Motherhood

Pumping 101: Your Complete Guide to Breast Pumping

Team Peanut
Team Peanut4 months ago17 min read

Thinking of starting pumping? Whether you’re in your third trimester or you’re holding baby in your arms, here’s all you need to know about breast pumping.

Breast Pumping 101

Pump your breast milk, they said. It’ll be fun, they said—but while pumping may be a real game-changer for baby feeding, it’s quite a lot to get your head around.

When, how much, how long—and how do I do it effectively? Plus (big deal), what are my rights? Can I pump at work? If so, when and where?

While this may be something that needs to be quickly ticked off from your to-do list, breast pumping is an activity that demands that you engage in a tiny bit of self-care.

In this article: 📝

  • What does it mean if you’re pumping?
  • How should I be pumping?
  • How often should I pump?
  • How many minutes a day should I be pumping?
  • How much breastmilk should I pump a day?
  • When to start pumping
  • How to stop breast pumping
  • Can I pump at work?
  • Breast pumping tips from our mamas of Peanut

What does it mean if you’re pumping?

So first off, what is pumping?

You might be wondering if all the mamas are heading to the gym together or prepping for a bike-riding session.

Our pumping isn’t that kind of pumping.

Instead, we’re talking about breast pumping ‒ where you express milk from your breasts, without baby actively feeding on them.

You can pump breast milk either by hand or using an electric or manual pumping device.

Pumping breast milk can be convenient, particularly if you’re going to be away from baby for a while, if you’re traveling, or if you’re unable to breastfeed for any reason.

Is pumping considered breastfeeding?

Yes, pumping breast milk is a form of breastfeeding.

Baby’s still feeding on breast milk, even if they aren’t getting it directly from the breasts.

Is nursing better than pumping?

So in the battle of breastfeeding vs pumping, who comes out victorious.

They both have their own pros and cons, and ultimately, whichever you prefer for you and your baby is the best choice.

And if you choose to formula-feed instead, then that’s the best choice for you.

Does pumping burn as many calories as breastfeeding?

Does pumping burn calories? Yes!

Pumping breast milk can actually burn the same amount of calories as nursing ‒ about an extra 200-600 calories per day.

How soon can you breastfeed after pumping?

If you’re pumping after nursing, it can take a little while for your milk ducts to produce more milk for you to pump.

Generally, you can pump about 30 minutes to an hour before or after nursing.

However, each mama is different, so while one mama may produce breast milk quickly, another might take a little longer.

Do I need to pump if I’m exclusively breastfeeding?

It’s up to you ‒ it can be beneficial if you’re planning on exclusively breastfeeding, to start pumping while you’re pregnant.

In fact, most pregnant women tend to start producing breast milk between weeks 12 and 18, but your system of breast milk may not be working fully until a bit closer to your third trimester.

The tell-tale sign is your breasts start leaking, so when that happens, if you’re keen to exclusively breastfeed, it’s recommended to start pumping then.

This is to ensure that your milk supply is as steady as possible, ready to feed your baby as soon as they’re in your arms.

breast pumping while feeding

How should I be pumping?

Surprise! Knowing how to pump breast milk was not in any school syllabus. So here’s your pumping 101:

  • What breast pumps do: In short, they pretend to be a suckling baby. By creating the same motion your baby makes, your breast pump will get your milk flowing.
  • How breast pumps work: You pop a flange (a kind of suction funnel) on your nipple. It forms a vacuum seal and funnels your milk where it needs to go. Your milk is then stored in a container for you to use when you need to use it.
  • Types of breast pumps: Depending on your need and budget, these are your options: manual pumps (good for early on and cost-effective), battery-operated (great for on-the-go pumping), and electric (efficiency to the max).

What is double-pumping?

Double-pumping is when you pump from both breasts at the same time ‒ it’s not usually possible to do by hand, so this technique requires some help from a manual or electric breast pump.

What does pumping feel like?

Well, there’s no single answer to this, as breast pumping can feel different for each mama or mama-to-be.

Some of our mamas on Peanut say that breast pumping using a breast pump device felt like a tingling sensation ‒ not exactly pleasant, but not painful, either.

Other mamas say it feels like their nipples are stretching a little to get the milk out.

And some can find pumping to be somewhat detaching from baby, almost like a clinical medical procedure.

If pumping doesn’t feel right for you, you don’t always have to do it ‒ it’s your body, mama.

Breast pumping is one of those experiences of mamahood that’s hard to describe, even if it does happen to millions of mamas!

What are the side effects of breast pumping?

Some women find that breast pumping regularly can make their nipples feel sore or irritated.

If this is the case for you and you want to continue pumping, it’s worth speaking with your doctor or a lactation specialist, who can give you some tips based on their knowledge and your experience.

My breast feels full but no milk when pumping ‒ help!

Why won’t milk come out when I pump?

This is a totally normal response to pumping.

Basically, you can have a breast pumping device with all the bells and whistles, but sometimes, it just doesn’t get anywhere close to nursing your baby.

If this sounds like your experience, the best thing to do is to relax ‒ however that looks for you.

Whether you’re a keen yogi, into meditation, or relaxation is a good book, do what works for you.

Does breast pumping hurt?

Generally speaking, no, breast pain after pumping isn’t all that common.

But if you are experiencing any breast pump pain, it’s worth talking with your doctor, as there are things they can do to help.

How should nipples look after pumping?

If you’re wondering does pumping make nipples bigger?, the answer is yes.

Quite often, your nipples can double in size after pumping, looking a little swollen.

Can pumping damage your nipples?

Sometimes, yes, pumping can cause damage to your nipples, but usually, this is due to the suction of the pump being too high.

You should be able to control the suction of the pump ‒ if your nipples are sore after pumping, try reducing the suction.

How often should I pump?

That depends on where you’re at with your feeding routine.

Are you [exclusively pumping]9https://www.peanut-app.io/blog/exclusive-pumping-guide)? Are you offering the breastfed-bottle combo deal?

Rule of thumb? Think about getting breast milk out of you somewhere between 8 and 10 times a day.

Why so often? Because breast milk works on a supply and demand basis.

If you demand, your body will (generally) supply.

But, if you’re having any trouble with breastfeeding or pumping, you don’t have to struggle through it alone.

If your baby is having trouble latching and/or you are in any pain or discomfort while breastfeeding, reach out to your healthcare provider.

Also, if pumping is hurting you, there may be a simple fix.

Try changing the flange size, your position, the level of suction, or the settings. It may require a little trial and error.

It’s seriously not uncommon to struggle.

Finding a community of mamas going through the same thing can also really help you feel less isolated in this journey.

How many times a day should I pump while breastfeeding?

So, how many times should I pump a day?

Well, it depends ‒ there are different reasons why mamas choose to pump.

Here are a few general ideas for how often to pump:

  • If you have been exclusively breastfeeding and are preparing to return to work, start pumping about twice a day to get into the groove of things. (Hot tip: pump after feeds rather than before so that you don’t have any supply issues when you need to feed—at least an hour before feeds should do the trick.)
  • If you have returned to work or need to be away from your baby for periods of time, pump about every three hours while you’re out. This keeps your rhythm going.
  • If you are pumping to relieve engorgement, pump after you breastfeed. Engorgement? Sounds dramatic. And yes, it can be. It’s when our breasts get overfilled with milk. It can be really uncomfortable and, in some cases, lead to an infection called mastitis. You might be vulnerable to this once you start weaning your baby off a mama’s milk-only diet. At this particular juncture, the breast pump is a serious ally.

Should I pump after every feeding?

Generally speaking, yes ‒ if you’re choosing to breastfeed and pump, it’s considered better to feed baby first, then to pump any excess about 30 minutes to an hour later.

This is to ensure baby gets the nourishment they need while you’re breastfeeding.

However, if you’re exclusively pumping, or starting to exclusively pump, you can try pumping before feeding to ‘wean’ baby from nursing.

Can I pump every 4 hours and maintain supply?

Yes, you can ‒ although it depends on your body, as well.

But typically, if you choose to pump exclusively, or if you’re pumping at work, you can pump every 3-4 hours and maintain your milk supply.

What is a good pumping schedule?

If you’re after the best pumping schedule, we have some starting points for you to try, depending on your preferences for pumping and breastfeeding.

An exclusively breast pumping schedule could be about every 2-4 hours, the same as nursing ‒ yes, even during the night, mama, to ensure a steady breast milk supply.

A pumping and breastfeeding schedule could be alternating nursing and pumping, or nursing, then pumping 30 minutes to an hour later.

When to pump while breastfeeding newborn?

It’s recommended to pump after nursing your newborn, if you want to start pumping.

This is to make sure that baby gets the nutrients they need before you pump.

Should I pump at night?

If you’re exclusively pumping, it’s recommended to pump through the night, to encourage your milk supply to continue steadily.

But if you’ve been pumping for a few months, you can try taking out night-time pumps and see whether that changes your milk supply.

How much to pump to relieve engorgement?

Engorgement tends to happen when you’re exclusively breastfeeding, as sometimes, baby doesn’t nurse the full amount of milk in your breast.

If this is the case, pumping a little after baby’s nursed (about 30 minutes to an hour after) can help ease engorgement.

How many minutes a day should I be pumping?

So, how long should you pump for? And how long does it take to pump breast milk?

Well, how long is a piece of string?

In all honesty, it depends on the mama, the baby, and whether you choose to pump and breastfeed or pump exclusively.

Some mamas need more, some mamas need less—but as a ballpark, think between 15 and 20 minutes per breast per session.

Pumping in the morning can be pretty productive for many mamas.

And here’s how to increase milk supply when pumping:

  • The double pump. Both breasts at the same time. Not only is this super-efficient but it also stimulates milk flow. Oxytocin (AKA the love hormone) loves the old double pump and breast milk loves oxytocin.
  • The pump and feed. Basically, pump on one breast, feed on the other. That’s how it goes. (If this feels too much to handle, don’t worry, mama. It’s by no means mandatory.)

How much breastmilk should I pump a day?

If you’re wondering, how much breastmilk should I be pumping?, we can’t give you a definitive answer.

That all depends on how much your baby needs.

They tend to drive the whole operation.

But as a rough guide, think about producing about 25 to 35 oz of breastmilk every 24 hours.

(You may not be pumping all of that so figure out what works for you.)

Also, important: your body may not start at this amount of milk, but can work its way up to this kind of supply.

The early weeks will likely be less productive than this.

How much milk should I be pumping at 1 week?

At one week old, your baby’s not eating all that much ‒ about 1-2 ounces per feeding.

So If you want to work to increase your milk supply so you’re prepared as they get older, you can try pumping about 30 minutes to an hour after each feed.

How many ounces should I pump per session?

As baby gets older (from about a month old), if you’re pumping exclusively, you can expect about 3-4 ounces per pumping session.

But this may be a little less if you’re not pumping regularly or if baby’s in their first few weeks.

Can you pump too much?

Yes, it is possible to over-pump your breast milk.

Some signs of over-pumping are sore nipples, clogged milk ducts, and mastitis.

To avoid over-pumping, speak to your doctor or a lactation specialist about a pumping schedule that works for you.

When to start pumping

Again, totally up to your specific situation but here are some rough guides on when to start pumping:

  • If your baby is healthy, start pumping when they’re about six weeks old.
  • If you want to pump exclusively, try pumping before you give birth, when your breasts start to leak in your third trimester.
  • If your baby is premature or sick or you have to be separated from them for some reason, you may need to pump earlier so that they can get the feed they need. Chat to your doctor about this.
  • If you are going back to work, start slow. Think about getting pumping a few weeks before your return so that you can get into the swing of things first.

Can I pump before baby is born?

Can you pump before giving birth? Yes!

If you’re wondering when can I start pumping while pregnant, it’s recommended to wait until about 36 weeks.

Can you pump colostrum?

So, can you pump while pregnant? Yes!

If this is your first time pumping before birth, you’ll notice you’re producing something that looks a little more yellow than ‘normal’ breastmilk ‒ this is colostrum.

It’s recommended to hand-pump colostrum rather than using a pumping device, as colostrum can take a little more massaging and convincing to pump than normal breast milk.

When to start pumping after birth

You can start pumping straight after birth, if you’re keen to pump exclusively, but if not, it’s recommended to try pumping when baby’s about 6 weeks old.

This is to make sure baby gets the vital nutrients they need in those first few weeks ‒ after all, baby’s got a lot of growing to do!

Can you exclusively pump from birth?

Can I pump straight after birth? Yes, you can start pumping exclusively from birth.

However, if this is your plan, it’s recommended to start pumping your colostrum during pregnancy, to get your body used to producing and pumping milk regularly.

How to stop breast pumping

Yes, pumping has a time limit.

You don’t have to do it forever.

When your baby starts on solids, your schedule changes, or you simply don’t want to pump anymore, it may be time to bring this journey to a close.

The only real rule here is to do it gradually.

If you’re keen to find out how to stop pumping cold turkey, know that it may come with some risks.

Going cold turkey may lead to engorgement, clogged ducts, mastitis, or just general discomfort.

So, it’s best to slowly decrease the number of pumping sessions you do a day, lessen the amount you pump per session, or try a combo of both.

Figure out what works best for you. Your journey with the pump is totally your own.

Can I pump at work?

Absolutely, yes. It’s your right.

There are laws to protect you.

In the United States, your employer must provide a private, clean space (not a washroom) to do your pumping.

Breast pumping tips from our mamas of Peanut

Pumping can be hard to get your head around at first.

So we’ve called on our veteran mamas of Peanut for their breast pumping advice for first-time moms or moms who just need a little extra advice.

  • Try to relax ‒ this seems like the worst advice (how do you relax when someone tells you to relax?), but even taking a few deep breaths before or during pumping can make all the difference.
  • If you want to pump exclusively from birth, start pumping as soon as you can ‒ leaky boobs are a tell-tale sign!
  • Drink lots of water, it can help increase your milk supply and prevent any clogged milk ducts.
  • If you’re traveling, bring travel-friendly pumping equipment so you can pump on the go.
  • Get multiples of pumping equipment and store it in places where you’re likely to be. I was at my mom’s a lot for the first few months of my little one’s life, so I made sure to have a set over there, too. And in the car!
  • Embrace the boob massage! Honestly, it can really help you comfortably get the milk out. Plus, as an added bonus, you get a free massage!
  • Double-pump. Seriously. I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner. As soon as you know you’re going to be pumping or pumping exclusively, get pumping both breasts at the same time.

There you have it! All there is to know about breast pumping!

If you’re after any advice from other mamas or you want to share your own pumping stories, why not join us on Peanut? We think you’ll fit right in.

Happy pumping! You got this, mama.

🍼 More on pumping and breastfeeding from The 411:
How to Dry Up Breast Milk
14 Best Nursing Bras for Breastfeeding & Pumping Moms
Caffeine and Breastfeeding: What to Know
Breastfeeding in Public: Tips & Advice
Your Breasts After Breastfeeding: What’s Normal?
World Breastfeeding Week: When It is & How to Celebrate
What is the Best Breastfeeding Diet?
Can You Overfeed a Breastfed Baby?
Can You Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding?
Best Nipple Shields for Breastfeeding Mamas
66 Best Nursing Clothes & Clothing for Breastfeeding Moms
All You Need to Know About the Hands-Free Breast Pump

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