The Amount How much milk you pump at any one time will vary, depending on your baby’s age, how much time has elapsed since you last breastfeed or pumped, time of day, pump quality and fit, how adept you are using your pump, and whether you’re relaxed or stressed.
With that caveat, here are some averages:
• If you pump between regular breast feedings and are giving only the breast, expect to pump about half a feeding.
• If you pump for a missed breastfeeding, expect a full feeding.
• Feeding amount will vary by baby’s age. During Week 1, expect a feeding to be about 1-2 ounces (30-60 ml). Weeks 2-3, expect a feeding to be about 2-3 ounces (60-90 ml). After Week 4, about 3-4 ounces (90-120 ml).
• Babies often take more milk from the bottle than you pump in one pumping session. This does NOT mean your milk supply is low. The faster, more constant flow of the bottle causes many babies to take more milk than they need.
• Most women find they get more milk from one breast than the other.
If you’re home with your baby and fully breastfeeding:
• Try pumping in the morning. It’s when most women can express the most milk.
• Wait 30-60 minutes after a nursing to pump and give yourself at least an hour between pumping and your next nursing. This leaves plenty of milk for your baby at the next feeding.
• If your baby wants to breastfeed right after a pumping, go ahead. Some babies are patient and feed longer to get the milk they need. Just keep going back and forth from breast to breast until your baby is done.
• If you’re pumping for a baby who is not breastfeeding, follow these guidelines until you reach full milk production (25-35 ounces [750-1050 ml] per day):
• Plan to pump 8-10 times each day.
• Go no longer than 5 hours between pumpings.
• Once you reach full milk production, if you can sleep for an 8-hour stretch without too much breast fullness, go ahead.
• With full production, most women can cut back to 6-7 pumpings per day to maintain their production until their baby is ready to breastfeed.
Pump up the volume
To get more milk at a pumping, first set your pump at the highest comfortable suction and no higher. Pumping should not hurt. (If you’re gritting your teeth, it’s up too high!)
Pumping milk is not like sucking a drink through a straw. With a straw, the stronger you suck, the more you get. When pumping, most milk comes only when a let-down, or milk release, happens. Without a milk release, most milk stays in the breast.
What is a milk release?
• Hormones cause muscles in the breast to squeeze and the milk ducts to widen.
• This pushes the milk out of the breast.
• Some mothers feel this as a tingling. Others feel nothing.
A milk release can happen with a touch at the breast, hearing a baby cry, or even just thinking about your baby. Feelings of stress or anger can block milk release.
While breastfeeding, most mothers have three or four milk releases without knowing it.
To pump more milk, you need more milk releases. Until your body learns to respond to your pump as it does when you nurse, you may need to prod. Close your eyes, relax, and imagine your baby breastfeeding. Feel the love and engage your senses.
• Sight: Look at baby’s photo.
• Sound: Listen to a tape of your baby cooing or crying. If you’re apart, call and check on your baby. Or call someone you love to relax and distract you.
• Smell: Bring a piece of clothing with your baby’s scent.
• Touch: Apply a warm cloth to your breasts or gently massage them.
• Taste: Sip your favorite warm, non-alcoholic drink to relax you.
Use CustomControl™ to adjust your pump speed when milk flow changes. A pump that lets you adjust suction and speed separately puts you in control and gives your more choices. This makes it easier to find your most effective settings. You’ll recognize your best pump settings by watching your milk flow. At each pumping, find the suction and speed settings that produce the fastest flow of milk. (We call this “following your flow.”) You may find that your most effective pump settings vary from pumping to pumping.
If using an electric pump, check to see if your pump has both SUCTION (also called VACUUM) and CYCLE (also called speed) controls. If so, use your senses as you adjust the controls to trigger a milk release and get more milk faster. Use your milk flow as your guide.
• Set SUCTION/VACUUM to the highest setting that still feels good.
• Set CYCLE speed on the fastest setting.
• When your milk starts flowing, turn CYCLE speed down to the setting that gives you the fastest milk flow.
• When the milk flow slows to a trickle, return to fast CYCLE speed and use your senses to trigger another milk release.
• Repeat, using fast CYCLE speed to trigger milk releases and slower cycles to drain.
You can take advantage of CustomControl with a manual pump like the Ameda One-Hand Breast Pump by using both fast and slow squeezes. Again, watch your milk flow and use it as your guide. Change breasts every 5-7 minutes. Pump for a total of 10-15 minutes per breast.
By Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, Lactation Consultant, Ameda Breastfeeding ProductsCo-author, Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers