Optimizing Breast Pumping: Frequency and Schedule

how often should i pump if im breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural way to nourish your baby, fostering a strong bond and providing essential nutrients. However, there are times when pumping can become an important part of your breastfeeding journey. Whether you're returning to work, aiming to build a freezer stash, or simply looking for some flexibility, understanding how often to pump is crucial for maintaining your milk supply and ensuring your little one is well-fed.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the dynamic factors affecting pumping frequency, discuss a schedule and routine, address common challenges, how to adapt your pumping frequency as your baby grows, and what are your legal rights for successful pumping at work.

How Often Should I Pump If I’m Breastfeeding?

The ideal pumping frequency varies, but you may find the most success by syncing your routine with your baby's feeding schedule in order to maintain your supply. Initially, pump every 2-3 hours to align with newborn feeds, shift to 3-4 hours upon returning to work.

Factors Influencing Pumping Frequency

Understanding the rhythm of pumping frequency is a pivotal aspect of your breastfeeding journey. Your baby's age, daily routines, and your personal lifestyle all contribute to how often you should pump. As we delve into the factors that influence your pumping schedule, we'll explore the intriguing interplay of your baby's feeding patterns, your work commitments, and your body's supply-and-demand mechanism.

Let's navigate through the dimensions of pumping frequency to ensure that you're equipped to make informed decisions that align with your baby's nourishment needs, your schedule, and your comfort.

Baby's Age and Feeding Patterns

A newborn typically feeds every 2-3 hours, which means your milk supply will naturally align with their needs. As your baby grows, their feeding patterns might change, becoming less frequent but with longer durations. Your pumping frequency should mirror your baby's feeding habits.

Work Schedule and Lifestyle

If you're returning to work, your pumping frequency will depend on your work hours and breaks. Aim to pump during the times your baby would normally feed to maintain your milk supply and prevent discomfort.

Supply and Demand

Your body operates on a supply-and-demand basis. The more you empty your breasts (through nursing or pumping), the more milk your body produces. Consistent and effective pumping helps establish and maintain a healthy milk supply.

Milk Storage Goals

Some mothers choose to pump extra milk to build a freezer stash for times when they can't breastfeed directly. This requires pumping a few times a day beyond your baby's regular feedings.

Comfort and Engorgement

If you're feeling engorged or uncomfortable between feedings, pumping can provide relief. However, be cautious not to over-pump, as this might signal your body to produce more milk than needed.

Creating a Pumping Schedule

Creating a pumping schedule is a pivotal step in your breastfeeding journey. Regardless of your goals, a well-thought-out schedule can make the process smoother and more efficient.

Below are some considerations for creating a personalized pumping schedule that caters to both your baby's nutritional requirements and your lifestyle, ensuring a successful and stress-free breastfeeding experience.

  • Observe Your Baby: In the early weeks, observe your baby's feeding patterns to understand their natural rhythm. This will serve as a foundation for your pumping schedule.

  • Pump After Feeding: To ensure your baby receives the necessary nutrition, it's advisable to pump after breastfeeding. This helps empty your breasts completely and signals your body to produce more milk.

  • Morning Advantage: Many mothers find their milk supply is higher in the morning. Consider pumping after your baby's first morning feed for the best results.

  • Pump Consistently: Consistency is key. Aim to pump around the same times each day, even on weekends, to maintain your milk supply.

  • Frequency at Work: If you're back at work, try to pump every 3-4 hours, replicating your baby's feeding schedule. This might mean pumping twice during an 8-hour workday.

  • Building a Stash: If you're aiming to build a milk stash, pump once or twice a day after your baby's regular feeds. This can be done in addition to your pumping sessions related to work.

  • Avoid Over-Pumping: While it's essential to maintain your milk supply, over-pumping can lead to an oversupply, discomfort, or even mastitis. Be mindful of your body's signals and adjust your schedule accordingly.

Incorporating Pumping into Your Routine

Balancing the demands of daily life with the commitment to breastfeeding can be a delicate act. Here, we delve into the art of seamlessly integrating pumping into your daily routine by optimally timing your pump sessions and including it in your workday.

Finding the Right Time

Incorporating pumping into your daily routine might require some experimentation. Consider pumping during times when your baby is napping or when you have a moment of calm. Utilize hands-free pumping bras or wearable pumps to multitask while pumping, making the process more convenient.

Making Pumping Part of Your Workday

Returning to work doesn't have to mean sacrificing breastfeeding. Plan your work schedule around your pumping sessions to ensure consistency. Before returning to work, open a dialogue with your supervisor or HR department, expressing your intent to sustain breastfeeding and pumping, and collaborate on a schedule that will accommodate your needs and job duties.

Many countries have laws in place to protect a mother's right to pump at work. Research and understand your legal rights related to break times and private spaces for pumping. Familiarize yourself with your workplace's policies and communicate your needs to your employer.

Adjusting Pumping Frequency Over Time

Your baby's growth brings about changes in their feeding patterns, and your pumping schedule should adapt accordingly. Learn when it's best to pump more frequently to establish a healthy milk supply and how to gradually adjust your schedule as your baby's dietary needs evolve.

Newborn Phase to Infant Stage

As your baby grows, their feeding patterns will change. In the early months, you might pump more frequently to establish and maintain your milk supply. As they transition to solid foods, their milk consumption might decrease, allowing you to adjust your pumping schedule accordingly.

Adding Solid Foods

As you introduce solid foods to your baby's diet, you'll likely notice changes in their nursing and pumping needs. Gradually reduce pumping sessions while ensuring your baby's nutritional needs are met through a combination of breastfeeding and solids.

Troubleshooting and Challenges

Breastfeeding is a beautiful journey, but it can come with its share of challenges. Below are some common hurdles you might encounter along the way and how to overcome them. From addressing low milk output to managing nipple discomfort and dealing with clogged ducts and mastitis, we'll provide guidance to ensure that these obstacles don't deter you from your breastfeeding goals.

Dealing with Low Milk Output

If you're experiencing low milk output during pumping sessions, know that you're not alone. Several factors could contribute to this issue, including stress, inadequate hydration, or inefficient pumping techniques.

Try relaxation techniques, drinking plenty of water, and experimenting with different pump settings. If the problem persists, consider consulting a lactation consultant for personalized advice.

Nipple Discomfort and Soreness

Nipple discomfort can be a common challenge when pumping. Ensure your breast shields fit properly to avoid friction. Applying a lanolin-based nipple cream after pumping can provide relief. If soreness persists, assess your pumping technique and seek guidance on achieving a more comfortable fit.

Clogged Ducts and Mastitis

Clogged ducts can lead to mastitis, a painful breast infection. Massaging your breasts before and during pumping can help prevent clogs. If you notice a tender, red area on your breast or develop flu-like symptoms, consult a healthcare professional promptly.

Real Life Experiences

I discussed this with a close friend who had a baby around the same time I did. I never got into a consistent pumping routine and instead, I exclusively breastfed, but she made pumping an important part of her breastfeeding experience.

She made pumping work for her by pumping every 3 hours during the day. Initially, she would pump a few times at night, but as her baby got older, she was able to cut down to one night pumping session (in addition to a night feed), before completely eliminating the nighttime pump.


As a breastfeeding mother, the frequency at which you pump is influenced by various factors such as your baby's age, your work schedule, and your goals. Observing your baby's feeding patterns, pumping consistently, and balancing your needs with your baby's requirements are crucial steps in maintaining a healthy milk supply.

Remember, every breastfeeding journey is unique. It's important to be patient with yourself as you encounter challenges and make adjustments. Seeking support from lactation consultants, fellow breastfeeding mothers, and professionals can make a significant difference in overcoming hurdles and enjoying a successful breastfeeding and pumping experience.

Back to blog

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.

View Author

New Products