how to transition from pumping to breastfeeding

How to Transition From Pumping to Breastfeeding: Your Relactation Strategy for 2023

Transitioning from pumping to breastfeeding can be a challenging experience for new mothers. Whether you have decided to become a stay at home mom instead of working away from your baby or are returning to work or simply trying to adjust your feeding routine, it can be difficult to know where to start. However, with a little patience and some helpful tips, you can make the transition as smooth as possible.

How to transition from pumping to breastfeeding

One of the first steps in relactation (transitioning from pumping to breastfeeding) is to initiate a good latch. Some mothers begin using breast pumps because their baby was unable to latch correctly at first. This shift may be challenging, but nothing is impossible. You can try different positions, such as the football hold or the cradle hold, to find the best one for you and your baby. It is also important to be patient and give your baby time to adjust to the new feeding routine.

Another effective way to transition from pumping to exclusive breastfeeding, is to reduce pumping sessions or the length of sessions gradually. This allows your body to adjust to the new feeding routine and helps prevent engorgement or discomfort. You can start by pumping enough to take the edge off and gradually decrease the time or frequency of pumping between nursing sessions. As your baby becomes more accustomed to breastfeeding, you can gradually reduce the amount of time you spend pumping until you are exclusively breastfeeding.

To learn more about pumping read my posts:

The 6 Best Smart Breast Pumps for Busy Moms in 2023

The best wearable breast pumps of 2023: Express milk anywhere, anytime

Why transitioning from pumping to breastfeeding is important

Breastfeeding is a natural and intimate way to bond with your baby while providing them with all the nutrients they need to grow and develop. However, sometimes breastfeeding may not be possible or convenient, and mothers may have to exclusively pump to express milk for their babies.

While some moms may have exclusively pumped due to work schedules or trouble latching, others might have supplemented baby feeds with formula feeding.

Regardless of the reason, it’s important to understand that breastfeeding and pumping are not necessarily mutually exclusive. While pumping is a great way to ensure your baby gets the benefits of breast milk, transitioning from pumping to breastfeeding is important for most babies for several reasons.

Promotes milk supply

Breastfeeding your baby directly stimulates the production of milk and helps maintain your milk supply. When you pump, you are not able to fully empty your breasts, which can lead to less milk supply over time. Breastfeeding your baby directly on a supply-and-demand basis allows your breasts to fully empty, which signals your body to produce more milk and maintain a healthy milk supply.

Enhances bonding

Breastfeeding is a unique opportunity to bond with your baby. It provides skin-to-skin contact and helps release hormones that promote feelings of love and attachment in babies. When breastfeeding parents go from exclusive pumping to exclusive breastfeeding, they can fully experience this special bonding time with their baby.

Learn more about how touch helps your baby bond with you here: Curious Little Hands: Why Do Babies Touch Your Face While Breastfeeding?

Reduces bottle feeding

Bottle-feeding sessions can interfere with breastfeeding as it requires a different sucking motion than breastfeeding. When you transition from pumping to breastfeeding, you reduce the need for bottle feeding, which can help your baby develop a proper latch and suckling motion. The more this happens the better the latch will become and the less likely you will struggle with sore nipples.

Nipple confusion

Some babies may experience nipple confusion when they are introduced to bottle feeding too early. Nipple confusion can occur when a bottle-fed baby has difficulty switching between the different types of nipples, which can lead to a refusal to breastfeed even for naturally good bottle feeders. Transitioning from pumping to breastfeeding can help reduce the risk of nipple confusion and ensure a smooth breastfeeding experience for you and your baby.

Nipple confusion can be very misunderstood – learn more about this phenomenon in my post: The Best Pacifiers for Breastfed Babies in 2023

Provides optimal nutrition

Breast milk provides optimal nutrition for your baby’s appetite, and is tailored to meet their specific needs. While pumped milk is still a great option, it may not contain all the same nutrients and antibodies that are present in breast milk. This is because the method of storage and handling can impact the nutrient content to some extent. Proper storage and handling practices are essential to maintain the nutritional quality of pumped breast milk. When you move from pumping to breastfeeding, you are providing your baby with the best possible nutrition.

Preparing to transition from pumping to breastfeeding

Transitioning from pumping to breastfeeding can be a challenging process for both mother and baby.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for the transition:

Building a breast milk supply

Before you start the transition, it’s important to ensure that you have a good supply of breast milk. You can do this by having pumping sessions regularly and storing the milk in the freezer. You can also try power pumping, which involves pumping for short periods with short breaks in between to stimulate breast milk production further.

Find out more about increasing milk supply here, and how to store milk in the freezer here.

Establishing a good latch

A good latch is essential for successful breastfeeding. To establish a good latch, make sure that your baby’s mouth is wide open and covers as much of the areola as possible. You can also try different positions, such as the football hold or the cradle hold, to find the most comfortable position for you and your baby.

Read more tips for breastfeeding newborns here.

Getting support

Breastfeeding can be a difficult and stressful experience, especially for first-time mothers. It’s important to get support from your partner, family, and friends. You can also seek the help of a lactation consultant who can provide you with guidance and support throughout the transition.

Skin-to-skin contact is also an essential part of the bonding process between mother and baby. It helps to regulate the baby’s body temperature and promotes the release of hormones that encourage milk production.

It’s normal to feel anxious and overwhelmed during the transition from pumping to breastfeeding. Remember to take it one day at a time and seek support whenever you need it.

Making the transition from pumping to breastfeeding

Here are some tips to help both you and your baby make the transition smoothly.

Start slowly

When you decide to transition from pumping to breastfeeding, it’s best to start slowly. Begin by nursing your baby for a short period, such as five minutes each feeding time, and gradually increase the time. Try to increase skin-to-skin contact in these sessions to maximize your special bond. This will help your baby adjust to the new feeding method and prevent them from becoming overwhelmed.

Switch between breastfeeding and pumping

To make the transition easier, you can switch between breastfeeding and pumping sessions. For instance, you can breastfeed your baby in the morning and pump in the afternoon. Or progressively drop a pumping session every few days. This will help your body adjust to the new feeding schedule and ensure that your baby receives enough milk.

Wean off the pump

Once you and your baby have adjusted to breastfeeding, you can start weaning off the pump. Begin by skipping one pumping session at a time and gradually reducing the number of pumping to nursing sessions until you no longer need to pump.

Offer a feed before your pumping session or when you see early hunger signs from your baby.

It’s important to note that weaning off the pump should be done gradually to prevent engorgement and discomfort. You can also use cabbage leaves or cold compresses to relieve any discomfort.

Learn more about engorgement here: Engorgement vs Mastitis: Understanding the difference

Other tips

Here are some additional tips to help you make the transition from exclusively pumping to breastfeeding:

  • Be flexible: If your baby is hungry, it’s okay to give them a bottle of formula or breast milk.

  • Consistency is key: Try to breastfeed your baby at the same times every day to establish a routine.

  • Use bottles wisely: It’s best to use slow-flow nipples to prevent your baby from becoming too used to the bottle.

  • Seek help: If you’re having trouble transitioning from pumping to breastfeeding, don’t hesitate to seek help from a breastfeeding consultant or your healthcare provider.

1Replace 1 pumped session with a breastfeeding session daily and increase skin to skin contact.
2Replace 2 pumped sessions with breastfeeding sessions daily, increase skin-to-skin contact, and monitor latch
3Replace 3 pumped sessions with breastfeeding sessions daily, improve latch, and maintain a comfortable breastfeeding position.
4Gradually replace remaining pumped sessions with breastfeeding sessions, and monitor your baby’s weight gain and diaper output to make sure they are well fed.
Example of a simple guide to ‘relactating’ or transitioning from pumping to breastfeeding. Adapt the schedule as needed and consult with a lactation consultant or healthcare professional for personalized guidance.

Common challenges and solutions

Engorgement and clogged ducts

Engorgement and clogged ducts can occur when there is an oversupply of milk or when milk is not being removed from the breast frequently enough. This can cause discomfort, pain, and even lead to mastitis.

Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that can cause flu-like symptoms, such as fever and fatigue, as well as breast pain and redness.

Here are some solutions to help with engorgement, clogged ducts, and mastitis:

  • Nurse frequently: Try to nurse your baby every 2-3 hours, or whenever they show signs of hunger. Continue to breastfeed if you have mastitis as this can help to reduce the symptoms.

  • Use warm compresses: Place warm compresses on your breasts before nursing to help stimulate milk flow. This can also help reduce pain and inflammation from mastitis.

  • Massage your breasts: Gently massage your breasts before and during nursing to help loosen any clogged ducts.

  • Use a breast pump: Use a breast pump to help remove any excess milk after nursing.

  • Take pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can help to reduce pain and fever.

Continue using a breast pump for backup

Here are some tips to help you use a breast pump effectively:

  • Choose the right flange size: Make sure that the flange size of your breast pump fits correctly to ensure maximum milk output.

  • Use nursing pads: Use nursing pads to help absorb any leaks that may occur when using a breast pump.

  • Follow CDC guidelines: Follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and sterilizing your breast pump to prevent infection.


Transitioning from exclusive pumping to breastfeeding can be a challenging process, but it is definitely achievable with patience and determination. Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Follow a gradual approach: Reducing pumping sessions or the length of sessions gradually can help your body adjust to the new routine. Don’t just suddenly switch from pumping to nursing.

  • Feed your baby at the breast: Continue to feed your baby at the breast, whether that’s a couple of times in the morning before you leave for work, a few times in the evening after you’re at home, and once overnight or some other schedule that works well for you both.

  • Seek advice when needed: If you have any concerns or questions about the transition, don’t hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant, your healthcare provider, or a breastfeeding support group like WIC.

  • Stay hydrated and nourished: Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet to ensure you’re providing your body with the nutrients it needs to produce breast milk.

    Read more about this in my post: An Appetite For Answers: Why Does Breastfeeding Make You Hungry?
  • Involve both parents: Encourage your partner to take an active role in the breastfeeding journey, whether that’s by helping with feedings or providing emotional support. This is essential for successful breastfeeding.

Remember, every child and every breastfeeding parent’s breastfeeding journey is unique, so don’t compare yourself to others. Trust your instincts, be patient with yourself and your baby, and enjoy the bonding experience that comes with breastfeeding.


Have questions? I have answers.

Yes, it is possible to go back to breastfeeding after exclusively pumping. This process is known as “relactation.” It may require patience and persistence, but many moms have successfully transitioned back to breastfeeding (source: La Leche League International).

There is no specific timeline to stop pumping and just breastfeed, as a mom, it depends on your individual situation and your baby’s needs. It is best to consult with a breastfeeding consultant or healthcare professional for personalized guidance (source: KellyMom).

To introduce breastfeeding after pumping, you can start by offering the breast before or after pumping sessions. Encourage skin-to-skin contact and try different breastfeeding positions. (source:

After pumping, it usually takes around 20-30 minutes for your breasts to begin producing more milk, though this can vary depending on factors such as your baby’s age, time since the last feeding, and individual milk production (source: KellyMom).

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