Exclusively pumping can quickly get overwhelming. Don’t worry! An IBCLC outlines what you should know about exclusive pumping schedules based on your baby’s age.
No matter your reason, pumping exclusively is an incredible commitment for you to feed your baby. Exclusive pumping requires a commitment to schedule and involves establishing a sustainable routine to maintain your milk supply.
You may need to adjust your exclusive pumping schedule as your baby ages.
Creating your exclusive pumping schedule
While it would be “easier” for me to tell you a pre-set schedule, every parent has different demands regarding their lifestyle and baby.
Therefore, it’s best to consider a few key points to help shape the best pumping schedule for your needs.
- Examine your pumping goals
- Track your baby’s feedings
- Plan your pumping sessions
Tip #1: Examine your pumping goals
There are three main questions to consider when creating your exclusive pumping schedule:
- How long do you want to pump exclusively?
- How much breast milk do you aim to provide for your baby?
- Will you combo-feed (formula and breast milk) or use breast milk exclusively?
Answering these questions honestly will help you determine how many sessions and milk volume you need while away from your baby, and these numbers will help you set a realistic pumping schedule. Remember, there’s no right or wrong answer, just what works best for you, your mental health, and your family.
Typical milk volumes
- Infants 0-6 months: ~24-28oz
- Babies 6-12 months (in addition to solids): ~30oz/day
Tip #2: Track your baby’s feedings
Start by tracking how often your baby is feeding throughout the day; this will vary based on their age and depending on the baby and their individual needs. Some guidelines for how feeding frequency shifts based on age are below:
- Newborn-3 months: Babies will often feed more frequently (every 2-3 hours) and typically allow for one 4-5 hour stretch for 8-12 feedings daily.
- Babies 3-6 months: Babies can often go for longer stretches of time between feedings and may vary between 6-8 feedings a day.
- Babies 6-12 months: Babies begin to have solid foods introduced at six months. *While milk is still the primary form of nutrition, your baby will often drink larger volumes less frequently, typically maintaining between 5-6 feedings daily.
|0-3 months||3-6 months||6-12 months|
|Length of session||15-20 min.||15-20 min.||15-20 min.|
Tip #3: Plan your pumping sessions
How many times a day you need to pump to maintain your milk supply will depend on your baby’s age and what is known as your “magic number.” You must complete This number of pumps daily to express your baby’s milk needs. You can pump as often as your baby feeds based on their feeding schedule.
Pro tip: your “magic number” is the number of pumping sessions you must complete daily. This should mirror your baby’s eating schedule.
As your baby grows older and feeds less frequently, you can gradually reduce the number of pumping sessions, or if you find that you are expressing more milk than your baby needs throughout the day, your “magic number” may be less than before (which means more time back in your day!)
Sample exclusive pumping schedules
We get it; it can be overwhelming to figure out an exclusive pumping schedule and what exactly that might look like. So, we’ve created a few examples for you!
A few things to consider:
- Adjust the number of sessions as needed
- If you notice a drop in supply, consider adding a night pump
- Pay attention to your supply when the baby starts solids
- The schedule will depend on your baby’s age and needs
Example newborn-3 months pumping schedule
The below schedule has eight sessions. You can adjust the timing depending on your baby’s nutritional needs and number of feeds.
Number of sessions: 8-12
- 7 am
- 10 am
- 1 pm
- 4 pm
- 6 pm
- 9 pm
- 12 am
- 4 am
Example 3-6 months pumping schedule
The below schedule has six sessions. You can adjust the timing depending on how many sessions you need and your baby’s nutritional needs.
Number of sessions: 6-8
- 6 am
- 10 am
- 2 pm
- 6 pm
- 10 pm
- 2 am
Example 6-12 months pumping schedule
The below schedule has six sessions. You can adjust the timing depending on how many sessions you need to maintain supply.
If you notice a decrease in supply with an extended sleep period overnight, add back in 1-2 pumping sessions as needed.
Number of sessions: 5-6
- 7 am
- 11 am
- 3 pm
- 8 pm
- 10 pm
- 1 am*
*Can remove if not needed for supply maintenance.
Exclusive pumping tips you might find helpful
Scheduling pumping sessions throughout your day
Depending on your work environment, your scheduling of pump sessions may vary. Generally, if you can plan to block off time during your day to pump, this will allow you to be physically comfortable (read: not engorged during an important meeting).
While everyone responds to the pump differently, a general rule of thumb is to aim to pump for about 15-20 minutes per session or until your breasts feel empty- you may need more or less time to empty your breasts fully.
Ensuring an IBCLC correctly fits your pumping parts and that they work at optimal suctioning capacity is also essential.
Monitor your milk supply and adjust as needed
As your baby grows, it regulates to meet its needs. Changes in your life/work environment that impact your stress level can affect your milk supply, so you may need to consider adding an additional pumping session or extending the duration of your existing sessions as needed.
Final thoughts on exclusive pumping
Remember, exclusive pumping is a full-time job. Prioritizing your self-care by staying hydrated, eating nutrient-dense meals, and getting enough rest can all help support your milk supply and ensure your pumping sessions are effective.
Lastly, please don’t go on the journey alone if you need support. Lactation consultants (IBCLC) are trained not just in breastfeeding but are also well-versed in pumping, bottle feeding, and supporting mothers in transitioning back to work. Find an IBCLC near you.
Other helpful resources for breastfeeding
Jaren Soloff is a Registered Dietitian and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who serves as an expert in women’s health. She is the founder of FULL CRCL, providing nutrition counseling and lactation consultations to help both mom and baby thrive in motherhood.