Have you ever wondered, “If I am breastfeeding all the time, how am I supposed to ever be able to pump milk for a bottle?”

Here’s how:

After breastfeeding your baby, pump both breasts.

Try to do this around the time when you seem to have the most milk. For many women, this is in the morning. Perhaps your breasts feel fuller or heavier in the morning, or baby only feeds from one breast rather than her typical two.  You are more likely to get a higher yield if you pump at this time than if you pump at a time when your breasts feel more empty after breastfeeding.

Pump within about 15 minutes of finishing breastfeeding.  You don’t want to wait too much longer than 15 minutes before you pump because you will start to cut into the milk that is refilling for your baby’s next breastfeeding.

Don’t worry about how much you get out.  You may get one ounce total or four ounces total; that means nothing about how much your baby is getting to eat from the breast and has everything to do with your milk supply.  Actually, it makes the most sense that you would get very little out when pumping because your body isn’t used to making milk for the pump, it is used to making milk for the baby!

Your baby will need a two to four ounce bottle to replace a missed breastfeeding session, so don’t be surprised if you have to pump for a few days to get that amount. After pumping for a few days, you will notice an increase in the amount you are pumping out. That is because you increased the demand on your body and it takes about three to five days for your body to respond by increasing supply. (Look out! The first day you don’t feel like pumping, you may become uncomfortably full since your body was expecting the pump).

Remember the Rule of Six:

Milk is good at room temp for about six hours, in the fridge for about six days, and in the freezer for six months.
Depending on when you plan on using the milk will determine how you will store it.

So, how do we make the most out of this lovely three to four hour block of freedom you just pumped for yourself?  I know you don’t want to bring that pump with you on a date and you don’t want to wake up to pump in the middle of the night.  Don’t!  Here’s how this works.

In 24 hours:

Total number of baby feedings (breast or bottle)
must equal
Total number breast stimulations (breastfeeding or pumping)

But, those feedings and stimulations don’t need to be at the same time! Only rule? Try not to go longer than about six hours without pumping if baby is eating during that time. That means do not skip more than one breastfeeding without pumping.

Note: If baby is sleeping longer stretches at night, you should be sleeping those stretches too. If your boobs wake you up before the baby, just pump to take the edge off so you can go back to sleep. Your boobs need to learn not to make so much at night if baby isn’t drinking it. (Don’t worry. That milk will move over to daytime.)

Here are some lovely examples of ways your life could get 198% better tomorrow:

1. Breastfeed your baby at 11:00 pm. Pump after this breastfeeding. Take whatever milk you pumped and give it to your husband to feed to the baby when she wakes up (if it isn’t enough, no worries, just borrow some from the fridge or freezer).  Go directly to bed with earplugs in your ears so the baby doesn’t wake you up at the next feeding. When the baby wakes up next around 2:00 am, your husband should promptly feed the baby the bottle, making the least noise possible so as to not wake you up.  You are still sleeping. No pumping.  At the next feeding, around 5:00 am, get up and nurse (that was six hours of uninterrupted sleep!!!).  You may want to pump after this feeding if your breasts feel full from that skipped feeding or if you didn’t pump enough the night before for the bottle and you needed to borrow from your fridge or freezer. You could also wait until the next feeding if you just want to go right back to sleep.

2. Breastfeed around 7:00 am to 9:00 am, then pump both breasts. Stick this milk in the fridge for your hot date later that night. Nurse your baby right before you go out for the night. Don’t bring your pump on the date if you are going to be gone for four to six hours or less. That is a real buzz kill. Stay out long enough to miss one feeding and get home right in time for the next feeding. Nurse baby on both breasts if she is willing. Technically you don’t need to pump once you get home because the morning pumping made up for the missed breastfeeding while you were out, but you can pump if you are still feeling full after baby has breastfed.

3. Breastfeed first thing Saturday morning, then pump.  Leave the bottle in the fridge, put the baby in your husband’s arms, and go on an outing of your choice (yoga, get a massage, the gym, clothes shopping, out with girlfriends, get a mani/pedi, walk around the park, sit in the car by yourself in complete silence) for the next four hours. Stay out long enough to miss the next breastfeeding session, but not long enough to miss the following breastfeeding session.  (Bonus: turn off your phone).

Speaking of pumping, have you gotten a pump from your insurance company yet?