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Thread: Does the time between pumpings really matter?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2009

    Default Does the time between pumpings really matter?

    I'm currently feeding my 13-week old by bottle (mostly 4-5 ounces of breast milk, but about one bottle each day is formula). I also do one or two breast-feeding sessions, but she still is not efficient at removing milk, so I don't think my breasts empty during those sessions, and they would take forever if I didn't eventually remove her or she falls asleep.

    Anyway, I am only managing to pump about five times a day now. My question is: does it matter if some of the pumpings are only 1-2 hours apart and others are 4-5 hours apart during the day? (At night I'm now only pumping around 8pm and 11pm, and then not again until the morning, since she sleeps through the night and the 3am waking up was killing me, especially since I have noone helping me most of the time.)

    Also, fwiw, I use the Medela Symphony and realized that my milk never started coming out during the "let down" setting, so now I immediately turn it to the other setting. I pump for about 20 minutes (or more if i get distracted) and usually get about 2.5-4 ounces per session during the day, and sometimes up to 7 ounces at the first morning session. I recently began taking the More Milk tincture, since my supply dipped about a week ago, but is now back up.

    My goal is actually to substitute more bottle feedings with breast feeding, but she's just not able to get enough that way yet.

    Thanks for any help on figuring out if my pumping schedule is ok or not.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Does the time between pumpings really matter?

    If you are going to maintain your supply, you need to be pumping at least as often as your baby would be nursing. For a newborn, that is about 10-12 times per 24 hours. Pumping 8 times/24 hours is a bare minimum, and it leaves you no "wiggle room". Generally you don't want to go more than 3 hours between pumpings (although a longer stretch at night is OK). Working to get your baby nursing effectively directly is definitely a priority!

    There are some ways to fit in more pumping sessions. While you want to make sure you remove milk from your breasts, it will help to get in more frequent pumpings even if the duration of the session is shorter. Milk left in the breasts tells the breasts to produce less milk. Frequent stimulation and milk removal signals the breasts to make more milk.

    Here are a couple of "power pumping" techniques that might help you. These are ideas from moms who are working and need to increase or maintain their supply, and from moms with babies in NICU or moms of twins who need to maintain their supply on exclusive or near-exclusive pumping, until their babies can nurse directly.

    One technique is to settle yourself in front of the TV (with your pump) to watch a one-hour show. Pump *only* on the commercial breaks. This gives you 4 or 5 mini-pumpings in that hour.

    Another way is to set your pump up in a location that you will pass frequently during the day-- example, the kitchen. Every time you walk past the pump, sit down and pump for 5 or 10 minutes. Leave everything set up. After four hours, consolidate the pumped milk into one container and clean your pump parts, then set up the pump again. (Breastmilk will stay fresh for quite a few hours at room temp).

    Hang in there! Have you consulted with a local LLL Leader or an IBCLC about your daughter's nursing pattern? Sometimes a minor change in positioning or latch can make a huge difference in how well a baby nurses. Sometimes things like a tongue-tie can affect a baby's stamina at the breast. (Usually, but not always, tongue-tie will cause you pain. It can make it very tiring for the baby to stay on the breast).

    You are doing the right things: Rule #1: Feed the Baby! Rule #2: Protect mom's milk supply! Rule #3: Figure out and correct the breastfeeding difficulty. Hopefully all this pumping will be a very temporary part of your nursing relationship. You do want to pump enough to maintain your supply so that when your dd is ready to nurse more at the breast, there is milk available to keep her interested. Good Luck!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2009

    Default Re: Does the time between pumpings really matter?

    thanks for the advice. Does pumping five times in an hour during a "power pumping" session count as five of the eight pumpings needed in 24 hours?

    I thought each pumping had to empty the breast to "count"? If that means that nothing except some drips are still coming out of the pump, even after massaging the breast, then it takes me about 15-20 minutes to get to that point most times.

    Also, does it matter if I pump at, for example, 7am, 10am, noon, 1pm, 4pm, 6pm, 7pm, 10pm ... versus pumping at 7am, noon, 2pm, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm, 11pm? is it more important that you do eight pumpings, or that there are no long gaps? it's hard when i have to go out (which I do a lot, to doctors and whatnot). i sometimes fit in a breastfeeding session during outings, but my daughter often doesn't empty the breasts, so i don't think those "count"??

    as to the feeding difficulties ... i was going to post separately on the Breastfeeding an Infant thread about that, since it's a bit complicated and not specifically about the pumping, but yes, she already had her frenulum clipped ...

  4. #4

    Default Re: Does the time between pumpings really matter?

    Regarding "power pumping"... I honestly don't know that you can say the five "mini-pumpings" during a TV show count as five of your 8-10 pumpings. I would think not. It should help cushion the effect of the occasional times when you can't fit in at least 8 pumpings in 24 hours.

    Here is a link with more info about pumping for increasing/maintaining milk supply:

    Scroll down towards the end of the article-- that should give you a more thorough answer.

    Remember that if your baby was nursing effectively, you would still be nursing *at least* 10-12 times per 24 hours, whether you have errands to run/doctor visits or not. Of course, an effectively-nursing baby doesn't require as much set-up and fuss as a pump, but you'll still be spending a good deal of time feeding your baby in the first few months. The good news is that once you are past this hump, breastfeeding becomes something that just fits into the normal rhythm of your day. It's a big deal right now because you have a new baby and because that baby is having some feeding issues. In a month or two it won't be such a big deal.

    I think the goal when pumping is to not have too much time elapse between pumpings. Cluster pumping should not be a problem, since babies tend to cluster feed, especially in the evening. The main recommendation I'm seeing is to pump at least as often as the baby would nurse, and allows one 4-6 hour stretch for sleeping (whatever time of the day or night that occurs). I agree with pp; co-sleeping would likely get you a lot more sleep and if your baby was able to nurse even a little bit during the night, you wouldn't need to pump then. The possible pumping schedules you listed both look fine, except for the 8 hour stretch at night. This early infancy time is intense. You are going to be tired, even if you weren't dealing with breastfeeding issues. You will be able to sleep for 8 hours straight again, it just won't be right away or very often right now.

    Are you working with an IBCLC (International Board-Certified Lacation Consultant)? You mentioned that your baby had her frenulum clipped. That should help, although I've heard that it also helps to have body/structural work afterwards (like from a cranial-sacral therapist or a chiropractor). There are also several types of tongue-ties and sometimes they require more than one clipping or a more involved clipping. At the least, your baby has spent her whole time in the womb not being able to move her tongue effectively, and it often takes a little while for the muscles to adjust after a frenotomy.

    It's really important right now that you are working with someone in person to resolve your baby's feeding issues. I know that it can be a hassle and expense up front. I also know that formula will cost way more than an IBCLC consulting charge. I encourage you to attend any LLL meetings you can get to. It is very hard to do this alone. Having other mothers to cheer you on helps tremendously! Your local LLL Leader (if there is a group near you) can provide the ongoing support you need even while you work with an IBCLC. Keep us updated!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2009

    Default Re: Does the time between pumpings really matter?

    Yes, I've been seeing an LC, and i recently began taking the baby to a cranio-sacral specialist. they're working on her, but it's not yet been successful.

    So it doesn't really "count" in place of a pumping session to put the baby on the breast, if the baby isn't emptying the breast, i guess.

    And it seems it doesn't really matter when you do the pumping? if baby feeds more in the morning, for example, you can do more of your pumping in the evening, and that won't mess things up when/if you eventually get to just breastfeeding the baby? in other words, it won't train your breasts to make more milk in the evenings?


  6. #6

    Default Re: Does the time between pumpings really matter?

    I'm glad you are getting ongoing help locally. That's really important.

    Babies don't necessarily "empty" the breast (the breasts are never really empty-- they are always making milk). However, you want to see that the baby is actually transferring milk. If your baby is actually getting milk when nursing directly in the morning, and you do most of your pumping in the evening, that is fine. The point to keep in mind is that an emptier breast makes milk faster than a full breast, and the more stimulation your breasts get, the more milk you will make. Your body will adjust to shifts in nursing frequency at different times of the day. Right now just focus on pumping frequently enough, with not too much time between pumpings, to keep up your supply while you work with your baby. Your goal with pumping is to make sure you have a supply waiting when your baby finally "gets" breastfeeding. (And to provide food for your baby in the meantime).

    Have you looked at the videos on Dr. Jack Newman's site that show good latch and babies "drinking" from the breast? I don't know what you've worked on with the LC.
    www.drjacknewman.com click on "videos".

    Kudos to you for making the effort to breastfeed your baby! Breastfeeding is supposed to be this natural, normal event, and you've been dealing with issues for 13 weeks-- it can feel like you've been cheated out of this wonderful experience you've heard of. Gather all the support you can right now. Sometimes our lives just don't go as planned. I'm quite sure that even though this is a frustrating experience right now, you will not regret the effort you are putting into feeding your baby. Someday when she's old enough (probably when she's about 40 yrs old LOL) she'll thank you.

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