Breast Pumping Schedule: How to Create One That Works for You

Pumping milk, whether exclusively or to supplement breastfeeding, can be daunting at first, but it can be beneficial to you and your little one for many different reasons. Having a breast pump for expressing milk will not only allow you to fill a bottle with liquid gold, but it can also help maintain your milk supply, relieve common breastfeeding problems, and help you create a breast milk stash for when you need to go back to work.

Keep in mind, however, that every mum is different, and some will need to pump more or less frequently to get the amount of milk their baby needs. Read on for our guide on when to start pumping and figuring out the right breast pumping schedule for you.

When to start pumping?

You may begin pumping anytime you feel ready – some new mums opt to start pumping after giving birth to help initiate breastfeeding or to stimulate their milk production. If you have a healthy, full term baby who is exclusively breastfeeding, you can also wait a few weeks before pumping and storing breast milk. 

For mums who cannot perform a direct latch – perhaps your baby was born premature or with special needs and has to stay in the NICU, or you need to continue being hospitalised for certain reasons – then pumping can happen as soon as you can after delivery. This is especially crucial to express colostrum, the first form of breast milk your body releases after giving birth. This thick, yellow liquid is nutrient dense and high in antibodies and antioxidants, which your newborn needs to build their immune system.

If you’ve committed to breastfeeding, breastfeeding should be well established by the time your bub is around 4 to 6 weeks old, and you’ll have enough time between feeding sessions to pump extra milk for later use. 

What kind of pump should I use?

You can express breast milk using a manual or electric breast pump. But if you plan to pump for an extended period, a double electric breast pump like the Eonian Care Smart Double Electric Breast Pump can save you time and effort. It is a durable, medical grade device designed for frequent use and simultaneous pumping, and it comes with a rechargeable battery, neck strap and a handy USB cable for pumping on the go.

What’s the best breast pumping schedule?

Mums produce breast milk at different rates, so your pumping schedule will differ based on your milk production. If you have an abundant supply and can pump many ounces at once, you can go several hours between pumping sessions. Meanwhile, those who cannot produce as much milk might need to pump more frequently. 

Whatever your situation, it’s best to choose a time of day when your breasts feel full. If you’re pumping while away from your baby, it’s best to pump at around the same time your baby will normally feed, about once every 3 hours.

Breast pumping schedule for a newborn

If you’re exclusively pumping breast milk for your newborn, you’ll need to pump about 8 to 9 times in 24 hours, including in the middle of the night. If you can, aim for about 15 to 20 minutes per pumping session. Here’s a timeline you can use as a guide:

  • 7 AM
  • 9 AM
  • 11 AM
  • 1 PM
  • 3 PM
  • 5 PM
  • 7 PM
  • 10 PM
  • 3 AM

Breast pumping schedule for a 3 month old

As you and your baby settle after a couple of months, you can lessen pumping to around 5 to 6 times a day. Here’s a timeline you can use as a guide:

  • 7 AM
  • 10 AM
  • 2 PM
  • 8 PM
  • 11 PM
  • 3 AM

Breast pumping schedule for an older baby

Once your little one starts to transition to solid food starting at 6 months, you probably won’t have to pump quite as frequently, and you can also stop expressing milk in the middle of the night. However, you’d still need to evenly space out your pumping sessions and ensure you’re pumping in the morning when your breast milk supply is at its highest. Here’s a timeline you can use as a guide:

  • 6 AM
  • 10 AM
  • 2 PM
  • 10 PM

Breast pumping schedule when you are at work

According to the Australia Breastfeeding Association, it is generally against the law to refuse to make arrangements for you to express milk at work. But you will need to manage your pumping schedule so it does not affect your responsibilities in the office. You can pump less frequently compared to when you’re at home, but be sure to allow enough time for each session (around 15 minutes at a time). To decrease the number of times you need to pump, you can do as much nursing as you can before and after work. 

Here’s a timeline you can use as a guide:

  • 7 AM nurse
  • 10 AM pump at work
  • 2 PM pump at work
  • 5:30 PM nurse
  • 8 PM nurse
  • 11 PM nurse
  • 2 AM nurse
  • 5 AM nurse

Remember that these breast pumping schedules are merely a guide, and you can still tweak them according to your unique needs. 

What is power pumping, and should I try it?

Power pumping is a technique used by mums who want to increase their breast milk output. It mimics the cluster feedings babies often do during their growth spurts, which results in the increased production of prolactin, a hormone that stimulates breast milk production.

A power pumping session typically lasts for an hour. If you want to try it, you can substitute it for a feeding session, or you can do it right after a breastfeeding session. Here’s a timeline you can use as a guide:

  • Pump for 20 minutes
  • Rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump for 10 minutes
  • Rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump for 10 minutes to finish the hour

You can also try a 30 minute session: pumping for 10 minutes, resting for 5, pumping for another 5 minutes, resting for 5, then finishing the session with the last 5 minutes of pumping. Repeat for another 30 minutes to complete the 1 hour. Once the sessions are over, you can pump or breastfeed as usual for the rest of the day.

Don’t expect that power pumping will boost your milk supply right away – it can take a few days for your body to respond to the increased demand. Some mums see an increase within 3 days, while others might need to power pump for a week before experiencing a significant boost.

Breast pumping can be challenging, but it is definitely rewarding. Your little one will reap the benefits of drinking your liquid gold, including all the nutrition they need to grow and develop. So remember to relax and enjoy the journey, mum!

Looking to build your breast milk stash? Click here for the important things to remember when storing and thawing your breast milk! Sign up for our newsletter for more baby care hacks from Eonian Care!