Whether you are exclusively pumping for your baby or you are looking to combine breastfeeding and pumping, it can be very difficult to figure out an ideal pumping schedule.
As a mom who has exclusively pumped, nursed, and also formula fed my babies, I will use this post to share the best pumping schedules for different scenarios. In addition, I will be reviewing how to efficiently pump breast milk, how long to pump, and recommended breast milk quantities by your baby’s age.
Please note, there are affiliate links in this post. Read our disclosure policy to learn more.
How To Pump Breast Milk
Before we discuss what a pumping schedule should look like, it’s vital to understand how to pump breast milk. This article is not intended to delve into the basics of pumping breast milk. So I recommend you check out the following article with an overview of how to use a breast pump.
Additionally, if you are looking to learn everything you need to know about exclusive pumping, then I highly recommend you check out the ultimate exclusive pumping online course from Milkology. It is more than worth the small cost if you have been struggling.
Not only do you need to understand how to pump, but you also need to have the right pumping gear. Be sure you have the following pumping items too.
- Breast pump
- Bottles: I recommend getting ones that are compatible with your pump. For example, I used Medela bottles because I had a Medela Pump In Style Advanced pump.
- Breast milk storage bags: these are the best brand
- Hands free pumping bra: this one was my favorite
- Burp cloths: I recommend flannel ones
- Breast pads
- Lanolin cream
- Nursing bras: Target has a great selection
You will also want to find a spot with a chair that has good back support. No slouching while you pump! It will reduce the amount of milk you produce. I also always had something with me like a book, phone, or tablet, because pumping sessions can get pretty repetitive and boring.
How Long Should You Pump?
If you have a double electric breast pump, which, by the way, I highly recommend for maximum efficiency, then your pumping sessions will typically last anywhere from 12 to 17 minutes. The actual pumping will be 10 to 15 minutes with 1 minute for setup and 1 minute for clean up.
If you are using a single breast pump then your pumping session will likely be double this time. This assumes you need to pump both of your breasts.
How Much Milk Should I Be Pumping?
The amount of breast milk you should pump per session will vary by your baby’s age. Additionally, as the day goes on and your energy dwindles, your milk supply also goes down.
Your first pumping session of the day will almost always produce the greatest amount of breast milk. Check out the breast milk quantity chart by baby’s age below. This will give you an idea of how much breast milk you should be producing if you are exclusively pumping.
Keep in mind, if you pump a lot in the morning, then you might use some of this milk for more than one feeding during the day. This will help make up for a smaller milk supply later in the day.
Feedings per Day
Breast Milk / Day (oz)
Average Oz per Feed
24 - 30
2 - 3
24 - 30
4 - 5
5 - 6
24 - 30
4 - 6
How To Store Breast Milk
If you will not be feeding your pumped breast milk within 4 hours, then it will need to be refrigerated. I would keep my pumped breast milk for fridge storage in bottles.
Breast milk lasts for 4 days in the fridge, and after that, it will need to be frozen. When it was time to freeze breast milk, I would pour it in a breast milk storage bag.
Don’t forget to fill out the label with the date when freezing your breast milk.
How Often Should You Pump?
At least initially, you will need to pump for every feed that your newborn baby has. This will help build and maintain your milk supply. Going beyond the newborn phase, the general rule will remain the same. Pump for every feed your baby has.
However, once you have an established milk supply, if you miss pumping once or twice a week, it probably won’t make a big difference. I know personally, I was always so nervous about skipping a pumping session, so I rarely did it.
And, don’t forget, if it just becomes too hard to keep up, then you can always supplement with formula.
Additionally, if you are having difficulty producing enough breast milk, then you might need to increase your pumping sessions to keep up with your baby’s appetite.
For more milk supply tips, check out this article to find out what to do when you are struggling with your milk supply while pumping.
On top of that, if you really want to nail down any milk supply problems, then Milkology has you covered. Check out the Pump It Up online class. This class is designed specifically to solve milk supply issues for pumping mamas. And, again, it is super affordable, so it’s totally worth the small price tag.
Exclusive Pumping Schedule For A Newborn
When your baby is a newborn, there really is no set schedule. It’s feeding on demand and it can be exhausting.
Your baby will typically be hungry every 2 hours. Plus, the time between feedings starts at the beginning of the feed. So, if a feed takes 30 minutes, that means in another 90 minutes you will probably be starting another feed. The good news is you know this crazy schedule is temporary.
Here is an idea of what to expect for a newborn pumping schedule.
- Newborn: 8 pumps/day @ 6am, 8am, 10am, 1pm, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm, midnight
If you are struggling to pump enough milk, you can always add another pumping session or two. Also, make sure you stay hydrated and are eating enough healthy foods too. And, if that’s still not helping, then check out the Pump It Up course from Milkology that was mentioned above.
Exclusive Pumping Schedule Examples
As your baby gets older his schedule will become more dependable. The time between feedings will increase and the length of each feed will decrease. In other words, it slowly gets easier!
Take a look at the lists below for example pumping schedules as your baby gets older.
- 3 to 6 months: 6 pumps/day @ 6am, 9am, noon, 3pm, 7pm, 11pm
- 6 to 10 months: 5 pumps/day @ 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, 11pm
- 10+ months: 4 pumps/day @ 8am, noon, 4pm, 11pm
These are meant to be example schedules that give you an idea of what to expect when exclusively pumping for your baby. As your baby gets older, especially past 6 months, the number of required pumping sessions could be less than listed here.
I definitely recommend you modify the pumping times listed to fit your needs. This is meant to give you an idea of what a pumping schedule might look like.
Pumping Schedule For Combined Nursing And Pumping
If you are doing a combined nursing and pumping schedule, it can seem complicated. A typical situation where this arises is for working moms.
A general rule of thumb for pumping at work schedules, is to pump for any feed you miss while you are away from your baby. However, I will say from personal experience, that I only pumped twice a day at work. Meanwhile, my baby would eat three times while I was working.
Quite often, 2 pumps per day was enough breast milk for my baby. Pumping more than twice a day at work was going to be difficult, so this is what I committed to.
I knew I might have to supplement with formula, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was a very small amount of formula. And, some days, my baby didn’t need any formula at all.
If you are looking for example pumping at work or example combined pumping and nursing schedules, then you will want to check out this post.
There you have it, now you have a general overview of what to expect from pumping and some sample pumping schedules.
If you’re interested, be sure to grab your free printable example pumping schedules. Also included is a blank schedule you can fill in with your own specific pumping times.
Finally, if you need any help at all with pumping I can’t recommend enough the pumping classes from Milkology. It’s highly likely you will find a class for your specific needs too, whether you are exclusively pumping, need help with your milk supply, or will be pumping at work.
I hope this post has helped answer some questions about typical pumping schedules. Good luck on your pumping adventures mama, you’ve got this!