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A lot of readers have approached me concerning their pumping yield.
Most feel inadequate with the amount of milk they are able to pump.
Why do I only pump this such and such oz?
When can I pump 2 full bottles of milk?
Are you curious, too?
Do you question yourself, “How much milk should I be pumping?”
In this article, I’ll talk a little bit deeper about how much milk you should expect to pump (including real numbers from real pumping moms).
(this post may contain affiliate links)
When you are only getting drops or less than 1 oz...
This can be totally normal, especially if you are in the early weeks of breastfeeding or you are exclusively breastfeeding and pumping in between direct latch.
In fact, I still continue to get less than 1 oz (during the day) whenever I pumped to build my stash (or pumped during the weekend). Note that I was exclusively breastfeeding my daughter.
The picture below is the proof. Note that the one with about 2 oz milk is my pumping yield in the morning only. Other than my morning pump, I rarely get more than 1 oz per pump (both breasts).
Should you be getting 2 full of bottles eventually (especially if you are not nursing at all or away from your baby)?
I’d love to give some break down based on Nancy Mohrbacher’s infographic (click here to check it out; this will really open up your mind that you don’t need two full bottles of milk to produce enough milk).
In her infographic, Nancy mentioned that different moms have different breast storage capacity (which is, the maximum amount of milk that can be stored in the breast at a particular time).
(1) Large storage capacity
Nancy Mohrbacher mentioned in her article that if you get more than 4 oz per pumping session both breast with missed feeding (~150 ml or more), you have large breast storage capacity.
(So please take note of this, if you happen to see a photo of two full bottles of milk on Facebook or Instagram, that mom for sure has large breast storage capacity), which is considered beyond average.
Other sign of large storage capacity is baby usually nurse only on one side per feeding session.
(2) Average / medium storage capacity
This is when you pump in average 4 oz (~110 ml) both breasts or ~2 oz if pumping 60 minutes after feeding.
Your baby may take one or both breasts during feeding.
(3) Small storage capacity
This is when you probably never pump close to 4 oz even with missed feed, in average you may get ~75 ml per pumping sessions.
So you may say, then how will my baby gets enough if I only pump that small amount?
The key is in the frequency.
If you are under this category, your baby may nurse frequently (12x per day and often wake up at night for feeding).
Nancy also give a breakdown how every mom can still give enough milk to her baby despite her breast storage size. Check out her infographics for more explanation here.
OTHER FACTORS AFFECTING VARIATION IN PUMPING YIELD:
1. Whether you are exclusively pumping / missing feed or pumping in between direct latch.
If you are pumping in between nursing, you won’t get as much as if you pump without nursing at all. This is important to understand as a lot of moms freaks out easily when they found they get less than 1 oz while building their stash (and they still nurse their babies as well).
What they didn’t realize it, when they already return back to work, they will pump a lot more milk because they won't nurse their baby anymore during working hours.
2. How far along you are on breastfeeding
If you are just 1 week postpartum, don't expect to pump 4 oz of breast milk, even when your baby is not nursing at all. The truth is, your baby does not need that much of milk. Newborn's tummy is very small, and therefore only need a handful of breast milk in the early days. Check out this article to see how much milk a newborn needs in the first few days.
3. Whether you are supplementing
If you are supplementing your baby, expect to pump less than what your baby needs, especially in the beginning when you just started to increase your supply.
This is because, the more frequent you give supplemental feeding, your breast takes it as a cue that you no longer need to produce ample of milk.
4. The time of the day when you are pumping
The hormone that is responsible for making milk is fluctuating throughout the day. Past midnight to early morning is usually the time when you produce a lot of milk (so, take advantage of this to pump if needed).
On the other hand, in the evening it is very normal if your breast slows down the milk production and thus you may pump less milk. Isn't it why your baby tends to cluster feed in the evening, not in the morning?
So, don't be alarmed if you don't get exactly the same amount of milk throughout the day. The most important thing is to look at the total pumping output you get throughout the day.
5. Pumping techniques
Just like any other things, practice makes perfect. If you just start to pump and getting only drops, don't feel discouraged. Take this as an opportunity to practice pumping before you return back to work.
Additionally, you need to know important pumping tips that can help you to pump more milk and empty your breast efficiently. Make sure that you:
- experience let-down during pumping
- use the right size of breast shields
- do hands-on pumping
If you feel you need to amp up your pumping game, check out my popular pumping 101 series here. You'll find a lot more pumping tips there!
6. Breast pump and pumping parts quality
If you've been pumping for a while and suddenly noticed a drop in yield, check if you need to change the pump valves or membranes. Sometimes, simple things like these can affect the pump's suction and its ability to empty the breasts well.
If you are still stuck, ask yourself, are you using a good quality breast pump? While some moms are doing fine and pumping ample of milk using whatever breast pumps, some others need a little help and the choice of breast pump matters a lot.
I suggest to use only good-quality breast pumps such as Spectra or Medela (don't easily fall for newer models that may be cheaper but with unknown quality).
PS: If you consider to shop for a good quality pump, Spectra S1 has been receiving a lot of rave reviews from moms (working moms, exclusive pumping moms, preemie moms, even twin moms). You can check my detailed review here.
4. Psychological factor
Are you stressed? Nervous? Feeling fed up of something? This kind of feeling can hinder your ability to release the milk from the breast, resulting in lower pumping yield.
5. Hormonal issues
Are you on birth control, having thyroid problem, diabetes or insulin resistance? These hormonal issue may affect how much milk your body can produce.
Additionally, pregnancy can also cause of lower pumping output. This is because your body is gradually changing its focus from producing milk to preparing for your new baby.
REAL PUMPING YIELDS FROM VARIOUS MOMS
I thought it would be interesting to see real pumping yields from different moms. This is to show you that indeed every body is different.
Let me share mine for a start:
With baby #2:
When building stash: ~ 60 ml in the morning, 5-15 ml in other time (nap time, night time). This is in conjunction with direct feeding.
At work: 70-120 ml per pumping session. Usually more in the morning, gradually decreases in the afternoon (blame those stressful meetings, lol). Pumping frequency: 3x at work.
With baby #1: 30-40 ml at work (per pumping session), so totalling 120 ml per day. Pathetic huh, but I felt proud of it, haha...
Here's from Samantha:
My baby is 26 days old now and this is my first baby. I'm an exclusive pumping mum due to baby refuse to latch on).
I'm pumping 6x per day and able to get an average of 100 ml per session. My baby is drinking 2 oz per feed in every 2 to 2.5 hour gap so I'm only getting just enough breast milk for her.
Shaylyn's pumping yield:
3.5 hours away from baby I pump between 1.5-3 oz, next pumping session (3 hourslater) 2.3-3.5 oz, and finally last pumping session (2 hours later) 1.5-2.5 oz.
My baby is not full from the amount of milk I am able to pump and we do supplement with formula or donor milk while I am away. He takes one supplement bottle mid-day to evening on days that I am home and usually about 4 oz at which time I try to pump and often have 5-15 ml output after having nursed him.
+ Shaylyn has given a great example how she get different amount of pumping yield throughout the day!
Here's from Aishwarya:
I've been exclusively pumping for my first child (only one so far.. lol) for one year and one month (still planning to continue).
When my son was not able to gain weight on direct feeding(infact decreasing), I switched to exclusive pumping only after one and half months.
I pumped only 250 ml on my first day and got discouraged when I saw in internet that babies need an average of 750 ml per day.
In 45 days of pumping 8 times per day, I was able to cope up with my baby's needs. After 60 days of exclusive pumping I was able to pump extra milk (800 ml per day).
At 5 months postpartum I was able to pump 1200 ml at the max per day.
After 9 months pp(postpartum) I pumped 900 ml per day (pumped 5 times per day).
At the end of one year I pumped 700 ml per day(pumped 4 times per day).
Now I pump only 3 times per day and aim for 600 ml.
+ Looking at how much she's pumping (roughly 175 ml - 200 ml per session), Aishwarya is definitely having larger than average breast storage capacity. Also notice that when she decreased her pumping frequency, her overall pumping output also decreases.
WHAT'S MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR PUMPING YIELD
1. Total pumping output in a day
Rather than focusing on a particular pumping output in a single session, check your overall pumping output throughout the day. You may get the most in the morning, slightly lower in the afternoon and evening, but as long as the total pumping amount meets your baby's need, there's nothing to worry about.
2. Whether your baby is growing and meeting milestones
Perhaps you meet a situation whereby a close relative recommend to increase your baby's feeding amount because he looks skinny? Rather than focusing on the outer appearance, it's better to check if your baby has been growing and meeting milestones.
PS: if you are plotting his growth chart, be aware that there's a special growth chart for exclusively breastfed baby. Don't compare EBF baby's growth with the ones taking formula. It can be misleading.
3. Appreciate every single milk drop that you get
Rather than fussing over the amount, be happy with any amount milk that you get to pump.
Never ever think that small amount of milk is useless. Don't. Just accumulate first and you may be surprise on how much you get when you combine all.
4. Stop comparing yourself with other moms
It's easy to feel upset when you saw pictures of breast milk again on your social media feed. And suddenly, the feeling of contentment disappear and you want to increase your pumping output just because others can do it.
Remember, your baby and you are unique. Your baby may not need gigantic amount of breast milk like others. What your baby needs is your breast milk and your confidence that you can provide enough for him.
Trust your body, you can do this =).
:: I hope this little info can motivate you, that no matter how little milk you can pump right now, you can continue to provide breast milk for your little ones. Don't forget to share this to other pumping mamas =).