How Long Should I Pump?

By Paige Ames | April 13, 2020

Are you wondering how often you should pump breast milk if you’re exclusively pumping? Or are you hoping to build up a milk supply in your freezer, but not sure how long you should pump for? Every mom’s breast pumping and breastfeeding journey is different - and, unfortunately, we’re not born with innate knowledge of how to use a breast pump.

Read below for tips on how long you should use your breast pump - and how often - whether you are an exclusive pumper, pumping for a newborn, or using your breast pump to supplement your supply.

woman using spectra breast pump

How Long Should You Pump if You’re Exclusive Pumping?

Exclusive pumping (often referred to as EP-ing), is exactly what you might think: a mother breast pumps her milk and feeds her baby exclusively via bottle. Most experts agree that whatever the reason you have for pumping, moms should pump for about 20 minutes (with a double electric breast pump - if you are using a single pump, 20 minutes per side).

You may want to consider pumping about five minutes past when the milk stops flowing. Moms often find that doing so will cause another letdown, encouraging the breast to completely empty and helping to increase production.

Keep in mind that “more is not better” when it comes to the suction settings on the breast pump. You’ll want to pick a setting that feels comfortable to you. Higher vacuum or suction does NOT mean more milk. Your pump will probably have a suction setting of minimum, medium, and maximum. If you feel pain, turn down the settings; you might actually get more milk because you feel more relaxed!

If you believe you are not producing enough milk, there are ways to increase supply, including eating certain foods (or drinking lactation smoothies) and power pumping. Of course, consult a professional if you feel your baby is not getting adequate nutrition or you believe you have a medical issue affecting your milk supply.

Supplemental Breast Pumping - How Long to Pump

Want to build up a freezer stash so you can get out for some much needed me-time? Or maybe your partner wants a chance to feed baby? A pumping session here or there is more than enough.

The best time to pump is in the morning when your breasts are the fullest. If you are pumping later in the day, just be sure to wait 30 to 60 minutes after nursing or make sure you have at least an hour before your next nursing session. With an electric double pump, each session should last an average of 20 minutes. Click here for tips on storing your milk properly.

How Often Should I Pump?

Most moms find that 8-10 breast pumping sessions per 24 hours is best for keeping and maintaining your supply. If you have twins or higher order multiples you may need to aim for 10 or more sessions per day.

These sessions don’t need to be evenly spaced out, but you should be pumping at least once during the night (especially in the first few months). You’ll also want to make sure you incorporate nighttime pumping sessions if at any time you notice an unwanted decrease in supply. Avoid going longer than 5-6 hours without pumping during the first few months.

man feeding baby breast milk

When to Start Pumping for a Newborn

If your baby does not nurse immediately postpartum, you should begin pumping within 6 hours of baby’s birth — starting early makes a difference for future milk production!

Lactation consultants often recommend that you pump every two to three hours, or 8 to 12 times a day with a child under three months old. This mimics how often your baby would nurse if he or she were breastfeeding. When you are exclusively pumping for a newborn, plan on pumping for a minimum of two hours or 120 minutes per day.

With an electric double pump, each session should last an average of 20 minutes (any longer and you risk irritation). Another thing to consider - try pumping each time your baby wakes to feed at night. If you can, have your partner feed baby your stored milk while you pump. This will help your body adjust to your baby’s supply needs.

How Often Can You Pump - Can You Pump Too Much?

You want to do all you can for your baby, but pumping too long, too often, can cause problems. Some moms pump so much that if they skip a pumping session, their breasts become over full, which is never fun.

Plus, pumping too much can also be isolating for mothers. Trust your body and your instincts and have confidence that your body is capable of making just the right amount of milk for your baby. It’s not a competition, and you don’t have to make the most milk to have the happiest baby on the block!

1 Natural Way offers a complete array of products and services to make moms more comfortable and confident throughout their pregnancy and breastfeeding journey. We provide mothers with name brand breast pumps, monthly breastfeeding supplies, maternity compression stockings and postpartum recovery garments, as well as expert and compassionate advice and top-notch customer service. Start the qualification process and find out if you qualify for a breast pump at no cost to you.

Paige Ames

About the Author

Paige Ames is 1 Natural Way's Contract Administrator, working with insurance providers to find out what benefits moms can receive through their insurance plan. In addition to benefits, Paige is also very knowledgeable about the breast pumps and pumping accessories. Because of her range of knowledge, you can find her educating moms at online baby showers and on podcasts like the Army Wives Network. Paige is mom to one beautiful daughter. She enjoys gardening, going to the movies and spending time with her family.

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