Breast Pumping: When to Start Pumping and How Long to Pump

As a new mother, it can be exciting to begin planning your new life with your bundle of joy and one of the most important things to think about is breastfeeding. If you’ve never had the experience of giving birth before, it can be unsettling to try to understand when to start pumping and how long you should pump. This guide will bring you through the ins and outs of breast pumping to make sure that it is comfortable for your body and ready for your new baby.

Choosing a Pump

The first step before you even think about beginning to pump is to find the right breast pump for you. There are hundreds of them on the market and each has their own benefits, features, and ease of use.

Depending on your level of experience you might need to find a pump that has more features and an in-depth guide to teach you how to use the unit properly. For more experienced mothers, you can use an existing pump that you had for your previous children or a model with fewer features.

Once you have selected the perfect pump, it’s time to start.

Before you purchase your pump, check with your insurance to see if the cost of a breast pump is covered. The ACA requires insurance plans to cover the cost of a breast pump. You can either try to file a claim directly with your insurance or use a durable medical equipment (DME) supplier to fulfill the order. Most DMEs will take care the entire process to get qualify for a breast pump through insurance.

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Collecting a Milk Reserve

You can begin collecting milk at any time you want, but you’re going to want to pay special attention to your breasts during the first two weeks after you give birth. The more that you pump during this time, the more children your body is going to think you had. For example, if you pump enough milk to feed three babies, your body is going to assume that you had triplets and force you to produce that much milk naturally.

Although you might think that it’s a good thing for your body to produce as much milk as possible, it can be quite dangerous. Many new mothers deal with issues such as plugged ducts and engorgement as a result of pumping too often. Instead, it’s advised that you take the time to determine how much milk is enough for your baby to comfortably eat throughout the day.

The General Rules for Learning How Often You Should Pump

There isn’t a specific guideline to explain how often you should pump, as every mother is different. What you can do is use these rules to help develop a schedule based on your personal preference, how your baby behaves, and your milk production.

Rule 1: Pump for Each Feeding

It’s important to remember that pumping is equivalent to your baby latching on your breast, and so you’ll want to make sure that you pump as regularly as you would feed them. If you take the first couple of weeks after they’re born to see how many times they eat per day, you can then pump accordingly. Also, with the help of your reserved milk, you should be able to have a clear idea of how often you need to pump.

Rule 2: The Hunger of the Baby

It’s also important that you think about how hungry your baby is after a regular feeding. You can typically figure this out by how often they need to eat, for example, if your baby feels the need to nurse every 2 hours they might not be getting enough milk.

Babies are far more efficient at getting milk straight out of your breast than a pump is, and you might find that even though you’re pumping for the same amount of time as you would naturally breast feed, it doesn’t mean that you’re getting the same amount of milk.

It’s recommended that you set yourself to pump 5 to 10 minutes longer than your baby would feed, just to make sure that you’re getting the perfect amount. You can also find bottles and bags with measurements on the side for a more accurate number.

Rule 3: Develop a Comfortable Schedule

Remember, breastfeeding isn’t something that should be stressful! All you have to do is develop a schedule that comfortably fits into your everyday activities. If you know that you go to the gym on Wednesdays, then make sure that you pump beforehand. If you go to work during the day, you can pump before you leave in the morning.

Your pumping schedule is completely customizable and your body will be readily available for you when you need it.

As your baby gets older, it can be a great idea to schedule a time out of your day to pump. This can put your body into a regular routine to where you’ll know when it’s time to get rid of the milk, instead of dealing with enlarged and uncomfortable breasts throughout the day.

It’s recommended that you start putting your body into the routine of pumping at the same time every day at least 2 weeks before you decide to return to work. This gives your body enough time to be prepared for being outside of the home.

How Long Should You Pump?

Much like setting a schedule, the length of time that you should pump for depends on how hungry your child is. The longer you go, the more milk you should produce and this is recommended for babies with large appetites.

Many mothers find that they prefer to pump until there isn’t any more milk coming out, meaning that they essentially reset their breasts for new milk to be produced. If you find that you’re not producing enough milk, pumping a little bit after the milk stops flowing can help to encourage your body to produce more regularly.

On average, 15 minutes should be long enough to thoroughly feed your child in one sitting, but everyone is different. It all depends on your comfort and personal preference.

Breast pumping is an incredibly simple process that many mothers feel pressured about. It’s important to remember that the more comfortable you are, the easier it will be to produce milk, and the happier the experience will be. Learning how often and how long you should pump all depends on the signals your body gives you and how hungry your baby is. By taking your time and making it enjoyable, breast pumping can be easy.


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