How Much and How Often Do You Pump?

Updated on September 15, 2008
C.Z. asks from San Francisco, CA
5 answers

Long story 4 week old won't breastfeed so I've been pumping and pumping! I want to exclusively give him breastmilk and hopefully do this for 6 months to a year. I have been pumping every 2-3 hours just during the waking hours and taking the nights off. I've been getting roughly 3 oz per breast (so 5-6 oz total) by pumping 15 minutes. Here are my questions: 1. Is it ok to take the nights off? Will I endanger my milk supply? 2. Is 15 minutes the max I should pump at one time? 3. I've been doing this 4 weeks and the level on my Medela Pump In Style is 3 - my nipples get a little sore still. 4. I'm worried as he gets older and increases how much milk he needs that I won't be able to keep up. Thoughts?
Thanks in advance!

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answers from New York on

My son wouldn't latch on at all when he was born and I pumped for six months. I found that I got so uncomfortable and engorged with milk when I only pumped during the day that I had to sometimes do so at night, and I couldn't take a day off without getting so full that it was painful, and then leaking. It depends on your own level of milk supply. I used to just pump until I was "empty," so I didn't go by time (e.g., 15 minutes) so much as volume (e.g., when the flow stopped, I stopped).

Despite this, I did have some trouble keeping up when his demand grew -- I felt like I was constantly tied to a breast pump, I couldn't go anywhere, it was hellish when we tried to go our for a day because I'd have to (a) find a place to pump if possible and (b) carry bottles of milk in a cooler bag. He got breast milk for 6 months, but by that point I was so tired of being chained to the pump that I started supplementing with formula, and eventually realized that carrying sterile bottles of water and powdered formula and mixing it wherever I was was a lot easier. But as I said, I pumped and fed breast milk exclusively for six months, which is more than a lot of kids get, especially when mom is pumping and not feeding directly from the breast.

I'd suggest just keeping at it as long as you can -- you will see how you adjust to it and how you feel -- and if a time comes when you feel you can't keep up anymore, don't feel guilty about it, either! Good luck!

S. R.



answers from New York on

First of all, congrats. Pumping is going to get old quickly and if you want to do so exclusively, you will have to do it at night too- probably 3 or 4 times. That's actually when you make the most milk- for some reason you make more when you are sleeping. Plus, for the first few months you need to pump around the clock in order to build up your supply or else you won't make enough. As long as your son is waking up at night, you should be pumping while he is awake. After 2 or 3 months when the baby is sleeping longer, you can cut back on the pumping at night because your supply will be established. The amount of milk you are getting is good. I would not do any longer than 15 minutes because you can irritate your breasts. Pumping has always been more irritating to my nipples than breastfeeding since the suction is harder. But you still can not pump as much milk as he would be able to get out by breastfeeding. Babies are much more efficient, especially as they get older. I would say you should not give up yet on breastfeeding your son. It takes at least 2 months (for me it was 3) for everything to go smoothly with breastfeeding. You should exhaust all your resources and try everything before giving up. I know how hard it is- my son was a c-section and the nurses gave him several bottles before I was able to get in to see him so I had a lot of trouble with breastfeeding and latching. The lactation consultant that I had asked for in the hospital never showed up at my room and the only help I got was from a nurse, who gave me a nipple shield and suggested that I try that. Well, he latched with it, but he would only use that and it took 3 months before he would breastfeed without it and it caused me to get mastitis (not fun at all). I would suggest that you get a lactation consultant to come to your house (I asked my pediatrician for a referral). She came to the house and helped me so much and gave me the strength to not give up when I really thought it was hopeless. The price was fairly reasonable too and she even followed up with phone calls and I talked to her several times afterward. If you are in the Queens/Nassau County area, her name is Theresa O'Donnell. I can't find her phone number but if you want it I will look. It's important to try every day to breastfeed, but don't frustrate your son. That is the most important thing. Even if he just sleeps next to your bare breast after a feeding, it's progress. Make sure he is hungry, but not starving, and take off your shirt and his clothes so he has as much skin to skin contact as possible. As soon as he gets upset, end the session. I started out by only trying once a day at first. I tried to get him to latch for the first few minutes, and if he did, then I would let him stay on for as long as he would, and then finish the rest of the feeding with the nipple shield (in your case it would be with the bottle). The more you do this, the more used to it he will become. Then gradually, you can try this for 2 feedings a day, then 3, etc. It may take a month or more to get him to be exclusively on your breast, but you will get there. Trust me. And it's so much nicer than pumping. (I was doing that for a while too). Also, try buying the Adiri bottles. They are shaped more like a breast, so it might make it easier to get him to breastfeed properly. I also got great information from The Breastfeeding Book by Dr. Sears (they believe in co-sleeping. I'm not into that so I just ignored that part of the book but the rest of the advice is spot-on.) It also includes pumping information. I also love the website It has a wealth of baby information from reliable sources. It has not steered me wrong yet. Good luck with everything! And if you need anymore advice, let me know!



answers from New York on

I had a similar situation. First, get yourself a better pump. The Medela Symphony is a hospital grade pump which you can rent at Babies R Us or The Upper Breast Side. I found I got a lot more milk with that pump than with the Pump 'n Style, and it was much kinder to my nipples.

Second, pumping every 3 hrs for 15 minutes is the general rule. Any lactation consultant will tell you that taking the night off will decrease your supply. Despite this advice I took the night off...sleep won out. And it probably did decrease my supply. Also, once you start getting your period, you may experience a decline in your supply for those days, but it should come back.

Good luck!



answers from New York on

Keep going don't give up! Pump every 2-4 hours; and pump as long as it takes to extract all of the milk. I got sore around week 1/2 and it does go away. It should be ending soon. Have you tried rubbing milk around your nipple so the baby can smell it? There must be some secret tricks others know to help you. Great job though. Just keep pumping around your baby...I found when I went back to work and started pumping my milk supply went down I guess because it's really not the same as feeding the baby directly. This is why some moms look at pics of their baby while pumping! Good luck!



answers from New York on

hi C.;

RUN do not walk, to your local La Leche League chapter meeting. it is FANTASTIC that you are so committed to breastfeeding, and it is not at all too late for you to have a successful nursing relationship. but something is wrong and you won't be able to fix it on your own. the pump probably doesn't have to be the answer. just google La Leche League Int. and click on "resources" to find a meeting in your area. the chapter leaders phone numbers are likely to be on the page, so call them right away, that's what they are there for. also, try to get your self an International Board Certified Lactaction Consultant to come to your house as soon as possible. you can also find such a person by googling or LLL.

breast feeding does not come easily to everyone. most of the time the latch is the problem. but it sounds like your son may be tounge tied! mine was and it was terrifying. he lost almost a pound in his first 3 days, even though he was nursing and nursing desperately. but as soon as the IBCLC took a look at him she knew what was wrong. she sent me to an oral surgeon who clipped my son's frenulum, that's the stringy muscle under the toung, which in toung-tie is too long, and literally, in 60 SECONDS, his nursing problems were GONE. i am not exaggerating. this could be your problem and the sooner you check it out the faster you can fix it.

also as another mom said try a better pump; go to a surgical supply store and rent yourself a Hospital Grade Medela Classic; it is not cheap but you will get much more milk out. though i did not end up using my pumped milk for my son, i did use this pump for a couple weeks and i often got up to 10 ounces out at a time!

good luck to you!

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