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When Can I Stop Pumping Every 3 Hours (What Happened to My Milk Supply)

When Can I Stop Pumping Every 3 Hours (What Happened to My Milk Supply)
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As a new mom, you might be wondering, when can I stop pumping every 3 hours? The good news is that it is definitely possible to stop pumping so frequently, but it will depend on a few different factors like your goals, how far you are postpartum, if your milk supply is established, and if you are happy with your milk supply.

When Can I Stop Pumping Every 3 Hours

It is definitely possible to stop pumping every 3 hours. A good time frame is somewhere between 6 and 12 weeks postpartum if your milk supply is established and if you are happy with the volume of milk that you are pumping.

At the beginning, when your baby is a newborn, it is recommended to pump every 3 hours to mimic a baby’s feeding schedule which helps to build up your milk supply.

How Long Do You Have To Pump Every 3 Hours 

Most moms pump every 3 hours for anywhere from 6 weeks to 12 weeks postpartum in order to build up their milk supply.

When you are newly postpartum, your milk supply is based on the hormonal changes that your body has just been through. 

After a few weeks, your milk supply switches from being based on hormones to being based on “demand” which is how often and how much volume you pump.

You want to make sure that you keep pumping frequently through this transition to where your body is producing milk based on supply and demand.

This transition will be different for each mom based on her individual hormones. Usually this timeframe is in the first trimester, between six and twelve weeks postpartum.

woman pumping while sitting on couch

As an example, I was able to stop pumping every 3 hours at night when my second baby was 6 weeks old because she started sleeping through the night. 

(As a side note, I was not this lucky with my first baby who definitely kept waking up more frequently for many more months).

With my second baby, I continued to pump every 3 hours during the day even though I dropped the overnight pumping session.

Pro Tip: If you are pumping frequently, it really helps to have an amazing pumping bra that is comfortable to wear. This pumping bra is my absolute favorite one, and you can get 20% off with the code LISA20 at checkout.

Do You Have A Sufficient Milk Supply

You might have seen some moms on social media who pump huge volumes of milk, so it really helps to understand what a “normal” milk supply looks like.

A normal milk supply is pumping 24 to 30 ounces of milk per day if you are exclusively pumping. 

If you are doing a combination of pumping and nursing, then a normal milk supply is pumping from 1 to 1.5 ounces per hour when you are away from the baby. 

So, if you are apart from the baby for 9 hours during the work day, then a normal milk supply is when you pump anywhere between 9 and 13.5 ounces during the time away from your baby.

If you are trying to build up your milk supply, continue pumping every 3 hours until you have been at a consistent volume for at least 3 to 4 weeks. 

This way you will be able to track your normal milk supply over this period of time and you will notice if your supply drops. 

If you do not want your supply to drop, then it is a good idea to go back to pumping more frequently or to add a power pumping session in to build your supply back up.

What Your Goals Are For Pumping Or Nursing

Another factor that comes into play is what are your goals. 

When you reduce pumping sessions, there can be a risk of losing milk supply, so it helps to keep your goal in mind.

You might be in a few different situations and the answer can change depending on which stage you are in.

Your goal might be to provide your baby with 100% breastmilk, or your goal might be to provide your baby with as much milk as possible and supplement with formula.

Another goal might be to keep pumping during the workday just enough to be able to nurse your baby while you are together.

All of these goals are completely fine, and up to you. Your goal might also change over time.

I exclusively pumped for two babies, and my first little one was a preemie in the NICU. If you are exclusively pumping, or triple feeding, it can be incredibly exhausting.

For my first baby, my goal was to provide as much breast milk as possible during her first year because she was a preemie. I never established a full milk supply with her.

For my second baby, I had a full milk supply but I had extra demands because I was caring for two little ones. 

With my second baby, I was ok with switching to pumping every 4 hours even if it meant there was a risk that I needed to supplement with formula. 

I ended up pumping every 3 hours during the day until around 12 weeks postpartum. 

I was able to keep up my milk supply even though I started pumping every 4 hours at 12 weeks postpartum, and I did not need to use formula until I decided to wean and stop pumping.

Do I Have To Pump Every 3 Hours At Night

Another question you might be wondering is if you need to keep up with pumping every three hours at night.

If you are exclusively pumping and newly postpartum, it is recommended to pump every 3 hours during the day and to have one 4 hour stretch over night.

Pumping or nursing anywhere from 8 to 12 times per day for the first six to eight weeks will help with building and keeping your milk supply.

Once you have established your milk supply and built it up to 24 to 30 ounces per day for a few weeks, then you may not need to pump as often overnight.

If you have met these few criteria, then you are ok to test out pumping less frequently at night:

  • You are beyond 6 to 8 weeks postpartum
  • You have a full milk supply (24 to 30 oz per day)

I usually recommend trying out stretching the pumping session slowly. If you wake up and feel the need to pump, then pump for a shorter time frame each night until your body does not wake you up.

This might look like only pumping for 10 minutes at 2am then going back to sleep until an early morning pump session around 5:45 or 6 am.

Also, if you track the ounces you are pumping and notice a decrease, then you can always add the night pumping session back into your schedule if you are concerned about losing ounces.

Pro Tip: Nights are sooooo much easier if you can pump in your bedroom without having to go all the way to the kitchen to put away your milk at night. I love this small cooler that I found on Amazon to store milk overnight.

Do You Pump Every 3 Hours From Start Or Finish

Another frequently asked question is do you pump every 3 hours from start or finish. The short answer is that you pump every 3 hours from the start of your pumping session. This is really important during the first few weeks postpartum when you are building up your milk supply.

Below are a few more examples and why you use the “start” time. 

So for example, if you pump at 6am and you pump for 20-30 minutes, you finish at 6:30am. Your next pumping session would be scheduled at 9am. 

By using the “start” time, it allows you to get in the recommended 8 to 12 pumping sessions per 24 hours that will help you to build up a full milk supply.

So with this example, you would have 8 pumping sessions per 24 hours, with pumps at 

  • 6am start
  • 9am start
  • 12pm (noon) start
  • 3pm start
  • 6pm start
  • 9pm start
  • 12am midnight start, and
  • 3am start

If for example, you use the finish time, then you will not get in the recommended 8 to 12 pumping sessions per 12 hours. You would only fit in 7 pumping sessions.

This might cause you to not build up a full milk supply because you are not “demanding” enough.

With the example of using the finish time, your pumping sessions during 24 hours would look like this:

  • 6am start, finish at 6:30am
  • 9:30am start, finish at 10am
  • 1pm start, finish at 1:30pm
  • 4:30pm start, finish at 5pm
  • 8pm start, finish at 8:30pm
  • 11:30pm start, finish at 12am (midnight)
  • 3am start, finish at 3:30am

By using the “finish” time, you only fit in 7 pumping sessions per 24 hours which could lower your milk supply.

Another problem with using the finish time is that the following day your pumping session looks a little different. 

I found that I was able to build up and keep up my milk supply better by pumping on a schedule and by pumping at the same times every day.

For example, my milk supply was better when I pumped at 6am every morning versus when I pumped at 6am one day, 6:30am the next day, and 7am the following day. 

This is because your body starts anticipating the schedule and when it gears up to produce milk based on that schedule.

NEXT, Check Out These Articles:

  1. Should I Pump Every 4 Hours?
  2. Exclusive Pumping Schedules By Month
  3. Does the Body Armor Drink really help Milk Supply?
  4. Did you know that some women have found that Oreos Increase their milk supply?

Must-Have Pumping Gear

Hear are a few of my favorite pumping items that made my life so much easier.

Resources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7192965/#:~:text=Current%20recommendations%20suggest%20that%20breast,day%20(9%2C%2010).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4720864/

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