Before achieving a steady supply of breastmilk, it is recommended to have at least 8 nursing and/or pumping sessions with 3 hours between each session. If you are nursing your baby but he/she does not empty your breasts, continue with double pumping for 10-15 minutes after nursing to better empty your breasts. If you are not nursing your baby, start with double pumping for 15-20 minutes per session and slowly increasing it to 30 minutes once your breastmilk supply has increased.
Increasing the frequency of your pumping sessions up to 8 to 12 times a day will help to increase the milk production and volume of milk expressed. As you empty your breasts through frequent pumping, this sends a signal to your body that your baby requires more milk thus increasing breastmilk production. Emptying your breasts completely will also help to reduce blocked ducts or engorgement.
Don’t be discouraged! It is normal to have low milk supply during the initial days of breastfeeding.
Pumping sessions do not have to be evenly spaced, but pumping or nursing at least once in the night will help to maintain a healthy milk supply. This will help during the first few months after childbirth or anytime you notice a decrease in milk supply. Avoid going longer than 5-6 hours without pumping during the first few months.
If you are planning to return to work, continue your pumping sessions to maintain breastmilk supply. Many mothers find that double pumping 3 times a day during work hours (especially during the first few months) provide sufficient breastmilk for your baby’s feeds the next day.
Always aim to empty your breasts during each session to facilitate milk production. It also helps prevent engorgement. To ensure that the breast pump empties your breasts effectively, keep pumping for 2-5 minutes after your last letdown till the last drops of milk has been expressed.
Complement pumping with nursing your baby directly
- If you are nursing your baby and your breasts are engorged, pumping some breastmilk before or after each feed can ease your discomfort.
- If you are away from your baby during feeding times and wish to maintain a regular milk flow, use the breast pump to express your milk at the usual feeding times.
- To save time, you can pump one breast while your baby latches on the other.
- If you are nursing your baby directly and your baby has not emptied either one or both breasts, use the breast pump to empty them completely.