mothers with real actionable guidance and education to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and postpartum experience.