How Often Should You Pump Your Breast?

By Sara Ipatenco
When you are away from your baby, pump to maintain your milk supply.

When it's time to return to work or when you're apart from your baby for an extended period, breastfeeding can become a challenge. Using a breast pump can make nursing easier, because you can collect your breast milk while you’re away and then store it for later use. Pumping frequently will also help maintain your milk supply, which is necessary for continued breastfeeding. You can use an electric breast pump, a manual pump or you can express milk by hand.

Schedule for a Newborn

Newborns need to feed frequently -- but if your little one hasn't started breastfeeding within six hours of delivery -- start pumping to help establish your milk supply, according to Kelly Bonyata, a certified lactation consultant. After seven to 10 days postpartum, you should express between 25 and 27 ounces of breast milk each day. To pump this much milk, aim for eight to 10 pumping times during each 24-hour period, Bonyata recommends. You don't need to pump at specific times each day, but don't go more than five to six hours between pumping.

Schedule for a 1- to 6-Month Old

If you breastfeed exclusively, your milk supply will increase during the first two weeks of your newborn’s life and will remain steady until your baby is about 6 months old. During this time, your baby will consume approximately the same amount of milk each day, according to Bonyata. For babies between 1 and 6 months, the consumption is between 19 to 30 ounces per day, with the average about 27 ounces. How often you pump depends on how much your baby eats, but aim to pump at least three times during the day, according to La Leche League International. It's even better to pump on the same schedule as when your baby would be nursing -- which might be up to eight times per day.

Schedule for a 6- to 8-Month Old

Between 6 and 8 months, most babies will begin to consume solid foods as well as breast milk, although your baby probably won’t consume less breast milk than before. The average 7-month-old baby, for example, will consume about 30 ounces of breast milk per day, Bonyata notes. So, if you can get about 5 ounces per pumping session, you would need to pump six times during the day to collect enough milk for your baby. If you pump more or less than that, you'll need to adjust the number of times you breastfeed to fit your yield. If you're worried about producing enough, add an early morning pump session because this is when you have the most milk, according to the AskDr.Sears website.

Schedule for an 8- Month Old or Older

After the 11-month mark, babies drink an average of 19 ounces of breast milk and after their first birthday, from 10 to 19 ounces a day. This means that you can either pump less often or not pump as much milk at each session. If you can pump enough during two or three pumping sessions, you can eliminate the other sessions when you're ready. If you don't yield as much milk during each pumping session, stick to your regular routine to keep your milk supply steady and to pump as much milk as your baby needs. For example, if you pump 4 ounces at each session and your baby drinks 12 ounces a day, three pumping sessions will be enough to meet that need.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.