How Much Milk Should I Be Pumping?

After a couple of months of breastfeeding, you are going to want to store your breast milk for your baby. Whether you are going back to work or you simply want to have some time of rest, pumping is your answer. Pumping milk is not all easy. I’m sure you will have many questions about it. One of the most common questions is “How much milk should I be pumping?”

Enough to Supply While You’re Away

How much milk to pump depends on how long you’ll be away from your baby. When you are going back to work, you will have less time to nurse the baby. Even then, you can still give him what he needs. If you are away from your baby for a whole day, make sure you have enough supply to feed your baby.

You can pump milk as early as a week before you are expected to be away. That way, you can prepare and gauge how long it takes to fill a bottle.

Exclusive Breastfeeding

how long you have to pump?

Exclusive breastfeeding means that the child is not taking in anything other than breastmilk. This affects how much breast milk is pumped because the mother who is exclusively breastfeeding produces more than those who are giving formula.

A mother who is only breastfeeding can expect to yield about 45 to 60mL if she is pumping between regular feedings. If she pumps after a missed feeding,  she can expect to pump a full feeding which is about 90-120mL.

The Fresher, the Better

Although you can pump more milk and store it, you also need to remember that it's still best to give fresh milk. Refrigeration or freezing can preserve the milk and keep it edible for a period. However, research says that the longer your store milk in refrigerator or freezer, the greater the loss of vitamin C.

Choose How You Want to Express Milk

breast pump

Expressed milk is another name for collected breast milk. You can express milk in different ways: hand expression, manual pump, or electric breast pump. To help you choose, let's go over the typical pros and cons.

1. Hand expression

This method might take some getting used to, but it’s convenient and needs less preparation. This method is the cheapest because you will only need a clean container to catch and store the milk. It also saves you the time from sterilizing pumping equipment.

2. Manual Pump

With a manual pump, the suction is more consistent. It’s cheaper than an electric pump, it quiet and it’s more compact for taking around. It might be difficult to get a pumping rhythm and making a rhythm will tire your hands.

3. Electric Pump

An electric pump is ideal if you’re going to pump regularly. It’s faster but more expensive. It will require more preparation than the other methods but the rhythm of pumping is more consistent. While you're pumping, you have the freedom to do something else because your hands will be free.

You can do your research and that will help you. But you should know that testing the methods is the best way to find out which way is perfect for you. Reviews are subjective.  A manual pump might be more comfortable than an electric pump, but it could be different for another mother. In the end, your comfort and preference are what matters. It will take some time of getting used to so give your choice a chance as well.

Expect Less Milk in the First Few Tries

breast pump equipment

If exclusive breastfeeding is going well the first couple of weeks, your milk production will dramatically increase. But using a pump is different than having the baby suck the milk out.

Expect small amounts in the first couple of pumps. Your yield will gradually increase  as time goes on and the more you get used to it. Even with good milk production and a good pump, you might find pumping tricky. It takes some time to be proficient at pumping so don’t be too hard on yourself.

Do not gauge how much you pumped with how much you produce. The “down flow” of milk might not be the same. When you are pumping, it might help to think of your baby. When you hear your child cry, milk naturally lets down. So when you are away at work or elsewhere,   imagining you baby when you are pumping might be helpful.

Storage and Refrigeration

You can store breastmilk in a clean glass bottle or safe plastic bottles with tight lids. As soon as you finished pumping, store it in batches that are ready for feeding. Remember to store in a way that won't go to waste. Since you cannot refreeze breast milk after you have thawed it, make sure that you feed what you thaw.  You also need to know how to scald breast milk to make it last longer.

Refrigerated breast milk is good for as long as five to eight days. Frozen milk is good for three to six months. To guide you, label your containers with the date of collection.  Use the dates to guide you as to which batch to feed first or last.

Ideally, you should be exclusively breastfeeding your baby from birth to about six months. The breastmilk contains the essential nutrients your baby needs for optimal growth, health and development.

Breastfeeding will benefit you and your child's health while offering an opportunity for the both of you to bond. Latching your child on your breast to feed is more ideal than a bottle of expressed milk.

However, the choice is still yours.  It’s your preference that matters. Just remember that there is no shame in breastfeeding in public.  If you are shy, you can use nursing covers to breastfeed in public. Before you start pumping, consult your doctor.

Sarah Morgan

Chief editor of and striving mom-extraordinaire.Let me share and inspire you with my daily struggles to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.

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