How much breast milk you need to pump can depend on your baby’s age, weight, and other factors.
Becoming a parent is understandably nerve-wracking. Making sure your baby is getting fed enough (but not too much), sleeping (but only for the right amount of time), and staying healthy (is that diaper rash?) can leave even the calmest of people feeling stressed.
For breastfeeding or chestfeeding parents, knowing how much milk baby is getting can seem like a mystery. In fact, you may find yourself wondering if they are getting enough milk.
Even if you know exactly how much milk they’re getting because you’re pumping and feeding your baby with a bottle, you might worry about the amount and length of your pumping sessions. Are they frequent and long enough to get your baby the milk they need?
To lower your stress levels, we’ve gathered information to help you determine how much milk, on average, you should expect to pump.
We encourage you to speak with your doctor, your midwife, or a lactation expert about your specific situation if you have any questions or concerns.
Keep in mind that everyone is different — and ultimately, if your baby is growing and their pediatrician has no concerns, then chances are you are producing enough.
As babies grow, they need different amounts of milk. Their milk needs also change as you begin to introduce solids.
Every baby is also unique, and their milk needs may look different during periods of cluster feeding. Breastfed or chestfed babies also tend to eat more frequently than formula-fed babies.
Your baby’s stomach size and hunger cues are your best guide to when it’s time to feed them. You can also look out for other cues, such as wet and soiled diapers, to see whether your baby is getting enough milk.
Infants and toddlers present with different cues to let caregivers know they are hungry or full. The
|Hunger signals||Signs your baby is full|
|Birth to 5 months||turns head toward bottle or breast; places hands over mouth; puckers or smacks lips; clenches hands; crying (late-stage hunger)||turns head away from bottle or breast; closes mouth; relaxes (unclenches) hands|
|6 to 23 months||they get excited when they see food; reaches out toward bottle or other food source, or uses other hand motions; opens mouth||closes mouth; pushes bottle or food away, or uses other hand motions to indicate disinterest; turns head away from breast, bottle, or food|
Overall, the goal is to pump enough milk to fulfill your baby’s average daily intake. As your baby grows, their stomach volume will also follow suit.
While the average full-term infant may consume between 450 and 1,200 milliliters (mL) of milk — or 15 to 40 ounces (oz.) per day — it’s also important to consider the average stomach volume of your infant, which gradually increases during their first 4 weeks of life:
|Day 1||5–7 mL (0.17–0.24 oz.)|
|Day 3||22–27 mL (0.74–0.91 oz.)|
|Day 7||45–60 mL (1.5–2 oz.)|
|Day 30||80–150 mL (2.7–5 oz.)|
Rather than focusing solely on your baby’s age to determine their milk needs, it’s important to use a combination of their age, body weight, and hunger cues as your guide. Also, while newborns may nurse 8 to 12 times per day, the frequency decreases to about 7 to 9 times per day when your baby is 1 to 2 months old.
With all that in mind, the number of pumping sessions necessary to meet your milk goals can vary greatly, as can the amount of milk you produce in each session.
What to expect in the first 2 weeks
In the first 2 weeks of baby’s life, you should expect to feed them around 8 to 12 times per day. Your midwife or doctor will likely recommend feeding your little one every 2 to 3 hours.
And yes, that includes overnight. And yes, some babies eat even more frequently than that.
Frequent breast stimulation is important in the first hours, days, and weeks of your baby’s life to help increase breast milk volume. Through frequent sucking, your baby (or pump) helps your breast milk advance from colostrum to mature milk.
This is especially crucial in the first few days after your baby is born.
Getting baby to latch on and feed in the first hour after they’re born and making sure they can nurse 8 to 12 times per 24 hours in the first few days of life are two things that can make a huge difference in your long-term milk production.
Colostrum, the initial liquid produced by your breasts, is present starting around
Sometimes it’s called liquid gold because of its yellow color, and because it gives your baby all the nutrients and healthy antibodies they need in the first few days after they’re born. It’s produced in small quantities but offers the perfect nutrition for your newborn.
You can expect your breast milk to change from colostrum to transitional milk around 2 to 5 days after giving birth. Around 10 to 14 days after giving birth, your milk will likely be mature milk.
Your milk may come in more quickly if you’ve had babies before. On the other hand, some people experience a slight delay in their milk coming in. This can be due to several factors, like:
- premature birth
- cesarean delivery, commonly referred to as a C-section
- severe stress
For people who are pumping in the early days and weeks after giving birth, it’s good to know that you will likely produce only a few milliliters of colostrum during each pumping session. Once your milk comes in, it’s still expected that you’ll pump maybe only an ounce or so at a time.
What to expect in the first month
After the first couple weeks, you should expect to produce more milk per session, about 2 to 4 oz., and may be able to stretch out some of the overnight feedings (maybe to 4 to 5 hours between feedings). In total, you should expect to average around 8 to 10 sessions per day.
However, cluster feeding may also continue during this time. During periods of cluster feeding, feeding sessions may become shorter and more frequent, and they may also become irregular.
When baby is cluster feeding, they can be extra fussy, sometimes rejecting the nipple only to demand milk a few minutes later. Cluster feeding is your baby’s smart way to tell your body to make more milk, often when they’re getting ready for a growth spurt or developmental leap.
Cluster feeding can be an exhausting and emotional time, but hang in there! It will pass, and things will get easier.
What to expect in the first 2 to 4 months
Around the time baby reaches 2 to 4 months old, the feedings should become more regular, though you may still encounter some periods of cluster feeding or shifts in feedings if they are sick or reaching a new developmental milestone.
Growth spurts are also common at both the 2- and 4-month stages, which may cause your baby to eat more than normal. While every baby is different, it’s important to keep this in mind and to follow their hunger cues.
On average, babies at 4 to 5 weeks old reach their peak maximum daily milk intake of about 900 mL (30 oz.). This means you may expect your baby to drink about 90 to 120 mL (3 to 4 oz.) per feeding session.
After this stage, a baby’s daily milk intake doesn’t typically change until around 6 months of age, when they may start eating solids. You can also expect to feed your baby an average of 8 times per day. Every baby has different needs, so you can expect a range of between 4 and 13 feedings every day within the first 6 months.
Remember again, though, every baby is different, so if your baby still feeds more often, that’s likely OK.
If you’re returning to work, you may want to start pumping and storing milk during this time to prepare. Storing milk also makes it easier for other people to jump in and feed your baby, giving you a well-deserved break.
Just remember, when pumping milk after your little one eats, you may not produce as much milk during a pumping session as you would during a feeding session.
What to expect in months 5 and beyond
As your baby begins eating solids — typically at 6 months — you may see a reduction in the number of feeding sessions per day.
That said, some babies take longer to become interested in solids than others. Babies will get the majority of their nutrition from breast milk up to 1 years old, but solid foods can still be introduced after 6 months to aid in their development.
Even after introducing solids, your pediatrician may recommend continuing to breastfeed at a minimum through the first year of your baby’s life. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding until a baby is at least
If breastfeeding or chestfeeding is not working for you or your baby, discuss other feeding options and recommendations with a lactation specialist, if you have access to one, and your child’s pediatrician.
Ultimately, the best thing for your baby is to ensure they are getting enough nutrients, which can be achieved through breast milk, formula, solids, or a combination of these.
You may choose to exclusively pump, or you may want to do a combination of pumping and breastfeeding. You may even end up choosing to use only formula, and that’s OK, too. There’s no one right answer when it comes to feeding your baby.
Fully emptying your breasts frequently can increase milk production. You may notice that your milk supply increases if you nurse and then pump after a feeding session. You may also notice an increase in milk if you pump or nurse more frequently during the day.
If you’re exclusively pumping, you’ll want to focus on the amount of milk expressed in a 24-hour period and your breast comfort instead of the amount per pumping session. Ideally, you’ll express at least as much milk as your baby eats in that 24-hour period and pump frequently enough to avoid breast discomfort.
The number of pumping sessions you choose can vary depending on your supply, your comfort, and even your schedule. The amount of extra milk you choose to store is also very personal and may vary, depending on factors like your work schedule, child care options, or upcoming plans.
If you want to store some extra milk, you may wish to do an extra pump session during the day at a time when your baby’s feeding schedule won’t be disrupted. You can also pump for a few minutes after your baby is done feeding.
If you’ve noticed your milk supply decreasing or you just want to increase your current supply, there are many things you can try, including:
- power pumping
- increasing the amount of water your drink
- spending time relaxing skin to skin with your baby
- checking to make sure your pump is properly assembled and working well (make sure to check the size and fit of your breast pump flanges)
- using hand expression to stimulate milk production
- consuming some galactagogues, which are foods and beverages that increase your milk production
Be sure to talk with your doctor before using any medications or supplements to increase milk supply. There are risks associated with overproducing milk.
If you find that your milk supply is steadily declining, you have concerns about your baby’s feeding behavior, your baby is not wetting diapers normally, or your breasts are in pain after pumping sessions, it might be time to seek some assistance.
Many communities offer free (or very low cost) breastfeeding support groups. These groups are typically led by lactation consultants or knowledgeable parents with personal experience breastfeeding.
These support groups offer a chance to ask questions about latching, length and frequency of feeds, and breast discomforts. If you’re interested in connecting with such a group, you can reach out to the nearest La Leche League or check with your doctor, midwife, or local hospital.
An alternative to a support group is a private consultation with a lactation consultant or IBCLC, which refers to someone certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners.
These experts may ask questions about your baby, milk supply, pumping, and diet. They may also watch you as you nurse baby or assemble your pump.
After learning more about your specific situation, you can expect your lactation consultant or IBCLC to offer advice and support, as well as help you develop a plan of action for you and your baby going forward.
There may come a point in your feeding or pumping journey when you start to think about using formula.
Some people choose to feed their baby solely with formula and stop (or never even start) breastfeeding or pumping. Other parents choose to supplement with formula while continuing to offer breast milk.
Many factors can impact your decision to use formula. Some common ones are:
- Your baby is not putting on sufficient weight.
- You experience breast discomfort caused by blisters, sores, or bites.
- It’s a preference — not every parent enjoys breastfeeding, and it’s OK if you feel that way!
- You have less time to pump or breastfeed due to a return to work or other commitments.
The addition of formula can relieve stress if you find yourself worrying about producing enough milk for baby.
If you’re considering introducing formula, it’s often helpful to first discuss it with a lactation consultant or your child’s pediatrician to help you determine the best choice for you and your baby.
Pumping and breastfeeding or chestfeeding are very personal experiences. For some people, it’s possible to let down a great deal of milk quickly, but for others, the process can be frustrating.
It’s typical to worry when you have a newborn, but advice from your midwife, doctor, lactation consultant, or even other people who’ve been there before can help you relax.
If you’re worried about a specific problem or fear that you’re not producing enough milk for your baby, it’s a good idea to reach out to their pediatrician or a lactation consultant.