Pumping Breast Milk

Mother pumping milk from her breasts.
Mother pumping milk from her breasts.

When you are away from your baby, you can pump or hand express milk from your breasts ahead of time so that your baby can drink your breast milk from a  bottle.

When to Start Pumping

If you are planning to return to work or school or will be away from your baby for other reasons, you may want to start pumping a few weeks beforehand. This will give you the chance to practice pumping and will give your baby time to get used to feeding from a bottle.

How Often to Pump

When away from your baby, try to pump at the same times or as often as your baby is breastfeeding.
This will help remind your body to keep making the amount of milk your baby needs.

How Much to Pump

Did You Know?

Hand expression is one way to express milk if your breasts are feeling extra full, if you do not have access to a manual or electric breast pump, if you are unexpectedly separated from your infant, or if you want to make more milk. It is good for all mothers to know how to do this.

To hand express, you use your hand to massage and compress your breast to remove milk. While it takes practice, skill, and coordination, it gets easier over time.

Pumping at the same times or as often as your baby normally breastfeeds should help your body make about the amount of milk your baby needs. This amount may differ from baby to baby and can change as babies grow. If you find that you are not able to pump as much milk as your baby wants to eat while you are away, you may want to consider adding another pumping session to increase your milk supply.

How to Keep Your Pump Clean

Keeping the parts of your pump clean is very important. For information on how to keep your pump parts clean before and after use, visit How to Keep Your Breast Pump Kit Clean: The Essentials.

How to Make Pumping Work for You

Talk with a lactation consultant for tips on how to help make pumping work for you.

How to Safely Store and Handle Your Breast Milk

By following safe preparation and storage techniques, you can maintain the high quality of expressed breast milk and the health of your baby. For answers to questions on how to prepare and store breast milk, such as where to store breast milk at work, and what to do when the power goes out, visit CDC’s Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk Frequently Asked Questions.