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How Much Breast Milk Should I Be Pumping?

Even if you are primarily feeding your baby from the breast, there is almost always a role for pumping.

  • Pumping can be a great way to maintain a steady supply.

  • You may also want to pump to build up a low supply or manage an over supply to avoid engorgement, plugged ducts or mastitis.

  • Pumping allows you to store your milk so others can feed your baby, and you can get some much needed sleep.

  • Pumping is a great way to give your baby breast milk if you don’t want to feed from the breast or if your baby refuses to breastfeed.

The question is, how much breast milk should you be pumping? In this article, we’ll answer that question and offer some tips to make pumping work for you. Let’s dive in!

How Much Breast Milk Should You Pump?

During the first four weeks of a baby’s life, the amount of milk they need steadily increases. On the first day, they need around 5 to 8 teaspoons a day (20 to 40 mL).  By day three they need 10 to 19 ounces a day (200 to 560 mL). By the end of week one, they need a total of 14 to 22 ounces a day (415 to 650 mL). 

After the first four weeks, the amount of milk they need stays steady at an average of 28 to 32 ounces per day (830 to 950 mL). They need approximately the same amount of breast milk from their first month until they stop nursing, but they need breast milk or formula for the first year of life. Most moms make about 37 ounces a day (1100 mL) of milk by the end of the first month, but milk supply is a spectrum. Some make less and some make much more. If you want to provide only breastmilk, you need to be able to produce at least the amount of milk your baby needs at their given age. 

The amount of milk you will need to pump depends on your circumstances. 

  1. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, your baby should be able to get most of your milk through breastfeeding, so there will be less milk to pump out. In that case, you may only pump when you have to miss a feeding and store the milk. 

  2. If you use a combination of breastfeeding and pumping, the amount of milk you pump out will vary based on the time of day and how much you are making. For example, if you produce a lot of milk, you may need to pump for a few minutes before nursing so your baby gets less foremilk and more hindmilk. Pumping may also prevent plugged ducts, engorgement and mastitis. If you aren’t making enough milk, you may want to pump for a few minutes after nursing to help promote more milk production.

  3. If you are exclusively pumping and bottle feeding, you will need to empty your breasts regularly and fully to maintain your supply and provide enough milk for your baby’s needs. 

Tips for Pumping Out Breast Milk

Now that you know how much breast milk to pump, let’s explore some tips that can help you optimize your supply and pumping experience.

Use the Right Pump

Not all breast pumps are equal. There are so many types of pumps it would be hard to list all of them. But here are some features to look for in an electric pump that can make your pumping experience easier and more efficient. 

  1. The stronger the pump’s suction, the more milk it can draw out. Try to use the highest suction you can comfortably tolerate while pumping. 

  2. Make sure the pump is comfortable and use well-fitted flanges. If you use a flange that is too big or made of hard plastic flanges, it can cause friction on your nipple and areola. Friction causes nipple damage and pain, which, in turn, may cause an infection and impact your supply.

  3. Some pumps allow for double pumping. Pumping both breasts at the same time can save time.

  4. Some pumps are small and quiet, while others are noisy. Find a compact quiet one that you can travel with.

Pump Regularly and Fully

Depending on your circumstances, you may need to rely on pumping to keep your supply going. This could be the case if your baby isn’t able to transfer milk efficiently through nursing or if you are exclusively pumping. When it comes to maximizing your milk supply, it’s best to fully empty your breasts quickly (for a total of 20 to 30 minutes), regularly (every 2 to 3 hours) and then allow time for your breasts to fill up again. If you have a low supply or your supply hasn’t fully come in yet, waiting longer between pumps (like 4 to 6 hours) could further reduce your supply over time. Also, if you only pump out a little milk, your breasts may reduce the total amount they make over time.

There is also a limit to pumping. It may not be worth pumping more than ten times a day or pumping already empty breasts for prolonged sessions. Although empty breasts make more milk than full ones, if your breasts are already empty, the act of pumping alone won’t necessarily increase your supply. Conversely, if you have a huge supply, you may want to balance the amount of milk you remove so that you don’t increase your supply while preventing plugged ducts, mastitis or engorgement. 

Encourage the Release of Oxytocin

Breast pumps only remove your milk by suctioning it out. When your baby is nursing with a deep, painless latch, you get the added benefit of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone released from your brain when you experience pleasant touch. It travels to your breast tissue and helps breasts squeeze out the milk from the inside. Here are some things you can try before and during pumping that can stimulate the release oxytocin:

  • Use warm, wet compresses on your nipples

  • Use hand stimulation on your areola and nipples

  • Warm your pump’s flanges before use

  • Look at photos of your baby when you pump

  • Smell your baby’s clothes while you pump

Frequently Asked Questions

How many ounces should I pump per session?

For average milk producers, you should be able to pump at least 2 to 3 ounces of breastmilk per pumping session in place of nursing.

How often should I pump to increase supply?

If you have a low supply, it’s important to pump fully and regularly, which usually amounts to 20-30 minutes every 2 to 3 hours. If your baby isn’t transferring milk efficiently, you can pump for 5 minutes after each time you nurse and avoid prolonged feeding sessions.

Will pumping every 2 hours increase milk supply?

Yes, pumping out breast milk every 2 hours may help increase your milk supply. But keep in mind that you need to give your breasts time to fill up and empty them reasonably quickly.

When is the best time to pump breast milk?

This depends on your schedule, but most moms have the most stored milk first thing in the morning. In any case, it is best to pump in a comfortable, clean, safe place and look at a picture of your baby.

How much milk does a woman produce a day?

Moms typically produce anywhere from 28 to 32 ounces (800 to 1100 mL) of mature breastmilk per day, but there is wide variation. Some moms make less and some can make 100’s of ounces.


Pumping is a great way to maintain or increase your milk supply. Even if your baby doesn’t get milk straight from your breast, it still counts as breastfeeding. By following the tips above, you can maximize your pumping experience and ensure there’s a steady supply of breast milk for your baby.

Reviewed by Linda Dahl, MD


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