It’s National Breastfeeding Month! On August 6, 2011 the United States Breastfeeding Committee declared August National Breastfeeding Month. It’s a month in which we focus on empowering women in their breastfeeding journeys, and ensuring that the normalization of breastfeeding is something that eventually is so normal, it won’t NEED normalization.

One facet many moms who are breastfeeding face is pumping. There are several reasons a mother might need to pump. Sometimes she’s separated from baby because her little one is in NICU or she’s recovering from surgery herself. Perhaps even the baby is a preemie or recovering from surgery too. Sometimes it’s a job schedule a mother needs to adhere to. Sometimes there’s a family emergency in which mama needs to be away from baby, and often? Often it’s because a mama wants to exclusively pump.

Exclusive pumping is something moms may choose to do for many reasons as well. Perhaps there is an issue that prevents them from feeling comfortable with nursing straight from the breast—either on her part or her baby’s. Sometimes mamas like to know just how much milk their little one is getting, and when you’re pumping exclusively, that’s definitely a perk. And sometimes mamas just want to be able to ensure their baby gets breast milk but ALSO wants to be able to allow others to feed her baby.

Whatever the reason you’re pumping is, there is definitely merit to having a breast milk pumping schedule. For many moms who are nursing and pumping, creating that stash is like creating a gold mine. We spoke with Ashley Georgakopoulos, IBCLC and Motif Medical Lactation Director about how to establish a good breast milk pumping scheduled.

Ashley said that milk removal should happen at least every 2-3 hours, and sometimes even more. If you can’t feed or pump that often, she says that you should still remove the mik so you don’t have a buildup of FIL. This is a whey protein called Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation. Its role slows milk production when the breast is full (to help prevent engorgement) and increases milk production when the breast is empty. If you are not emptying your breast every 2-3 hours, you may be messing with your body’s natural milk production cycle. You can also be adding to the possibility of clogged ducts or mastitis from fatty milk. When you express your breasts of milk either through feeding or pumping, you’re helping keep those ducts and nipples flushed of the bacteria and yeast that can bring thrush and mastitis on.

So even IF you’re exclusively nursing your little one, you may need to pump just for your own health and comfort.

Not to mention that ‘stash’ that nursing mamas guard better than Ft. Knox. If you’re building up a stash for work or other reasons you’ll need to be separated from your wee one, Ashely recommends starting with 1-2 pump sessions a day about 2 weeks before the stash will be needed. She says that morning pumps may bring about more milk, as there tends to be more volume and therefore more success in quicker stash building.

She has a few other things to keep in mind too when pumping and creating a pumping schedule:

  • Pumping sessions should be kept similarly to average feeding times, i.e. 15-20 minutes and at least every 2-3 hours
  • A freezer-full of milk is NOT needed! The average amount needed for when away from baby is 1 oz for every hour away, i.e. 8 hour workday + 60 min commute total = 9 hours, 9-10 oz/day will do perfectly! PLUS you will continue to pump while away, not just for ahead of time.
  • Keep items that smell like baby, like a onesie or a blanket, while pumping. This can help focus the body to respond to the pump!
  • Pumping output does not gauge overall supply capabilities.
  • A great pump is vital! A top choice is the Motif Luna Breast Pump. It’s compact, hospital-grade closed system breast pump with a quiet motor Shown to provide More Milk in Less Time® Eligible for coverage through health insurance!

How To Create A Pumping Schedule If Exclusively Pumping

If you’re going to be exclusively pumping, you’ll likely need to pump at least 8-12 times every 24 hours. Obviously, this will mean in the middle of the night too; you’ll need to mirror baby’s natural eating schedule as best you can. Aim for about 15-20 minutes a pumping session. A common schedule many moms use is the ‘prime’ pumping schedule. That ‘starts’ at 7am and goes around the clock every two hours.

As baby gets bigger and you may not need to pump every two hours, you can stretch to every three, but whatever you do, you want your pumping schedule to be one that spaces the sessions out as evenly as possible. Again, the goal is to be as closely related to your baby’s natural eating cycle as possible.

What Does A Power Pump Pumping Schedule Look Like?

You may want to pump so you can increase your milk supply. This is called power pumping and it’s a technique that’s typically designed to mirror your baby if she was cluster feeding. When baby cluster feeds, your milk supply typically increases as she’s growing in spurts and demanding more.

A power pumping schedule can somewhat mimic that. You’ll want to plan to pump several times in about hour-long sessions. Pick an hour or two a day for about a week for a maximum power pumping schedule without taking away from your baby.

Consider pumping 20 minutes at first, then resting for 10, then pumping for 10 minutes. Then give yourself another 10 minutes of rest, and then finish off with a 15-minute pump session and rest for at least 10. It isn’t really recommended to do more than two hours straight of power pumping, and you may find you don’t get as much that second hour (if you’re doing it for two hours) as you did the first. That’s not uncommon, and may just mean you break your ‘cluster pumps’ up over the day.

Creating a milk pumping schedule that works for you may be frustrating and leave you feeling alone but it doesn’t have to. Join pumping groups to offer support and encouragement from those who have been there (or are there) and done that (or are doing that). And don’t ever feel bad about contacting a lactation consultant like Ashley for help. The ultimate goal is for your baby to be fed and nourished with that precious breastmilk and that’s what they’re there to help you with. There’s no shame in needing (or wanting) to pump milk and there are lots of women to help and support you!

Image: 2TiYA