pumping 101 for new moms

Pumping 101 For New Moms: Your Complete Guide to Breast Pumping

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Are you ready to become a pumping pro? Look no further! This complete guide to breast pumping 101 will equip you with all the knowledge you need to succeed in your pumping journey.

AS a breastfeeding counselor and mom of 2 little ones, I know how tough it is to navigate the new world of pumping. That’s why I decided to write this guide. From when to start pumping to how many breast pumps, how often to pump breast milk and how much, we’ve got you covered. Discover the different types of breast pumps, tips for effective pumping, and proper storage techniques.

Welcome to ‘Pumping 101 For New Moms: Your Complete Guide to Breast Pumping’.

Key takeaways

  • When to start pumping: Experts recommend waiting 4-8 weeks before you start pumping if breastfeeding is going well. However, there are circumstances where earlier pumping may be necessary, such as if the baby is unable to breastfeed or needs to be separated from the mom when she returns to work (in this case start 3 weeks before work starts).

  • How often to pump: Pump whenever the baby is being fed from a bottle to maintain milk supply. If preparing to return to work, start pumping twice a day shortly after breastfeeding. Once back at work, pump every three hours, matching the number of bottles the baby takes while the mom is away.

  • How much milk to pump: The amount of milk to pump depends on milk supply, baby’s age, and weight. Moms generally make enough milk to meet the baby’s daily needs. When the pump replaces breastfeeding, aim to pump the same volume as the baby takes from each bottle feeding.

  • Tips for successful pumping: Learn how to hand-express milk before using a pump. Consider priorities when buying a breast pump and seek opinions from friends and experts. Ensure pumping is not painful and consult a lactation consultant for assistance with pump setup and fit.

Before we get into the article let’s address a common question:

Can I just give my baby formula instead of exclusively pumping my own milk?

Yes, of course you can, it’s mom’s choice how she feeds her baby. Before making a decision I would ask that you check out this article first: Breastfeeding vs Formula Studies. Breastmilk is undeniably the best nutrition you can give your baby but if you choose to offer formula it’s best to be fully informed.

Introduction to breast pumping 101 for new moms

The purpose of a breast pumping is to help you maintain your milk supply, especially if you plan to return to work or need someone else to feed your baby.

Using a breast pump can also be beneficial for increasing milk supply, donating breast milk, bonding with your baby, and building a stockpile of extra milk for emergencies or times away from your baby.

It’s important to note, however, that while pumping shares many similarities with breastfeeding, there are a few key differences that we’ll discuss further.

What is a breast pump?

A breast pump is a device that’s designed to mimic a baby’s natural nursing rhythm, helping you to extract and store milk when direct breastfeeding isn’t possible or convenient. It is a convenient way to feed your baby your nutritious breast milk, even when you’re not physically present.

There are various types of breast pumps, including electric, hand (manual pumps), single or double breast, and hands-free pumps.

Check out my post: The best wearable breast pumps: Express milk anywhere, anytime and The 6 Best Smart Breast Pumps for Busy Moms

Manual breast pumps are hand-operated, requiring effort, but they’re quiet and portable. On the other hand, electric pumps can pump more milk and are often adjustable. More on this later.

Determining how much milk to pump can vary based on your baby’s needs and your own comfort. Remember, every drop counts!


To ensure comfort and effectiveness, it’s important to choose a breast pump that fits properly and to follow these breast pumping tips and techniques.

Is pumping the same as breastfeeding?

Smiling Woman Breastfeeding her Daughter

The answer is yes and no! Pumping is a way to express breast milk and provide it to your baby. So you are still giving your baby all the amazing benefits of breast milk but via a bottle.

Breast pumping and breastfeeding differ in more than just the mechanics, but both are crucial tools in your journey to nourish your little one.

  1. Feeling: Breastfeeding can be a more intimate experience, with skin-to-skin contact. Pumping, while efficient, doesn’t offer the same bonding experience.

  2. Convenience: Pumping, especially with electric breast pumps, can allow you to multitask. You also have the ability to store breast milk for later use, offering flexibility.

  3. Others Can Help: With pumping, others can feed your baby, giving you some much-needed rest.

Why should I pump my breast milk?

Illustration of a mother expressing milk using a pumping device, with a caption 'Building a Milk Supply'. Icons of milk bottles indicate building a stash

There are a multitude of reasons moms pump their pump breast milk. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Building a milk supply: Pumping regularly helps stimulate milk production and build a stockpile of milk for emergencies or times away from your baby.

  • Returning to work: If you plan to go back to work, it’s suggested to begin pumping and storing breast milk about three weeks before your return. This allows you to have a sufficient supply for when you’re away from your baby.

  • Baby’s needs: If your baby is unable to breastfeed, born prematurely, has health issues, or needs to be separated from you, pumping breast milk ensures that they still receive the benefits of your milk.

  • Bonding with baby: Pumping allows other caregivers to feed your baby while you take a break. It also gives you the opportunity to bond with your baby during feeding sessions.

It’s also worth mentioning that hand expression can be used in conjunction with pumping to further stimulate milk production.

Read my post: 9 Pumping at Work Tips You Need to Know: A Quick Guide for Busy Moms

When to start pumping

Timing can be centered around your specific needs and circumstances, which could range from pumping right after birth to exclusively pumping from the start.

It may be necessary to start pumping earlier than the recommended 4-8 weeks post birth if your baby is unable to breastfeed or if you need more milk to build a stockpile for when you return to work.

On the other hand, if breastfeeding is going well and there’s no immediate need, experts generally recommend waiting a few weeks to establish a good milk supply before starting to pump.

Benefits of starting pumping early

Starting to pump early can bring several benefits, especially in certain situations such as having a premature baby or returning to work shortly after birth. Early pumping helps establish and maintain your milk supply, allowing you to provide a steady source of nutrition for your breastfeeding baby.

  1. Encourages milk production: Your body operates on supply and demand. The more you pump, the more milk you’ll produce.

  2. Creates a milk reserve: If you’re returning to work or have to be away from your baby, having a reserve supply can be a lifesaver.

  3. Helps in special circumstances: For new moms of premature babies or those with latch issues (such as laryngomalacia), early pumping can ensure your little one gets the nutrients they need.

Consult a lactation consultant for personalized breast pumping tips. Remember, every mom’s journey is unique.

Can you exclusively pump from birth?

Choosing to exclusively pump from the start is a personal decision, and it’s important to understand the reasons and timing for this approach. You may choose this route due to personal preference, health issues, or a return to work. Here are three key points to guide you:

  • Start early: If you’re exclusively pumping, start as soon after birth as possible to stimulate milk production and breast tissue.

  • Establish a pumping schedule: Consistency is crucial. Aim to pump every 2-3 hours, including overnight, to maintain milk supply.

  • Double pumping: This breast pumping tip can save time and increase production.

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

You may consider pumping even if you’re exclusively breastfeeding for various reasons.

  • Pumping can help stimulate milk production, especially if you’re experiencing low milk supply.

  • If you’re unable to breastfeed due to medical reasons or temporary separation, pumping allows you to provide breast milk for your baby.

  • Pumping enables you to build a supply of milk for when you’re away from your baby or when others need to feed them.

  • Regular pumping sessions can help maintain your milk supply and prevent a decline in production.

By incorporating double pumping, using a double pump that extracts milk from both breasts simultaneously one breast only, you can save time and increase milk output.

Check out my post: How to Combine Breastfeeding and Pumping: Essential Tips for Success

Different types of breast pumps

There are three main types of breast pumps: electric pumps, manual pumps, and multi-user pumps.

Electric pumps are powered by electricity and offer convenience and efficiency by extracting milk quickly. Some pump models allow you to pump both breasts at once, saving you time.

Manual pumps are operated by hand and are compact and portable. They are great for occasional use or when you are on the go.

Multi-user pumps, like their name suggests, are designed for multiple users and are often found in workplaces or hospitals. These hospital-grade pumps are high-performance models that ensure maximum milk expression.

Type of PumpDescription
Electric PumpPowered by electricity, efficient
Manual PumpOperated by hand, portable
Multi-User PumpDesigned for multiple users
The different types of breast pumps

Many new moms have a hand pump and electric pump for different needs.

Understanding the pumping experience

As you embark on your pumping journey, it’s crucial to understand what to expect.

You may have concerns about whether pumping hurts and what your nipples might look like after pumping.

Let’s address these points to ease your worries and ensure you’re fully prepared for this new experience.

What does pumping feel like?

Every woman’s experience is different, but most describe pumping as a sensation of gentle tugging or pulling.

You’ll likely experience a variety of sensations the first few times you use a breast pump, as it’s quite different from nursing your baby directly. It’s important to remember that just like nursing, it takes time and practice to learn and get comfortable with.

  • Suction: The pump creates a suction that mimics a baby’s nursing action, helping to stimulate milk flow. It may take a few minutes for your milk to start flowing, so be patient.

  • Tingling sensation: As your milk starts to flow, you may feel a tingling sensation, known as the let down. This is a sign that your body is releasing milk.

  • Mild discomfort: Some women may experience mild discomfort or pressure while pumping, especially if the flange size isn’t right or if the suction level is too high. Adjusting the settings or using a pumping bra for support can help alleviate any discomfort.

  • Milk flowing: Once your milk starts flowing, you’ll be able to see it being collected in the bottles. It’s a satisfying feeling to see your milk supply increase!

Does breast pumping hurt?

Breast pumping shouldn’t hurt. While it might feel unusual at first, it shouldn’t cause pain.

If you’re pumping exclusively and experiencing sore nipples, it may be due to over-pumping or improper flange size. Soreness often results from the flange being too small, causing friction against your nipples. It’s important to ensure that the flanges fit properly and aren’t too small or too large.

On the other hand, pain may also result from high suction levels. Adjusting to a low suction level to mimic your baby’s sucking frequency can also help alleviate any discomfort. Additionally, lubricating the flanges with a small amount of breast milk or lanolin/nipple cream can provide some relief. Remember, more suction doesn’t mean more milk.

Flange size

Try these tips:

  1. Hand expression: To alleviate any discomfort, you can use hand expression techniques to gently massage and stimulate the nipples post-pumping. This can also help encourage more milk flow.

  2. Air dry: After pumping and hand expression, let your nipples air dry. This can help maintain nipple health and prevent any potential irritation.

  3. Pump regularly: Pumping approximately every 2-3 hours can help maintain a consistent milk flow and help your nipples adjust to the pumping routine.


Remember, breast pumping shouldn’t be painful and finding the right settings for you can help ensure a comfortable pumping experience.

How should nipples look after pumping?

After pumping, your nipples may appear elongated, reddened, firmer to the touch or slightly swollen due to the milk flow and suction during pumping – don’t fret – this is completely normal and expected. This is more likely if you have elastic nipples.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about how your nipples should look after pumping:

  • Your nipples may appear slightly elongated or drawn out after a pumping session. This is because the suction from the breast pump mimics the natural sucking action of a baby, causing the nipple to stretch and lengthen.

  • Your nipples may also feel firmer to the touch after pumping. This is due to increased blood flow and stimulation during the pumping process.

  • It’s important to note that the size and shape of your nipples may vary from person to person. Breast pumps often come with different-sized flanges to accommodate different nipple sizes and ensure a proper fit.

Pumping schedules and routines

Getting the hang of breast pumping involves determining how often and how long you should pump. Your pumping schedule may take some tweaking in the beginning, especially with a newborn.

Let’s explore guidelines for finding your frequency, understanding the ideal duration of each pumping session, and special considerations when pumping for newborns.

Finding your frequency: How often to pump

The frequency of pumping will depend on your baby’s age and feeding habits. Establishing a consistent pumping schedule that suits your lifestyle and meets your baby’s needs is a crucial aspect of successful breastfeeding. Here are some basic guidelines:

  1. Newborn moms pump 8-10 times a day to establish milk supply.

  2. After a few months, you may be able to reduce the frequency to 4-7 times a day.

  3. If you’re going back to work, you’ll need to pump every 3 hours during your working hours.


Remember, finding your frequency is unique to your situation. Listen to your body and adjust as needed.

How many times a day should I pump while breastfeeding?

Pump at least eight to ten times a day while breastfeeding to maintain a healthy milk supply.

It’s important to consider pumping after every feeding, as it helps stimulate your breasts and signal your body to produce more milk.

Breast pumping after each feeding can be beneficial because:

  • It helps ensure that your breasts are emptied completely (which can help prevent issues like engorgement, mastitis and plugged ducts).

  • It can help increase your milk supply by providing additional stimulation to your breasts.

  • It allows you to build up a stash of breast milk, which can be helpful for times when you’re unable to feed your baby directly.

How long should you be spending on each pumping session?

This is a common question for many moms and the answer can vary as it depends on several factors. Most mothers find pumping for 15-20 minutes is sufficient to express milk. However, the duration of each pumping session could be influenced by the type of breast pump you’re using as many breast pumps have different settings.

It’s important to balance supply and demand, so adjusting your routine may be necessary. Monitor how your body responds and adjust accordingly. Below is a table to guide you:

Morning15-20 minutes
Mid-day10-15 minutes
Evening15-20 minutes
Night10-15 minutes

Here are some key points to consider when determining how long to pump per session:

  • Begin each pumping session with a minimum of 15 minutes of pumping to ensure proper milk extraction.

  • If your breasts still feel full or if you continue to see milk flow after 15 minutes, you can extend the pumping session to 20 minutes to fully empty the breasts.

  • It’s important to take short breaks during the pumping session to rest and relax. This can help improve milk flow and overall comfort during pumping.

Special considerations for newborns

During the early stages of breastfeeding, it is important to establish a pumping schedule that aligns with your baby’s feeding needs and allows for consistent milk production.

Particularly in the early weeks, you’ll need to be flexible and patient as both you and your newborn learn the ropes of baby nursing.

Here are three important things to remember:

  1. Your breast pumping schedule should ideally mimic your baby’s nursing patterns. Newborns typically feed every 2-3 hours, so plan to pump accordingly.

  2. Night time pumping is crucial during the early weeks as it aids in establishing your milk supply.

  3. Always remember, the goal isn’t to measure success by the ounces you pump but by your baby’s growth and satisfaction.

Starting to pump while breastfeeding your newborn can be beneficial for several reasons, such as increasing milk supply, creating a stockpile of milk for emergencies or times away from your baby, and getting your baby comfortable with taking a bottle (if you anticipate needing to bottle feed soon).


When to Start Pumping

How Often to Pump

Baby breastfeeding well and no immediate return to work

Wait 4-8 weeks before pumping

Pump whenever baby is being fed from a bottle to maintain milk supply

Baby unable to breastfeed, born prematurely, has health issues, or needs to be separated from mom

Start pumping as soon as possible

Pump every three hours to protect milk supply

Need to pump for work

Begin pumping and storing breast milk about three weeks before returning to work

Pump every three hours, matching the number of bottles baby takes while mom is away

When and how often to start pumping during the early weeks of breastfeeding baby

Managing milk production and storage

Managing your milk production and knowing how to properly store your milk are crucial skills in your pumping journey. Whether you’re trying to boost your supply or figuring out how many ounces you should aim for each day, understanding your body’s unique rhythm and capabilities is key.

We’ll also walk you through the best practices for safe and efficient milk storage, ensuring your precious supply is always ready when your baby needs it.

How to reach and maintain full milk production

Woman drinking water and eating a balanced meal

To reach and maintain full milk production, you need to consistently pump at regular intervals throughout the day.

Achieving and maintaining optimal milk production is a process that requires your dedication and smart strategies.

  • Pump frequently: The more milk you remove, the more your body will produce. Aim for 8-10 sessions every 24 hours to increase milk supply.

  • Hydrate and eat well: Your body needs sufficient fluids and nutrients to produce good milk supply. Drink plenty of water and consume a balanced diet.

  • Manage stress levels: High stress can impact milk production. Find ways to relax, such as meditation or deep-breathing exercises.

  • Pump both breasts simultaneously: Double pumping with a double electric breast pump can help stimulate milk production and save you time.

  • Ensure proper breast emptying: Make sure to pump until your breasts feel soft and emptied, or about two minutes after the last drop of milk.

How long does breast milk last after pumping?

Storing breast milk correctly is a crucial aspect of maximizing its freshness and nutritional value.

CountertopUp to 6 hours
RefrigeratorUp to 5 days
Freezer (separate-door)Up to 6 months
The recommended storage times for breast milk

After pumping, store the extra milk in clean, BPA-free bottles or bags specifically designed for storing pumped breast milk in. Label the containers with the date, so you’ll know when the milk was pumped. When freezing breast milk, lay storage bags flat for easier thawing, leaving extra room for expansion.

Quantifying your output: Ounces and daily totals

Keeping track of your breast milk output, both in ounces per session and total ounces per day, is vital for ensuring your baby’s nutritional needs are met.

Here’s how to establish how much milk you are pumping:

  • One breast at a time: Pump each breast separately to measure how much milk each is producing. This is especially helpful if milk flowing seems uneven.

  • Daily totals: At the end of the day, add up the ounces you’ve pumped from each session. This will give you a better understanding of your daily output. Consider the Pitcher Method if you plan to pump a lot.

  • Quantifying your output: Use a baby feeding app or a simple notepad to keep track of your output.

Understanding your body’s milk production can help you feel more confident and prepared.

Tips and best practices for pumping

You’ll find that with the right techniques and a bit of patience, you can maximize the benefits of pumping.

Maximizing the benefits of pumping

Pumping not only provides nourishment for your baby, but it also helps maintain your milk supply, and can even alleviate discomfort from engorged breasts or clogged ducts.

  1. Consistency is key: Establish a regular pumping schedule to stimulate milk production.

  2. Use the right technique: Ensure a proper latch to the pump for efficient milk extraction.

  3. Stay hydrated and nourished: Your body needs fuel to produce milk.

Essential tips for a smooth pumping experience

When choosing a breast pump, consider your budget, portability, and your baby’s needs. Seek opinions from friends and experts before purchasing, and remember that hospitals and WIC offices may offer rental or loaner pumps.

It’s important to ensure that pumping isn’t painful; adjust the flange size and suction if necessary. Consulting a lactation consultant can provide valuable assistance with pump setup and fit. Creating a comfortable environment can be hugely beneficial such as a pumping or breastfeeding chair.

When starting pumping, determine if you’re eligible for a free breast pump through your insurance. Avoid buying or borrowing a used pump due to hygiene concerns.

Always use breast pump flanges that fit properly to ensure comfort and effectiveness. Consider getting a hands-free pumping bra, to hold up the flanges, freeing up your hands.

And, however tempting, don’t skip nightly pumping sessions, as it can impact your milk supply.

Preparing for the pumping journey

Embarking on your pumping journey requires thoughtful preparation and a few key considerations. Let’s explore the crucial factors that can set you up for success from the onset.

Pumping allows you to:

  • Increase your milk supply

  • Feed your baby when you’re unable to breastfeed

  • Build a stockpile for emergencies

Pumping also provides opportunities for:

  • Bonding with your baby

  • Donating breast milk

  • Getting your baby comfortable with taking a bottle

Key considerations before you begin

Illustration titled 'Key Considerations Before You Begin' showing a woman with a contemplative expression, surrounded by books and guides about milk expressing, emphasizing the importance of preparation

Before you set off on your breast pumping journey, there’s a wealth of knowledge you’ll need to digest to ensure a smooth and successful experience. Your initial steps can make all the difference.

  • Consult your healthcare provider: Discuss your plans, any health concerns, and get recommendations for a suitable pump.

  • Understand your baby’s needs: Identify how much milk your baby consumes daily. This will guide your pumping schedule and amount.

  • Prepare for separation: If you’ll spend time away from your baby, consider a high-quality electric pump to maintain your milk supply.

  • Understand the different types of breast pumps available: There are electric, hand, single or double breast, and even hands-free pumps.

  • Decide when and how often you’ll pump and create a pumping schedule: This will depend on factors like your baby’s feeding schedule, your work routine, and your milk supply goals.

  • Familiarize yourself with the instructions for setting up and using your pump: Ensure that you have the correct flange size and know how to adjust the suction and speed settings.

  • Carefully select the flange size: Make sure to find a flange size that fits properly and adjust the suction level if necessary.


Congratulations! You’re now equipped with the knowledge and tools to become a pumping pro.

With this complete guide to breast pumping, you can confidently navigate the world of pumping and nourish your baby while balancing the demands of everyday life.

So grab your pump, pump like a champ, and watch your liquid gold flow.

Pumping 101 for new moms – you’ve got this!

Questions? We Have Answers.

The 120 rule suggests pumping for 120 seconds (2 minutes) after your milk flow stops to maximize breast milk production.

Beginners should pump for 15 minutes per session and gradually increase if needed, focusing on comfort and milk extraction.

Pump for about 15-20 minutes per session to maintain milk supply and avoid overstimulation or discomfort.

It’s generally better to pump after breastfeeding to help empty the breast and increase milk supply for the next feed.

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