How to Pump While Continuing to Breastfeed

January 26, 2016

If you’re like many new moms (and soon to be new moms!), you may be wondering how you can pump milk to leave for your baby while you’re away, while still continuing to breastfeed regularly. Whether you’re returning to work or school, or just want to build up a supply for later, the idea remains the same – and it all starts with a good pump and a plan for milk storage. Here are tips that can help you get started on building a surplus and working pumping into your existing breastfeeding routine.

Supply and Demand

Breasts are amazingly efficient, making milk on a supply/demand basis. That means the more milk that is removed from the breast, the more milk your breasts will produce.

Start by having your baby feed from your breasts at each feeding. Then, because breasts are rarely completely empty after feedings, you can begin to pump whatever is left to store for later. This way, your baby is never shorted milk during feedings, and you can build your supply to meet whatever storage needs you have.

A few tips: It’s always a good idea to pump after morning breastfeeding sessions when your breasts typically have more milk. And, if you’re planning to pump while you’re away at work or school, be sure you’re using a double-electric pump designed for frequent use.

Storage Tips

Keep a container in the refrigerator for your pumped milk, then each time you pump within a 24-hour period, add your milk to the container. The milk will separate and the cream will rise to the top. Don’t worry – it hasn’t gone bad! Some separation is completely normal as your milk cools. You can gently swirl the container to re-blend the milk.

Next, pour your milk into storage containers like breast milk bottles or bags (you can also pump directly into Medela storage bottles). Be sure to date the containers and always use the oldest milk first. Store the containers on the lowest level and at the back of your freezer (never in the door). Then wash your storage containers out thoroughly and start all over!

Pumping When Away From Baby

If you are returning to work or school and will be away from your baby for long periods of time, make sure you continue to pump during that time away! While it can be a challenge to fit in pumping while you’re juggling a busy schedule, it’s important to empty your breasts with the same frequency your baby would if you were together.

Even better, try adding an additional pumping session. Your freshly-pumped milk can be taken home and used for the next feedings away, or added to your stored milk supply. That way, your breasts will continue to supply the milk needed for your baby and for building your stockpile. As long as you are breastfeeding first when you are together, your baby will be happy.

Combining both breastfeeding and pumping may sound daunting, but it’s entirely possible with a little planning. Feel confident knowing your little one is getting everything he or she needs from your breast milk, whether you are feeding directly from the breast or from a bottle.

Have you been successful at pumping and breastfeeding? Do you have tips for other moms who would like to give it a try? Share your comments and suggestions in the comments below!

27 thoughts on “How to Pump While Continuing to Breastfeed

  1. Hello,
    I did not have successful breastfeeding with my first two, but am expecting now and plan to have a great experience. My question is, is it okay to pump left over milk right after breastfeeding? will this create a problem if the baby wants to cluster feed and is hungry soon after pumping my greats empty?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi, Darlene. Congrats on expecting another beautiful baby, and on setting yourself up for breastfeeding success! It is definitely OK to pump directly after breastfeeding to empty the breasts and capture the fat-dense hind-milk that comes at the end of your session. If baby is cluster feeding, you may not need to add this pumping session, as the baby will fill the role of emptying your breasts and signaling your body to produce more milk. If you end up having any questions specific to you and your baby’s experience, feel free to reach out for lactation support either through the 24/7 LC membership on your MyMedela app, or on Wishing you well!

  2. Mary Beth Golden says:

    Hi! I’m expecting my first in July and will be breast feeding. When should I start pumping in between breast feeding sessions? Does that start right away to get my milk supply up? Is it always a half hour or so after a feeding? Thank you!!

    • Hi, Mary Beth. Congratulations on your growing family! Pumping between feeding sessions is only necessary if you are trying to increase your supply or build up an excess, before returning to work for example. As long as your baby is healthy and nursing well, you should not need a breast pump to help initiate your breast milk supply right after birth.

  3. Sadie Huntsman says:

    When my baby was 3 weeks old the doctor told me to nurse my baby, and then pump when she was done and feed that to her as well so that she would gain more weight. Now that I’ve been pumping and feeding her from a bottle she will not nurse anymore, she has problems latching and her suck has gone from amazing to pretty much nonexistent. Once you start pumping and feeding a baby from the bottle is it even possible to continue nursing without getting nipple confusion?

  4. Tammy Nguyen says:

    Hi, it takes a long time for the breast pump parts to dry and my dishwater seems to leave water and soap residue which is bad. Is there a faster way to dry them? I read you’re not suppose to use a cloth towel because there is germ and bacteria.

    Thank you

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