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How to Combine Breastfeeding and Pumping: A Comprehensive Guide

Breastfeeding and pumping are two key ways of providing nourishment to your baby. Whether you’re a new mum or a veteran milk maker that's been out of the baby game for a while, it is going to take some time for your body's milk production to adjust itself. While breastfeeding offers numerous benefits, there are situations where combining breastfeeding and pumping can be beneficial.

Whether you're looking to increase your milk supply, manage breastfeeding difficulties, or need to be away from your baby for a period of time, understanding how to effectively combine pumping and breastfeeding is crucial. Selecting the right equipment including the best breast pump for you, as well as handy accessories like breast milk storage bags and breastfeeding bundles like our Breastfeeding Starter Kit will make your pumping and breastfeeding journey much easier.

In this article, we'll provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to successfully navigate combining breastfeeding and pumping. So, let's dive in!

A mother combining breastfeeding and pumping by breastfeeding her baby and pumping at the same time

Reasons for Combining Breastfeeding and Pumping

There are several reasons why parents choose to combine breastfeeding and pumping. Here are some of the most common ones.

1. Increasing your milk supply 

Breast milk production operates on supply and demand. The more milk is drawn out, the more your breasts will in turn produce. Combining breastfeeding with pumping can help stimulate milk production and increase your overall milk supply. Choosing a portable, wireless breast pump will give you the freedom to wherever best suits you.

2. Addressing breastfeeding difficulties 

If your baby has challenges latching or drinking a sufficient amount from your breast alone, it can be helpful to have some extra milk on hand to follow up breastfeeding with a bottle.

3. Helping with discomfort 

Using a breast pump can help clear milk from your breasts, which can provide relief from clogged milk ducts and mastitis (inflammation of breast tissue). Pumps like Lola&Lykke Electric Breast Pump offer similar suction levels to hospital-grade breast pumps and can effectively help relieve most common breastfeeding-related discomforts.

4. Bottle feeding

If you need to be away from your baby for any length of time, pumped breast milk allows you to continue providing them with the benefits of breast milk through bottle feeding.

5. Giving Mum a much-deserved break

Let’s be honest, breastfeeding is hard work. By bottle feeding your baby pumped breast milk, mums can occasionally rest for longer periods uninterrupted, run some errands, or even visit a day spa (if that’s your thing!).

6. Useful for working mums

If you plan to work, pumping is incredibly important so you can continue breastfeeding. Many working mums make the mistake of believing that they have to formula feed to return to work, but this isn’t the case.

7. Useful way to involve your partner in feeding

Feeding your baby some expressed breast milk is a great way to involve your partner in your baby’s feeding routine. This will allow dad to bond with the baby, whilst allowing your baby to learn to drink from a bottle.

Getting Started with Combined Breastfeeding and Pumping

Combining breastfeeding and pumping isn’t too difficult as long as you know what to do. Here are a few steps to make it a simple process.

1. First, breastfeed, then pump

You should feed your baby before pumping. That way, you’ll know that your baby has gotten enough milk before emptying your breasts more. Pumping will never replace the special bonding that happens when you nurse your baby, and on-demand nursing actually boosts production during your pumping sessions.

Mom is pumping breast milk while playing with her little baby

2. Utilize hands-on techniques

Hands-on pumping and hand expression can help to increase the amount of milk you get out of your breasts. Doing these things can also help increase the amount of milk your breasts produce in the future.

3. Consider milk storage

To store every drop of precious breast milk, it might be a good idea to use a silicone breast pump or milk collector whilst breastfeeding, as milk tends to leak from both breasts while feeding your baby.

4. Ensure proper fit

Before pumping, make sure to double-check the flange of your breast pump to ensure it fits correctly. Proper fit prevents nipple damage and discomfort during pumping sessions and will also make pumping more efficient.

5. Warm up and relax

You´ll have better success at both breastfeeding and breast pumping if you are doing them in a calm, quiet space, where you feel relaxed. If you´re having trouble getting your body to let down with the pump, consider placing something warm on your chest first and looking at pictures or videos of your little one while you pump.

mom is pumping breast milk after breastfeeding her baby in a calm room

6. Keep essentials nearby 

You may want to place a few baskets around your house near your favorite breastfeeding locations that hold a water bottle, snacks, nipple cream, burp clothes, wipes, and diapers, so you don’t have to get up to look for these items once you start feeding and pumping.

Establish a consistent breastfeeding and pumping schedule

Set a regular schedule for breastfeeding and pumping sessions. Consistency helps your body adjust to the demand for milk and ensures your baby receives regular feedings. Newborns usually feed every 2-3 hours. It is good to start with adding one pumping session per day, and when your milk supply increases, you can add another 2-3 pumping sessions to your day.

It is usually advisable to leave one hour in between feedings, but if you want to increase your milk supply, you may want to consider pumping straight after breastfeeding, which sends your body cues that more milk is needed to keep your baby nourished.

Most mums will notice that their milk supply is the highest overnight and in the morning. 

By pumping early in the morning, you will be able to take advantage of the hours when you have a high milk supply and collect the extra milk.

Breastfeeding and pumping schedule

breastfeed and pump schedule

Top Tips for Combining Breastfeeding and Pumping

Use the following tips to help you make the most of your pumping sessions without interfering with those special skin-to-skin feedings.

1. Use an electric breast pump

Investing in a high-quality electric breast pump can save you time and make pumping more efficient. Electric breast pumps draw milk out faster and allow you to save precious time in-between feedings. Lola&Lykke Smart Breast Pump has been chosen as the best electric breast pump in the UK for 3 years in a row.

Lear more: Lola&Lykke Celebrate MadeForMums Win: Parenting Brand Of The Year And 6-Time Breast Pump Gold Award!

2. Breastfeed on demand 

Let’s face it, all babies are different, and some may want to feed much more frequently than others. Responding to your baby's cues and breastfeeding on demand ensures they receive the necessary nutrition. Although you may want to stick to a rigid feeding schedule, follow your baby´s cues on when to feed.

3. Drain each breast completely

Milk production is driven by supply and demand, so you want to signal to your body that your breasts are empty (or as close as possible to it) and need more milk.

4. Take care of your well-being

You can’t pour from an empty cup, Mama! Literally and figuratively. A rested, well-hydrated mother who gets enough sleep is much more likely to be a breastmilk-making machine.

5. Seek support

Reach out to a lactation consultant or join support groups to connect with other parents who have experience with combining breastfeeding and pumping. Their guidance and shared experiences can provide valuable insights and encouragement.

Lola&Lykke is an award-winning Finnish maternity brand, proudly female-founded we are helping mothers have a happier and healthier transition into motherhood. Lola&Lykke are passionate about making maternal care and breastfeeding support available to all. Our holistic support model helps mums with innovative health products, community-based support, 24/7 expert advice and a range of digital health tools.

Learn more about Lola&Lykke and meet our health experts.

Tips to Maximise Milk Production

One of the most frustrating challenges a breastfeeding mother can experience is a low breast milk supply. Unless you are pumping, it is impossible to know how much milk your breasts are making.

So you may wonder, Am I even making enough milk? If you determine you do have a low supply, you will want to know how to increase your milk supply. In fact, a lot of women need help boosting their breast milk supply from time to time. So, here’s the scoop on how to boost milk production.

1. Nurse and pump frequently

The more often you nurse and pump, the more signals your body receives to produce milk. Aim for at least eight to twelve breastfeeding and pumping sessions in a 24-hour period.

2. Drain each breast completely

Milk production is driven by supply and demand, so you want to signal to your body that your breasts are empty (or as close as possible to it) and need more milk.

3. Stay hydrated and eat well

Proper hydration and nutrition are essential for maintaining milk supply. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and consume a balanced diet that includes foods rich in nutrients beneficial for lactation, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.

Learn more: Breastfeeding Diet: What to Eat While Breastfeeding

4. Add frequent pumping sessions to your day

Pumping in between feedings can help stimulate more milk production. Many women swear by “power pumping”, which involves pumping on and off for about an hour a day. This mimics cluster feeding.

5. Avoiding formula

When you’re worried you aren’t feeding your baby enough, you’ll do whatever it takes to nourish them - including adding formula to supplement your baby’s diet. However, this could have the opposite effect. The less breastmilk baby gets, the less your body will likely produce it. The exception, of course, is if your doctor recommended supplementing this way.

6. Massage your breasts

Gentle breast massage before and during pumping can help stimulate milk flow. Use circular motions and light pressure to promote milk letdown.

7. Try skin-to-skin contact

Skin-to-skin contact with your baby triggers the release of hormones that stimulate milk production. Engaging in regular skin-to-skin sessions can help enhance milk supply.

mother and baby in comforting skin-to-skin contact, promoting bonding and supporting milk supply

8. Choose your breast pump wisely

The right pumping equipment is important for maintaining your pumping practice and will help to boost your milk supply. Visit our helpful guide that allows you to choose which pump is right for you. Conversely, an uncomfortable pump could cause you to throw in the towel early if the discomfort is too distracting. If you’re not sure which breast pump is right for you, get in touch with the Lola&Lykke lactation experts.

Overcoming Challenges and Common Concerns

While combining breastfeeding and pumping can be beneficial, it's important to acknowledge that challenges may arise. Here are some common concerns and tips to overcome them:

1. Finding a balance

Balancing breastfeeding and pumping can be challenging, especially when you have other responsibilities. Prioritizing self-care, and seeking support from your partner or family can help create a balance that works for you.

2. Managing time

Breastfeeding and pumping require time and dedication. Use time-saving techniques like double pumping, hands-on pumping, and incorporating pumping sessions into your baby's feeding routine to make the most efficient use of your time.

3. Dealing with supply issues

If you're facing challenges with milk supply, consult a lactation consultant to determine the underlying causes and develop a plan to address them. Power pumping, eating lactation-boosting foods, and staying hydrated can help improve supply.

4. Maintaining motivation

Breastfeeding and pumping can be physically and emotionally draining. Stay motivated by seeking help and encouragement, and remember that feeding your baby can feel like a full-time job to begin with.

Learn more: Common Challenges with Breastfeeding - What to do?

How to combine breastfeeding and pumping: FAQs

1. How often should I pump if I'm breastfeeding?

You can begin pumping as soon as your baby is born if you’d like. You may choose to pump exclusively from the beginning. Or you may choose to breastfeed often and only pump once or a few times each day. If you’re supplementing the baby’s nursing sessions with occasional bottles, you may only need to pump a couple of times a day. It may be easiest to pump in the morning when you’re at the fullest. If you’re supplementing, try pumping after normal breastfeeding sessions.

If you’re pumping because you want milk for bottles or you want to increase your supply, you may consider pumping after regular nursing sessions a few times a day. It all depends on how much milk you want to gather.

On the other hand, if your little one is having issues latching or you desire to exclusively pump, you’ll need to pump in place of all nursing sessions. This means pumping throughout the day and night as often as your baby feeds.

If you’re waiting to pump until you go back to work or school, be sure to start at least two weeks before you need the milk. This gives you time to create a stash, but — more importantly — lets you become more familiar with the pumping and milk storage process. Your baby will have time to get used to bottles, too.

2. How much milk should I be pumping?

Every baby is also unique, and their milk needs may look different during periods of cluster feeding. Breastfed babies also tend to eat more frequently than formula-fed babies.

Your baby’s stomach size and hunger cues are your best guide to when it’s time to feed them. You can also look out for other cues, such as wet and soiled diapers, to see whether your baby is getting enough milk.

Overall, the goal is to pump enough milk to fulfill your baby’s average daily intake. As your baby grows, their stomach volume will also follow suit.

As a general rule (which may vary depending on your baby´s needs), these are the average amounts of breast milk consumed by infants:

Newborns (first 1-2 weeks)

Frequent breast stimulation is important in the first hours, days, and weeks of your baby’s life to help increase breast milk volume. Through frequent sucking, your baby (or pump) helps your breast milk advance from colostrum to mature milk. You should feed your baby 8-12 times per 24 hours in the beginning. Rather than focusing solely on your baby’s age to determine their milk needs, it’s important to use a combination of their age, body weight, and hunger cues as your guide. Using an electric breast pump is an ideal way of boosting milk production at this stage.

Infants between 1-2 months

After the first couple weeks, you should expect to produce more milk per session, about 60ml – 120ml, and may be able to stretch out some of the overnight feedings (maybe to 4 to 5 hours between feedings). In total, you should expect to average around 8 to 10 sessions per day. On average, babies at 4 to 5 weeks old reach their peak maximum daily milk intake of about 900 ml.

Infants between 3-6 months

Babies at this age may need up to 150ml per feeding. You might find the exact amount varies by time of day, with some babies nursing more at night. After this stage, a baby’s daily milk intake doesn’t typically change until around 6 months of age, when they may start eating solids. You can also expect to feed your baby an average of 8 times per day.

Baby Feeding Chart by Age

Baby Feeding Chart by Age

3. What is cluster feeding?

When the baby is cluster feeding, they can be extra fussy, sometimes rejecting the nipple only to demand milk a few minutes later. Cluster feeding is your baby’s smart way to tell your body to make more milk, often when they’re getting ready for a growth spurt or developmental leap. Cluster feeding can be an exhausting and emotional time but hang in there! It will pass, and things will get easier.

Around the time baby reaches 2 to 4 months old, the feedings should become more regular, though you may still encounter some periods of cluster feeding or shifts in feedings if they are sick or reaching a new developmental milestone.

4. Can I pump colostrum before the baby is born?

Colostrum is the first milk that babies receive after being born. It is nicknamed “liquid gold” because it is gold in color, and because it is amazingly nutritious and awesome for babies. It is calorie-dense, filling, full of antibodies and it helps babies’ poop, liquid gold, indeed.

Many mothers start producing colostrum long before it’s time for birth. If you have a normal, healthy pregnancy, there is absolutely no harm in pumping colostrum before the baby arrives. However, if you have a high-risk pregnancy, pumping colostrum is not advisable before birth, as it may cause preterm birth due to the release of Oxytocin. If you have a normal, healthy pregnancy, you may begin hand-expressing colostrum at 36 weeks of pregnancy.

Colostrum or breast milk can be pumped and stored prior to delivery for a variety of reasons, including supplying your newborn with vital nutrients and antibodies. If pumping before giving birth makes you uncomfortable, you can also do it after giving birth.

5. How long should a pumping session last?

Aim to spend 15 to 20 minutes hooked up to the pump to get a good amount of breast milk (some women will need 30 minutes or more with the pump, especially in the early days). Pump until the milk starts slowing down and your breasts feel well-drained.

6. When is the best time to pump

The best time to pump depends entirely on what works for you, and you’ll soon figure out a pumping schedule that works. But it’s best to choose a time of day when your breasts are ordinarily full. If you’re pumping because you’re away from your baby and missing feedings, try to pump at the same times you would normally feed, about once every three hours.

If you're pumping at home to stockpile milk or to increase your supply, try pumping an hour or so after your baby’s morning nursing session. Your breasts are naturally fuller earlier in the day, so the morning is a good time to get more milk.

On days when you’re with your baby, squeeze in a pumping session around an hour after you nurse and at least an hour before the next time you breastfeed — more demand means more supply.

Some mums are able to pump from one breast while the baby is nursing on the other. As long as the baby is getting her fill on one breast, it’s a time-efficient way to build a stockpile of milk while also ensuring both breasts are emptied during a feeding. You can also pump at the end of feedings to make sure every last drop of breast milk is captured.

7. Can I pump into the same bottle within 4 hours

Milk stays good for 4 hours if you leave it at room temperature after pumping. So, you can pump into the same bottle within the 4 hours timeframe. Once the 4-hour timeframe has elapsed, you can either give the milk to your baby or store it in the fridge or freezer for future meals.