How soon after baby is born should I start pumping?
It depends. Pumping during your baby’s first week can relieve engorgement, soften your breasts and help your baby latch on to your breast correctly. Engorgement usually resolves within the first week after your milk production begins, so you may pump only temporarily.
If you are pumping with the mission to store as much milk as possible for returning to work, you can begin by adding a pumping session per day around three to four weeks. Don’t worry if you only get 1 to 2 ounces in the beginning—that is normal in the first weeks. Use a double electric pump and place a warm compress on your breasts to prepare your body to release as much milk as possible.
Is the answer different for a mom who’s going back to work versus one who plans to stay home?
I recommend moms take as much maternity leave as they can and focus on caring for themselves and their baby. As tempting as it can be to, don’t try to do any major household projects. Plan to read a few books or binge on your favorite TV show … activities you can do while breastfeeding. If you have a strong milk supply when you head back to work, you are more likely to continue breastfeeding for the recommended 12 months. Start accumulating your freezer stash about four to six weeks before heading back to work and use hands-on-pumping to maximize your pumped milk.
If you are staying home with your baby, much of the same advice still applies. You will still need a freezer stash for date night or if you want to grocery shop alone, about 20 ounces should be enough.
What’s your best advice for pumping moms?
Juggling pumping and breastfeeding is tough at first, especially if you are heading back to work. Stick with it, and you will find a routine that works for you and your baby. To keep your milk supply strong breastfeed before and after work and on your days off—your baby is better at removing milk than any pump.
—Helen Anderson, MSN, BSN, RN, CLE, founder of Milkies and chief lactation officer at Fairhaven Health