A good pumping session typically yields between 2-6 ounces total. However, the amount can vary greatly depending on factors like the age of your baby, how long it’s been since their last feeding, and your own body’s milk supply.
How Much Milk Should You Pump Per Session?
There is no universal rule for how much milk you should be pumping per session. The amount can vary a lot based on several factors:
Age of your baby
Younger infants under 3 months old typically need smaller, more frequent feedings. For them, a good pumping session may only yield 2-4 ounces at a time. Older babies can drink more at each feeding, so you may be able to pump 5-6+ ounces per session.
Time since last feeding
The longer it’s been since your baby’s last feeding or pumping session, the more milk your breasts will have accumulated and available to pump out. If you are pumping first thing in the morning after going all night without nursing or pumping, you’ll likely get more milk than if you pump an hour after your baby just ate.
Individual milk supply
Every woman’s body is different. Some women simply produce more milk than others. If your body makes an ample milk supply, it’s normal to be able to pump 5-8 ounces or more per session. Women who have a low milk supply may only get 1-3 ounces even with efficient pumping.
Stage of lactation
Milk supply is still regulating during the first 6 weeks after giving birth. After this period, your production should be well established and more stable. Pumping output is also typically highest between weeks 8 to 14. As you near the end of your breastfeeding journey, you’ll notice a natural decrease in how much you can pump each session.
Efficiency of pumping
An efficient pumping session where the pump is properly fitted and the right technique is used can yield more milk than a suboptimal pumping experience. Factors like flange size, suction levels, massage, and relaxation techniques impact how thoroughly your breasts are emptied during pumping.
Time spent pumping
In general, the longer you pump, the more milk you will obtain. Most lactation consultants recommend pumping for at least 15-20 minutes per breast when trying to establish or maintain an ample milk supply. Going shorter than 15 minutes often results in less milk output.
What If You’re Not Pumping Very Much?
While 2-6 ounces is often cited as a general target range per pumping session, the reality is that normal output can be higher or lower depending on your unique situation. If you’re consistently pumping less than 2-3 ounces combined from both breasts, it may be a sign of an underlying issue:
Improper flange fit
If your flanges are too large they won’t properly compress the breast. This impedes milk ejections and flow. Too-small flanges cause rubbing and irritation. Getting the optimal fit for your breasts and nipple size can dramatically improve pumping efficiency.
Infrequent pumping schedule
Milk production works on a supply and demand principle. The more often you empty your breasts, the more milk your body will produce. If you go 4+ hours between pumping sessions, this signals your breasts to slow down milk production.
Using a low-quality pump
Hospital-grade pumps draw more milk out in less time compared to consumer models. Make sure you have an adequate pump for your needs. Consider renting a hospital-grade one if you are exclusively pumping.
Blocked ducts or mastitis
Sometimes a physical blockage prevents milk from flowing freely. Plugged ducts or mastitis require medical treatment. Once resolved, your milk ejection and volume should improve.
A small percentage of women simply have insufficient glandular tissue to produce an abundant milk supply. This condition is called hypoplasia or IGT (insufficient glandular tissue) and is often diagnosed via weighted feedings.
Certain hormone imbalances like thyroid disorders or retained placenta can impede milk production. It’s important to rule these out via blood work if all other potential causes are eliminated.
Medications or health conditions
Some medications and health problems like PCOS or diabetes also influence milk supply. Make sure your doctor is aware of your breastfeeding status when prescribing any new medications.
Tips for Maximizing Pumping Output
Aim for at least 8 pumping sessions per 24 hours. The more often you pump, the more milk you signal your breasts to produce. Sticking to a consistent schedule helps maintain supply.
Use breast massage and compression
Massaging your breasts before and during pumping helps get the milk flowing better. When flow slows during pumping, you can also try compressing your breast behind the areola to mimic a suckling baby.
Make sure flanges fit
Getting flanges that fit the size of your nipple and areola properly will make pumping more comfortable and efficient. Many women need a different size than the standard 24mm or 28mm.
Try power pumping
Power pumping mimics cluster feeding by pumping for 10-15 minutes, resting 10 minutes, then repeating two more cycles. Doing this 1-2 times per day signals to your body to produce more milk.
Drink plenty of fluids to help your milk production. Aim for 80-100 oz of total fluid intake daily. Drink extra when pumping to aid letdown.
High stress inhibits letdown and milk flow. Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing before and during pumping sessions.
Look at photos of your baby
Looking at photos of your baby helps stimulate letdown by activating your Prolactin reflex. Having a favorite picture nearby as you pump can be helpful.
Massage problem areas
Sometimes specific areas like the upper, outer quadrant don’t empty as well. Targeted massage in stubborn spots can help drain the breast more thoroughly.
Signs of a Good Pumping Session
Here are some signs you can look for to evaluate if your pumping session was thorough and effective:
- Breasts feel soft, empty, and comfortably drained after pumping
- No more milk can be expressed with further pumping
- Nipples look rounded and normal, not creased, after pumping
- Output is consistent from session to session
- Pumping sessions take about 10-15 minutes total
- Letdown occurs multiple times when pumping
- Breasts do not become overly full between sessions
How Much to Pump for an Exclusively Pumped Stash
If you are exclusively pumping and need to build a freezer stash, a good rule of thumb is to pump an extra bottle or two per day. So if your baby drinks 25 ounces per day, aim to pump 30-35 ounces so you can freeze the extra 5-10 ounces.
Most exclusively pumping moms need 200-300 oz in their freezer stash before they feel comfortable with their backup milk supply. This is equal to about a 2-3 week supply.
Daily Pumping Output Targets for Exclusive Pumping
|Target Output Per Day
|Newborn 0-6 weeks
Typical Output Based on Baby’s Age
As a general guideline, here are some averages for pumping output based on your baby’s age:
0-6 weeks old:
- 2-4 ounces per session is common
- Total daily output around 24-48 oz
2 months old:
- 3-5 ounces per session
- Total daily output around 32-40 oz
3-6 months old:
- 3-6+ ounces per session
- Total daily output between 35-50 oz
6-12 months old:
- 2-5 ounces per session
- Total daily output between 25-40 oz
Setting Realistic Expectations
Remember that every woman’s body is unique. Try not to stress too much over pumping a certain amount at each session. As long as your total daily output is adequate for your baby’s needs, that is what matters most.
Focus on consistent, thorough, and efficient pumping sessions rather than getting fixated on ounces. Emptying your breasts regularly is what signals them to produce plenty of milk.
If your supply seems low or you’re concerned about output, talk to a lactation consultant. They can evaluate potential causes and help create a personalized plan to optimize your pumping sessions.
The Bottom Line
While 2-6 ounces is often cited as a general target, pumping output varies a lot by mother and baby. The most important thing is to pump frequently using proper technique and flange fit to make sure your breasts are adequately emptied and stimulated.
Pay attention to signs of effective pumping like breasts feeling soft after sessions, milk leaking between pumps, and being able to pump multiple letdowns. This indicates your body is producing what your baby needs.
Talk to a lactation consultant if you have any concerns about milk supply. They can help troubleshoot any issues impeding output and create a tailored pumping plan for you and your baby’s needs.