Contact a lactation consultant for any special situations or health concerns you have.

How to Determine How Much to Pump When Breastfeeding

by Sara Mahuron

Pumping breast milk is not a contest; there is no prize for filling the container. So you can be proud of your supply, no matter how big or how small. While a breast pump could never compete with your baby, it can safely help you manage breastfeeding and provide nutrition for your baby when you must be away. Only pump what your baby needs and you'll both be happy.

Assess your needs. The amount of breast milk you should pump depends on the reason you are pumping. Common reasons include creating a milk supply before returning to work, pumping while away from your baby, pumping to increase milk supply or pumping to temporarily reduce breast engorgement. You are dealing with a supply-and-demand issue: if you demand more breast milk from the pumping session, you will likely get more.

Determine your storage capacity. You don't want this liquid gold to go to waste, so be sure to pump only as much as you can reasonably store. Breast milk can be stored at room temperature up to six hours, in the refrigerator for up to eight days and in a freezer for up to 12 months, according to guidelines published by La Leche League International.

Pump 1 to 3 ounces per session. Avoid comparing the amount you pump with other mothers; there is no correct amount. Babies between 1 and 6 months take an average of 25 ounces of breast milk a day, according to The average amount consumed at each feeding is between 2 and 4 ounces. Breast milk production can vary based on the baby's age and the time of day; your milk supply should be greatest in the morning hours.

Pump at least 10 minutes, but not longer than 20 minutes per session, and don't worry about the exact amount you produce. You can use a double pump and pump 10 to 15 minutes total. If you plan to be away from your baby for an extended amount of time, try to pump every three hours to keep up your supply. To increase milk production, use a hospital-grade double pump and increase how often you pump but not the length of each session.

About the Author

Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.

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