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How Long Should I Pump? [What Nursing Moms Must Know]

How Long Should I Pump [What Nursing Moms Must Know]

Breastfeeding is the most natural way to nourish your baby. It has many benefits and helps you foster a stronger bond with your little one. However, not all mothers can feed directly from their breasts. That’s where breast pumping comes in!

How long a mom needs to pump for will depend on many factors, such as the baby’s age, weight, and how early or late they were delivered

It can also depend on your body and health at the time you give birth. Sometimes, you may not be ready to express yet, and it can take a while for your body to adjust to breastfeeding and pumping.

This thus raises the question, “How long should I pump for my baby?”

Many factors can affect your breast pumping schedule and how long you pump for. This guide will inform you on how long you should pump breast milk and the circumstances that can affect the length and duration.

How Long Should I Pump For?

How Long Should I Pump For?

While there is a recommended time for pumping, what time you pump out breast milk will vary on a case-to-case basis.

Some parents may choose to exclusively breast pump while others might use it as a supplementary option to keep up with their baby’s feeding.

When you pump will also depend on the device you use, whether you’re working with a manual pump, like the Haakaa pump, or an electric one.

Even a mother’s working or travel schedule can affect when, where, and how often you breast pump.

Here is how long you should pump, depending on your goals.

Exclusive Breast Pumping

You can choose to only feed your baby breast milk through a bottle, whether it’s your personal preference or your baby finds it hard to latch on to your nipples.

It’s recommended to pump for about 20 minutes each session using a double breast pump. If you’re using a single pump, you can pump for 20 minutes per breast.

To induce another letdown, try pumping about five minutes after your milk stops flowing. This will help encourage your breast to empty itself and increase milk production.

Note that more does not equal better in this case. If you start to feel any pain or discomfort while pumping, you should adjust your pump settings accordingly and choose a more comfortable setting.

The more relaxed you are during the pumping process, the more milk your body will produce.

Keep reading to discover how to increase your breast milk supply, especially if you do not produce enough for your baby’s daily demands.

Supplemental Breast Pumping

Whether you’re breastfeeding or have to transition to milk formula for any reason, you may still have to pump out breast milk as a supplemental source of sustenance for your baby.

Consider supplemental breast pumping in the following circumstances:

  • You want to build a supply for your freezer in case you’re not around to feed your baby.
  • You’re experiencing breast discomfort because of sores, bites, or blisters.
  • Your baby isn’t gaining enough weight even with the recommended feeding schedule.
  • Work and other commitments give you less time to pump or breastfeed.
  • You prefer to not breastfeed or pump (which is okay!)

You can either pump in the morning when your breasts are at their fullest or 30-60 minutes after nursing. This will leave you an hour to rest and build a supply for your subsequent nursing sessions.

Each session lasts around 20 minutes, much like the exclusive pumping. However, you can pump for a shorter amount of time if your breasts feel uncomfortable.

Breast Pumping to Increase Milk Supply

If you’re breast pumping to help increase your milk supply, you can try the following strategies:

  • Triple feeding – This is where you pump for 15 minutes and bottle feed after each nursing session. You can do this while your baby is still a newborn to help establish your milk supply while adjusting to nursing. It can be effective, but it’s also exhausting and is only recommended when you’re transitioning to nursing or if you prefer exclusively pumping.
  • Power pumping – This helps mimic cluster feeding, which helps increase your milk supply. You would have to pump on and off for an hour. You’ll spend 20 minutes pumping, 10 minutes resting, 10 minutes pumping, 10 minutes resting, and 10 minutes pumping.

Breast Pumping at Work

Being a busy mom shouldn’t stop you from giving your baby breast milk, if possible. There are some ways you can continue pumping even if you have to go back to work.

This can depend on how old your baby is and how often you plan to pump.

You can try the following routines for pumping at work:

  • Three months postpartum: Pump every three hours for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Nine months or older: Pump twice in your 8-hour workday for 20 to 25 minutes.

Note that you might have to pump more when your baby is younger.

Schedules can still depend on what works best for you and your baby. While you can try these routines, it’s also best to find out what would keep your baby well-nourished, especially if you’re a busy mom.

How Often Should You Pump?

How often you need to pump will depend on many factors, from your baby’s age, the time of day, the last feeding or pumping session, your pump time, how much you’ve practiced with your pump, and even your stress levels.

Even with the best breast pump, you still have to time your sessions based on what works best for you and your baby.

If you’re mainly breastfeeding, you can choose to pump:

  • In the morning. This is when moms usually produce the most milk.
  • Between breastfeeding. You can do this 30 to 60 minutes after nursing or at least an hour before breastfeeding. This will leave you plenty of milk for your baby’s next feeding.

It’s also best to let your baby feed if they want to right after breast pumping. Some can be patient and wait a little longer, but others might get the tummy rumbles earlier.

If you’re planning to exclusively breast pump, you can choose to pump:

  • 8 to 10 times in 24 hours.
  • Schedules can be different for mothers and babies, and you can plan a pumping schedule based on what works best for you and your baby.
  • Once you’ve reached full milk production, you can maintain a consistent schedule within 24 hours.

How Much Milk Should You Pump?

How Much Milk Should You Pump?

How much you pump also depends on factors similar to those that affect your pumping frequency.

When you start pumping breast milk, it’s important to note the following:

  • You might produce more milk in the morning.
  • Breast milk volumes depend on many variables; each breast will produce a different volume.
  • Volumes will gradually decrease throughout the day.

For those who choose to pump exclusively, it’s best to express around 750 to 1,035 mL every 24 hours. It may take some time to reach this target. However, your body should naturally adjust to it and your baby’s needs.

Note that babies might take more milk from a bottle compared to breastfeeding. They might quickly burn through the supply if you notice they’re drinking more than they should.

 This might force you to pump more, disrupting your feeding and pumping schedules.

Try investing in a slow-flowing bottle to prevent overfeeding them and wasting the milk you’ve worked hard to pump.

When to Start Pumping for a Newborn

When to start pumping for your newborn usually depends on your baby’s needs. Even your pregnancy and delivery can affect when you start pumping.

For a full-term feeding baby, you can wait a few weeks before you start pumping and storing breast milk. Try to hold it off and create that bond with your baby through breastfeeding before you start pumping.

Sometimes, a baby can be born preterm or ill and can’t breastfeed. You might also choose to exclusively pump and feed your breast milk through a bottle.

You can usually start pumping 1-6 hours after delivery, assuming there are no complications.

If your physician identifies problems before birth, you can usually start encouraging letdown and pumping a few weeks before delivery. This way, you will already have milk stored in time for your newborn’s arrival.

Other Important Facts About Breast Pumping

Other Important Facts About Breast Pumping

Breast pumping will be different for each mom. However, there are some things to remember to be comfortable while you pump.

Here are some more important facts about breast pumping to help you make the most of it:

  • Stress can affect your milk supply – If you go through a lot of stress, it can slow down or interfere with your let-down. As a result, it will signal your body to produce less milk, which can affect your baby’s feeding. Make sure you get plenty of rest and relaxation when you’re breastfeeding.
  • Breast pumps are designed to make the pumping process comfortable – If you feel any soreness, pain, or nipple damage, you can try lowering your pump’s suction and/or speed. You can also make sure to have the right breast shield size and accessories to help the pumping process go smoothly.
  • Sterilization is part of the breast pumping process – All breast pump materials should be sterilized before and after use, so you can be sure your baby will get clean milk. It also helps if you already have a breast milk storage bag nearby so you can safely transfer the milk without it getting contaminated.

Reaching and Maintaining Full Milk Production

You might be wondering how to start pumping breast milk. You can try the following tips to help you get started and slowly adjust to pumping.

From the day of your baby’s birth until they are four days old, take note of the following: 

  • Start right away – You can start pumping within six hours after birth. However, it also depends on how you feel postpartum. Consult your doctor about this. You can also expect to pump a little colostrum or the first milk on your first try. Try using a multi-user pump to initiate and maintain your milk supply.
  • Build your rhythm early – Start pumping 8 to 10 times every 24 hours as soon as possible. This is the typical number of times your baby would feed from the breast. You should be able to pump for at least 10 to 20 minutes by days three and four. You can also try double pumping to help save time and boost production.
  • Make the most of the mornings – Try pumping at least twice between one to six AM to help establish your milk supply. Your body tends to increase hormone levels early in the morning, so taking advantage of this time is a great way to establish a good supply.

After the fourth day, your body should start developing its own rhythm for producing milk and naturally increase from the first few ounces. Do the following until you reach full production:

  • Track your sessions – You should note how many times you pump daily (8 to 10 times every 24 hours) instead of the time between your sessions (every 2 to 3 hours).
  • Pump longer – Try pumping two minutes after the last drop of milk or until your breasts no longer feel full.
  • Pump constantly – Ensure you don’t let a 5-hour period pass without pumping, especially two weeks postpartum. This will help you maintain constant milk production.

Maintaining Full Milk Production

Once you reach the optimal 750 to 1,050 mL of milk daily, the goal is to maintain that amount for as long as your baby relies on breast milk. Since feeding your baby is a must, this should be a constant for your body.

At this stage, you can try doing the following:

  • Maintain your schedule – Within the schedule you’ve set, you should still produce around 750 to 1,050 mL every 24 hours, even if you lessen the number of pumps per day or the time it takes you to pump milk. Take note if there are any changes in your milk production.
  • Pump for shorter periods – Most moms usually pump for 10 to 15 minutes. Try to limit how long each pumping session lasts and stop pumping to regulate how much milk you pump every session. Your body should adjust accordingly.
  • Sleep more – Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule can also help you maintain optimal milk production. Many moms also pump before bed and first thing in the morning. You can try this to see if you experience too much breast fullness or a decrease in milk production.
  • Record your daily milk production  – Add the total amount of milk you pump every week and compare it to your previous weeks. You can see if there is a drop in production and if you should change anything in your routine.

Note that if you drain your breasts often, it will signal your body to produce more milk. See how this can affect your breast milk production and if you should stop at any point of your pumping to reserve it for later.

Increasing Milk Production

If your records show a drop in milk production, you can adjust your pumping schedule. These changes can alert your body to make more milk to sustain your baby’s needs.

There are different ways to address this issue, depending on what’s most comfortable or convenient for you. 

Changes in your schedule, especially if you’re a working mom, can be unavoidable. However, there are ways to still increase your milk production for your baby.

You can try the following strategies to help you increase your milk production:

  • Pump longer – Extend your pumping process by two minutes after the last drop of milk or until your breasts don’t feel full anymore.
  • Pump more – Try going for eight to 12 pumping sessions for 24 hours to help boost your milk production.
  • Check your breast flange size – Depending on any physical changes postpartum, you might have to change your breast flange size.
  • Breast massages and hand expressing – You can try massaging your breast before or during pumping to help increase production. Then, hand express the milk once you’re done with your session.

If you’re still having trouble with your milk supply, you can visit a lactation consultant or physician for other recommendations. Sometimes a lack of milk production is directly linked to your health.

Weaning From the Pump

Weaning is a gradual process and can take your body some time to adjust. It’s best not to shock your body into it to prevent any breast damage.

How it’s done can depend on what’s more comfortable for you. As long as there’s time for your body to adjust to the gradual change in your routine, it should naturally lessen its production of milk over time.

These are the most common ways you can wean from the pump:

  • Drop a pumping session  – Start dropping a session and give your body two to three days to adjust to it. Your body should slowly decrease its milk production. Continue dropping a pumping session until you’ve fully weaned from the pump.
  • Pump for shorter periods – If you were pumping out 120 mL for each session, stop pumping at 90 mL. Give your body two to three days to adjust to it before reducing the pump time until you’ve fully weaned from it.

If your breasts still feel full during the weaning process, just let out enough to be comfortable. Your body will slowly be aware that you don’t need the milk anymore, so it should lessen its milk production naturally.

Forcing yourself to stop pumping when your breast still feels full can result in pain or infection, which you can only prevent by letting your body naturally expel enough milk.

FAQs

You may have more questions on how long you should pump breast milk.

I’ve gathered the most common ones to help with your research.

Is Pumping for 30 Minutes Too Long?

The average pumping session usually lasts around 25 to 40 minutes. However, going over 30 minutes is usually discouraged.

Most hands-free or electric pumping devices, like the Spectra breast pump, actually come with a built-in automatic timer that stops pumping after 30 minutes. This is to ensure that you don’t pump for too long.

Pumping longer can damage breast tissue and reduce milk supply in the long run.

It’s best to stop pumping after 30 minutes, even if the milk still flows. Over time, your body will adjust to protect your breasts.

How Much Milk Should I Be Pumping in a Week?

How much you pump daily or weekly depends on your baby’s age, body weight, and hunger cues. Your body will naturally adjust to accommodate your baby’s needs.

The overall goal is to simply pump enough milk to cover your baby’s average intake.

If you had a full-term infant, you’d need to pump 450 to 1,200 mL of milk daily or 3,150 to 8,400 mL weekly.

You’d also need to consider their consumption and how the average stomach volume can increase during their first 4 weeks of life. They can consume around 5 to 7 mL per feeding on day 1, but it will increase to around 45 to 60 mL by day 7.

How much you pump will greatly depend on this stage of growth. Just build your milk production and maintain it so you can constantly cover these feeding sessions.

When Is It Too Early to Breast Pump?

It’s usually common to start pumping about two months to a few weeks before your baby’s birth. Other moms have to wait at least an hour after childbirth before pumping.

However, be careful when it comes to when you start. The earlier you do so, the earlier you’ll also stop producing milk.

You can consult your physician regarding when your baby will be born, so you can start pumping accordingly.

Conclusion

Pumping breast milk is a great way to keep your baby nourished.

While the pumping process varies for every mother, knowing your limits and when to take a break is important.

A well-rested mom with well-timed sessions can produce the best supply of breast milk to keep her baby healthy as they grow.

Sky Bustillo
Sky Bustillo

Hi, I’m Sky!
As a Filipina in her mid-20s, a sister to young ones, and a tita to my nieces and nephews, I somehow share the same sentiment as other parents. I have a growing aspiration of becoming a mom someday!
But there also comes a worry that you won’t be able to give the best to your children, especially with the food they eat, the products they use, and the new habits and hobbies we introduce to them.
Your kid’s safety and welfare are your top priority, that’s why I always make it to a point to learn from the stories and experiences of other moms.
It’s a delight to share what I learned and know to help the moms close to my heart, and this time, I’m writing to relay advice to you from the insights of other moms and my experience around kids, too.
I’d love to be a part of your journey, and I hope you find these tips and tricks helpful for you and your young one!