My Breastfeeding Experience & Pumping Schedule
Welcome to the world of breastfeeding!
If you’re here, I’m assuming it’s because you have a baby that you’re nursing or pumping for. Kudos to you for doing the most amazing thing you can for your little one! It’s definitely an experience and a challenge, but one of the most beneficial things you can do for your baby. I got a lot of encouragement from reading post like this myself so I wanted to share with you my breastfeeding experience and pumping schedule! So here we go!
First let me tell you about the experience…
Before my son was born I made the decision that I wanted give it my best shot at breastfeeding him. I went into it with a positive outlook. I decided it would be great if I could but I wouldn’t beat myself up if I couldn’t. My husband and I went to the breastfeeding classes at the hospital and did some reading prior to Cole’s arrival. During his birth I ended up pushing for 3 hours, which put a lot of pressure on my boys noggin. One of the lactation nurses explained to me that babies have a hard time latching right away when that happens.
After 2 days of working with my baby and doing all we could to get him to latch I ended up using a nipple shield. He took to that perfectly! It was so relieved! One down fall to a nipple shield is that sometimes babies get used to it and can’t latch without it. At that point I would have used it as long as I needed if it meant I could feed my baby.
Now we were home from the hospital.
The next few days we spent trying to figure out what was “normal” and what our “schedule” was. It seemed like my baby always hungry but wouldn’t ever eat for very long. He would nurse for 5 minutes, act like he was full, then be hungry 20 minutes later. Five days into feeling like I was constantly feeding him, I was sitting in bed in the middle of the night with a still hungry baby after 3 hours of off and on eating, almost in tears myself. My fiance got up and got the bottle of milk from the only time I had pumped so far and tried giving it to him. He took to it without hesitation and drank the whole thing! My baby clearly did better on a bottle than the breast.
I decided right then and there that I was going to pump exclusively.
This decision came with a whole new set of questions. How often should I pump? How long should I pump? Do I store my milk a certain way? How much milk is my baby drinking at a time? I got most of my information for other people’s experiences from blog post much like this one.
My baby was very clear on what he wanted as well. When he was hungry, which was around every 2-3 hours, he screamed like we were starving him. When he was done drinking a bottle he spit it out, even if it wasn’t empty. He started out drink about 2 1/2 ounces at a time. We upped it to 3 ounces when he started drinking a whole 2 1/2 ounce bottle and screaming for more when he was done. We continued to add more as he needed more. There are still days where he drinks a whole(now 4 ounce) bottle at a time on a pretty regular schedule. Then there are days where he wants an ounce here and 2 ounces there, on no particular schedule at all. We still feed him “on demand” and he is usually hungry every 2-3 hours still at 3 months old.
And then came the pumping schedule.
The pumping schedule was something I had to be a little more concrete about though. I was worried about my milk supply from the start. After looking up various schedules, I found one that I thought would work best for me. I used naptime tales pumping schedule as my inspiration/guidelines. Ashley has schedules for both exclusively pumping with her first child and nursing/pumping with her second. My schedule does differ from hers. I will be the first to admit that it was and still is extremely hard for me to stick to a schedule. I do miss a pump here and there and go an extra hour occasionally. Don’t stress about it, it won’t affect your supply once it’s established. Some people pump 10 minutes, some 20, or anywhere in between. I sat down to pump for at least 15 minutes weather I felt empty or not.
Weeks 2 & 3
(which was my first 2 weeks pumping since I breastfed the first week): I pumped every 2 hours during the day and every time my baby woke up at night but no longer than every 3 hours. This was to establish my milk supply. I’ll be honest, I was completely exhausted and napped every chance I got. But, pumping like this in the beginning made things easier from there on out.
I still pumped every 2- 2 1/2 hours(but got a little less tight on my timing) during the day but started stretching my nights out to no more that 4 hours during pumping. If my baby was awake I would pump.
I stretched my day time pumping out to every 3(sometimes 4) hours and only pumped once at night if my baby woke up for his 2/3am feeding, which he sporadically started sleeping through(and I slept through pumping). If I didn’t pump at night my first pump in the morning was extra long, up to 30 minutes depending on how full I felt. I also went back to work when he was 8 weeks old, so depending on how busy we were I didn’t always get to pump right on time.
I am pumping every 4 hours during the day and absolutely none at night. No more night time pumping! I can tell my body is getting used to going longer because I am not in as much pain in the mornings like I used to be. My supply has not changed even with the extra time in between.
Week 19-6 months:
For week 19-6 months I ended up keeping the same pumping schedule as weeks 15-18. I have gotten more slack on pumping on time. I feel like after pumping for 6 months you will be able to tell how often you should pump based on your supply. If you have a freezer like mine you may be starting to consider when to stop pumping. We are going on vacation at the end of August so I plan on pumping through that week then weening myself off. My baby will be 9 months old and I’m sure I have more than 3 months worth of milk in my freezer.
I started to prepare for the day I could stop pumping shortly after that 6 month mark. Make sure you can read about how to stop pumping and dry up your milk as well.
Want some extras?
I was able to get ahead of my baby because my pumping schedule early on established my supply. I will be honest it’s hard and I’m already looking forward to the day I don’t have to pump. The benefits for my baby outweigh the inconvenience for myself so I will keep on pumping! My goal is to have enough milk stocked up in the freezer that I can stop pumping around 7-9 months and still feed my baby through his first year. [UPDATE: I was able to stop pumping at 8 months and give my baby breast milk until 15 months! woohoo!] I’d love to hear your story too!