What is a Pumping Schedule and Why Do I Need One?

Feb 25, 2020

By Morgan  Michalowski, CNM, WHNP-BC, IBCLC

Whether you’re only 5 or 6 weeks pregnant, well into your 3rd trimester, or already nursing, you’ve likely heard a TON about the advantages of breastfeeding.

You may have also begun to explore the somewhat overwhelming world of pumping, an activity that helps many modern moms create a steady supply of breast milk even if they’re not around to do the feeding.

Pumping can be a life-saver, but it also makes a mom realize exactly how many factors she needs to consider when it comes to breastfeeding her baby. They include:

  • Employment status
  • Childcare needs
  • Partner involvement with feedings
  • Milk supply
  • Infant temperament
  • Mom’s emotional needs

There’s a lot to balance!

Here’s one mom’s story and how she made peace with exclusive pumping:

When my daughter was born, I had never heard of exclusive pumping. I had planned to nurse her at the breast for about 1 year, just like almost everyone else in the Breastfeeding 101 class I took during pregnancy. I didn’t choose to exclusively pump (EP), but after an anatomical mis-match in the hospital (diagnosed by 2 different IBCLCs), working with 2 different IBCLCs after the hospital, chiropractor visits, and an ENT visit for possible lip/tongue tie revisions (none), I realized that, in the midst of all the frustration, I had actually gotten into a comfortable pumping routine that worked for me and my family. After a lot of trial and error, I found flanges that fit me comfortably, I discovered the healing power of APNO (thanks, Morgan!) and I was able to feed my baby breastmilk, even if it wasn’t how I had originally envisioned. 

Do you have questions for our Founder, Morgan Michalowski? Please click here to reach out.

 

Before I made peace with EPing, I felt very isolated and even embarrassed about it. No one I knew had ever pumped exclusively. In my new mom’s group where we were all on maternity leave, the only conversation about pumping happened near the end of the 6-week session, when we talked about going back to work. Even then, there was a lot that didn’t pertain to me because of how EPing is different than pumping at work and nursing at home. 

In the early weeks and months of EPing, it was exhausting figuring out a schedule that worked. I would often try to pump while the baby was sleeping, but that was tricky as my nap time “to-do list” often extended far beyond my baby’s sleep time. Eventually, I figured out how to pump while she was awake, either putting her on a lounger seat next to me on the couch, or sitting on the floor to pump while also playing with her.

In the midst of feeling isolated and alone, I discovered a wonderful online community. Joining Facebook groups and following other Exclusive Pumping moms on Instagram gave me a sense of connection and community. I even DMed some of them when I was trying to choose a good travel pump, and they were so helpful and supportive! Online resources have also been essential for information about best practices for pumping schedules, pump operation, storing milk safely, and bottle feeding. 

Luckily more community members, offices and public places have begun to recognize the need to create pumping rooms that accommodate the needs of new mothers. And regardless of what you do for work, if you’ve chosen to breastfeed your baby, you WILL need a breast pump! If you need help selecting a pump, check out this guide to find the right breast pump (for you).

Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

Subscribe to download the free guide from Gravida Mom: Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

Before you buy a breast pump, be aware that:

  • Most insurance plans cover the cost of 1 breast pump every 5 years.
  • If you don’t like the type of pump your insurance offers you, ask to see if they’ll cover a portion of the pump you want. Sometimes they’ll be flexible, and it’s worth asking!

Once you have your pump, you may be unsure how to work pumping into your ever-changing life and schedule. Here are some of the top questions the Gravida team gets from moms who are new to breastfeeding and pumping:

  • When should I start pumping?
  • How often should I pump?
  • Should I make a schedule?
  • How do I pump at work?
  • How do I keep up with breastfeeding at the same time?

The answers vary a little, so we’ll give you some options in this post! Since we definitely want to help you achieve your breastfeeding goals, here’s what you need to know.

Do you have questions for our Founder, Morgan Michalowski? Please click here to reach out.

 

What to know about breastfeeding and pumping during pregnancy

If you need help getting your breast pump set up, bring it with you to an OB/CNM appointment and ask your doctor for a quick tutorial. If you can’t do that, bring it to the hospital when you’re in labor. Your provider or a lactation consultant will know how to help you!

Some women worry about not having enough breast milk to feed their babies after birth, so they pump and store milk during pregnancy. Here’s why I’d recommend against doing that: you want to save that special colostrum for when your baby arrives. Plus, pumping releases oxytocin which can cause uterine contractions. You don’t want to go into labor before your baby and body are ready.

 

My baby is here! When should I start pumping?

Methods for pumping effectively and efficiently will be different for every mother and baby, so don’t worry if your needs differ from other mothers. Listening to your body and following your baby’s cues will help you create a pumping schedule that will result in optimum milk output.

When it comes to listening to your body, here are some important signals:

  • Full breasts
    • When your milk first comes in, your breast might feel firm, warm, or heavy. Some women feel slight swelling and others feel painfully full. Most women experience fullness or engorgement within the first week of breastfeeding whether they choose to breastfeed or not. Feed your baby or pump on cue to establish your milk supply. If engorged, hand express for comfort. If you don’t experience fullness, don’t worry. Some women don’t have this experience, and they still have milk!
    • Overfilled breasts can easily become very swollen and painful, leading to severe engorgement. Common causes of severe engorgement are:
      • Waiting too long to begin breastfeeding your newborn, or postponing pumping.
      • Not feeding or pumping frequently enough.
      • Small feedings or short pumping sessions that do not drain the breast.
  • Nipple pain
    • If you experience nipple pain with breastfeeding or pumping, there’s a good chance that one of two things is happening: either your baby isn’t latched deep enough to transfer milk, or your pump is pinching your nipple. This can lower your milk supply by interfering with milk production (supply and demand, baby).
    • Don’t wait to get help if you feel sore! It can be tempting to give a bottle to baby so your sore breasts get a break, but it’s best to get to the root problem of nipple pain as soon as you can. This will help prevent engorgement or limiting your milk supply.
    • Check the size of the flange (otherwise known as a breast shield) on your breast pump. If your nipple is getting pinched, opt for a larger size. You can use Gravida’s handy tool to find the right breast shield size for you.
  • Cramping
    • Yes, breastfeeding and pumping will make your uterus cramp! It’s uncomfortable of course, but also a great sign that your body is releasing all the right hormones to get milk production into full swing.
    • Treat these cramps like you would menstrual cramps. Generally speaking, you can take over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or Tylenol (though always check in with your provider first). You can also use hot packs, or this amazing herbal remedy.

 

Getting Started

When is the best time to start pumping? Well, it varies from momma to momma!

If you and your baby are separated at birth (i.e your baby is in the NICU or you send your baby to the general care nursery to sleep) or if you plan to pump exclusively and NOT breastfeed, you will need to start pumping right away. Experts recommend pumping for the first time within 6 hours of delivery, and continuing to pump 8-12 times in the following 24 hours.

If you and baby are together and you plan to both breastfeed and pump, doctors and lactation consultants suggest you let the baby establish your milk supply by breastfeeding on cue. You can wait to establish a pumping schedule until 4 weeks after birth.

Here are a few additional factors that will determine the timing of when you need to start pumping:

  • Your baby’s health at birth
    • Certain conditions and illnesses will impact your pumping schedule. This is not a comprehensive list, but you’ll definitely need to pump early (or consider supplementing with donor breast milk or formula) if you have a baby born with low birth weight, preterm or late preterm, or jaundice. Talk to your doctor about other health issues that impact pumping.
  • Your breastfeeding availability
    • If you plan to feed your baby on a set schedule, be aware that schedule-based feeding is one of the easiest ways to miss out on infant feeding cues which will lower your milk supply over the long-term. Keep this in mind if you notice a dip in supply’ you might need to try power pumping to get a boost!
    • If you plan to breastfeed and go back to work at 12 weeks after your paid maternity leave is up, I recommend pumping to build a milk stash starting around 4-6 weeks postpartum. You can pump once per day at different times each day. It’s good for your body and milk supply to vary your pumping time, so don’t feel like you need to stick to a schedule.

 

Building your supply

Your milk is produced based on supply and demand. This means that your body will want to produce and replace the milk that leaves, and also that the more often you drain your breasts, the more breast milk you’ll produce. Your milk-producing hormones are at their highest levels in the morning hours, so you will probably be able to pump more milk in the morning between 2-5 a.m.

If you’re looking for breastfeeding foods that boost milk supply, look no further!

Go for foods with phytoestrogens, a natural compound found in plant-based foods. They balance your estrogen and boost your milk supply

  • One of the best known ways to increase milk supply is by eating garlic! Most infants tolerate garlic in the breast milk quite well, however, if you notice increased fussiness in your infant dial it back. Make this when you want a taste of heaven with zero effort.
      • Garlic confit magic elixir: Buy fresh peeled garlic to save all the time. Gluten-free, Dairy-free; Prep time: 20 minutes. Recipe
  • Increase prolactin, a milk-producing hormone, by eating oats. They are rich in plant estrogens and beta-glucan. Make this when you need a high protein smoothie.
      • The Breakfast Smoothie: Prep a smoothie bag and buy 5 more minutes of sleep. Gluten-free, Dairy-Free. Prep time: 5 minutes. Recipe
      • You can prep smoothies ahead of time by placing all ingredients, except liquid or any ones that won’t blend well when frozen, in a sandwich-size plastic baggie. Add liquid in the morning.
      • Pro tip: Protein powder is safe to consume while breastfeeding! You may want to avoid protein powders with fillers! Milk Drunk Protein Powder is an excellent option if you’re looking to boost your supply, too.
  • Stimulate lactation with foods rich in phytoestrogens. Try:
    • Fennel: Make this when you need comfort food for any mood.
      • Roasted Fennel with Parmesan: Gluten-Free; Prep time 10 minutes. Recipe
      • You can eat fennel raw or cooked, add fennel seeds to a recipe, or drink it as a tea. Pro tip: Fennel is a traditional remedy to reduce colic in infants.
    • Dark Leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli): Make this when you need dish served with a side of tang.
      • Collards Greens and Kale: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free. Prep time: 15 minutes). Recipe
    • Sesame seeds: Make this when you want the perfect energy bar.
      • Chewy Sesame Bars: Store in fridge or freezer. Dairy-Free; Prep time: 5 minutes. Recipe
  • Add the milk-producing, immune-boosting powerhouse super seed, Flaxseed, to any meal and get a bonus bump in Omega-3/DHA! Make this when you’re in a pinch and need a sandwich wrap ASAP.
      • Flaxseed Wraps: Gluten-Free, Vegan. Prep time: 10 minutes. Recipe
  • One of the oldest milk boosting foods, and a great addition to your diet for being high in proteins and fatty acids, are Almonds! Make this when you believe it’s impossible to be healthy and decadent at the same time.
      • The Best Vegan Broccoli Salad Ever: Put broccoli, onion, almonds in a food processor to avoid chopping. Gluten-free, Dairy Free; Prep time: 15 minutes. Recipe

In large quantities, these herbs might decrease milk supply. You can use them to decrease oversupply or when weaning:

    1. Oregano
    2. Parsley
    3. Peppermint
    4. Sage
    5. Spearmint
    6. Thyme
    7. Black walnut
    8. Chickweed
    9. Geranium
    10. Lemon balm
    11. Periwinkle herb
    12. Sorrel
    13. Yarrow

 

What to expect from your first few days of pumping

You probably won’t see much milk production the first 1-4 days postpartum. If you only express drops of colostrum while pumping during that time, you’re normal 🙂 If you produce more, that’s fabulous! But most moms see just a trickle during those first few days.

In case you’re not sure what those first drops actually ARE, colostrum is a thick, vitamin-rich substance that is produced before mature milk comes in around day 3-5. Expressing both colostrum and milk is super important. By emptying the breast, your body is able to determine that more milk is needed to replace what was lost.

Experts recommend that your baby eat on cue, but at least 8-12 times in each 24-hour period during your baby’s first 6 months of life.

  • If you’re exclusively pumping, you’ll need to pump just as often your baby eats. Meaning enough to supply your baby with at least 8-12 meals in 24 hours.
  • Pump both breasts at the same time. If you are breastfeeding and pumping, you can sneak in a pumping session while your baby is breastfeeding.
  • If you’re substituting a breastfeeding session with a bottle, you’ll need to pump as often as you bottle-feed to maintain your milk supply.

Pro tip: Your breasts are never empty, so you can always breastfeed before or after a pumping session! 

Does that little fact make your head spin? Here’s one way to think about it: Milk is being produced at all times, and research has shown that babies do not take all the milk available from the breast. The amount that baby drinks depends upon his appetite. And your baby moves milk better than a pump, so if you’re pumping, there’s definitely still milk left behind. The amount of milk removed from the breast varies from feed to feed, but averages around 75-80% of the available milk. Research also tells us that the emptier the breast, the faster your body produces milk. When your baby removes a large percentage of milk from the breast, milk production will speed up in response.

Think of it like having a really good waiter at a restaurant. Anytime your glass looks close to empty, they fill it up. The emptier the glass, the quicker they are to fill it up. You’ll never be able to finish the whole glass of water because someone is always there watching and waiting to refill your cup.

So the more your baby eats at the breast, the more signals you send to your internal “waiter” to fill the baby’s cup. This signals your body to produce more milk over time.

Key insight: Does breast size impact how much milk I make?

Nope! The amount of milk that can be stored in the breast between feedings (milk storage capacity) varies significantly from mom to mom but is NOT determined by breast size. Although mothers with both low and high milk storage capacities produce enough milk for their babies, mothers with a greater milk storage capacity may be able to go longer between feedings without impacting milk supply and baby’s growth.

 

Maintaining your supply

Between 0-6 months, babies eat between 19-30 oz of milk per day. This drops slightly at 6 months with the introduction of solid food, but during those first 6 months it’s important to maintain your milk supply.

After 6 months, you may be able to drop some breastfeeding sessions or spend less time pumping depending on your overall breastfeeding goals.

If you choose to pump exclusively, or pump to maintain your milk supply because your baby is sleeping through the night, you may even be able to sleep through the night by pumping right before bed and right after you wake up in the morning. However, it is important to pump at least 1-2 times overnight during the first 6 months, preferably between the hours of 2-5 a.m. when your milk producing hormones are highest!

Here’s an example of an exclusive overnight pumping schedule:

Pump at 8-9 p.m.

Pump at 2-3 a.m.

Pump at 5 a.m.

You can check to see if your milk supply is keeping up with your baby’s needs by using our milk expression calculator. This will show you if there has been a decrease in your milk production, and let you know if you need to make any changes.

Breast pumping tips

If you find yourself overwhelmed or struggling with the idea of breast pumping, here are some tips to help you:

  • Deep breathe: Make pumping time your time. By creating a relaxing and comfortable environment, you can positively impact your body’s hormone release while you pump. Research has found that turning on music can boost milk supply and reduce the production of stress hormones that negatively impact milk supply. Find a comfortable, quiet place, take a snack and some water, and watch your favorite show, read a book, or knock out some emails.
  • Formula feedings: If your goal is to breastfeed exclusively and your baby is transferring breast milk well, it may be tempting to sneak a formula bottle when you are too tired or forget to pump. Unfortunately, this can actually decrease your milk supply. If you offer formula, just remember to add in a pumping session to maintain your milk supply. Pro tip: Formula is harder to digest, which means it will keep your baby feeling full for longer, decreasing her demand for milk … and no demand means no supply!
  • Smoking: If you’re a smoker, it’s important that you DO choose to breastfeed. Breastfeeding lowers the risk of SIDS for babies exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol passes through your breast milk at the same rate it passes through your bloodstream. If you’re feeling tipsy, there’s too much alcohol in your breast milk to safely feed your baby. You don’t need to pump and dump, but you do need to wait until you feel more steady before feeding your baby.
  • Feed yourself: proper nutrition helps your body produce milk. This means staying hydrated and eating healthy breastfeeding foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Take care of your body: try to sleep when your baby sleeps; exhaustion and stress can lead to decreased milk supply. Also make sure you practice good hygiene by washing your hands before any pumping or feeding session.

 

Exclusive pumping schedule

How often should you pump when you are pumping exclusively and NOT breastfeeding? This depends on a few different factors:

  • Your baby’s age. When you have a newborn, you may be pumping as frequently as every 2 to 3 hours; as your baby gets older, you may not need to pump as often.
  • How long you plan to pump. Pumping more may help protect your milk supply in the long-term, so you may want to be more conservative when dropping sessions if you plan to pump for a year or more.
  • Your milk supply. Pumping more frequently can be beneficial to milk supply.

There are a few different ways you can structure your exclusive pumping schedule:

  • Pumping on a pre-set schedule
    • Pros: You know exactly when to pump, how often you need to pump, and can coordinate your day accordingly. Super helpful!
    • Cons: You may become less sensitive and responsive to your baby’s needs. It is possible to pump on a schedule AND feed your baby on cue. So long as you make up any missed pumping sessions, you can feed your baby when she indicates that she’s hungry and then continue pumping on your set schedule.
  • Pumping and feeding based on baby’s cues:
    • Pros: You’re in tune with your baby’s needs. If she’s experiencing a growth spurt and needs to feed more frequently, you’ll know and respond. Following her lead helps establish your milk supply and forms the basis for healthy eating habits later – she learns to eat when she’s hungry, not according to a schedule.
    • Cons: You won’t know exactly when you’ll need to pump, which means you’ve got to maintain flexibility with your schedule. This is easier to do when you’re at home, but can be hard to maintain once you return to work after paid maternity leave.

Ideally, you’ll want to pump 8-12 times per 24-hour period, or at least as often as your baby takes a bottle. Make it your goal to pump about 19-30 ounces per day.

Although infrequent pumping can affect milk supply, skipping a pumping session every now and then is not a big deal. Just try to make up the time during a later pumping session that day.

You can vary your pumping times throughout the day and night, just make sure to get 1-2 pumping sessions in overnight and at least a total of 8-12 during the day. Otherwise, you don’t have to stick to a strict schedule! Your baby doesn’t eat on a strict schedule, so you don’t need to be on one either (unless you prefer that.)

Here’s an example of an exclusive pumping schedule (pre-set, not based on baby’s cues):

Pump at 7am.

Pump at 9am.

Pump at 11am.

Pump at 1pm.

Pump at 3pm.

Pump at 5pm.

Pump at 7pm.

Pump at 9 p.m.

Pump at 2-3 a.m.

Pump at 5 a.m.

 

Schedule for breastfeeding and pumping

If you’re alternating between breastfeeding and pumping, the number of times you need to pump per day will all depend on your need for stocked milk. And THAT will depend on how much your baby is eating! (Remember: supply and demand.) Rather than focusing on how much and how often to pump, base your pumping schedule on your baby’s feeding habits.

You can pump anytime during the day, and you don’t really need to worry about timing it with the baby’s feeding schedule. However, if you want to make sure your baby gets first dibs, you can pump about 30-60 minutes after your baby eats.

When you’re at work, pump as often as your baby gets a bottle at home. You may need to add in an extra pumping session if your baby takes large volumes of pumped breast milk with each bottle. For example if you pump 2 oz per pumping session but your baby takes 4 oz per feeding, you might need to add a pumping session to keep up.

Here’s an example of a schedule that includes both breastfeeding and pumping between 0-6 months:

Baby breastfeeds between 2-4am

Baby breastfeeds between 6-7am before you leave for work (pump one breast during breastfeeding session or both breasts 30 min after)

Pump at 10am, baby gets bottle

Pump at 12/1pm, baby gets bottle

Pump at 3pm, baby gets bottle

Breastfeed 5/6pm

Breastfeed 8/9pm

Pump at 2-3 a.m.

Pump at 5 a.m.

 

Pumping schedule for working women

If you return to work before your baby is six months old, you’ll need to express milk about every three hours throughout the work day. For example, if you’re at the office for an 8-hour shift, you’ll need to pump 2-3 times, depending on your current supply and your baby’s needs. You can plan these sessions around your breaks or lunchtime, and other pumping times can follow your normal at-home schedule. Make sure to schedule pumping time into your calendar and talk to your team about your needs. You have a legal right to pump at work, so don’t let anyone give you guff about taking this time for yourself!

Give yourself at least 20 minutes for each pumping session to make sure your breasts are drained, and you have time to clean your pump.

Some mothers are able to breastfeed their babies before they leave for work and right when they get home, making it unnecessary to pump before and after work. It really depends on what works best for you and your baby.

In terms of the volume of pumped milk you’ll need, breastfed infants consume around 1 oz per hour when separated from their mothers from age 6 weeks until age 6 months. This translates to around 19-30 oz of milk per day. If you are separated from your baby for 10 hours each day,  Monday through Friday, I recommend providing your caregiver with 10-12 ounces of breastmilk. (Although some babies may need more! Do your best to track your baby’s unique needs.)

Review feeding and satiation cues with caregivers so your baby gets the right amount of breast milk. Ask your caregiver to practice paced bottle feeding to mimic the way breast milk flows naturally. This will protect your hard-earned milk and prevent overfeeding your baby.

When you return to work and are away for much of the day, you might find your infant refuses a bottle and only eats enough to take the edge off then breastfeeds frequently overnight. This is called reverse cycling. Many infants reverse cycle feed and get their primary calorie consumption in the evenings and nights. It can feel scary to know your baby isn’t eating much and being fussy during the day! Here are a few tips to make it through this tricky dilemma:

  • If your baby refuses a bottle, she might drink from a sippy cup. Some babies prefer this over a fake nipple.
  • Reverse cycling is safe and a terrific method for maintaining supply. If your baby falls into this pattern, don’t panic!
  • If you’re really uncomfortable with your baby not eating much during the day, ask your employer if it’s possible to flex your schedule the first 6-7 months of your baby’s life.

Here’s an example of a pumping schedule for your return to work:

Breastfeed and pump at the same time (baby on one breast, pump on the other) prior to leaving the house for work- 7/8am

Pump at 10 am.

Pump at 1pm.

Pump at 3pm.

Breastfeed baby at 5pm (pump during breastfeeding session or after if baby took more than 3 bottles or if your supply is dipping).

Breastfeed baby at 7pm.

*If the baby sleeps throughout the night and you are less than 6 months postpartum, pump at least 1-2 times overnight, otherwise, feed the baby on cue.

Pump at 9 p.m.

Pump at 2-3 a.m.

Breastfeed or pump at 5am.

 

Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

Subscribe to download the free guide from Gravida Mom: Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

 

How should I package milk and store it for future use?

Since pumping takes a lot out of you (literally!), you’ll want to make sure that your pumped milk is stored appropriately. Preserve your hard work!

Store your breast milk in the office fridge, in a cooler with ice packs, or a mini fridge near your desk. You will need your milk to stay cold until you can get it home and into your freezer. Need more milk storage tips? Get them here.

Packaging and storing your breast milk should become a weekly routine. Start each Sunday night by removing 10-12 ounces (300-365ml) of frozen breast milk from the freezer and placing it in the refrigerator. Your defrosted milk can then be packaged for your care provider in 3 bottles with around 2.5-3.5 ounces in each for consumption throughout the day on Monday.

While you’re at work on Monday, you’ll pump around 3-10 oz of milk. Once you get it home, Monday’s milk will be stored in the refrigerator overnight and given to your baby on Tuesday. Depending on how much you pumped, you may need to pull an extra ounce or two from the freezer and let it defrost.

Tuesday’s expressed milk will again be stored overnight in your home refrigerator, and given to your baby on Wednesday, etc.

If you breastfeeding more often throughout the weekend, the milk you pumped on Friday goes into the freezer. On Friday, package your milk in 1 and 2 ounce bags (30-60ml) and freeze.

Always clearly label breast milk with the date and time. Use the freshest frozen breast milk first.

When you follow this pattern, your baby will only receive frozen breast milk once each week and the freezer supply will be rotated. You might find you have less and less milk to be expressed as the week progresses. Don’t fret, it happens to all of us; stressful work weeks can temporarily lower milk supply!

Here’s how one mom turned pumping stress into a powerful experience of personal transformation:

EPing has slowly become very empowering for me. I can own and feel proud of my dedication to feeding my baby. Before this, I didn’t know that I was capable of doing something so demanding, and not just getting through it, but eventually finding it a normal and comfortable part of my day to day life. I felt this the most fully over the holidays, when we traveled out of state for the first time. I was pumping in airports, cleaning pump parts on planes, storing and feeding milk like a pro. It took a lot of planning and organization, but the fact that I was doing it made me feel so proud and empowered. When I did eventually transition back to work, pumping was actually the easiest part of my new routine, because I was already so used to it. 

Early on, one of the hardest things about pumping was finding the right flange sizes. I didn’t know that nipples could fluctuate in size in the weeks after birth! The Pumpin’ Pals alternative flanges were the first accessory that really worked for me. After that, I bought a cheap plastic stencil that had graduated circles from 1mm – 30mm. That stencil helped me get a super accurate measurement so that I could find the flanges that fit me comfortably (my left and right are different sizes!). Using some coconut oil to lubricate the flanges was also a game-changer. 

As taxing as schedules and middle-of-the-night pumps are, exclusive pumping has many benefits. My husband and family members can help feed my baby, and it’s easy to leave the house for an evening knowing that her bottles are ready to go in the fridge. I can also schedule my pumping around other activities, while still feeding my baby on demand. It has also been extremely helpful to know exactly how much the baby has eaten at each feeding, especially during months where her weight was low. Despite my initial fears, bottle feeding is still a very bonding and intimate time with my daughter. 

One of the best and worst things about pumping is that you can see the exact amount of milk you are producing. It’s great to be able to track my baby’s intake with accuracy, but I also found myself obsessing over my output and “pumping goals.” If I pumped 2 oz less than the previous day, I was anxious and stressed over “my supply dropping.” Eventually, I realized that some fluctuation is normal, and that if I were nursing, I wouldn’t be seeing the ounces of milk the same way. Over time, I’ve had to learn that pumping is only a piece of motherhood, it doesn’t define my role. I nurture and care for my baby in so many ways. Like all moms, I’m doing what works for me to provide for my baby. 

Have other questions about breastfeeding and pumping? We’re here to help! Reach out to us at hello@gravidamom.com and let us know what’s on your mind.