Pumping breast milk every three hours can be a lot to ask, especially if you’re trying to balance work, pumping, and taking care of your baby.
It’s hard enough to keep up with a baby and all their needs without having to worry about pumping every few hours. You may feel like you’re stuck in a never-ending cycle.
Don’t worry, if your baby is older than 3 months, your milk should be regulated and you can still maintain your milk supply by using your breast pump every four hours instead of every three. As long as you are consistent with this schedule, your body will get the signal that it needs to produce more milk.
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Pumping every 4 hours
If you’re past the first twelve weeks since giving birth, your milk supply should have stabilized, making it possible to use your breast pump every four hours and yet keep your milk supply.
You can test this by pumping at your regular intervals for a few days and then, if everything seems to be going well, gradually stretching out the time between pumping sessions by fifteen to thirty minutes. When you stretch the time between pumping sessions, see whether your milk supply decreases.
If it does, you’ll know you need to return to pumping more frequently. When stretching out the time between pumping sessions, be cautious of symptoms of clogged ducts, such as pain or tenderness in your breasts, a hard lump in your breast, or a decrease in the amount of milk you’re able to pump.
If you experience any of these symptoms, return to pumping more frequently until they resolve. With a little experimentation, you should be able to find a balance that works for you and helps you maintain your milk supply.
When can I start pumping every 4 hours?
It can be hard to know when you can move to pumping every 4 hours. Generally, you can start to space out your pumping sessions once your baby is 3 months old and your milk supply has been regulated.
To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to pump every 3 hours for a few days and then gradually stretch out the time between pumping sessions by 15-30 minutes. If your milk supply decreases, you’ll know you need to return to pumping more frequently.
It’s also important to be on the lookout for symptoms of clogged ducts, such as pain or tenderness in your breasts, a hard lump in your breast, or a decrease in the amount of milk you’re able to pump. If you experience any of these symptoms, return to pumping more frequently until they resolve.
With a little experimentation, you should be able to find a balance that works for you and helps you maintain your milk supply.
Milk supply at 12 weeks
After you have a baby, your body is working hard to adjust to the new normal. You are likely exhausted and may be struggling to figure out how to breastfeed.
It is critical to wait for your milk supply to stabilize before you start to stretch out your pumping sessions because your body is still trying to figure out how much milk it needs to produce.
Pumping your breast milk every 2 to 3 hours in the first few months will help your body produce enough milk for your baby.
The majority of moms’ milk supplies normalize around week twelve following childbirth. So, hang in there and try not to stress too much. Your body is doing an amazing job!
How much milk do you need to produce
Now that you’ve considered all of the factors that can affect your breast milk production, it’s time to take a look at how much milk you’re actually producing.
A typical amount of breast milk produced in a 24-hour period is between 24 and 30 ounces. If you’re producing more than 30 ounces in a 24-hour period, you have an oversupply.
While it may seem like a good problem to have, an oversupply can actually be quite difficult to manage. If you’re finding it hard to keep up with the demand, there are a few things you can do to reduce your milk production.
However, it’s important to talk to your doctor or lactation consultant before making any changes, as they can help you make sure you’re doing what’s best for both you and your baby.
Maintaining your breast milk supply when you pump every 4 hours
When you extend the time between pumping sessions, one of your most pressing concerns is how to keep up your milk supply. Some new mothers find that their bodies adjust quickly to the new schedule and their milk production remains steady.
However, others may find that their milk supply decreases. One approach to try it out is to begin by extending the pump sessions every other day. If everything goes well, you may proceed to every four hours on every day of the next week.
If you have a decreased milk supply or clogged ducts, consider reintroducing the more frequent pumping sessions into your schedule. By closely monitoring your body’s response to the change in pumping schedule, you can ensure that you are still providing your baby with the nutrition they need.
When you are exclusively pumping and need to stretch out your pumping session a little further out, you may be concerned about your milk production.
Exclusively pumping moms often worry that they are not producing enough milk or that their milk is not good enough for their baby.
Rest assured, as long as you are pumping every four hours, you are likely producing enough milk for your baby.
If you find that your baby is not gaining weight, or if they seem fussy and want to eat more often than every four hours, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant. They can help you figure out what may be going on and how to fix it.
Pumping while working full-time
If you are working full-time and pumping, you may find that you need to pump more frequently than every four hours.
This is because when you are away from your baby, your body does not know when to expect to nurse again and will produce milk accordingly.
To keep up your milk supply, try pumping every three hours while you are at work. This will signal to your body that it needs to produce milk even when you are away from your baby.
You may find it helpful to set an alarm on your phone or keep a picture of your baby with you to remind you to pump.
Pumping while traveling
If you are traveling and need to pump, there are a few things you can do to make sure you can pump successfully.
When you are packing, be sure to include all of the accessories you need to pump, such as bottles, ice packs, and a cooler.
You will also want to make sure you have a place to pump that is clean and private. If you are staying in a hotel, call ahead and ask if they have a space you can use.
If you are flying, you may want to consider bringing along a portable battery pack so you can pump on the go.
While it may take some extra planning, pumping while traveling is possible with a little forethought.
Pumping every 4 hours at work
After 12 weeks postpartum, you should be able to pump every four hours at work. However, there is a lot of pressure to finish your pumping break as quickly as possible and then return to work. If you’re pumping every four hours at work and your milk supply is declining, go back to pumping more frequently to boost your supply.
Pumping more frequently will help you maintain your milk supply and continue to provide breast milk for your baby. So don’t feel like you have to rush through your pumping breaks, and make sure to listen to your body to ensure that you’re able to continue providing breast milk for your baby.
It can be tough for working mothers to find time to pump, but it’s important to create a pumping schedule that works for you.
One way to get your pumping sessions in is to:
- Pump in the car while going to work around 8am
- Then pump at 11am around lunch time
- Again at 2pm
- Then pump again on the way home at 5pm
If you find that you can stretch that out to every 4 hours and still maintain your supply then you could pump at:
- 8am on the way to work
- 12pm during lunch
- 4pm just before leaving work or on the way home
A portable pump was really useful for times like this when you are pumping on the go. It’s important to be consistent with your pumping schedule so that your body can adjust and you can maintain your milk supply.
But don’t be afraid to ask for help from your co-workers or your partner to offload other tasks if you need it. Balancing work and motherhood is never easy, but you’re not alone.
Pumping every 4 hours at night
Pumping every four hours at night should not be a problem after your milk supply has been established at 12 weeks postpartum.
It’s also essential to get enough rest for a new mother. At the very least, the amount of rest that is possible with a newborn.
Your body will probably wake up when it’s time to use your breast pump from engorgement when you are trying to stretch out the tie in between pumping so be mindful and don’t push your night pumping session to 4 hours right away. Try in 15-minute increments every few days until you have reached 4 hours.
How long should a pumping session last?
A pumping session should last about 15-20 minutes but it can range from mother to mother. Pump until the milk stops flowing. If you find that you are not able to pump this much milk in this amount of time, try pumping for a longer period of time or add an extra pumping session into your day.
It’s also important to make sure you are relaxed when you pump. Stress can impact your milk supply, so take a few deep breaths and try to relax before you start pumping.
If you’re still having trouble pumping, there are a few things you can do to increase your milk flow. Try massaging your breasts or using a warm compress on your breasts before you start pumping.
You can also watch a video of your baby to get the milk flowing.
Another way is to take a cleansing breath to fully relax and that can help reset for a better pumping session.
Helpful pumping gear
Minimalist Plunge Pumping Bra – Great for breastfeeding and pumping or just exclusively pumping.
Haakaa Silicone Manual Pump – This is not only great for catching the letdown when you are nursing baby but it also is great for unclogging milk ducts.
Elvie Wearable Smart Breast Pump – This is the perfect breast pump when you are on the go and need to pump. It is a double electric pump that fits into your bra which is such a lifesaver when you are exclusively pumping. I love that it is so discrete and silent!
Now that we know how long a pumping session should last, and some helpful tips to increase supply and how to maintain supply, let’s talk about frequency. You can start pumping every 4 hours when your milk supply is established, which typically happens around 12 weeks postpartum.
If you’re struggling to maintain your milk supply, go back to pumping more frequently to boost it. At work, try to pump at least once on your way to work, during your lunch break, and again in the early evening. If you can’t pump that much during the day, try to pump as often as you can – even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time.
Pumping every 4 hours at night shouldn’t be a problem after your milk supply has been established at 12 weeks postpartum. If you find that you’re not pumping enough milk in that time, try pumping for a longer period of time or add an extra pumping session into your day.
It’s also important to make sure you are relaxed when you pump. Stress can impact your milk supply, so take a few deep breaths and try to relax before you start pumping. If you’re still having trouble pumping, meet with a board-certified lactation consultant or meet with a breastfeeding support group.