Pumping breastmilk should not be too quick nor too prolonged as it may affect a mother’s breastmilk supply. There is no exact answer and set time that will answer the question “how long does it take to pump breast milk?” because each pumping session is different. This is because there are a lot of factors that can influence the length of pumping time which includes comfortability, the mother’s breast milk supply, and stimulation of the mother’s milk ejection reflex.
There however is an average amount of time most pumping moms take when expressing milk. A normal pumping session, say in an office setting should last anywhere between 20-30 minutes with at least 10-15 minutes per side. This is to accommodate at least two to three letdowns to ensure that the breasts will almost be emptied of milk.
Although a pump can never fully empty the breast, having at least three letdowns creates a demand for it to make more milk again. Remember, pumping sessions are not only meant to express milk for the baby. Pumping sessions are meant to continue creating a demand for breastmilk, so that a mother’s milk supply will remain stable even while the mother is away from the baby.
For those who may be unfamiliar about the term, “letdown” means the flowing of breast milk. In one pumping session, the mother should aim to have at least two to three letdowns.
Letdowns usually occur after several minutes of pumping, and the mother should be patient enough to wait for the second and the third one to take place. The second and third letdowns occur anywhere between five to ten minutes from the last drop of pumped milk from the initial letdown.
Getting a second and third letdown is critical in getting enough pumped milk and maintain breast milk supply. Having two to three let downs per breast pumping session stimulates let down and signals the breast to continue making milk even without an actual nursing session.
Apart from actual breast milk expression, pumping moms and employers should also take into consideration the time needed to set up the breast pump and pumping area. The time to tidy up and pack away the pumping paraphernalia should also be considered. Packing away will usually take no less than five minutes and is taken into consideration as pumping time.
As for the other type of pumping — which is pumping to ease engorgement, the answer to the question “How long does it take to pump breast milk” is less than five minutes. Only one let down is needed when pumping for comfort. Why? Because when you pump until you get two to three let downs like when you miss a nursing a session then you are creating a more demand for milk. And when you send a signal to the brain to pump more milk, it can lead to further breast engorgement and over supply.
So basically, the rule when expressing milk to ease engorgement is to just pump until you feel comfortable already and when baby can already manage the possible forceful letdown from your engorged breasts.
In case you want to hasten your pumping session. Here are some suggestions you may want to consider:
- Use an electric pump instead of a manual one. Electric pumps have a consistent suction and are more efficient in expressing milk from your breasts. Having said that, choose an efficient pump over a cheap electric one that does not just have a poor suction power. Cheap pumps cannot help maintain breastmilk supply.
- Use a dual breast pump. Using a single electric pump would mean having to pump twice the amount of time you need in pumping a breast. Use a dual pump so you can express milk from both breasts at the same time. This helps save on time.
- Massage and compress breasts while pumping to stimulate let downs and milk flow. Proper breast massage techniques will help stimulate your milk ejection reflex, paving the way for letdowns.
- Look at photos, videos, and slideshows of your little one. Studies show that thinking about your nursling helps stimulate your milk ejection reflex.
- Use wipes and bags so you don’t have to clean out pump parts every breast pumping session. Instead store the pump parts in a clean ziploc bag and store with your pumped milk in the refrigerator or your cooler bag so you could use it in the next pumping session without having to wash in between. Wash then the pump parts when you get home.
So there you have it, expressing milk outside the home should not be complicated. Just use working- mom friendly breastfeeding paraphernalia and you can avoid time sucks that can further delay and prolong your pumping sessions.