“How much should I be pumping?” is one of the most asked questions new moms have.
If you typically breastfeed, it can be difficult to know how much you should be pumping when you’re away from your baby.
On the other hand, you might start out exclusively pumping and wonder exactly how much you should be pumping per session and per day.
The answers, of course, will vary based on a variety of factors and whether or not you’re breastfeeding or exclusively pumping. I’ll go over both scenarios and answer all of your pumping-related questions below!
How much should I be pumping?
How much milk should I be producing per session?
Unfortunately, there’s no set number of ounces you should aim for per session. Typically, babies (aged one to six months) consuming breastmilk will take in between 19-30 ounces per day, with the average intake resting around 25 ounces.
If baby is eating around eight times per day, this would average out to around a little over three ounces per pumping session. However, you won’t always get three ounces per session–you may get more or less depending on time of day, how hydrated you are, how old your baby is, etc.
If you are exclusively pumping:
If you are exclusively pumping, you’ll likely get more during a pumping session than a mom who mostly breastfeeds but only occassionally pumps when she’s away from her baby.
There’s no set number of ounces your body should produce– the number of ounces you get during a pumping session depends on how much your baby eats in a total day among other factors, like time of day. For example, you may pump five ounces in a morning session, and only 3 ounces in an afternoon session.
If you are breastfeeding:
If you typically breastfeed your baby but need to pump while you are away from them, it’s not uncommon to only pump 1/2 -2 ounces in a pumping session.
Remember: How much you are pumping will vary greatly in that first month as you are establishing your milk supply and only producing what baby can eat.
Babies stomachs start out very small and they will only take about an ounce or two that first week until they work their way up to taking around three to four ounces per feed once they reach four months.
How much milk you can pump is never a good indicator of how much milk your baby is taking in while breastfeeding. Babies are very efficient at emptying your breasts, and just because you can only pump one or two ounces while you’re away from them does not mean they’re only eating that amount!
If you are pumping after breastfeeding or in between feedings:
If you’re pumping after you’ve recently breastfed your baby in order to build up a milk supply, you can expect to pump even less than if you were pumping simply because you were away from your baby.
Alternatively, you can use a haaka milk collector to catch the milk the leaks out of your other breast while breastfeeding your baby. This works wonders to easily build a milk supply without really even trying.
How long should I pump?
For EP’ing moms and breastfeeding moms, the answer is the same: Aim to pump for about 20 minutes. Make sure you’re using a double electric pump, too.
A lot of moms won’t have milk flowing the entire time they’re pumping–and that’s totally okay. The idea here is to stimulate the nipple for at least 15-20 minutes per pumping session.
How often should I pump?
A newborn baby will feed between 8-12 times in a 24 hour period.
Breastfeeding moms: If you are away from your baby, you will pump when they would typically eat.
Exclusive pumping moms: To keep up with your baby’s appetite, you will need to pump about every two to three hours.
Don’t forget, this recommendation isn’t for just while you’re awake– to build up your milk supply and satisfy baby’s hunger, you’ll need to pump every two to three hours around the clock.
After your milk supply is established, (which typically happens around six weeks or so) you can ease up on the every two to three hours and just aim for pumping a minimum of seven times per day.
You might choose to pump every couple hours in the morning when milk volume is high, take a four to five hour break mid-day and then pump several times in the evening.
Tips to pump more milk
Hands on pumping
If you’d like to pump more milk per session, try hands-on pumping. Hands-on pumping is a technique designed to drain more milk from your breasts as you pump. To carry out this method:
- Start by massaging both breasts
- Pump using a double electric pump, make sure to compress your breasts as you pump
- Massage your breasts again
- Finish the process by hand-expressing milk
What to keep in mind about how much you should be pumping
In the first 24 hours of your baby’s life, you can expect to only pump drops of colostrum– equalling to about 1 teaspoon– at each pumping session.
Days two and three you will pump slightly more, but still only merely drops, totaling around two to three teaspoons per day.
Once your milk comes in, which typically happens around day three or four you can expect to pump more.
Instead of stressing about how much you’re pumping and whether or not baby is getting enough, rest easy when you take your baby to their well visits for wait checks, and count enough wet/dirty diapers each day.
A well-fed baby should have between five and eight wet diapers in a 24 hour period.
Related reading: Power pumping
If you’re pumping at least eight times per day and using hands-on pumping techniques and still feel like you’re not getting enough, it’s time to check out your pump to make sure it’s in good working order.
First, examine the flange size: Flanges that are too big or too small will not be very efficient at draining your breasts. Likewise, your pump suction may not be sufficient, or you may be using a pump with older parts and need to replace the pump suction mechanisms.