How Long Should I Pump? Your Questions Answered

baby drinking milk while holding mama's hand

Though once a revolutionary idea, breast milk pumping has become commonplace. It's a great way to ensure that your baby will have the best and most natural nutrition, even when you can't be there to feed them. But just as you may wonder 'how long should I breastfeed?' you may also wonder, 'how long should I pump?'

The latter is actually two questions: 'how long should I pump per day?' and 'how long should I pump before weaning?' And in both cases, the answers depend on a number of factors. How old is your baby? Are you feeding them pumped milk exclusively, pumping and nursing, or supplementing pumped milk with formula? And finally, when are you planning on weaning?

Why Should You Pump?

Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their children as opposed to using a breast pump. However, this isn't always possible. Pumping allows you to feed your baby even when you can't be there. But there are other reasons to pump, as well. In fact, there are as many reasons for pumping as there are women who pump.

Busy work schedule

Most breastfeeding mothers would prefer never to have to rely on a breast pump. However, many women have to work despite having young children at home. Since it's often impossible to take your child to work with you, a breast pump makes it easier to ensure they always have readily available milk when they need it.

Personal preference

Some women prefer to give their children breast milk but not directly from their breast. In such a situation, a breast pump can help.

Milk donation

Women also pump milk for the purpose of donation to the needy. If you have excess milk and would like to help a needy child, you will need a breast pump.

Health reasons

One of the health reasons that might warrant breast milk pumping is mastitis. When you're suffering from this condition, you might need to drain your breasts to promote healing. Women in the weaning stage also need to pump milk to alleviate pressure from their breasts.

Baby’s inability to latch

A baby can have difficulty latching on for several reasons. First, there might be abnormalities in the child’s mouth. For example, a cleft lip might also cause this problem. However, even among children with no physical abnormalities, the inability to latch to the breast is common within the first week of life.

No matter the reason, you will need a breast pump to express milk and use alternative methods to feed them until they can do it directly from your breast.

What You Should Know Before You Start

There are several things you need to know before you start pumping.

When should I start pumping?

If you have a healthy, full-term baby that can breastfeed, you can wait a few weeks before you begin pumping. The benefit of this is that it allows you to bond with your child. On the other hand, if your baby is pre-term, or cannot breastfeed, it is advisable to start pumping as soon as possible. You can start within one to six hours after delivery.

Types of pumps

Before you head out to get yourself a breast pump, you should know what's on the market. Depending on what sort of pump you're using, the answer to our question, 'how long should I pump,' will vary.

Manual breast pump

Manual breast pump

A manual pump is hand-powered. One advantage is that they're very light. However, your hand might get tired from the pumping, especially if you have to do it frequently. This type of breast pump is a great option for women who would like to pump occasionally. It's also a good fit for a mother who breastfeeds occasionally but needs to express milk when they're away from the baby for a short period of time.

There are several disadvantages of using a manual breast pump. First and foremost, it's very tiring compared to the electric models. It also takes longer to pump compared to the other types. Lastly, it might take some time to get the hang of using a manual breast pump.

If you believe a manual breast pump would be a good option for you, the Silicone Breastfeeding Manual Breast Pump by Nature Bond is an excellent choice. It's easy to use, lightweight, and extremely soft, comfortable and safe. It also comes with an airtight vacuum packaging that ensures the milk stays in hygienic conditions. You can get it for $10 to $13. Amazon users rated it 4.4 out of 5 stars.

Double electric breast pump

Double electric breast pump

A double electric breast pump is suitable for mothers whose children have difficulty latching to their breasts for medical or other reasons. It's also a good option if you're a working mom who is away from her child for a long period of time.

When a baby cannot latch to the breast, it can cause frustration, pain and a lot of discomfort to the mother. That is where the double electric breast pump comes in. Since it's capable of pumping at a high frequency, it helps relieve the pain and discomfort faster. The simultaneous pumping of both breasts also increases milk production by inducing milk producing hormones. These types of pumps are durable, powerful and lightweight. They also have optimal features such as battery backup, hands-free operation, timer, and memory for saving preferred settings, milk storage, LED display and many others. The only disadvantage is that they are quite noisy.

One of the best double electric breast pumps in the market is the Double Electric Comfort Breastfeeding breast pump by GL Gland Electronics. It features nine levels of massage suction, memory function, double breast pumping technology and it's very quiet compared to other top brands. Users gave it a 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon. You can get it for $85 to $90.

Single electric breast pump

Single electric breast pump

Single electric breast pumps are great for mothers who need to pump only a few times a week. That is an upgrade from the manual type. The best thing about this type of breast pump is that it's quite small which makes it easy to carry everywhere you go. The design of the breast shield and bottles resembles the manual type. The only disadvantage is that it takes longer to express compared to the double electric pump. Therefore, it might not be suitable to use when you are in a hurry.

One of the best single electric breast pumps on the market is Swing, Single Electric Breast Pump by Medela. What makes this pump stand out from the rest is the two-phase expression technology that's unique to all the Medela breast pumps. This feature allows you to pump more milk in a very short time. Apart from this, it resembles a baby’s natural suckling rhythm, which provides maximum comfort to the mother. It's also light, easy to use and very convenient. The only drawback is that it's quite expensive compared to other breast pumps. It goes for $135 to $140. Amazon users gave it a star rating of 4.3 out of 5.

How to Pump Correctly

How long should I pump? Should I do it often? When exactly should I pump? These are some of the most common questions that new moms considering pumping commonly ask. Learning the pumping process can be a really stressful experience if you don't know what to do.

Luckily, it is not as difficult as most people think. Just follow these simple steps, and you will be good to go.

Do some homework

Before you start pumping, you need to read up on some of the basic things about breast pumping. Apart from this, familiarize yourself with your breast pump by going through the manual.

Sit in a comfortable place

It's very difficult to pump successfully if you're uncomfortable. Therefore, find out what makes you feel the most comfortable. Is it privacy, a comfortable chair or a feeling of relaxation?

Have a snack or a drink

Your fluid and calorie intake can affect your milk supply. Therefore, make sure you eat or drink something at least an hour before you begin pumping.

Make sure the pump is plugged in correctly or has working batteries

Before you begin, make sure your breast pump is ready for use. It will save you the frustration of having to fix it when you are already ready to start.

Wash your hands thoroughly before you begin

It's important to ensure your hands and your equipment are clean so that no bacteria come into contact with the milk. Doing so will protect your baby from infections.

Assemble your pump

For a successful pumping session, you need to ensure every part of the unit is where it should be. You can refer to the manual if it is your first time using the pump.

Ensure the flanges are properly centered on your breasts

Your nipple should be centered on the flange opening to create an air seal. Flange fit is vital for successful pumping.

Cup the flange to create an airtight seal

If you're using a double electric pump, cup the flange using your fingers at the bottom and your thumb at the top. If you need to adjust settings, you can use one arm to hold both breasts in order to ensure there is always an airtight seal.

Turn your pump on and begin

Start with a slow speed until you see milk and increase to medium speed based on your comfort. When the milk flow starts decreasing, adjust the speed to high and wait until the next letdown. After this, adjust to medium then to slow to finish off.

Practice definitely makes perfect when it comes to pumping. Therefore, keep going!

How Long Should I Pump to Maximize Milk Production?

If you've decided to pump because your child is sick and unable to breastfeed, or you have chosen to pump exclusively, these tips on how to reach and maintain full milk production will prove very useful. Keep in mind that the more often you drain your breasts, the more milk they will produce.

How long should I pump: birth to day 4

At this stage, your baby will require frequent feedings. Therefore, experts recommend pumping 8 to 10 times every 24 hours. That is typically how much a baby in this stage would breastfeed. Each session should last between 10 and 20 minutes.

Since you'll need to do it often, it's advisable to use a double electric pump because it is faster. Research has also shown that pumping between one and six a.m. is better because milk production hormones are highest during this time. If you take advantage of it, your milk production will increase.

How long should I pump: day 4 to full production

At this stage, your breasts will be producing a lot of milk. Therefore, it is advisable to pump longer. Continue to pump for two minutes after you express the last drop. You should also not allow more than five hours to pass without pumping.

How long should I pump to increase milk production?

When you're capable of reaching 750 to 1050 milliliters per child every 24 hours, you have reached your goal. You can then go to shorter sessions, for example, 10 to 15 minutes each. Ensure you maintain a schedule that will make it possible to keep producing this amount of milk daily. When trying to maintain your milk production, it might help to sleep more and pump for shorter periods of time. It is also advisable to record your daily totals so that you can know when it drops.

You might ask, how long should I pump if I want to increase production? Try pumping for longer per session. Alternately, you could increase the number of sessions. To increase production, aim for 8 to 12 sessions per day.

How long should I pump in total: all about weaning

When you decide to wean off the pump, the best way to do it is gradual. You can start by dropping one session every three days. Leave your first and last pumping of the day until you can fully wean from the pump without any struggles. You also have the option of pumping for shorter periods of time and maintaining all your pumping sessions. Reduce the pumping time every three days until you are comfortable to stop.

How Long Should I Pump: Does It Matter?

mom bottle-feeding her baby

Image via Pixabay

As previously mentioned, the amount of time you take with breast pumping is dependent on several factors; the pump you're using, your child’s age, and your goal as well as increasing or decreasing production.

However, on average, most mothers pump 8 to 10 times a day for 24 hours. You will produce more milk if you pump longer and more often. All in all, every mother is different. You should always consult your doctor or a lactation specialist if you have any concerns.

Featured Image via Pixabay


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