How Long Should I Pump For?

Pumping for Baby: Making it a Smooth Experience

Pumping is frequently part of the nursing experience. Knowing how long to pump and keeping other tips in mind can help make your pumping experience better.

When it comes to baby, you may feel weighed down by the decisions you have to make. To work or not to work? Will baby sleep in your room or his own room? Do you breastfeed or use formula? If you choose to breastfeed, whether you offer only a bottle here or there or do all bottles, knowing how long to pump can make your experience smoother.

Deciding How Often and How Long to Pump

The length of time you pump doesn’t change whether you’re pumping only occasionally or exclusively pumping. The number of times you pump each day varies depending on your situation.

For both supplemental and exclusive pumping, double pumping is best. This is when you pump both breasts at the same time. With a new baby, you want to find all the short cuts possible, and double pumping is one of them.

In the first few days of your baby’s life, double pump for 10 to 15 minutes per session. You may not get much milk during these sessions, but it’s still stimulating your breasts as you wait for your milk to come in.

Once your milk is in, the length of time you pump varies from mom to mom. Generally, you should pump for about 30 minutes each session or for two to five minutes after the last drops of milk are expressed.

Supplemental Pumping

If you’re just looking to build a small stash of milk to keep in the freezer, 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. Wait 30 to 60 minutes after nursing or make sure you have at least an hour before your next nursing session. Hopefully, you can take advantage of a nice, long morning nap from baby to fit in a pumping session.

Exclusively Pumping

If you’re exclusively pumping, which is when you don’t breastfeed directly but provide breast milk, you need to pump as often as baby would nurse. This means pumping eight to 10 times per day until your supply is established. At least one of these sessions should be in the middle of the night; don’t go more than five hours without pumping in the first few months of your little one’s life. You’ll probably feel like your life revolves around pumping, cleaning the pump and feeding your baby her bottle, but it will be worth it when your supply is well established.

Keep in mind that breastfed babies drink an average of 25 ounces a day for the first six months of life. This is a good number to work towards and then adjust as you figure out how many ounces your little one actually drinks. As your baby begins solids, this number changes depending on how much she eats.

Choosing the Best Pump

For more than an occasional pumping session, a double electric pump will make life much easier for you. If you’re exclusively pumping, renting a hospital grade double pump is even better. Talk to your local hospital to find out more about this option.

Pumping Tips

Besides figuring out how long and how much to pump, a couple other tips can make your pumping experience easier.

  • Make sure the flange or breast shield fits your breast correctly. Your nipple should move freely in and out of the tunnel when you pump, without too much room around the nipple. If it doesn’t fit correctly, it will probably be uncomfortable and negatively affect your milk supply.
  • Set yourself up in a quiet, comfortable place, if possible, and grab a drink and a snack to relax while you pump. Multitasking is always best when you have a little one.
  • Start the pump at high speed and low suction until you feel your milk let down and then turn the speed to medium. When your milk slows, increase the speed again until you feel another let down. You generally have more than one let down, but it may take a few minutes for the second one.

Cleaning Your Pump

Probably the least rewarding part of pumping is cleaning your pump, but keeping it clean and safe for baby is just as important as providing enough milk. You need to clean all the pump parts that come in contact with breast milk.

If you don’t have time to wash your pump parts right away, at least rinse them with cool water. Once you find a moment, wash each piece with liquid dishwashing soap and warm water, then rinse with hot water for 10 to 15 seconds. Let your pump parts air dry on a clean paper towel or clean drying rack.

You can wash some pump parts in the dishwasher, but it’s best to check your user manual to find out which parts.

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