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8 frequently asked questions about breastfeeding and pumping

Infant looking at a manual breast pump

Breastfeeding may be natural, but that doesn’t mean it comes without questions. Whether you’re breastfeeding for the first time or looking for answers because this experience is different from the last, Lactation Consultant Andrea Sanmiguel answers some of the most asked questions. 

1. What are the benefits of breast milk? 

Breast milk has many benefits for both moms and babies. Breastfed babies have a lower risk for SIDS, certain childhood cancers, obesity, asthma, and diabetes. They also receive antibodies from their mothers, which can lead to fewer illnesses. 

Moms who breastfeed or pump milk have lower rates of certain cancers, including breast cancer. They also have less risk of developing osteoporosis (brittle bones), diabetes, and heart disease.  

2. How long should I breastfeed? 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of your baby’s life. Then you can continue to breastfeed while introducing age-appropriate foods. Breastfeeding is recommended for the first 2 years of your child’s life or as long as desired by you and your child.  

3. How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk? 

If your baby seems satisfied after feeding and is gaining weight appropriately, they are likely getting enough milk. In the early days, it may be helpful to track your baby’s feedings as well as their wet and dirty diapers. Here is a link with what to expect. If you are concerned, you can call your baby’s healthcare provider and schedule an appointment with a breastfeeding specialist.  

4. How much do babies eat on average? 

During the first few weeks, your baby will likely breastfeed 10-12 times in a 24-hour period. Nighttime feedings can be exhausting but are important for your baby’s growth and to help you make enough milk. Each breastfeeding session can take up to 30 minutes. If they are taking longer, a breastfeeding specialist may be able to help.  

The amount of milk babies take by bottle varies from baby to baby and changes with age. Babies will generally take 2-3 ounces per feeding by 2-3 weeks of age. By 1 month, this typically increases to 3-4 ounces per feeding. The average breastfed baby will eat roughly 24-32 ounces of milk per day if only fed by bottle.  

5. When should I pump breastmilk? Will this help me build a freezer stash? 

In general, your baby should breastfeed on demand, especially during the first 2 weeks of life. This is your baby’s way of telling your body how much milk to make. Adding extra pumping at this point can lead to making too much milk, which can be uncomfortable for you and lead to feeding issues for your baby. 

If you are looking to build a freezer stash, you can start pumping when your baby is 3-4 weeks old. Pumping after 1-2 feedings a day for 10-15 minutes is usually enough. Pumping too frequently or for long periods of time can lead to making too much milk.

If your baby is drinking milk in a bottle, whether this is when your baby is 10 days old or 10 months old, make sure to pump each time your baby gets a bottle. This will help ensure your body continues to make the milk your baby needs.  

6. How long is pumped breastmilk good? Are there guidelines for heating, storage, etc.? 

The chart below outlines how to prepare and store breastmilk for healthy babies: 

Where to store 

How long to store 

Freshly pumped at room temperature  

6-8 hours  

In a cooler with freezer pack  

24 hours  

In the refrigerator  

5-8 days  

In the freezer  

6-12 months  

Thawed from frozen  

Up to 24 hours  

Fortified in the fridge  

Up to 24 hours  

Once bottle feeding started  

Must use within 1-2 hours  


Other tips for storing and preparing breastmilk include: 

  • Place breastmilk in a cooler or fridge as soon as possible.  
  • Avoid adding warm milk to already cooled or frozen milk.  
  • Thaw breastmilk in the fridge overnight or in a bowl of warm water.  
  • Do not microwave breastmilk.  

For additional information on safely storing breastmilk, click here.  

7. I’m returning to work soon. How should I prepare? 

If your baby has been exclusively breastfeeding, start offering a bottle daily. Have someone other than mom give the bottle. When you are home, try to breastfeed as often as you can. You can also package your milk in small amounts the first week away, as your baby may prefer small, frequent feeds at first.  

Your supply may decrease upon your return to work – this is normal! The following tips can help increase your supply: 

  • Watch videos of your baby while pumping to help you relax and achieve a better let down. 
  • Try to pump at least as often as baby was breastfeeding at home. 
  • Aim for 15 minutes of pump time, minimum. 
  • Warm your breast flange under hot water and massage before pumping to help with flow. 

8. What support is there for breastfeeding moms?

It really does take a village. Many birth hospitals have breastfeeding support groups that meet regularly to support moms. Your pediatrician’s office may have a lactation specialist available, and support is also available through WIC. Children’s Mercy also has several references available on topics like diet, milk supply, pumping and common problems. You may also contact Children’s Mercy’s lactation help line at (816) 346-1309. Calls answered Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 



Lactation Consultant