Nursing mothers everywhere know how important it is to keep your milk supply up. Alongside breastfeeding, using a breast pump is one of the most effective ways to increase your milk supply and keep a ready stash in the freezer in case of emergencies.
But how much is too much? Can you pump every hour?
Pumping every hour is considered a great way to immediately increase your breast milk supply. It mimics the feeding pattern of a cluster feeding newborn, increasing the demand on your body to produce milk. A lactating mother’s body is naturally designed to quickly respond to your baby’s feeding needs – meaning that the more your pump or nurse, the more your body produces.
The rest of this article will answer all your questions about pumping, including the benefits of pumping and how much you should expect to produce when pumping every hour.
The Benefits Of Using A Breast Pump
Pumping breast milk in addition to breastfeeding is a great way not only to ensure your ready milk supply, but also to have a well-stocked supply of stored breast milk in the freezer in case of sickness or emergency.
While pumping can be time consuming, modern breast pumps are efficient and well-designed. Double electric breast pumps are available for both working and stay at home moms, saving time and energy while optimizing the amount of breast milk pumped. There are even special bras designed to accommodate breast pumps, making multi-tasking while pumping easier.
For situations when breastfeeding isn’t an option, pumped breast milk can ensure that your infant still gets breast milk.
Such situations include premature infants in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) who can’t breastfeed but can consume expressed breast milk. Other children may be born with cleft lip, which can negatively impact proper latch, or other deformities/disabilities that impact latching.
In these cases, pumping every hour is even more vital because it is the only way to produce breast milk for your infant.
How Much Milk Will I Get When I Pump Every Hour?
There is no “right” or set amount of breast milk a woman should produce if pumping every hour. The following factors affect the amount of breast milk a mother pumping each hour will produce:
- Breast storage capacity – refers to how much milk your breasts can hold at one time. Typically, women with larger breasts have a higher storage capacity and can pump up to 16 ounces per session, while women with smaller breasts may only hold a few ounces per breast at one time.
- Refill rate – this is the speed at which your breasts fill up with breast milk after being emptied via pumping or nursing.
- Frequency of breastfeeding
If you are breastfeeding but haven’t yet pumped before, expect to produce as much as your baby typically eats in one nursing session. This can vary depending on when you last breastfed your infant, as well as the age of your infant. Newborns nurse more frequently but consume less milk per feeding than older infants.
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, the amount you pump every hour at first will be higher than moms who breastfeed while supplementing with formula, merely because their bodies have differing demands on how much milk to produce. After time, however, your body will adjust to the more frequent demand and produce more milk.
How Quickly Will I See Results From Pumping Every Hour?
It’s unlikely to see much difference during the first day or two of pumping every hour. You’ll likely produce the most during the first pumping session of the day (i.e. when you wake up in the morning) as opposed to the second and third following pumping sessions.
It usually takes about a week for you to notice a significant increase in your milk supply. If you don’t see much improvement, consider taking a lactation supplement such as fenugreek or add some lactation-boosting teas to your daily diet.
Why Does Pumping Every Hour Increase Milk Supply?
Pumping every hour increases your milk supply by signaling to your body to increase your milk supply because your baby is going through a growth spurt. In the first few months of a infant’s life, these growth spurts are accompanied by cluster feeding – when your baby needs extra calories and therefore nurses much more often than usual.
Can You Pump Too Often?
While having a fully stocked freezer full of breast milk sounds like a great idea, you can pump too often. Using a breast pump for too long and pumping too often can lead to engorgement, blocked milk ducts, and increase the chances of breast infection – specifically known as mastitis.
Can Pumping Cause Oversupply?
Pumping too often can cause oversupply. And while this doesn’t immediately seem like a bad thing, your breasts will fill up often and quickly, leading to engorgement, discomfort, and frequent leaking. And depending on how much storage you have, your freezer may quickly fill up and you’ll need to invest in a deep freeze to store it all.
Is Pumping Every Hour Okay?
In conclusion, pumping every hour is okay as long as you are consistent with your pumping schedule and adhere to the safety guidelines set by your health care provider. You should also keep in mind that pumping may not provide the same level of milk as nursing, so it is important to make sure that you are getting the nourishment your baby needs from both sources.