Pumping breast milk can burn a significant number of calories and help new moms lose the baby weight. But how many calories does pumping actually burn? The number of calories burned varies based on several factors.
How Pumping Breast Milk Burns Calories
Pumping breast milk requires physical effort and engages the chest and arm muscles. This muscle engagement burns calories. Pumping may also stimulate the release of oxytocin and prolactin, hormones that are involved in breast milk production. The release of these hormones requires energy expenditure and burns additional calories.
Some key factors that influence calorie burn from pumping include:
- Intensity and duration of the pumping session
- Efficiency of milk ejection and let-down
- Size of the breast and areola
- Power and settings of the pump
Pumping more vigorously, for longer durations, and with a powerful pump requires more muscle exertion and burns more calories. Women who pump efficiently with strong let-down and ejection reflexes may burn fewer calories.
Calorie Burn Estimates
Most sources estimate that the average woman burns about 50 calories per pumping session. However, calorie burn can range from as low as 30 calories to as high as 100+ calories depending on the factors discussed above.
Here are some typical calorie burn estimates for pumping:
- 30-60 calories for a 15-minute session
- 50-100 calories for a 30-minute session
- 100-150 calories for sessions 45 minutes and longer
Pumping multiple times per day can quickly add up in calorie burn. For example, pumping 6 times a day could burn 300-600 calories or more.
Calculating Your Calorie Burn
To get a more tailored estimate of your personal calorie burn from pumping, consider the following factors:
1. Duration of Pumping Sessions
Longer pumping sessions require more muscular effort and burn more calories. Track how long your average pumping session lasts. If you pump for 15 minutes at a time, you’ll burn less than 45 minute sessions.
2. Number of Pumping Sessions Per Day
The number of times you pump each day impacts your total daily calorie expenditure. Pumping 6 times a day will burn more calories than just 2 or 3 pumping sessions.
3. Breast and Areola Size
Women with larger breasts and areolas tend to burn more calories during pumping. More breast tissue requires greater muscular effort to effectively pump milk.
4. Pump Settings
Higher pump suction settings require more effort and burn extra calories. The same is true when using massage or expression modes. Consider your standard pump settings and power level.
5. Efficiency of Milk Ejection
If you have strong milk ejection reflexes and fast let-down, your sessions may require less work and calorie burn. Women who have difficulty ejecting milk or must pump longer to empty may burn more calories.
6. Level of Fatigue
When your muscles are tired, pumping requires greater exertion. This can increase calorie burn. Consider whether your muscles fatigue during longer sessions.
7. Positioning and Technique
Proper flange fit, posture, and pumping technique optimize milk flow. Good positioning requires less muscle strain and may lower calorie expenditure.
Estimating Your Calorie Burn
With these factors in mind, you can estimate your personal pumping calorie burn:
- Track your average pumping duration and frequency.
- Account for breast/areola size and pump settings.
- Gauge the efficiency of your let-down and fatigue.
- Consider your positioning and technique.
- Refer to the baseline estimates for your session duration.
- Adjust up or down within the range based on your individual factors.
- You pump for 30 minutes 3 times per day.
- You have larger breasts and use a strong pump setting.
- You have moderate fatigue and efficient let-down.
- Your positioning and technique are very good.
- Baseline for your duration is 50-100 calories per session.
- With your factors, you estimate around 90 calories per session.
- 90 calories x 3 sessions = approximately 270 calories per day.
Tracking your duration, frequency, and the other factors discussed above can help you dial in a more accurate calorie burn estimate.
Tips to Maximize Calorie Burn
If you want to burn more calories while pumping, try these tips:
- Increase pumping time – Go for longer sessions or add sessions.
- Use expression mode – Switch from let-down to expression mode halfway through.
- Massage when pumping – Massage your breasts while pumping to increase milk flow.
- Use warmer temperatures – Warm compresses can help milk flow and require less effort.
- Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of fluids to avoid fatigue.
- Pump before feeding – Pumping first can improve calorie burn since milk ejection may take more effort.
- Improve posture – Sit up straight instead of hunching to engage your core and back.
- Relax your shoulders– Shrugging or tensing shoulders during pumping wastes energy.
Burn More Calories With Other Breastfeeding Activities
Pumping is not the only breastfeeding activity that burns calories. You can burn extra by:
- Using breast compressions and massage while nursing.
- Hand expressing after nursing or pumping.
- Taking herbs like fenugreek that aid milk supply.
The production of breast milk requires a lot of energy. So all related activities can contribute to extra calorie expenditure.
Sample Daily Calorie Burn from Pumping
Here is an example daily calorie burn from pumping for a mother with the following profile:
- Pumps 30 minutes 6 times per day
- Larger breasts
- Powerful pump suction
- Some fatigue during sessions
- Average milk ejection
- Good positioning and technique
Based on her factors, she estimates 80 calories burned per session. Over 6 sessions, her total daily calorie burn would be:
80 calories x 6 sessions = 480 calories burned per day from pumping
Calories Burned Pumping vs. Breastfeeding
Research has found that exclusive pumping burns around the same number of calories as direct breastfeeding. Estimates range from 400-800 calories burned per day for the average breastfeeding mother.
However, some studies have found that direct nursing may burn slightly more calories. Reasons include:
- More mom and baby body contact raises oxytocin which requires energy.
- More sensory stimulation during nursing triggers let-down requiring energy.
- Breastfeeding moms sit up and hold baby, engaging more muscles.
- Pumping only removes milk, but nursing also requires its production.
So exclusive pumping may burn up to around 100 fewer calories per day compared to mostly nursing. But both activities burn significant calories to help shed baby weight.
Does Hands-on Pumping Burn More Calories?
Hands-on pumping involves using your hands to massage and compress your breasts while pumping. This requires extra muscular effort and engagement. So hands-on pumping can burn around 20-30% more calories compared to regular pumping.
If a 30-minute regular pumping session burns 60 calories, hands-on pumping may burn around 75-80 calories or more.
Calorie Calculator for Pumping
Use this simple calculator to estimate your calories burned per pumping session:
|Pumping Duration||Calories Burned|
|10 minutes||25-40 calories|
|15 minutes||40-60 calories|
|20 minutes||50-80 calories|
|30 minutes||75-120 calories|
|45 minutes||110-170 calories|
|60 minutes||150-220 calories|
Adjust the estimate up or down based on breast size, pump settings, efficiency, fatigue, and positioning factors.
Then multiply the calories per session by the number of times you pump each day. This will provide a daily calorie burn total.
Other Breastfeeding Calorie Calculators
Other calorie calculators and tracking tools can also help estimate pumping calories burned, such as:
- MommyTos Breastfeeding Calorie Calculator
- Flo Breastfeeding Calories Calculator
- Verywell Family Calculator
- BabyCenter Pumping & Nursing Calorie Calculator
These tools allow you to input your specific pumping frequency, duration, and other factors to estimate total calorie expenditure.
The Bottom Line
Pumping breast milk can burn up to 300-800 calories per day on average. Burning more depends on pumping longer, more often, powerfully, and with good technique. Hands-on pumping may burn up to 20-30% more calories.
While pumping and nursing burn comparably, some evidence suggests nursing may burn slightly more. But both effectively burn calories to help you lose baby weight.
Use a calorie calculator or the estimates in this article to gauge your personal daily calorie expenditure from pumping. Then utilize that calorie burn to help shed excess pounds!