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There are lots of reasons why moms may want or need to pump their breast milk for their baby. And one of the most common questions about pumping is how often should you pump milk?
During the beginning stages, while you are still establishing your milk supply, it is important to pump a lot – up to 8 to 10 times a day.
How often should you pump your breasts?
When you have a newborn or a baby under three months old:
If you are still starting to build your milk supply and production, lactation consultants would usually recommend you pump often every two to three hours- around 8 to 10 times a day. This would be the same as how often a newborn would be nursing.
If your baby is a little bit older and you have established a milk supply:
Depending on how much supply you have, whether it is little, too much, or just enough, you can pump anywhere from 7 to 10 times a day. As your baby gets older, you will find that you can maintain your milk supply even with just around 6 pumping sessions a day.
How often should I pump milk to increase milk supply?
If you are aiming to bring your milk supply up, you can pump at least 10 times per day. Along with this, you can also try to use a double pump to be able to pump both breasts at the same time, which will encourage faster milk production.
You can also try to pump more frequently but for shorter periods of time. So instead of having two long pumping sessions, you can divide that time into 3 pumping sessions with shorter lengths of time. If your baby is sleeping for longer amounts of time at night, try to fit in an extra pumping session somewhere.
How often should you pump milk if you have oversupply?
If you are producing too much milk, you can pump around 7 times a day.
How often should I pump milk at work?
If you are planning to pump at work, as much as possible try to work out a pumping schedule that will be similar to your nursing schedule and then stick to it.
With that said, you also need to be prepared for impromptu pumping sessions that might happen. Especially if you start to feel extra full or engorged, you would need to pump as soon as you can.
Depending on your body, you might need to pump only once in an 8-hour work shift while other mothers would need more frequent pumps in order to prevent leaks and feeling uncomfortable.
When pumping at work, you can look at a picture or video of your baby in order to assist with your milk production. You would also need to store your milk in the fridge or you can bring your own cooler or bag with an ice pack if there is no fridge at your workplace.
When should I pump?
You can either pump at a schedule that you will set up and establish, or you can also pump whenever your baby needs to feed. Pumping whenever your baby is feeding/eating will mimic actual nursing so it can also help in making sure that you are optimizing the breast pumping session.
By pumping based on a schedule, you will have the option of choosing the preferred times and you can also plan ahead and have better control in general.
It has been recommended to try having 1 pumping session in between 1 am and 4 am since women are said to produce the most milk during these times.
Sample pumping schedule
This sample schedule fits in 10 pumps in a 24-hour time period. You can tweak it to fit your own schedule:
7 am, 9 am, 11 am, 1pm, 3 pm, 5 pm, 7 pm, 12 am, 3 am, 5 am
For older babies:
This schedule fits 6 pumping sessions in 24 hours.
6 am, 10 am, 12 pm, 3 pm, 6 pm, 10 pm
How long to pump for?
When you are exclusively breastfeeding, you should have a total of around 2 hours or 120 minutes per day of pumping time. To determine how long you should pump per session, divide the total number of minutes per day (120 minutes) by how many pumping sessions you are planning to have.
For example, if you pump 10 times per day, each pumping session should be around 12 minutes long. Try using a pumping app on your phone to take note of your pumping times.
How much milk should you get when you pump?
Ideally, in one pumping session, you should get enough milk for your baby’s next feed. If you don’t, then it’s okay since it would really depend on you and your baby.
Factors involved could be how old your baby is, pump type, time of the day, time since last feeding, and even your mood (whether you are stressed or relaxed). Even each breast can produce different volumes.
Generally, most newborns would drink around 1.5 to 3 ounces per feeding but of course, each baby would be different and the quantities could vary. In a day, full milk production for those exclusively pumping could be 25-35 oz per day or 24-hour period.
How many times a day should I pump while breastfeeding?
If you are breastfeeding, it is best to pump first thing in the morning. You can also pump around 30-60 minutes after nursing your baby or at least one hour before you breastfeed.
In between these nursing sessions, you can continue to pump. Try to avoid pumping right before a nursing session so that your baby can have enough milk. When you are supplementing while breastfeeding, the more bottles you feed your baby in a week, the more you also need to pump.
Bonus Pumping Tips:
Choose A Good Pump
Invest in a good quality electric breast pump, especially if you are planning to exclusively pump. A double pump can help you become more efficient and may also boost your milk production.
Related: How To Choose The Best Breast Pump
Use An App
Use a breastfeed app that can help you keep track of how often and how long you are pumping.
Watch an episode of your favorite TV show while pumping in order to keep you entertained. This is also useful especially if you are pumping late at night so that you can stay awake and keep from falling asleep.
Keep Snacks Close By
Keep a few pieces of candy beside your pump and eat one piece each time you pump. By the end of the day, all the candy should be gone meaning you have pumped enough.
Do A Midnight Pump
If you are pumping, try not to sleep through the night. Try to get up and pump. It has been recommended that you shouldn’t go longer than 4 hours without pumping.
Don’t Worry Too much
Don’t worry if you missed a pumping session. Just pump right away when you remember or have the time.
Try A Breast Massage
During or in between pumping sessions, try to massage your breasts to help increase production and also provide some comfort.
Stick To A Routine
Try to keep to your breastfeeding schedule/routine and stick with it.
Get The Right Equipment
In order to maximize your pumping session, you can invest in things like a hands-free bra or extra pumping parts to ensure you are pumping optimally.
Get A Larger Flange
Get a larger flange (the cone that fits over your nipple) for your breast pump. This won’t only be more comfortable, but experts also say that it would also help to increase milk production.
Start Pumping Soon After Birth
If you are planning to exclusively pump, your baby is preterm, or your baby is too sick to breastfeed, it is recommended to start pumping right away within six hours after birth.
How often should you pump milk will depend on your supply, your baby, your schedule, and what your goals are. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, then it is vital for you to stick to a pumping schedule/routine, and make the most out of the pumping process.
If you are planning to increase your milk supply, you might also want to pump at least 10 times a day in order to support this.
During the initial stage of breast pumping, when you are only producing colostrum, you may find you are only producing a few drops and this is just normal.
The key is to be patient since creating a successful pumping routine will take time. It is important to not get discouraged if everything doesn’t go according to plan and just keep on going, and eventually, you can become successful.