Breast Pumping

Mothers are often concerned about making enough breast milk for their baby.  In this section are detailed suggestions for keeping milk production steady before returning and after going back to work, as well as the amount of milk needed for each feeding based on baby’s age. Average milk production while pumping can vary from woman to woman but we have tips on keeping milk production steady.


Keeping Milk Production Steady Before Returning to Work

Breastfeed your baby as much as you can. This will set you up with a good milk supply.

Count the number of times you breastfeed every day. This is your goal number. Try to keep this daily number (breastfeedings plus pumpings) steady after you’re back at work. This should set you up for adequate average milk production while pumping.

Pumping and Storing Milk Before Returning to Work

Most mothers pump and store milk before returning to work. But keep in mind that once you’re at work, the milk you pump one day can be left for your baby the next day. If you start pumping once a day about 3-4 weeks before going to work, you have time to practice with your pump and store a good reserve of milk. When you pump between breastfeedings at home, your average milk production while pumping should give you about half a feeding, which can be combined with breast milk you pump at other times.

Amount of Pumped Milk Needed Per Feeding


For the average amount of milk needed at a feeding, see the chart below.

  • Starting at about five weeks, most babies take the maximum 25-35 oz. per day. After that, daily milk intake stays stable until six months.
  • After six months, when solid foods are added, your baby’s milk intake will decrease.
  • Don’t be surprised if your baby takes more milk from the bottle than you pump at a session. The more consistent flow of the bottle causes some babies to take more milk than needed.
  • A slow-flow nipple can help prevent overfeeding and leave baby feeling full on less milk, making your life easier.
  • If you’re apart for 8-12 hours, most babies take about 10-15 oz. This is one-third to one-half of baby’s daily intake. If baby takes more, try to find out why.

Average Feeding

Baby’s Age

Average Intake Per Feeding

Average Intake Per 24 Hours

First week (after Day 4)

1-2 oz. (30-60 mL)

10-20 oz. (300-600 mL)

1 to 3 weeks

2-3 oz. (60-90 mL)

15-25 oz. (450-750 mL)

1-6 months

3-5 oz. (90-150 mL)

25-35 oz. (750-1050 mL)

Keeping Milk Production Steady After Returning to Work

Remember, drained breasts make milk faster. Full breasts make milk slower. Every time your breasts feel full, this slows your average milk production while pumping and breastfeeding. The more times each day you drain your breasts well, the more milk you make. When you first return to work, you can allow up to one five hour stretch a day without breast pumping or breastfeeding, even at night. You may be able to increase this stretch as your baby gets older, as long as you can keep up your milk production.

Breastfeed often. Every breastfeeding reduces the amount of expressed milk needed. From one to six months, the amount of milk your baby needs each day stays steady. So if you breastfeed less when you’re together, this increases baby’s need for expressed milk when you’re apart. In the morning, if you can, breastfeed once when you wake up and again just before you leave your baby. Breastfeed as soon as you are reunited after work. If your baby seems hungry just before you arrive, suggest giving as little milk as possible.

Pump as often as you can at work. If needed, when home you can also pump after breastfeeding. (Drained breasts make milk faster.) If you can’t pump often at work, keep milk production steady by breastfeeding more at home.

Remember, you will not have to use a breast pump forever. In fact many mothers find they can decrease the number of times they pump or completely stop pumping at work when their baby is between nine and twelve months old. This is the time when your baby will start taking more solid food and other fluids, and you can breastfeed when you are home with your baby.

This is general information and does not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. If you have a problem you cannot solve quickly, seek help right away. Every baby is different. If in doubt, contact your physician or healthcare provider.