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Pumping Early

Updated: Jul 27, 2022

By The Breastfeeding Team at SickKids

Breast milk has many benefits and acts like a medicine for sick and preterm babies. The first two weeks of your baby’s life are critical to establish your milk supply. Early and frequent breast stimulation is necessary in order to initiate the supply and demand system to build your milk supply. You need to start pumping as soon after birth (ideally within the first 6 hours) to program your breasts to make milk.

Milk Supply is a Supply and Demand concept: the more often you pump, the more milk you will make. Your breasts will not know how to make milk unless you tell it to!

Maintenance of breast milk production depends on the frequency and effectiveness of the stimulation of the breast and expression of breast milk.

Supply and demand response

Lack of breast milk removal decreases milk production and if prolonged, the weaning process begins.

• Pump as often as baby would feed or a minimum of 8x /24 hours

• Only one 4-hour stretch without pumping per 24 hours

• Pump at least once at night (Prolactin level)

• Double pump for 15-20 minutes or until adequately drained

• Hands-on pumping (breast massage during pumping) followed by hand expression

• Use hospital grade pump when available

Why promote Hand expression?

Hand expressing after using a double electric breast pump can help you make more milk. You can hand express directly into the milk collection bottles provided by the hospital. Hand expression is especially important in the early days after your baby’s birth.

• Effective for removing colostrum

• Higher milk volumes when combined with electric pumping

For more information about pumping, please visit our website:

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