Updated: May 31
I have seen the 120-minute rule mentioned for the exclusively pumping community. I am not sure where this rule originated and I am not saying that this rule is inaccurate in any way. In my professional opinion (and from working with many of my clients), I feel that the 240-minute rule for the first 12 weeks is a better baseline to effectively establish milk supply and potentially create an oversupply as long as there are no underlying conditions.
What is the 240-minute rule?
In my opinion, the 240-minute rule is a best practice to establishing and maintaining a supply as well as potentially creating an oversupply. This means that you should pump at least every 3 hours for 30 minutes for the first 12 weeks. After 12 weeks, you should reassess based on your breastfeeding goals.
If you have an oversupply, you may want to consider dropping a pump session if you are interested in potentially reducing supply or you would like to pump less time. You can also drop a pump session and reallocate that session to your other pumps to potentially reduce the chance of decreasing supply.
If you are making just enough or an undersupplier, then you may want to maintain on this schedule until you are ready to drop a session or accept that your supply may decrease with the dropped session and/or pumping less. You can also drop a pump session and reallocate that session to your other pumps to potentially reduce the chance of decreasing supply.
When should you start the 240-minute rule?
If you are exclusively pumping, I recommend using breast pump to pump both breasts at least every 3 hours for 30 minutes for the first 12 weeks. Mature milk usually comes in on day three through seven unless there is a concern such as delayed or failed lactogenesis. If there is a medical concern, please contact your doctor.
Why use the 240-minute?
I am approaching this from a place of creating a potential oversupply. In my private practice, I see some clients in months four through twelve and their supply is just enough or not enough. These clients are frustrated, tired, ready to give up, or dangerously taking too many supplements. The 240-minute rule does not mean that you are guaranteed to have an oversupply, but it is effective in creating the best chance within the first 12 weeks. After 12 weeks, it can be harder (not impossible) to increase supply. I just want people to recognize how critical the first 12 weeks are in a breastfeeding journey. When I say oversupply, I do not mean 90 ounces of milk in the freezer. I mean creating a well-managed freezer stash that can be used for supply dips, approaching monthly menstrual cycles dips, or desire to stop pumping and have extra milk to feed after your breastfeeding journey ends.
When is the 240-minute rule not necessary?
If you feel that you are effectively emptying before 30 minutes at least every three hours for the first 12 weeks.
You do not want the chance to potentially create an oversupply.
Once you get to your desired milk supply and/or you are over 12 weeks postpartum, you can consider cutting back on the time of each pumping session or dropping pumps.
Note: This advice is meant for the exclusively pumping community. If you are nursing in addition to pumping, there will be a future blog to address my thoughts on that topic. In the interim, I believe that the 240-minute rule can still apply if you would like to potentially have an oversupply. Your average nursing time would be subtracted from the 240-minute rule.
If you would like to discuss the 240-minute rule for the first 12 weeks, please feel free to book a Virtual Pumping Prenatal or Postnatal Lactation Counseling session at the link below or by visiting www.pumpwithpurpose.com.
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If you are an exclusive pumper, did you use the 240-minute rule? What were the first 12 weeks of your breastfeeding journey like?