You have a newborn, are sleep-deprived and trying to get the hang of this parenting thing and wondering when to fit pumping in too!? So, when do you really need to start anyway?
Well, it really depends on your goals and plans for breastfeeding or feeding your baby!
Some families choose to start pumping and bottle feeding from the start as this is what they decided will work best for them. This could be exclusive pumping or a mix of some breastfeeding and pumping.
Some Moms may plan to exclusively breastfeed and stay at home with their baby, or they may not plan to bottle feed until they return to work.
If breastfeeding is going well, I recommend waiting 4-6 weeks so you can work on breastfeeding and let the baby establish your milk supply. So, during this time the focus is to get into your breastfeeding groove and feed your baby according to their cues.
There are times it may be necessary to start pumping sooner, those include:
1. You are separated from your baby after birth. For instance, if they had to be admitted to the NICU.
2. Baby isn’t breastfeeding well for any reason. Pumping is important during this time to make sure your baby gets enough milk and also to protect your milk supply. Instead of your baby giving your body the signal to keep up production, you have to rely on your pump until they start breastfeeding better. If this is the case the best thing to do is make sure you are working with a lactation consultant to help your baby and make sure your supply doesn’t dip.
3. You decide to exclusively pump. In this case you would start pumping right after your baby is born.
4. Your supply is low due to a medical or other reason and your breasts need the added stimulation to help increase your supply. Again, this is a time I would highly suggest you work with a lactation consultant to help you find the underlying cause of your low supply.
Some Moms want to have a stash of milk in the freezer for times they might be away from their baby or just to have on hand for peace of mind. Around that 4-6 week mark you can start pumping once a day after your baby breastfeeds. At this point your milk is more established and adding that extra pump in a day shouldn’t put your production into too much of an overdrive. Morning is a good time to do this as this is the time your supply will be greater because of that nighttime prolactin surge.
If you plan to go back to work this is the general guideline:
Wait until around 6 weeks or when breastfeeding is established and going well (or 2-3 weeks before your return to work). Start adding in a pumping session each day in between feeds. You can offer a bottle to your baby a few times a week as well to get them used to the bottle, and when the baby gets a bottle, you pump. Any milk your baby won’t be drinking you can start storing in the freezer to have for back to work.
I hope this makes deciding when to start pumping a little bit clearer!
Written by Nicole Schwartz