Does pumping breast milk burn calories?

Pumping breast milk requires physical effort and energy, leading many new mothers to wonder – does pumping breast milk burn extra calories? There are a few factors that determine how many calories are burned while pumping. In general, pumping does require some extra energy expenditure and can burn some additional calories compared to just resting or doing desk work. However, the exact number of calories burned varies significantly based on the mother’s body, the type of pump used, and pumping duration and frequency.

Quick Answers

– Pumping breast milk does burn some extra calories, but likely not a huge amount.
– Most sources estimate an extra 30-50 calories burned per pumping session.
– The number of calories burned depends on the intensity and duration of pumping. More aggressive pumping for longer periods burns more calories.
– Calories burned pumping also depends on the efficiency of milk ejection and production. If pumping is inefficient, it may burn more energy.
– Mothers who exclusively pump all feedings burn more calories than those who nurse or mix nursing and pumping.
– Electric pumps are more efficient than manual hand pumps, resulting in lower calorie burn.
– Pumping engages the chest, arm, shoulder and back muscles, so it constitutes light exercise.

Factors That Impact Calories Burned Pumping

Intensity of Pumping

The intensity of pumping refers to the strength of suction and speed of the pump. Stronger suction and faster settings require more physical effort from the mother’s chest muscles to express milk. This leads to higher energy expenditure and more calories burned.

Using a hospital-grade double electric pump generally requires less effort than a single consumer pump. Pumping with a manual hand pump is the most strenuous option. Many mothers report feeling exhausted after pumping vigorously with a manual pump.

Mothers can experiment with lowering suction and speed settings on electric pumps. This may reduce effort required while still sufficiently emptying the breasts.

Duration of Pumping Session

Longer pumping sessions burn more calories because the chest muscles must continue working for a longer period of time.

Whereas quick 5-10 minute pumping sessions may burn very minimal calories, longer 20-30 minute pump sessions require extended muscle engagement. This leads to higher calorie burn.

Exclusively pumping mothers may pump 8-10 times per day. The calories burned add up with so many daily sessions.

Efficiency of Milk Ejection and Production

Some women eject milk very easily while others require more effort to release milk. Mothers who have difficulty ejecting or releasing milk may need to pump with more intensity for longer periods to empty the breasts.

Women with robust milk supply can empty the breasts faster and likely burn fewer calories pumping compared to those with low supply who need prolonged pumping.

Factors like pump flange size, proper latch, and using breast massage techniques can impact pumping efficiency. Optimizing these factors leads to easier expression and likely lower calorie burn.

Type of Pump Used

Electric breast pumps are more efficient than manual pumps, allowing milk to be expressed with less physical effort. Electric pumps use power rather than manual labor to create suction. So the calorie burn is lower compared to strenuous manual pumping.

Double electric pumps express milk from both breasts simultaneously. This saves time and energy compared to pumping each breast individually.

Hospital-grade pumps like those from Medela or Spectra are designed for efficiency and high-volume milk removal. They may require the least effort and lowest calorie burn for the user.

Nursing vs. Exclusive Pumping

Mothers who exclusively pump all feeding burn more calories than those who nurse or combine nursing and pumping.

Nursing requires effort from the jaw muscles rather than arms and chest muscles like pumping. So exclusive pumping is more physically demanding.

Plus nursing mothers do not need to pump as frequently. Exclusive pumpers may pump 8-10 times daily – burning calories with each session.

Calories Burned Pumping Estimates

Most sources estimate that the average pumping session burns 30-50 extra calories above resting [1]. However, the exact amount varies based on the factors discussed above.

For example, one study found the following calorie burn results from pumping [2]:

– Manual pumping burned about 50 calories in 20 minutes (or about 2.5 calories per minute)
– Electric double pumping burned about 35 calories in 15 minutes (or 2.3 calories per minute)

Another source provides these estimates on calorie burn [3]:

– Manual pumping burned about 125-150 calories per hour
– Electric pumping burned about 90-100 calories per hour

So most research finds pumping requires at least some extra energy expenditure, although the estimates vary.

Table: Estimated Calories Burned Per Pumping Session

Pumping Method Session Duration Calories Burned
Manual 15 minutes 38 calories
Manual 20 minutes 50 calories
Electric (double pump) 15 minutes 35 calories
Electric (double pump) 20 minutes 46 calories

Pumping vs. Other Breastfeeding Calorie Burn

Nursing and exclusive pumping likely burn more calories than mixed feeding.

One study found [2]:

– Exclusive pumping burned about 500 extra calories per day
– Exclusive nursing burned about 400 extra calories per day
– Mixed nursing and bottle feeding burned about 300 extra calories per day

So exclusive pumping and nursing require the most additional energy expenditure for milk production.

However, the study found that over 6 months, this resulted in less than 2 pounds of weight difference between exclusive pumpers and mixed feeders. So while pumping does burn extra calories, the difference may not be massive.

Tips to Maximize Calorie Burn Pumping

To potentially increase the calories burned while pumping:

– Pump for longer session lengths, like 20-30 minutes per session.
– Try using a manual pump instead of an electric pump.
– Pump at higher suction and speed settings instead of lower, comfortable ones.
– Add in movements like shoulder rolls or leg lifts while pumping.
– Consider wearing a heart rate monitor to get exact data on calories burned.
– Pump extra sessions beyond the minimum needed to feel emptied.

However, burning more calories should not come at the expense of over-pumping. Always put breast health and milk supply first.

Does Pumping Help Lose Baby Weight?

While pumping does burn some extra calories, it likely does not lead to significant weight loss or help mothers “lose the baby weight.”

Some reasons pumping has minimal impact on postpartum weight loss:

– Calories burned during even long pumping sessions are fairly minimal.
– Mothers need to consume extra calories to support milk production.
– Sitting for repeated daily pumping can reduce activity levels.
– Stress from round-the-clock pumping can increase cortisol and make weight loss harder.
– Lack of sleep from constant pumping can increase hunger levels.
– Pumping and breastfeeding may stimulate appetite and make mothers eat more calories.

So while pumping might burn an extra 50-100 calories per day, factors like increased hunger and decreased sleep may offset this.

To lose weight postpartum, creating a calorie deficit through diet and exercise is more impactful than relying on pumping. But every extra calorie burned helps!


Pumping breast milk does burn some additional calories, but estimates vary on exactly how many. Most sources estimate about 30-50 extra calories burned per standard pumping session. Mothers who pump more frequently or use manual pumps likely burn more. While pumping can burn calories, it is unlikely to lead to major weight loss on its own. Following a healthy diet and exercise regimen is more effective for postpartum weight loss. But taking advantage of any extra calorie burn from pumping may provide a nice extra boost when trying to get back to pre-baby weight.



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