To start, I am not a lactation consultant and do not consider myself any sort of “expert”. I am just a mom currently exclusively breastfeeding my second who likes to talk about this stuff and share my journey. I will always advise that you contact a lactation consultant for any struggles you may be having.
With my first, I got off to a rough start pumping. I was not sure what I was doing, I started weeks after she was born, and I was frustrated that a 20-minute pumping session was only getting me 1-2 ounces. How was I ever going to build a stash? What I learned was that yielding small amounts does not mean you have a low supply. It means your supply is meeting what your baby needs and if you want to make more to stash, it takes time and work. There was a lot of trial and error, tears, wanting to quit, hating the pump, but eventually I found a rhythm. I successfully breastfed Josie for 2.5 years and prior to returning to work build a stash that I was able to maintain by pumping. Now I know a lot more this time around so I want to share my current schedule (this will change my babies eating habits changes and when he takes a bottle).
The first thing I learned was that your supply is established in the first two weeks of breastfeeding. It will adapt and change as your babies eating habits change. But those first two weeks are critical. If you really want to build a stash you should start pumping right away. Finn is 7 weeks old and has not had a bottle yet. I will likely introduce one in a few weeks. This means everything I pump is for the freezer right now. Everyone introduces bottles at different times. I want him to be able to take a bottle if I need to be away from him. Like when I return to work. But for now I want him exclusively on the breast. I fear that introducing a bottle too early would deter him from my breast and then I would be pumping even more! I like the convenience of being able to feed him whenever, not heat up or wash bottles, and babies are able to empty your breasts better than a pump, so continuing to feed him from me as much as possible is better for the supply! We’ll get there when it feels right.
For pumping this time around I use three different pumps. I use the Medela Pump in Style Double Electric Pump, the Medela Hand Pump, and the Haaka Pump. It may seem like a lot but the way I use them depends on the time of day. The goal is the same…collect milk, empty my breasts, and maintain my supply.
I’ll start with the double pump. I use this first thing in the morning (after I feed Finn) I am so full in the morning and when he eats early (between 5-6) he usually only takes a little bit and falls back asleep. I pump for 15-20 minutes and really massage everything out. Make sure you have a pumping bra so you can be hands free. I usually eat my breakfast and scroll social media while I pump. I get a lot of milk (well a lot for me) in this session. Usually 8-10 ounces.
Next I use the Haakaa pump. Right after getting my first one I immediately bought a second. With two kids the less I need to wash things the better. I use them in my two morning feeding sessions. I feed Finn on one side and use the Haakaa pump on the other side. I usually collect three ounces a session in the morning. I put them in the fridge and combine them once they are cooler. I then wash them out so they are ready for the afternoon feeding sessions. I use them both again for the afternoon feeds and then I am don with the haakaa. For his nighttime feeds I want to limit how much milk I am making. This is because eventually if he sleeps longer at night I want to sleep too. I want my body to learn to make just what he needs.
Now comes the hand pump…this pump is great to have on hand if you are away from your baby. For example, if I run to the grocery store I can keep it in my car and pump if needed. Due to Covid, we do not go many places so I mostly use this pump over night. I feed Finn and put him down. If he sleeps a long stretch I will wake up with very full boobs so this pump comes in handy to relieve that feeling. I pump just enough to feel comfortable (usually around 2-3 am) and if he wakes up I feed him what he needs. I usually collect 3-4 ounces and throw the whole pump in the fridge and worry about storage in the morning. Also remember if you cant make it to the fridge breast milk can sit out so you can easily put this on the night stand and put in the fridge hours later.
Eventually when he takes a bottle my pumping schedule will change. When I return to work it will change. When my stash is full it will change. But this is what works for me. I am able to store about 20 ounces a day (give or take), which has let me store almost 1.000 ounces so far. Good luck on your breastfeeding/ journey! If you have any other tips send them my way!