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When should I pump while breastfeeding a newborn?

By October 28, 2021January 25th, 2022Uncategorized

Hey there!  Popping in to answer one of the most common questions I get from new moms:

“When should I start pumping?”

It can be overwhelming to think about creating time for pumping breast milk while caring for a newborn, practicing nursing, and letting baby feed on demand!  So when is it really necessary?  I’ve seen people pumping too much when they don’t need to be and I’ve seen people who aren’t pumping when they really should be.

Let’s break it down:

Regardless of baby’s age, If you and baby are not separated or planning on bottle feeding, and nursing is going well, then you do not need to be pumping in addition to latching at the breast.  Just continue to let baby nurse on demand, any time of day! Any extra pumping in this situation would be optional.

Here are some instances where it WOULD be necessary to pump:

  • You and baby are separated.  For example, if your breastfed baby is in the NICU, you will need to pump to establish and maintain your milk supply immediately postpartum.   
  • Baby is not feeding well.  If baby is not able to nurse effectively, then you’ll need to pump in order to give your body the signal to make enough milk and build your breast milk supply to meet baby’s needs. (You should be working with an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) to make a personalized plan and pumping schedule for this).
  • Engorgement. An engorged breast is really difficult for baby to latch onto.  Pumping briefly, just enough to soften it before a breastfeeding session, can make it much easier for baby to latch on.
  • Exclusive pumping.  Some people make the choice to exclusively pump from the beginning. So in this case, you would start using your breast pump (whether is is a hospital-grade, or electric breast pump) on the day baby is born!

Remember, milk is made on a supply and demand basis.  So if you are nursing baby on demand (and baby is nursing well) AND adding in pump sessions unnecessarily, you could encourage your body to start making too much milk and have an oversupply.  If you would like to start pumping to  start building up a stash of expressed milk, you can start pumping once a day or once every couple of days when baby is about one month old.  At this point, your supply is a bit more established and has adjusted to what your baby is demanding of it, and the occasional pump to build up your milk storage won’t send your milk production into overdrive.

How about pumping milk to give baby a bottle?  A great time to introduce a bottle is around one month old, after baby has had several weeks to practice breastfeeding.  You can collect extra milk for this by pumping in place of a nursing session and giving baby that milk, pumping a small amount of milk after nursing to use for a bottle, or you can collect milk in a Haakaa or by hand expression.Try different things to figure out which routine works well for you! 


I hope this helped answer some of your questions!  Our Pumping and storing breastmilk online video course is a great place to get started when learning about pumping and how to pump the most milk in the least amount of time. Happy pumping!

Jessica Mckee