- When to Drop a Pumping Session. Most women drop their first pumping session somewhere between 10-14 weeks. A mother's breast milk supply is said to be established around 12 weeks; this means your breast operate less on a demand = supply approach, so you're less likely to see a dip in your supply when you drop a pumping session.
- How to Drop a Pumping Session. When you're dropping a pumping session, I recommend doing it slowly over 4-7 days, so your body can adjust. There's two different ways to drop a pumping session:
1. You can pick to increase the time in between all your sessions evenly; say moving from pumping every 3 hours to every 3.5 hours which will naturally eliminate a session. In this approach every few days add an extra 10-15 minutes in between your pumping sessions, until you've phased a pumping session out of your day.
2. You can pick a specific pumping session - say you hate that 11pm pumping session and choose to eliminate that session. If you choose to eliminate a specific pumping time, let's say you pump at 7pm, 11pm, and 3am, I recommend pushing back the 7pm pumping time to 8:30 or 9pm and moving the 3am session to 1:30 or 2am, so there isn't a large time gap between pumping sessions. In this approach, some women drop the pumping session cold turkey and adjust the spacing with the prior/post pumping sessions to accommodate. Others will move the time prior /post pumping sessions times closer by 30-60 minutes every couple days until the desired session is eliminated and timing is fairly evenly spaced.
- Drop in Breast Milk Supply. A few days before you start dropping a pumping session, track your breast milk output for each day so you can see your average output per day. Then continue to track it as you drop your session. A decrease in supply of 1-2 oz is common when dropping a session (make sure you're okay with losing a few ounces of breast milk per day before deciding to drop a session). If you find your output has dropped several ounces, you can add the pump back in and most likely recover back to about the same output as before or accept that you'll be short a few more ounces each day than originally planned.
- What Pumping Session NOT to Drop. Your prolactin hormone levels are highest in the late night/early morning, which is why they say pumping at least once between 1AM-5AM is so important. Prolactin is a hormone that stimulates breast milk production in your breasts. I always recommend keeping at least one session during that time frame, but after that pick the pumping session that is most inconvenient in your schedule. For some, it's very stressful pumping at work so dropping a session there is best, while others would love a little more sleep and the nighttime/midnight pumping session gets eliminated.
The question that often comes up after a few weeks of exclusively pumping is... "When can I drop a pumping session?!" It might be from lack of sleep, the isolation of leaving to go pump all the time, the negative comments from others who want you to keep trying to breastfeed, formula sounds easier, the list of reasons goes on and on, but inevitably pumping moms feel the pressure to drop a pumping session.
When you're pumping often you may find you can get extra milk out by doing breast compressions after you finish pumping. Here's a video from Standford that has some great tips on breast compression.
Here are some tips & tricks for increasing your supply. Try them all out, you never know if one might work wonders for your milk supply!
Exclusively Pumping Blog
for those who choose to pump exclusively or pump because they can't breastfeed...this blog is for you!