Exclusively Breastfeeding: To Pump or Not?

do you need to pump if you exclusively breastfeed

If you're a breastfeeding mother, you may wonder whether you need to pump in addition to nursing your baby, especially if you've chosen to exclusively breastfeed. The answer depends on your individual circumstances and goals.

Let’s explore the reasons you might consider pumping while exclusively breastfeeding and when it might be unnecessary.

Do You Need To Pump If You Exclusively Breastfeed?

Pumping while exclusively breastfeeding is optional. You may choose to pump in order to increase your milk supply, donate milk, or relieve pain from engorgement, but it's not necessary if you're comfortable with your breastfeeding routine.

Increasing Milk Supply

Some mothers may experience challenges with milk supply, particularly during the early weeks of breastfeeding. In such cases, pumping can help stimulate additional milk production.

Power Pumping

Power pumping is an effective technique that breastfeeding mothers can use to increase their milk supply. It involves a concentrated effort to mimic cluster feeding, a behavior where a baby nurses frequently in short bursts.

The idea behind power pumping is to signal your body to produce more milk by simulating this demand. Here's a more detailed explanation of how to power pump and why it can be beneficial:

  • Setting a Schedule: To power pump, you'll want to dedicate specific times during the day for these pumping sessions. A common schedule is to pump for 10-20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for another 10-20 minutes, and continue this cycle for about an hour. You can adjust the duration based on your comfort and availability.

  • Frequency: It's recommended to power pump once a day for a few days to kickstart milk production. However, you can increase or decrease the frequency based on your goals and needs. Some mothers prefer doing it in the morning when milk supply is typically higher.

  • Double Pumping: Using a double electric breast pump is more efficient for power pumping as it allows you to express milk from both breasts simultaneously. This mimics the way babies often feed by switching between breasts.

  • Consistency: Consistency is key. The more regularly you engage in power pumping sessions, the more effective it can be at increasing milk supply. Try to maintain the schedule you've set for a few days to see noticeable results.

  • Hydration and Nutrition: Staying well-hydrated and eating a balanced diet with enough calories can also contribute to better milk production. Ensure you're taking care of your own nutrition and self-care during this process.

  • Monitoring and Patience: Keep an eye on your milk supply throughout the process. It may take a few days to see a significant increase in milk production, so be patient with yourself. Not every mother will experience the same results, but power pumping can be a helpful tool for many.

Nighttime pumping

Nighttime pumping is a valuable strategy for breastfeeding mothers who want to increase their milk supply or maintain a healthy supply. The nighttime hours are particularly important for milk production because that's when your body naturally releases higher levels of the hormone prolactin, which stimulates milk production.

Here's a more in-depth look at the benefits and techniques of nighttime pumping:

  • Timing is Crucial: The hours between midnight and 5 AM are generally when prolactin levels are at their peak. This makes the late-night or early-morning pumping sessions most effective for stimulating milk production.

  • Relaxation is Key: To maximize your milk yield during nighttime pumping, create a calm and relaxing environment. Dim the lights, keep the room quiet, and use this time to unwind. Stress and distractions can hinder milk let-down.

  • Double Pumping: Using a double electric breast pump during nighttime sessions can save time and stimulate both breasts simultaneously. This mimics the way babies typically feed, switching between breasts to encourage milk production.

  • Consistency is Important: Aim for a consistent schedule when incorporating nighttime pumping into your routine. You might start with one or two sessions per night and gradually adjust based on your needs and how well your body responds.

  • Avoid Overdoing It: While nighttime pumping can be effective, it's essential to balance it with your need for sleep. Ensure that you're still getting adequate rest during the night. Consider enlisting the help of a partner or caregiver to care for the baby during the day so you can catch up on sleep.

  • Store Expressed Milk: The milk you pump during nighttime sessions can be stored for future use, whether it's for a later feeding, building a milk stash, or for times when you're away from your baby.

If you're exclusively breastfeeding and your baby is thriving and satisfied, there's no need to feel pressured to increase your milk supply beyond what's naturally comfortable for you and your little one. Always prioritize the well-being and health of both you and your baby in your breastfeeding journey.

Relieving Engorgement

Breast engorgement is a common occurrence in the early days of breastfeeding, and it can be both uncomfortable and painful. Engorgement happens when your breasts become overly full with milk, causing swelling, hardness, and even soreness. Pumping is an effective method to relieve this discomfort and maintain milk supply.

Start with gentle expression using a low pump setting, or consider hand expression for added comfort. Apply warm compresses before pumping to relax breast tissue, and cold packs afterward to reduce swelling.

Frequent breastfeeding can help regulate milk production and alleviate engorgement. Avoid wearing tight bras to reduce pain and tenderness. Over-the-counter pain relievers may provide pain relief.

It's important to strike a balance when pumping, only expressing enough to relieve discomfort without emptying the breast entirely. By following these steps, you can effectively manage breast engorgement and maintain a healthy breastfeeding relationship with your baby.

As always, seek support from a lactation consultant if you’re experiencing frequent or severe engorgement.

Breast engorgement is a temporary phase in your breastfeeding journey, typically resolving within a few days as your body adjusts to your baby's needs. Using pumping as a tool to manage engorgement can provide relief and help maintain a healthy breastfeeding relationship.

Remember that every breastfeeding experience is unique, so it's important to adjust your approach based on your comfort and what works best for you and your baby.

Donor Milk or Milk Sharing

Some mothers choose to pump and donate their breast milk to milk banks or other mothers in need. Both donor milk banks and informal milk sharing play a crucial role in providing babies with the essential nutrients and antibodies present in breast milk, promoting their healthy growth and development.

It's important to ensure proper safety measures and guidelines are followed to protect the health of both the donor and recipient babies. Consulting with healthcare professionals and lactation experts can provide valuable guidance for safe milk sharing practices.

Donor Milk Banks

Donor milk banks are organized systems that collect, screen, pasteurize, and distribute donated breast milk to infants, primarily premature or medically fragile babies in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). The milk undergoes rigorous testing to ensure safety, making it a viable alternative when a mother's own milk isn't available or sufficient.

Donating to a milk bank can be a selfless way to help these vulnerable infants thrive.

Informal Milk Sharing

Informal milk sharing typically occurs among friends or within local communities. Mothers who have an abundant milk supply may share their excess milk with other mothers who may be experiencing challenges with breastfeeding or unable to produce enough milk themselves.

While this can be a beautiful act of support, it's essential to prioritize safety by discussing health histories, conducting screenings, and following guidelines to reduce risks.

Building a Milk Stash

If you’re planning to continue exclusively breastfeeding throughout your entire breastfeeding journey, you may not need to build too much of a milk stash.

Many women build a stash of expressed breast milk in preparation for returning to work. If you are not returning to work, or your job allows flexibility to be able to breastfeed while working, you can continue breastfeeding without needing expressed milk for regular bottles.

You might still find it beneficial to have a small stash in case of emergency or unexpected reasons why someone needs to give your baby a bottle. In this case, you may just pump a little and then not pump again for a while, or use a milk collector instead of making pumping part of your regular routine.

When Is Pumping Not Necessary?

Exclusive breastfeeding means providing all of your baby's nourishment through breastfeeding alone, without the use of formula or other feeding methods. In many cases, pumping is not necessary for mothers who have chosen this approach, as exclusive breastfeeding can provide all the required nutrition for your baby.

You may not need to pump if any of the circumstances below apply to you.

  • Sufficient Milk Supply: If you have a robust and consistent milk supply that meets your baby's needs and they are thriving and gaining weight as expected, there's typically no need to pump. Your body naturally adjusts milk production to match your baby's demand.

  • Comfortable Feeding Routine: Some mothers and babies establish a comfortable and efficient breastfeeding routine without the need for additional pumping sessions. If both you and your baby are content with this arrangement, there may be no reason to pump.

  • No Need for a Milk Stash: If you have no plans to return to work or be separated from your baby for extended periods, you may not need to build a large milk stash. In such cases, pumping may be reserved for occasional use or emergencies only.

  • Lifestyle and Convenience: Pumping can be time-consuming and may not align with your lifestyle or preferences. If you're content with the simplicity of direct breastfeeding and it suits your daily routine, you may opt to avoid pumping.

  • Baby's Latch and Feeding Ability: If your baby has a strong latch and effectively transfers milk during breastfeeding, there may be no need to pump. Some babies are excellent at extracting milk efficiently.

  • Personal Choice: Exclusive breastfeeding is a personal choice, and it's essential to do what feels right for you and your baby. If you're satisfied with your breastfeeding journey without pumping, that's perfectly acceptable.

Your breastfeeding journey should be tailored to your unique circumstances and needs. While pumping can offer numerous benefits, it's important to remember that it's not always necessary if you exclusively breastfeed.

If you are comfortable with your breastfeeding routine and have no specific reasons to pump, you may choose not to. Breastfeeding alone can provide all the nourishment your baby needs, and some mothers find pumping to be time-consuming or inconvenient.

My Experience

My experience with exclusively breastfeeding without pumping was quite unique. I really cherished the bonding time I had with my baby girl during our nursing sessions, and I found them to be incredibly meaningful. It was like this beautiful connection we had, and I didn't want to disrupt it with pumping.

In my case, returning to work didn't disrupt your breastfeeding routine as I had the flexibility to continue breastfeeding while working from home. My milk supply was just right for my baby, and thankfully, I didn't encounter any issues with engorgement or the need to relieve pain.

In the midst of those busy days with a newborn, adding pumping to the mix felt like one more thing to do, and it didn't seem necessary for us. For me, our simple and loving breastfeeding routine was more than enough, and I wouldn't have had it any other way!


The decision to pump while exclusively breastfeeding is a personal one and depends on your unique circumstances and goals. Whether you choose to pump or not, the most important thing is that you and your baby have a healthy and loving breastfeeding relationship.

If you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding, it's a good idea to consult with a lactation consultant or healthcare provider who can offer personalized guidance and support. Ultimately, the choice is yours, and it should be one that makes you and your baby happy and healthy.

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Author, Founder @ Latch Luxe

Stefanie Statler

Stefanie Statler is an author and the founder of Latch Luxe, with a loving husband and daughter. She is a dedicated advocate for breastfeeding mothers and understands the challenges and joys of motherhood firsthand. Email me at stef@latchluxe.com.

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