When to Start Pumping Breast Milk, How Often and For How Long

This article will be your ultimate breast pumping 101 hand book and go-to guide on getting started with pumping breast milk. 

Today, you are going to learn when to start pumping, how often to pump and for how long. You will also be introduced to breast pumps, parts, supplies and more.

Lastly, there will also be a section on some actionable milk supply tips that will assuredly come to the rescue when needed!

Ready to get started? Let’s begin.

This post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosures here.

What is Breast Pumping?

First things first, let’s get a little technical and define exactly what breast pumping is. You could define it as the manual or mechanical expression of breast milk, mostly with the aid of a breast pump.

Breast pumping is generally used for the purpose of evacuating additional breast milk in order to increase milk supply, build a freezer stash or pump exclusively.

An electric breast pump is typically used to perform this action, as it much more time efficient at removing breast milk than a manual breast pump might be.

However, manual breast pumping is still very effective for certain breast pumping needs. Such as, pumping on the go, getting out a clog and of course those random and unforseen power outages. 

First of all, breast pumping is not an innate skill. Nope. Women were not born with the “how to pump breast milk” gene.

Pumping is a skill that takes practice, determination and a lot of patience.

A good place to start preparing for success with breast pumping is with an online course that walks you through every avenue of pumping and your milk supply. 

The Ultimate Exclusive Pumping Class by Milkology was created to prepare moms with the unique skills and techniques needed to have in order to experience a smooth and successful go at breast pumping.

You will also receive priceless information in order to troubleshoot and solve any pumping problems that may arise ready to derail your breastfeeding plans.

As well as, the secrets to mastering your milk supply!

It’s never a good idea to just “wing it” when it comes to pumping. Too many things can go wrong, which could mean the end of your breastfeeding journey. 

Another huge advantage to having this pumping course as a resource, is that you can refer back to it during any stage of your evolving pumping journey for as long as you need and it’s all in one easy-to-navigate place. 

P.S. If you choose to enroll in The Ultimate Exclusive Pumping Class today with this link, I would also like to send you my regularly updated pumping and milk supply course ($22 value) for FREE as a bonus BOGO offer! Just contact me here with a screenshot of your enrollment and I’ll do the rest!

When to Start Pumping

The next topic in this breast pumping for beginner’s manual is to discuss when it is appropriate to start pumping breast milk.

There are different scenarios throughout your breastfeeding experience that will help determine when the best time to begin a breast pumping regimen will be.

Below, you will find a few of the most common examples of when to start pumping and then an explanation on how to go about doing so.

When to Start Pumping After Birth 

In order to determine when to start pumping after birth, first decide what your breastfeeding plan is. Will you be exclusively pumping, attempting to exclusively nurse, or a combination of breastfeeding and pumping?

Knowing the answer to those questions will help provide you with a pumping plan. However, even the best laid plans can change, and that is definitely true when it comes to raising babies.

When to Start Exclusive Pumping

For instance, if you plan on pumping exclusively, also expect to begin a breast pumping routine as soon as baby is born.

After all, exclusive breast pumping is the mimicking of a baby’s natural feeding habits and babies don’t typically wait too long to eat after they are born!

I would suggest having your breast pump and parts sanitized and ready to be used at the hospital. Also be sure that you are using the best breast pump for exclusive pumping.

Also keep in mind that you should not expect to pump much breast milk right after baby is born. 

Your body will be making colostrum for the first few days postpartum until your milk comes in. Even so, by beginning to regularly stimulate breast tissue you are signally a crucial supply and demand response.

If You Plan to Nurse Exclusivley 

Now, if you plan to exclusively nurse your baby, when to start pumping after birth will look entirely different than the previous scenario.

Your lactation consultant may tell you to wait at least three weeks after baby is born to begin any type of breast pumping. This is because your baby will have the job of regulating your milk supply.

By nursing on demand your newborn will naturally help your body determine exactly how much breast milk he or she needs. However, you can use a silicone breast pump, like the Haakaa (linked at Amazon) at the hospital to help gently bring in your milk.

When to Start Pumping for Storage

A nursing mom can actually start collecting breast milk for storage right away, even without pumping!

They can do so with the help of a nursing cup, breast shells (Haakaa Breast Shells linked at Amazon) or again, our beloved Haakaa silicone breast pump. 

The Haakaa can be gently suctioned to the breast (not being nursed on) and breast shells are the perfect catch-all for leaking breast milk that will help you collect extra milk that would have otherwise been wasted. 

Some moms end up with a significant freezer stash using this method of milk saving without actually pumping once!

You can buy a Haakaa pumping and breastfeeding products at Amazon and here is the link to check it them all out!

Here are your pumping supplies must-haves: Extreme List of Pumping Essentials and Supplies

When to Start Pumping Before Going Back to Work

The method recommended above also works amazingly well for building a back to work freezer stash.

You may also want to consider registering for Milkology’s Ultimate Back to Work Pumping Class that guides a breastfeeding mom through this hard transition with ease.

You will learn how to effectively build a freezer stash, protect your milk supply, troubleshoot common pumping mistakes and so much more!

The Ultimate Back to Work Pumping Class is easy to digest and fun to watch anywhere and at anytime. You can switch it on whenever it’s convenient for you and can always refer back to it when needed.

Join both of Milkology’s pumping courses and save. At checkout, you’ll receive a 20% off code to use on your second course. As an example, you could end up with The Exclusive Pumping Class, Back to Work Pumping Class and Pumping Pro for only $34 ($57 value)!

Pssst… Get an awesome pumping and milk supply course for free today if you decide to enroll in either one of Milkology’s courses today using a link in this post. Just send me an email once you’ve enrolled and I’ll send you another great pumping and milk supply course for free!

The logistics of pumping at work may seem daunting, but I promise you feel prepared and confident to tackle the challenge after you are done with The Ultimate Back to Work Pumping Class!

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How Often to Pump Breast Milk

Again, knowing how often to pump breast milk depends on the circumstance you find yourself in. An exclusive pumper for instance, will be pumping around the clock for the first few weeks to few months after birth.

Whereas, a mom who nurses exclusively may only need to pump once or twice a day just to relieve pressure or to work on building a freezer stash.

With that being said, let’s look at both examples and you can decide which one suits your unique situation best.

How Often to Pump as an Exclusive Pumper

Exclusive pumpers often pump up to twelve times per day the first few weeks postpartum. Ideally, an exclusive pumper should be pumping every 2-3 hours throughout the day and night.

This sounds daunting I know, but bare with me here…

Thankfully, this amount of breast pumping only lasts usually until baby is steadily sleeping though night. Once this transition takes place, you can begin weaning from the pump to drop that dreaded middle of the night pumping session.

Until then, here is a sample schedule of how often an exclusive pumper should be pumping.

What to expect exclusively pumping schedule infographic

How Often to Pump When Mostly Nursing

Obviously this answer will be different for everyone since there is no rule to how often you need to pump while mostly nursing.

As an example, If you are a stay-at-home-mom who can be available to nurse on demand 24/7, you may never need to touch a breast pump. 

However, in order to have some freedom every once in a while or the option for others to feed your baby, you may want to have some stored breast milk on hand.

To do this, simply pump for an additional 10-15 minutes after you nurse a couple of times per day. If you find that you don’t have much breast milk left over after you nurse your baby, wait 10-20 minutes and then try again.

Over time, you may also notice that you begin to pump more milk as your body adjusts to the new production demand.

If you aren’t sure how to get another let-down with your pump, check out these Spectra pump settings to help you.

Or, you can simply catch the drippings of the leaking breast milk from the breast not being nursed on to store up an extra bottle of breast milk per day. 

How Often to Pump at Work

Circling back around to breast pumping 101, the back to work edition. How often do you need to pump at work?

This of course depends on your work day, but for this example, we’ll be looking at a full-time working outside of the home scenario.

Let’s assume work starts at 8am, you have probably already pumped or nursed at least once since waking. Your first breast pumping session at work would most likely be around 10am.

The next time you need to pump should be around lunch time and then if you can squeeze one more session in before leaving for the day at 3pm or so.

In total, it’s safe to assume you could be pumping up to three times a day at work. 

While we are on the subject of pumping at work, I should let you know about Pumpables Genie Plus breast pump. Which is a portable and compact pump perfect for work.

You can leave it there or easily bring it back and forth in your breast pump bag. Here is a 10% off incentive for you to use on your total purchase.

Breastfeeding and pumping schedule for working moms infographic.

How Long to Pump Breast Milk

Determining the duration for how long each breast pumping session should last depends on how long you as an individual takes to fully empty your breasts with a pump.

Some women may take 10-15 minutes to feel completely empty after pumping. While others, it could take up to an hour.

With that noted, pumping for at least 15-20 minutes seems to be a good rule to follow. At least allow yourself to have one let-down, shoot for two if you can.

However, once you have become more in-sync with your body, you can then adjust how long to pump according to your breast’s response to pumping.

It is also recommended to pump an additional 2-5 minutes after milk stops flowing to ensure all breast milk has been removed. This is also a good strategy to adapt while exclusive pumping if you are seeking to increase your milk supply.

How Much Milk Should I be Pumping?

The answer to this pumping and breast milk question will vary from woman to woman. What may be a normal amount of milk supply for one woman, may not be for another.

However, do note that for the first few week postpartum, your milk supply is mostly regulated through hormonal means.

That being said, it is not a good indication of how much breast milk your body will be regularly making throughout your entire breastfeeding or pumping journey.

Most women do not fully regulate to their “set” amount of breast milk until around three or four months postpartum. It is also normal for one breast to produce less milk that the other.

The take away, how much milk you should be pumping depends on where you are postpartum. As well as your breast capacity and body’s unique capabilities.

Wavelength font that reads "looks here!"Download a FREE pump log and pumping schedules!

Final Tips on Breast Pumping 101 

Well mama, you made it through!

This was a lot of breast pumping information to take in. You learned when to start pumping, how often to pump, how long to pump and how much milk you can expect to pump.

As a reminder, breast pumping is not something you will feel 100% confident in at first. It takes time, practice and perseverance to feel like you are successfully mastering this skill.

However, you can expedite this process by taking an online course that focuses on preparing you for breast pumping. The Ultimate Exclusive Pumping Class will be a very valuable asset to your breastfeeding success.

For the mamas heading back to work soon, The Ultimate Back to Work Pumping Class was made for you! 

If you decide that either one of these awesome resources is for you and you enroll today via this website, I will send you my Pumping Pro Course for free as an added bonus. Here are the details.

  1. References: http://www.nancymohrbacher.com/articles/2012/11/27/how-much-milk-should-you-expect-to-pump.html