Jun 09, 2008
first 12 weeks is when you establish your supply. during this period you need to pump every 2-3 hrs during the day. over night, you can go one 4-5 hr stretch as long as it doesn't seem to affect your supply. be sure to get at least 1 pump in between 1 AM and 5 AM, as that is when your prolactin levels are the highest. those were always my biggest pumps! (i think the rule is to pump 8-10 times in 24 hrs). remember, just like with nursing, you count time from the beginning of the last session, not the end.
after 12 weeks you can start to drop pumps. they say 12 weeks because at that point your supply is no longer hormone driven, but primarily based on supply and demand. i actually started after 8 weeks for my sanity. my supply had been sufficient, and my LC saw the toll pumping was taking on me, so she encouraged me to spread them out more. She said worst comes to worst, i'd have to give a bottle of formula here and there. My supply actually increased after i dropped that first pump. I greatly enjoyed the extra time, and after a week spread them out even more. for me, my max production was when i was pumping every 5-6 hrs (i was making 45-49 oz/day). by that point it's safer to go longer stretches overnight, since like i said it's supply and demand, not hormone driven at that point. It's important to keep in mind that when you pump less frequently, you need to pump for much longer. throughout my months pumping, i always spent the same number of hours/day pumping. when i was down to 3 pumps i had to pump 45-60 minutes to empty completely. if you do not do this, your supply will go down quickly. so if you are pumping for 15 minutes 10 times/day, you spend a total of 2 1/2 hrs pumping. at 3 times/day i was still pumping about 2 1/2 hrs/day.
the length of time necessary to pump varies from person to person. in general, in the beginning you are advised to go 15-20 min, or 5 minutes past the last drop. this is necessary to build supply. i got away with 10-15 min in the beginning.
i was able to maintain a steady supply pumping 4 times a day. had plenty to feed and freeze. i did see a drop in supply when i went to 3 times a day at around 4 months post partum. still, i had enough to meet dd's needs- i just wasn't freezing extra anymore.
if you plan on exclusively pumping, or mainly pumping, you MUST get a good pump. You can rent a hospital grade pump, or you can purchase a good pump like a medela pump in style or pump in style advanced, the ameda purely yours, or the lansinoh double electric pump. don't waste your money on anything cheaper, as chances are you will lose your supply quickly. always have a hand pump with you in case you get stuck out.
Pumps I used- The Medela Pump In Style Advanced and the Medela Harmony (manual that i used for when i had to move about or pump on the go)