There are myriad reasons a new mother would decide to use a breast pump—going back to work, latching problems, stockpile more milk, pain in breastfeeding. So it’s not surprising that, according to the most comprehensive study on the topic (conducted in 2008), 85 percent of breastfeeding mothers use a pump at least some of the time. Add to that improvements of pumping technology and mandated changes to insurance coverage, and pumping becomes even more accessible. That doesn’t mean it’s entirely intuitive. We asked our lactation experts to answer the questions they hear most often.
How old should my baby be before I start pumping?
“One of the real misconceptions we hear from new moms is that you should wait to pump until a breastfeeding routine has been established,” says Heather McFadden, an international board-certified lactation consultant. If your baby needs special care or hasn’t figured out how to latch, you might start pumping in the first 24 hours after birth. If your baby is not gaining weight or has lost too much weight, it’s possible you will start pumping within the first 5 days. If the baby is not an efficient feeder, and you are getting a backup of milk or clogged ducts, you will need to start pumping at the end of a feeding to empty the breast and maintain good breast health. There is no one right answer to this question. The time to start pumping “is specific to that mom and baby,” says McFadden.
Does pumping early on help establish a good milk supply?
Lactation consultants agree that if your baby is nursing well, there is no need to use pumping in the early stages to increase milk supply. Breast milk supply is regulated by the demand, so your body is usually capable of producing exactly what your baby needs, though there can be exceptions like maternal health issues, nipple trauma, mother/infant separation, and infant sucking challenges. But you and your baby will create the right amount of milk; if you want more (in case you’re going back to work, for example) that’s where extra pumping comes in.