Remember, I am NOT a medical professional, but even if I were, there’s no guaranteed way to drop a pump without losing any ounces, but dropping gradually and trying a few of the tips in this post can help you not to lose a significant amount of breast milk. Even if you’re weaning, dropping gradually will make you less prone to clogged ducts that can lead to mastitis, and less likely to feel engorged and uncomfortable.
I recently dropped from 5 pumps per day (ppd) to 4, so I’m using my own recent and past experience as an example.
Gradually dropping a pump should take about a week. You can slow the process down more if you start to feel too engorged. On the other hand, you can also drop in less than a week, but you may risk losing more ounces. Also, don’t get overly excited if you pump more in your next pumping session right after you drop. Your body takes time to adjust to the change. It may overcompensate at first, but eventually it will (for most women) even your supply out among your other pumping sessions.
How Do You Know When To Drop A Pump?
To put it simply – whenever you’re ready! It really depends on your own pumping goals. I mentioned previously that your milk supply will regulate around 12 weeks postpartum (wpp), and it’s not a great idea to drop pumps drastically before then because you will probably loose a lot of ounces, and may not be able to increase your output. If your goal is to pump for six months, you may start to drop at 4 or 5mpp.
Some women don’t drop pumping sessions until they are ready to wean, and some drop them when they go back to work or when baby becomes more mobile and it’s harder to keep up with them.
Which pumping session should I drop?
I dropped my middle of the night (MOTN) pump at about 3mpp when I went back to work. It only took a week for me to realize that I needed that extra sleep in order to function.
I’m also very fortunate to have a job that has been accommodating to my pumping schedule, so I don’t have to worry about pumping for a limited time at work. Someone choose to drop one of their work pumps first if their job isn’t as pumping-friendly.
Deciding which pump to drop is totally a personal preference, but it may impact how you drop it. For instance, if you want your pumps evenly spaced out throughout the day, you’ll have to adjust your schedule as you drop.
How do I drop a pump?
There are a couple different ways to drop a pump.
1. Shorten your pumping session by 3-5 minutes each day
This is how I went from 5ppd to 4ppd a few weeks ago. I wanted to drop my 6pm pump so I’d have more time with my daughter after work before she goes to bed and more time to cook dinner.
When I was pumping 5-6 times per day, it took me about 30-45 minutes to empty for each pump. So when I started dropping, I pumped for 35 minutes at 6pm, then 30 minutes the next night, then 28 minutes, then 25, etc. until I was down to about 15 minutes. I actually planned to pump at 6pm one more day for about 10 minutes, but I was caught up in something (probably reality tv 😉), and I totally forgot about it until 8pm, so I just skipped it.
The key to keeping your supply up is to add the minutes that you are dropping onto another pumping session. So as I shortened my 6pm pump, I pumped longer during my other 4 sessions. I now pump at 5:45am, 10am, 2pm, and 9:30pm. In addition to my 30 min pump at 6pm, I used to pump for about 40 mins, 30 mins, 30 mins, and 45 mins, respectively. Now that I’ve dropped the 6 pm pump, I pump for 1 hour, 45 mins, 45 mins, and 1 hour.
2. Push your pumping session about 30 minutes later (or earlier) each day
In this method, you are basically slowly combining two pumping sessions into one.
For example, if you pump at 10am and 2pm for 30 mins each and decide to drop the 10am pump, you’re drop schedule might look something like this:
In this case, it’s not necessary to add time to your other pumping sessions because you’re not losing time dropping your pump, but you may decide to spread your pumping time out more evenly once you’ve combined the two pumps. Just remember – if you stop pumping before you are empty, you may signal your body to produce less milk. So you may have to work to increase your supply again.
3. Just drop it!
Of course you can always just drop a pump without a set method. I did this when I went to 5 ppd, although I was only about 3 months postpartum (ppd) and hadn’t joined a pumping group yet, so I really had no idea what I was doing. If I knew then what I know now, I would have used one of the other two methods above.
But, I am a “goldilocks” – I make just about as much milk per day as Peyton drinks. I didn’t know to increase the time of my other pumps after I dropped, so I lost a lot of ounces and had to work for about a month to get back up to Peyton’s daily intake.
Simply dropping a pump can make you feel engorged, especially if you are an oversupplier. You may also develop a clog that could potentially lead to mastitis. Although some women drop a pump and don’t experience any of those, so it’s different for everyone.
If there’s something I didn’t address or you still have questions about, or if you just need some support while you drop a pump, leave a comment below, fill out my contact sheet, or find me on instagram!