So you’ve just had your baby, yay! Or maybe you are still in those last days waiting for your baby to arrive. You’re excited, exhausted, and ready to get breastfeeding off to a great start.
You probably ordered a breast pump through your health insurance and either have it sitting at home or are impatiently waiting for it to arrive, wondering if it will come in time.
I bet you’ve heard a lot of other new moms talking about pumping. Pumping to bring in or help their supply. Pumping early on for their return to work. Maybe a health care provider has even mentioned pumping in the early days to you. And you’re wondering, how early can/should I start pumping?
There seems to be a pumping craze predominant these days! I’m going to be a small voice of reason going against this push to over-pump and say that for most women, put your pump away and do not touch it for at least the first month! Better yet, don’t take it out until 3 or so weeks before returning to work.
A side note here, there are reasons to pump in the early days: separation from baby, baby not latching, or baby not transferring milk well, but for most women pumping in the early weeks does more harm than good.
You do not need to pump to bring in your supply. Babies are generally much better at stimulating your breast and extracting milk than a breast pump. The best way to bring in a full milk supply is to breastfeed often, following your babies hunger cues. For women that are worried about their supply, often all it takes is offering to breastfeed more frequently.
Pumping in the first month can cause over-supply. In the first 4-6 weeks your body is trying to calibrate your milk supply to your baby’s needs. If you are feeding your baby at breast and pumping to bring in your supply, then you are telling your body you have twins! Over supply might not sound too bad but it comes with its own share of challenges, and there’s no need to bring it on through your own actions.
Most moms find pumping stressful when you are with your baby. Coordinating breastfeeding, taking care of baby, and pumping is very challenging. That’s in addition to the fact that in the first month or so you are still learning how to breastfeed and take care of your new baby. Many women also struggle to let down for a pump especially early on. Moms often worry that they are only getting x amount from the pump, so what is that saying about how much baby is getting? All of this causes needless stress and worry at a time that moms should be focusing on establishing breastfeeding, resting, and getting to know their baby. Extra stress for new parents is never a good thing.
You don’t need 100 million ounces of breastmilk in the freezer before returning to work! Ok, I’m exaggerating, but those freezers full of milk pictures always make me shake my head. You really only need enough milk for the first day, although most women will feel more comfortable with a few days of breastmilk stored in the freezer. Because you don’t need 100s of ounces frozen, there’s no need to pump early on for your return to work, unless you know there will be a trip or other reason you’ll be separated from baby coming up soon.
Take out your pump 3 weeks or so before returning to work and pick a time of day that makes sense for you to pump. Don’t freak out if you don’t get much, especially in the first few times because ideally your body will be making what your baby needs at this point. So, there won’t be too much left over for the pump. Pumping at the same time each day will start to tell your body to produce more for that feed, and you will slowly build your breastmilk stash.
So new moms, I hope I’ve given you some good reasons to leave your pump alone in those early weeks. Relax, rest, and focus on learning to breastfeed. Snuggle your baby and enjoy your maternity leave. We don’t get enough time home without the demands of pumping in this country so savor the time you have!