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When Should I Start Pumping?

If you are planning to breast/chest feed, you may be wondering how, if and when to use a bottle and how and when to use a breast pump in order to use your own milk in the bottle or to build a freezer stash for later use.

The World Health Organization recommends that infants be exclusively breast/chest fed (no other food or liquids - including water) for at least 6 months and up to 2 years and beyond. It is not recommended to give pacifiers or bottles during this time, however, this is not always possible for many reasons and, with the support of a trauma-informed lactation consultant, many families can safely feed their baby in ways that work for them and their situation.

Some families choose to bottle feed exclusively, some want to use a mix of breast/chest feeding and bottle feeding, and some want to be able to use a bottle occasionally in order to have some time away from the baby, get more rest, or have the other parent bond with the baby.

Let's talk about some recommendations for using the bottle as an occasional tool.

Learning to breast/chest feed can take some practice and because of this, we recommend giving it at least 4 weeks, which is generally enough time for your baby to establish effective feeding skills, and for you to have a balanced milk supply. Pumping too early (and too often) risks developing oversupply, engorgement, clogged ducts and mastitis, while feeding your baby with a bottle in the early days risks artificial nipple preference and challenges with breastfeeding. Some babies do great at going back and forth from bottle to breast, and some babies struggle. The problem is, we never know which babies will be good at it, so it is best to wait if you can.

If engorgement caused by the rapid milk increase on day 3-5 after your baby is born is causing discomfort and challenges with latching, it is not recommended to pump. Instead, use reverse pressure softening. Then, once you have waited 4 weeks and feeding is going well, you can start pumping after every morning feed (when prolactin levels are still higher) to use the milk the same day, or build a freezer stash for later use. Find milk storage guidelines HERE. You can use a hand pump or a double electric pump, but be sure to measure BOTH nipples and have the correct flange sizes on hand. This will promote good milk expression and make pumping feel comfortable.

Effective pumping shouldn't take long - only about 10-15 minutes. This will usually give you enough time to collect enough milk to use for one feeding, about 3-4 oounces. Be sure to sign up as a site member so you can catch our upcoming blog about bottle feeding!

What about the Haaka?? Passive suction silicone milk catchers are not recommended when learning to feed. These can remove easily accessible milk from a baby who has challenges with milk transfer, and/or can increase milk supply to an unmanageable level both for baby and parent. If you want to catch leaking milk, it is recommended to use a receptacle that doesn't use suction, like the Haaka Ladybug. After about 6-8 weeks, your milk supply should regulate to only your baby's needs.

If you're wanting some support and guidance with pumping or feeding, you can book a Pumping Consult or a Lactation Consult with our IBCLC, Pamela HERE!

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