You may be pumping to supplement breast milk for your baby to consume between breastfeeding sessions. Over time, as your milk regulates and your baby takes in enough milk, you might want to drop a pump session.
How do you drop a pump session? Drop a pump session gradually. Over the course of a few days, reduce the amount of time you spend pumping and space out the remaining sessions so that you pump regularly throughout the day. You can also reduce the volume you make during a feeding until you don’t produce milk at that time anymore.
Read on to learn more about dropping a pump session and how to do so safely without affecting supply.
Dropping a Pump Session – What To Know
If you’re considering dropping a pump session, here are some things you need to know.
What Does It Mean To Drop a Pump Session?
Dropping a pump session means adjusting your pumping routine so that you pump fewer times in a 24-hour period.
As you change your schedule to exclude one pumping session, your other pumping sessions should be more evenly spaced. You’ll want to drop a pump session gradually over the course of a few days rather than dropping one abruptly.
When You Might Consider Dropping a Pumping Session
You might consider dropping a pumping session when your body is producing enough milk for you to breastfeed your baby to a point where they’re satisfied.
Think about the following as you try to decide whether you should drop a pumping session:
- How much milk are you producing when you pump? If you’re making more milk than your baby eats throughout the day, you may want to drop the feeding once your breast milk supply has been regulated.
- How old is your baby? You can think about dropping a pumping session if your baby is older than 12 weeks. Your milk supply has adjusted at this point to meet your baby’s needs, so you can drop a pumping session if your baby is satisfied after breastfeeding.
- How much do you want to pump? Some women don’t enjoy pumping. If your baby is gaining weight and you’re frustrated with pumping, you can start dropping some sessions gradually. If your baby isn’t gaining weight and you’re frustrated, speak with your baby’s pediatricians about other options.
- Are you going back to work? Pumping may become more challenging when you go back to work. Consider dropping a pumping session before you return to your job.
- How many sessions are you pumping each day? You may want to drop a pumping session if your breast milk supply has regulated and you’re pumping seven to eight times a day.
Effects of Dropping a Pumping Session
The effects of dropping a pumping session are different for every woman. Some women experience a drop in milk supply while others experience an increase.
If you drop a pumping session too quickly, you may develop uncomfortable breasts, clogged ducts, and mastitis. You may also have mood swings because of the hormonal changes that come with weaning.
When Can I Start Dropping Pumping Sessions?
If you’re pumping to increase your milk supply for breastfeeding, you can start dropping pumping sessions after about 12 weeks.
By that point, your milk supply should be established, and your baby should be satisfied with the amount of milk you produce.
If your child’s pediatrician is concerned about your child’s weight gain, you may want to continue pumping under the guidance of a lactation consultant.
How To Decide Which Session To Drop
You should drop any session where you’re not producing as much milk, usually in the early afternoon. Save dropping your first pumping session in the morning and the last pumping session in the evening for last.
During those pumping sessions, you tend to produce the most milk, so you should pump for those times for as long as possible.
How To Drop Pumping Sessions Without Losing Supply
Drop pumping sessions gradually to maintain your supply and avoid clogged ducts and other unpleasant symptoms. Try these two methods for dropping pumping sessions.
Method #1: Drop One & Schedule Remaining Sessions Closer Together
Try dropping one pumping session and scheduling your other pumping sessions closer together. Pick a session in the afternoon, and combine it with another session over the course of a few days.
For example, if you pump every three hours, you might combine your 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. pumping sessions by pumping at 4:30 p.m. instead. Then, you can adjust the rest of your pumping sessions and pump every four hours instead.
Method #2: Gradually Decrease Time & Volume of a Session
Another method for dropping pumping sessions without losing supply is gradually decreasing the time and volume of one session.
Shorten the pumping session length by about a quarter every five days. Cut your 20-minute session down to 15 minutes and so on. Eventually, you’ll eliminate the session completely.
Besides decreasing time, you can also reduce the volume you pump during a session if you track the ounces you produce each time.
Instead of shortening the session time by 25%, gradually decrease the amount of milk you make by 25% every four or five days.
Signs Your Milk Supply Is Decreasing
Watch out for these signs that your milk supply is decreasing:
- Your baby isn’t producing enough wet diapers in a day.
- Your baby isn’t gaining enough weight.
- Your baby doesn’t produce tears when crying.
- Your baby has a sunken spot on the top of their head.
- Your baby is abnormally sleepy or lethargic.
How To Keep Up Milk Supply
Follow these tips for dropping a pump session or two while continuing to make milk for breastfeeding your baby:
- Feed your baby on a schedule: Starting from a few hours after birth, breastfeed your baby every 2-3 hours in the beginning to establish supply. Then, when your baby is gaining enough weight and you’re producing enough milk, you can start feeding your baby on a more on-demand basis.
- Be patient during growth spurts and sicknesses: Babies consume more milk when they’re growing, developing a new milestone, or feeling ill. It may seem like you’re not producing enough milk, but eventually, your body will catch up to your baby’s needs. Be patient with yourself, and feed your baby when they seem hungry.
- Consume a balanced diet: Breastfeeding mothers need healthy nutrients to maintain their energy and produce healthy milk for their babies. Eat a colorful diet of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains. Breastfeeding mothers should aim to eat 500 additional calories.
- Stay hydrated: Breastfeeding mothers also tend to need to consume more water than other individuals. Make sure you drink enough water so that you’re not thirsty throughout the day.
- Manage your stress: Your stress levels and hormones can affect milk production. Stay active and practice relaxation techniques to relieve stress throughout the day.
Will Skipping a Pumping Session Hurt Supply?
No, skipping a pumping session won’t hurt supply, but it’s best to stick to your pumping routine as much as possible so your body knows when to make milk.
If you skip multiple pumping sessions, your supply could drop or you could develop clogged ducts or mastitis.
When Can I Stop Pumping Every 3 Hours?
If you’re exclusively pumping, you can stop pumping every three hours when your baby is between 6 and 12 weeks old.
Once you’ve established your milk supply and your baby is satisfied with the milk you’re producing, you can start dropping pumping sessions.
If you’re pumping to supplement breast milk for your little one, you can stop a pumping session when you’re making enough milk. Drop a pump session gradually to maintain your supply and avoid clogged milk ducts.
Mom of three (including identical twin boys), wife, and owner of Parents Wonder. This is my place to share my journey as a mother and the helpful insights I learn along the way.