Not sure how to combine breastfeeding and pumping?
Many breastfeeding moms find that they need to pump for various reasons, but it can create its own challenges.
There isn’t a one size fits all answer. Figuring out how to fit pumping into your breastfeeding routine depends on your personal circumstances and needs.
We’ve tried to help answer the most common questions that breastfeeding moms regularly have about pumping.
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In This Guide:
Wondering When To Start Pumping Breast Milk?
This is a fairly personal choice that should be decided based on your specific circumstances.
Generally, if your baby is healthy and gaining weight, it is recommended to wait until your milk supply regulates, usually around 6 weeks, to begin pumping. This way you have let your baby and body determine the supply and demand necessary for feeding
That said there are many different reasons someone might choose to pump ranging from medical concerns to returning to work.
There isn’t really a right time to start, rather just determining when is the best time for you personally. If you’re not sure, a lactation consultant is a great resource to help you figure it out.
How Many Times a Day Should I Pump While Breastfeeding?
Figuring out frequency when you’re learning how to combine breastfeeding and pumping can be kind of tricky.
How many times a day you pump largely depends on your individual circumstances and what your main goals are.
If you are pumping at work when your baby is not there to nurse, the general rule of thumb is to pump for every bottle your baby will receive in your absence. This is usually about every 2-3 hours.
If you are exclusively breastfeeding but you need to express milk for one specific outing, you will likely just pump as needed and not every day.
Or maybe you are pumping to increase supply, in that case it might be a good idea to pump twice. Pump directly following your first nursing session and then again after putting baby to bed for the night.
Do I Need To Pump If I’m Exclusively Breastfeeding?
It completely depends on your specific circumstances, but a lot of breastfeeding moms do need to pump at some point or another.
It may seem at first that pumping would be unnecessary if you are home with your baby and can feed them directly. However, it doesn’t always work out that way and it seems extremely rare to ever meet a nursing mom who has never had to pump. I’m sure there’s one out there, but I’ve never met them.
So if you are breastfeeding, chances are very high that you will also need to pump.
Here’s the main reasons breastfeeding moms need to pump:
- You are away from your baby. This is probably the most common reason. Whether you must pump daily as a working mom or just to attend an adult event occasionally, you should plan to pump for any feedings that you miss.
- You want to build a stash. Many moms try to keep breast milk in their freezer for emergencies. This can be important for all sorts of reasons, from medical issues to unexpected trips. It is also valuable for many moms peace of mind.
- You want to increase your supply. Common advice for helping increase breast milk supply is to pump after feedings to stimulate more production. Another way to use the pump to increase supply is through power pumping (read all about power pumping here!).
- You want your partner to be involved in feeding. For obvious reasons, breastfeeding moms tend to take on all of the feeding responsibilities. Pumping can allow your partner to be involved in feeding the baby too, which can help them bond as well.
What Do I Need To Combine Breastfeeding and Pumping?
Having the right equipment will make pumping and breastfeeding much more convenient.
Luckily, we have an entire list of all of our tops picks for breastfeeding necessities that you can read here.
Though not an exhaustive list, here’s a quick rundown of just the essentials you’ll need for pumping:
A Breast Pump
This is obvious, but which pump should you get? Well, in the US your health insurance should cover the cost of a breast pump so start by contacting them. Many have limited options for which pump they will provide.
Unless you plan to use it very rarely, we highly recommend getting a double electric pump like our favorite the Medela Pump in Style.
Breast Milk Storage System
You’ll need containers to store your pumped milk and there are many different options.
For most pumps, the bottles that you pump directly into and fine for storing milk in the refrigerator.
For longer term storage, you’ll need to freeze the milk. Use breast milk storage bags and freeze them flat to save space.
Obviously, you’ll need bottles to feed the expressed milk to your baby, but breastfed babies can be especially particular.
The best bottle is going to whichever one that your baby will take which can mean that you have to try out a few varieties.
For those who will pump regularly, just go ahead and invest in some spares for any part that requires daily cleaning. Since these can differ for different types of pumps think of things like flanges, connectors, valves, membranes… those types of parts that you’ll need to wash every night.
Wondering if this is really essential? Yes, the day you panic because you forgot those parts in the sink, you too will think that these are absolutely essential.
Can I Mix Breast Milk That I Pump at Two Different Times?
The short answer is yes.
According to Kellymom, it’s fine to mix breast milk from different pumping sessions. In fact, it’s not uncommon that when pumping after feeding you’ll need more than one pumping session to produce enough for one bottle.
There’s a few considerations to keep in mind when mixing milk.
First, it’s best to mix milk of the same temperature.
Second, use the date of the milk that was pumped first. For instance, if you combine breast milk pumped today with some from two days ago, all of the mixed milk should be considered two days old.
Another thing to note is that some research has shown that breast milk changes over the course of the day so milk pumped at different times like the morning versus evening has a different composition. Whether or not this has a noticeable effect on your baby, eh, the jury is still out. Some moms claim it makes a big difference, others say it doesn’t so this seems up for debate.
If you do notice that morning or night milk seems to consistently impact your baby, then it would make sense to only mix milk pumped from the same time of day.
How Do You Pump and Breastfeed at the Same Time?
Learning how to pump and breastfeed at the same time is an extremely helpful time-saving skill to develop.
It’s important to point out that when you’re performing these at the same time, you’re tricking your body’s milk supply/demand cycle by expressing more milk than your baby is consuming.
This means it will signal to your body that it needs to increase your supply. Which is great if this is your goal, but not so much if you’re also struggling with an oversupply.
That being said, here are a few instances of why one might want to pump and breastfeed at the same time:
- Increase your milk supply
- Build up your freezer stash
- Relieve engorgement discomfort
Using Your Pump While Breastfeeding
Most pumps easily allow you to switch back and forth between pumping with one breast vs. both. Read your manual for how your individual pump works, but for most you just need to cover the place where one of the tubes connects to the pump itself, like this:
Problem is, juggling a suckling and squirming baby while also holding a breast shield is a near impossible feat for most moms.
A hands-free pumping bra is supposedly designed to allow you to simultaneously pump and breastfeed. Personally, I thought it did a great job of holding the pump securely. My babies, however, really struggled with latching through the limited nipple opening the bra provided.
Haakaa – the Easier Pumping and Breastfeeding Technique
In our opinion, by far the easiest method for how to combine breastfeeding and pumping simultaneously is with the truly ingenious (and super affordable!) Haakaa.
Simply attach the Haakaa to one of the breasts before you begin to nurse. Then feed your baby like normal on the other breast. When it’s applied correctly, the Haakaa is securely attached via suction.
The pressure of the suction is what draws the milk from the breast. Combine that with the letdowns from nursing and it works amazing for pumping and breastfeeding at the same time.
If Baby Only Nurses on One Side Should I Pump the Other?
No, just because your baby only nurses from one side does not automatically mean you need to pump the other breast either during or after nursing.
There may be reasons why you might want to (see above section about how to pump and breastfeed at the same time), but you certainly don’t have to.
Your body is constantly learning how much breast milk your baby needs and adjusts your supply accordingly. By not pumping after nursing you are reinforcing the correct amount your baby is consuming.
Just be sure to start breastfeeding on the other side for the next feed.
Can You Pump Too Much While Breastfeeding?
While we personally believe you can never have too much breast milk stored, there are dangers to your body from pumping too much.
Stashing breast milk in a deep freeze is a good idea because you never know what’s going to happen on your breastfeeding journey. It allows you to be prepared for every scenario.
Excess milk can be used for mixing with baby oatmeal, in milk baths, on baby’s skin for eczema/diaper rash, or even donated through an organization like Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
All of that being said, if you are pumping more often than your baby is feeding, you are in danger of creating an oversupply situation.
Simply put, an “oversupply” is when your body is producing more breast milk than your baby is consuming. Which may sound like a good thing if you are trying to create a stash. However, a large oversupply can be uncomfortable, and even dangerous for mom.
Here are some symptoms and complications from an oversupply:
- Swollen and painful breasts (more than just a feeling of full and uncomfortable)
- Clogged ducts
- A serious infection known as mastitis
- Difficulty latching and nursing (most often with baby seeming to “choke”)