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.”
Pump to Protect the Milk Supply
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. (Do you know your milk supply?)
This pump session is to stimulate your breasts when the baby isn’t directly latching to the breast and removing milk on their own.
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
This pump session is designed to increase milk supply by providing breast stimulation in addition to baseline breast stimulation that protects supply. This may be in an attempt to increase an undersupply. It can also be done in an effort to collect additional milk above the current baseline volume, driving supply above average and toward oversupply.
Pumping more frequently in 24 hours than is required to maintain current milk volume.
Pumping after an effective direct nursing.
Pump to Relieve or Treat Breast or Nipple Pain
This 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. (Do you know what kind of pain you are having?)
Pumping in place of direct latching to heal nipple pain and trauma.
How to pump
Once you are clear on why you are pumping, you can begin to focus on how to pump to express your milk.