It is common for mothers to feel anxious and want to start pumping sooner to build up their supply, but then you could be dealing with an oversupply. In the end, it depends on your situation. Read on to find out when to start pumping breast milk for you.
When to start pumping breast milk
When you should start to pump breast milk will depend on your personal situation. If you are returning to work soon, then you should start using your breast pump sooner rather than later so that you have a stockpile of breast milk.
However, if you are not returning to work for a while, then you may want to wait a few weeks before starting to use your breast pump. This will give your body time to adjust to the new demands of breastfeeding and pumping.
There are some things to keep in mind when pumping breast milk. First, you will need to figure out how much milk you are pumping and how often.
This will help you gauge whether you are producing enough milk and whether you need to increase or decrease your pumping schedule.
Additionally, it is important to store pumped milk properly and make sure you are sanitizing your breast pump parts regularly. Finally, you will need to supplement with formula if there is not enough breast milk for your baby.
When to start pumping right away
Some mothers might need to start using their breast pump right away. Here are some reasons you might want to start from day one:
Returning to work
If you are returning to work soon, then it is important that you begin using your breast pump as soon as possible. This way you will have a stockpile of breast milk to feed your baby while at work.
You can start by pumping 3 times a day after you nurse your baby.
Always start with more if you feel like it, but usually, it will be enough to pump at least every 4-6 hours (during the day) and then once during the night as well.
If you do not know how much milk you are producing, then here is an easy way to figure it out:
At the beginning of each pumping session, pump for 15 minutes. This should typically get 1-2 ounces. You can increase this amount by increasing your suction or decreasing your breaks between pumps.
You should be able to tell whether there is an oversupply or an undersupply.
If your baby is satisfied with the amount of milk he/she gets, then there is no reason to pump more than this amount. Read how much breast milk the average baby needs at each feeding if you are unsure of how much to pump.
You can also check out this pumping log to keep you organized.
Your baby is in the NICU
If you need to be separated from your baby due to an illness, surgery, or other reason, then you will need to make sure you are pumping enough breast milk for them.
If your baby is sick and in the NICU, then it is important that they get all of their feedings from breast milk until they recover. You will need to pump right from the beginning so they can get breast milk through a nasogastric tube or a feeding tube.
If your baby needs to spend more than a few days in the NICU, then your doctor might recommend that you express your breast milk so that you have bottles on hand in case it’s needed.
You have chosen to exclusively pump
If you are choosing to exclusively pump (EP), then you will need to pump breast milk for your baby instead of breastfeeding.
If you are exclusively pumping, then there is no reason not to start as soon as possible. Just make sure that your baby does not get any supplemental bottles and start with a pumping schedule right away.
Problems that can occur if you start pumping too soon
An oversupply can also lead to plugged ducts, which is when your breasts have trouble making milk because of a clog of milk that blocks the nipple. Plugged ducts can be painful and there might even be a fever involved.
Finally, an oversupply can prevent you from accurately gauging how much breast milk you are producing, which can make it difficult to know when you should stop pumping.
When to wait to pump
It is recommended for mothers to wait a few weeks before starting to pump. This is because their body needs time to adjust to the new demands of breastfeeding and pumping. Additionally, there are some things to keep in mind when pumping breast milk:
You will need to figure out how much milk you are pumping and how often. This will help you gauge whether you are producing enough milk and whether you need to increase or decrease your pumping schedule.
Additionally, it is important to store pumped milk properly and make sure you are sanitizing your pump parts regularly.
Finally, you will need to supplement with formula if there is not enough breast milk for your baby.
When you are trying to build up a freezer stash
Once your baby is around 3-4 weeks old, you might want to begin pumping breast milk so that you can build up a freezer stash.
Typically, mothers will try and wait as long as possible before they introduce the bottle because they want to avoid nipple confusion. However, if you are wanting to build up a supply just in case or for date night then you can start pumping earlier.
If you are trying to boost your supply
If you are worried that you are struggling with a low supply after breastfeeding for a few weeks, then this is the time to start pumping to boost breast milk production.
After you nurse your baby, your body will let down and release oxytocin, which is also called the “milk ejection reflex” or “let-down reflex”. This oxytocin causes the breast milk to flow from your alveoli (the milk-producing glands in your breasts) and into the ducts in your breast.
The more often you pump after you nurse your baby, the more milk your body will release. This is because the breast milk that was in your ducts through breastfeeding will be released when you pump.
You can also add a power pumping session after you have put your baby down for the night. That way you aren’t taking away from your baby before they go to sleep for their longest stretch for the night and you will still have enough time to replenish your supply when they wake up.
Read more about power pumping.
Other considerations when starting to pump
There are other things to think about when you start pumping breast milk. You need to figure out how much milk you are pumping and how often, and make sure you are sanitizing your pump parts. You might also want to start storing pumped milk in case you need it later.
Finding the right pump
Finding the right pump can be difficult, but it is one of the most important things you will need to do. Usually, mothers have a lot of questions about whether or not they are producing enough milk, so having a good quality breast pump can help ease their concerns.
It can also be emotionally draining to start pumping breast milk after giving birth because your breasts may feel uncomfortably full or engorged. Good breast pumps can help relieve your discomfort and encourage your body to produce even more milk.
Hospital-grade breast pumps have more power than a regular electric pump, so it will drain the milk faster. This is great if you experience pain while pumping because you won’t have to use it for as long.
You can also rent a breast pump to determine which type you prefer. If you aren’t sure whether or not you will need one, then it might be smart to rent one first so that you don’t have to buy one and end up not using it.
Read more information on the best breast pumps for inducing lactation fast.
Storing breast milk safely is important. Never store breast milk in the trunk of your car or outside during winter. You can store it in your fridge if it is under 40 F, but you should keep it in a cooler when transporting it because breast milk can warm up to dangerous temperatures very quickly.
Be sure that you are labeling and dating all of your bags of breast milk so that you can rotate them correctly. It is best to store your milk in smaller quantities because it will be used up more quickly than larger ones.
Read more about how to safely store your breastmilk.
Warming stored milk
If you need to warm up your stored milk, then you should never microwave it. This will cause the nutrients in the milk to denature and lose their effectiveness. You can use a pan of hot water or place the container into a bowl of hot water instead.
Another way is to lay it in a bowl in the fridge to slowly thaw out.
Read more ways to warm breast milk.
A quicker way to have the milk warmed consistently, is using a bottle warmer.
Introducing a bottle
Introducing a bottle can be difficult depending on your baby. They may not take to the bottle right away, or it could be easy.
You can try to get your baby used to the bottle by feeding them pumped breast milk that is in a bottle ahead of time. You can also start this process a few weeks before you are returning to work.
Having a family member or spouse help introduce the bottle can really help.
Be sure to read if you want to learn more about introducing a bottle and which bottles work well for breastfed babies.
Feeding your baby with pumped breast milk
If you would like to nurse your baby while you are also bottle feeding. There are some important things to do to keep your baby happily breastfeeding and bottle feed at the same time.
Pace bottle feeding is when you pace the flow of the milk going through the bottle. This helps mimic the flow of milk when breastfeeding.
If you let gravity dictate the flow, they can get used to and prefer bottles over breastfeeding.
Read more about pace bottle feeding.
Finally, if you are worried that you aren’t producing enough breast milk, then this is the time to start pumping to boost your production.
If you’re anxious to start pumping breast milk after giving birth, know that there is no one correct answer as to when to start. You may want to wait until your body has regulated itself and you’ve started producing more milk. If you are returning to work soon, then starting sooner may be a better option for you. In the end, it depends on your unique situation. Whatever your decision, make sure you have a good quality pump. That way you can ease any anxieties about whether or not you are producing enough milk. And don’t forget to store and label those precious bags of breast milk!