Ask an Expert: Pumping to Get Milk to Come In

***Ask an Expert is a blog feature hosted by a team of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). Once a month each IBCLC randomly chooses a question from The Badass Breastfeeder Facebook wall and provides their response on the blog.

By Wendy Wisner, IBCLC

Fan Question: “I had my son a week ago. I am pumping to get my milk to come in because he lost weight. I was wondering how long do I need to pump?  I pumped earlier today and got an ounce and a half from each breast after 20 minutes and then nothing.”

Hi there!  Well, according to the date that this was posted, your baby was 3-4 days old, which is exactly when breastmilk becomes more abundant (or “comes in”).   It is completely normal for breastfed babies to lose about 5-7% of their birthweight in these first few days (here is more about that and about weight loss/gain in general).   But when your milk comes in, weight gain should start to pick up.  Your baby should not continue to lose weight.  I recommend a weight check in the next few days to confirm that your baby’s weight is beginning to increase.  A weight gain of about an ounce per day at that point would be normal.

As for pumping, getting a total of 3 ounces from twenty minutes of pumping sounds right on target!  Depending on how frequently you empty your breasts, anywhere from 2-5 ounces per pumping or nursing session is perfect.   In answer to your question about how long to pump for, 20 minutes is an average amount of time and is usually sufficient.  You can pump until nothing is coming out, take a short break, and then try again for another few minutes.  You never know if another “let-down” will happen.   Massage and hand expression are also useful techniques for yielding extra milk during a pumping session.  If your baby isn’t latching or is latching poorly, then you’ll want to make sure you have the highest quality pump to establish your milk supply – a hospital grade (rental) pump is highly recommended.

I hope all is well with you.  If your baby isn’t latching, is causing you pain, or continues to lose weight even after your milk “comes in,” please see an IBCLC right away!

unnamedWendy Wisner is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), writer, and mother of two amazing boys.  In addition to her work with breastfeeding moms, she has published two books of poems, and a handful of articles about mothering and breastfeeding.  She blogs at www.nursememama.com.

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