Pumping Breast Milk: How Long to Pump

Ready to start pumping but not sure where (or how) to start? Even the smallest details, like knowing when you're done with a pumping session, are often learned over time and as you grow accustomed to using your pump, but we have some tips to help!

When & How Long to Pump

Integrating pumping into your breast milk feeding routine after nursing is well-established can be beneficial in a variety of ways – not only does pumping help ensure that your breasts are fully emptied after each nursing session, but frequent pumping will also stimulate your body to produce more milk. This is because breast milk is made on a supply and demand basis, so the more often that you nurse, pump, or do a combination of both, the more breast milk your body will then produce to feed your little one.

While it is important to pump milk for your baby if he or she isn’t latching right away (or is experiencing other nursing challenges), it is otherwise usually not recommended to introduce pumping into your breast milk feeding routine until after nursing is fully and comfortably established. Once you settle into a combination of nursing and pumping, be sure to learn how to properly store and/or freeze your extra pumped milk, so you have a surplus ready in the event that someone else may watch or feed your baby or in preparation for your return to work. You can also use our breast milk storage infographic (also available in Spanish!) as an easy-access printable that you can keep with you or on your fridge as a convenient reminder of current storing and freezing guidelines.

As you begin pumping breast milk and learning how to feed your little one, consider these tips so you know what to expect and how to quickly become a pumping pro:

  • Your colostrum – or “early milk” will express in small amounts, which is exactly the volume your well, term baby needs during the first few days after birth. If you are unable to establish nursing during this time, you’ll want a hospital-grade (multi-user) breast pump like the Symphony PLUS® - proven to successfully initiate, build, and maintain milk supply – to support your breast milk production while also providing that ultra-important early colostrum to your baby.

    When your colostrum transitions to mature milk, production will significantly increase and you can begin pumping larger volumes during each session – which will usually sync with your baby’s growth and ability to take more milk at each feed.
  • Once your mature milk has come in, be sure to pump for at least 20 – 30 minutes per session (or until you no longer see milk expressing from your breasts).
  • It’s typically easier to tell when you’re done with a nursing session – after all, your little one simply detaches and stops eating! – compared to when you’ve finished a pumping session. A good rule of thumb is to continue pumping for about 2 – 3 minutes after the last drops of milk are pumped to ensure your breasts are completely emptied. This is also a great way to know when you’re done pumping!
  • Be sure to find the Maximum Comfort Vacuum™ on your Medela breast pump to support the efficiency of each pumping session, allowing you to express more milk in less time. Finding your pump’s Maximum Comfort Vacuum™ is easy – Gradually increase your Medela breast pump’s suction until it becomes slightly uncomfortable, and then drop it down slightly by about a notch.  
  • Use a pumping and feeding log to record pumping sessions and feedings, so you can stay as organized as possible during those early days and nights with your newborn!

You can also talk to a lactation consultant as you integrate pumping into your breast milk feeding routine, whether you run into questions, experience challenges, or have overall concerns about your breast milk feeding journey.

What Else Should I Know About Pumping Breast Milk?

Though it may seem impossible right now, be sure to get plenty of rest and relaxation. Stress can impact your breast milk supply by slowing or otherwise interfering with your let-down, which will eventually signal to your body to produce less milk. Additionally, using a breast pump should never be painful. If you are experiencing pain, soreness, or nipple damage, try lowering the suction and/or speed of your pump and making sure you have the correct breast shield size. Having all the right accessories can make your pumping experience much more seamless!

All Medela breast pumps adhere to high quality standards and are designed with our patented 2-Phase Expression® Technology, which is shown to express more milk in less time when double pumping (compared to single pumping) by closely mimicking a baby’s natural suckling rhythms to better support milk flow. This technology helps moms pump more milk faster*, so you can balance nursing and pumping seamlessly – while ensuring your newborn reaps all the important, valuable benefits of your breast milk.

Don’t worry, mama – Though it can take time to figure it all out, pumping breast milk for your baby will soon become second nature! Every breast milk feeding journey is unique and you’ll learn a lot about the amazing things your body can do to nourish your newborn. Remember, every drop counts and we are here to support you in your breast milk feeding experience for as long as you choose.


*When pumping at Maximum Comfort Vacuum in the Expression phase.

Related Products
Symphony PLUS® Breast Pump
Pump In Style® with MaxFlow™ Breast Pump
Pump In Style® with MaxFlow™ Breast Pump
Medela Breast Milk Storage Bags
Breast Milk Storage Bags