While nursing, or what some call "feeding straight from the tap", there isn't a set schedule. When the baby is hungry, you feed them. You should really do this no matter what form of feeding you choose but that is another post. When you are EPing though, this gets difficult. Some say to pump as often as baby eats, but that is not necessarily true. The pump will never be as efficient as a baby. So while a baby might get five ounces in a feeding, you might only get two ounces from a pumping session. So what is the answer? You must pump as often as needed to get the same ounces as baby eats in a day.
This looks different for everyone. Every woman's body is different and every baby is different. How much your baby eats, how much milk your breasts can hold, how good your pump is, and how good your body responds to the pump all effect your pumping schedule. Feel free to use my schedule as a guide or a starting point but make sure to tweak it in any way necessary to fit your needs, schedule, and pumps needed per day.
This is what my pumping day looks like.
6AM- Wake and power pump (To learn about power pumping click HERE)
8AM- Pump then get kids up
12Noon- Pump and then make lunch
2PM- Pump after putting kids down for a nap
4PM- Pump while feeding baby solids
6PM- Pump after putting baby to bed or while giving her last bottle
8PM- Pump, or power pump if lower supply on that day, after putting the toddler to bed
10PM- Pump or power pump if lower supply on that day
12Midnight- Pump if still awake (lack of sleep can lower supply)
I have struggled with low supply for my whole pumping journey. I can wait longer between pumps, but I get less overall. I have tried several times to go to every three hours, but every time, my supply dramatically drops and takes days to go back up. Most people do start out with a similar pumping schedule (with some middle of the night pumps added) but later stretch their pumps to three hours apart, then four, then six maybe, much like a baby does while nursing. I have just not been able to do this successfully yet but I have faith I will in the future. (Update: I never was able to go any longer than 2 hours between pumps)
If you are wondering if you might have a low supply check out my post Is my breat milk supply low?
Like anything child related, this is more of a guideline than a hard rule. There are times where I might miss a pump like recently when Gracelynn had been teething and wanted to be held 24/7. It does hurt my supply but as long as it is an exception and not the rule, you will be fine and make up for it. If I do miss a pump, I try and do power pumping in my next session and if I can't, then I will do one that night when the kids are in bed. What you have to remember is that you are EPing to give your child the best you can, to be a good mom. Don't let yourself get wrapped up in the pumping madness and forget the little things. Sometimes it makes you a better mom to push that session back 20 min to give some extra cuddles or finish the game you are playing. Which brings me to my next point.
Most moms do not notice a difference in output or supply if they move a session up or push one back 15-30 min. Today, for instance, I needed to be somewhere at two. Instead of skipping my 2PM pump, I moved it up and pumped before. If you know in advance that you need to move pumps, you can even them out better to make it less of a shock on your body. So I moved my 12-noon pump to 11:45 and then my 2PM pump to 1:30. This way, it was closer to my normal 2 hours in between pumps. If you don't have time for a full session, any time you can pump is better than nothing. Even if it is five minutes, it is better than skipping a session.
This is the schedule that works for me and my family, but that doesn't mean it will work for you and your family. My husband works nights so I only have 2 pumps that I am by myself with the kids and they are both awake. Well on a perfect day. It doesn't always work out so good in reality.
Your pumps don't need to be spaced perfectly even. Your body will get used to the schedule you choose and that works with your life. It helps if they are somewhat evenly spaced but don't stress yourself out about it.
As of this moment, I spend about six hours per day pumping. This doesn't include making bottles, cleaning bottles and pump parts, or actually feeding the baby. That is just pumping. When I see that in writing it sounds crazy to be. A fourth of my day is spent hooked up to a machine.
Although this isn't my ideal situation, or what I wanted or planned for, it is so important to me that my baby has breast milk for at least the first year of life. The extra work is so worth it to me. I understand this is not an option for every woman or family and am just grateful that it is an option for me.
Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments below! I love helping others on this journey as I know it is a difficult one.
Find all my favorite pumping products HERE
What does your pumping schedule look like? Let me know in the comments below!