Your body’s ability to create breastmilk is all about supply and demand.
You need to ‘remove’ milk from your breast to create more milk. You can remove milk by expressing with your hand or a pump, or by feeding your baby directly at the breast.
Schedules can be a simple way of making sure that you consistently remove milk, which will help you settle into a rhythm of producing milk.
Your schedule will need to change over time, depending on your baby’s age and your feeding goals. For example, if you find yourself pumping to initiate or build lactation (those first few days and weeks post birth), you will need to be pumping often and consistently to remove milk. If your baby is starting solids, you can space your pumps out a bit.
You can choose to follow a strict schedule if that helps you. You can also simply pump when you feel like it, or when your baby is hungry.
However you choose to schedule your pumping sessions, it can help to keep the following principles in mind:
- You need to ‘remove’ milk from your breast to create more milk. The more you pump, the more milk you will make and vice versa.
- Every breast and baby is different, but if you’re pumping for all your baby’s milk, and your baby isn’t having solids or other milk or supplements, then you’ll need to be pumping about 2-3 hours in total per day.
- There are two things you can vary in your schedule: the number of times you pump and the length of time you pump. For example, while you are establishing your supply with a newborn, you might pump 8-10 times a day for about 20 minutes. For an older baby, you might drop a few pump sessions to 6-8 times but pump for longer each time.
- If feeding isn’t going too well for you, seek advice from a lactation consultant, preferably one with pumping experience and insight. They should be able to approach your situation holistically, and help you create a schedule that fits into your life and needs.