Purpose of a Pumping Session

There are three reasons why you may pump your breasts: to Protect Milk Supply, Promote Milk Supply, or Treat a breast problem.

Lactating parents often ask,

“When should I pump?”

My reply?

“What is the purpose of your pump session?” aka “Why are you pumping?”

Often they look at me puzzled.

In general, we should know why we are doing something before we do it, especially when it comes to hooking a machine up to our bodies. I happen to also be a firm believer in setting realistic expectations along with this “why.” How much milk do you realistically expect to collect from this pump session? What is the intention for this milk?

There are three reasons why you may pump your breasts:

  • Protect Milk Supply
  • Promote Milk Supply
  • or Treat a Breast Problem

Pump to Protect the Milk Supply: Aka “Pump in place of nursing”

  • Each milk supply requires a certain number of breast stimulations (nursing or pumping) per 24 hours to maintain a steady volume of output, often working on a 3-5 day lag from the stimulation message it receives.
  • A pump to protect supply, is a session to stimulate your breasts when the baby isn’t directly latching to the breast and removing milk on their own or when the baby is latching, but not effectively removing milk.

  • “Pump to protect” is: 
    • Pumping as a stimulation.
    • Pumping to stimulate in place of directly latching (nursing).
    • Pumping to complete a stimulation after directly latching (nursing) if baby is ineffective at adequately removing enough milk from the breast to be considered a stimulation.

Pump to Promote the Milk Supply: “Drive up supply” or “collect extra milk”

  • This pump session is designed to increase milk supply by providing breast stimulation in addition to baseline breast stimulation that protects supply. 
  • Pump to promote may be used in an attempt to increase a low milk supply. 
  • It can also be done in an effort to collect additional milk above the current baseline volume, driving supply above average and toward oversupply.

  • Pump to Promote includes:
    • Pumping more frequently in 24 hours than is required to maintain current milk volume.
    • Pumping after an effective direct nursing.

Pump to Treat Breast or Nipple Pain

  • Pump to Treat is a pump session that is designed to use the pump machine as a tool to achieve the goal of alleviating breast or nipple pain.

  • This includes:
    • Treating a plugged duct or mastitis to drain the clogged, possibly infected milk.
    • Pumping in place of direct latching to heal nipple pain and minimize tissue trauma stemming from the baby’s latch.