While breastfeeding is considered the best option for feeding your baby, it isn't always the most convenient. Many women choose to pump to supply their baby with breast milk because they need to return to the workplace soon after the baby is born or because their partners want to have a more active role in the parenting process. Whatever reason you have for pumping, it can be more convenient to have a supply of milk on hand for your baby. Then when to start pumping? This article will answer this question and a few other breastfeeding related concerns.

When to Begin Pumping

Babies born prematurely will be more difficult to breastfeed from birth, but you should begin pumping as soon as possible. If you are concerned about building up a milk supply because you have multiples, then it is best to talk to your lactation consultant or pediatrician. Most mothers, however, tend to wait two to three weeks after the baby is born to begin pumping or introducing a bottle. This will limit the nipple confusion your baby may face, but remember that most babies will tend to go back and forth from bottle to nipple day to day. You can begin pumping even before you have introduced the bottle to your baby and store the milk in the freezer. Moms who have to go back to work should begin pumping a few weeks prior to returning to work to get on a regular pumping schedule and build up a supply.

It is best to stick to a schedule when pumping which should typically coincide with your baby's feeding schedule. If you are at home, you can either pump an hour after a nursing session or pump one breast while your baby nurses the other. The best time to pump at home is in the morning, as this is when the supply tends to be at its max. If you are going to be pumping in the middle of your work day, pump at the same time every day so you keep up your milk supply.

How to Pump

Once you have determined when to start pumping, you'll want to learn how to pump properly. While it may seem daunting at first, these steps will help you become more comfortable with the pumping process.

1. Learn the basics of pumping and become familiar with your breast pump.

2. Have a place where you can sit comfortably for your pumping sessions.

3. Have a snack and drink close by.

4. Make sure your pump is working properly and that the batteries are working.

5. Clean your hands with soap and water.

6. Put the pump kit together.

7. Center the nipple in the flange opening and make sure it fits properly.

8. Turn the pump on.

9. Start off pumping at a high speed with a low suction, then gradually adjust to a medium speed with a higher suction. You should remain comfortable through the process, so adjust the speeds until it is comfortable for you.

10. When the flow of milk decreases, adjust the speed to high once again until you see the milk start to flow, then adjust the speed back to medium.

These additional tips are helpful when you are beginning to pump.

1. Using an electric breast pump and your hands at the same time will help you express milk faster.

2. Many health plans can provide you with a free pump if you are returning to work or are having trouble building up the proper milk supply.

3. To help start your milk flow, sometimes all you need to do is to think of your baby. When to start pumping may be challenging at first but simply hearing your baby cry, looking at their picture or thinking about nursing your baby can prompt milk flow.

4. Massaging your breast can get more milk out especially in areas that still feel full while pumping.

You shouldn't feel pain when you are pumping. If you are experiencing any pain or difficulty pumping, reach out to you lactation consultant for advice.

How to Properly Store the Breast Milk You Pump

Storing your breast milk for later use can be done in a number of ways. The breast pump you choose to use should come with a supply of storage containers and feeding bottles. There are also specially designed plastic bags that you can use specifically for breast milk. You should avoid using typical bottle liners for storing breast milk since these are often more flimsy.

If freezing your breast milk, be sure to leave room for expansion in the bag, normally you will want to fill it only three-quarters of the way. It is easier to freeze smaller amounts at a time as these will thaw faster. Breast milk can be stored in the freezer part of your refrigerate for up to four months. If you are storing your breastmilk in a deep freezer, it can last up to six months.

You should always refrigerate the milk you pump right after pumping, though it will still be safe to use for up to six hours outside of the refrigerator if not in direct sunlight and it remains at room temperature. When to start pumping to build up a supply of milk to store in your refrigerator, keep in mind that breast milk will only remain good to up to four days.

Prior to storing your milk in the freezer or refrigerator, you always want to label it with the date you pumped. Make an effort to use the oldest milk first.


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