By Katie Hilton
Katie Hilton is a dual qualified nurse, midwife and health visitor and the expert adviser for MAM UK. She is also a mu’ma herself to one cheeky little man.
When To Start Pumping?
For those mums who want to have some expressed breast milk on hand so they can share some of the feeds or want to be able to go out without their baby.
During the first few weeks, you and your baby are learning all the techniques associated with breastfeeding, so it is best to not over complicate things by learning to express as well as everything else during this time. There are, of course, some mums who have been advised to express in the first few weeks after birth. However, this is usually due to breastfeeding difficulties or a stimulating supply to produce milk for a premature baby. Your midwife or health visitor will advise you if this is required. Otherwise, just wait and get comfortable and confident with breastfeeding your baby at first.
If you are wanting to occasionally express, say for your partner to feed baby in the evening then you might want to pump first thing in the morning, most women have an abundance of breast milk supply in the earlier hours. Many babies also have “cluster” feeding sessions, where they feed very frequently from very early to mid-morning and then have a fairly long sleep afterwards. This in turn boosts milk supply first thing in the morning.
If you are just planning to have the occasional expressed milk feed, then one to a few expression sessions a week would likely cover your needs. If you want to have a feed for your partner to give to your baby daily, then you might want to pump at the same time every day. If you add in a regular extra expression then your body will keep creating this extra feed, which means that your breasts will always be full around this time. Remember the breast milk supply works on “supply and demand.” In other words, what your baby or your pump “demand” the breast will keep supplying. The best pump to use for occasional pumping is the 2-in-1 Single Electric Pump, which you can also use as a manual pump.
Anticipating The Returning To Work
If you are planning on returning to work, it is a good idea to start expressing and building a supply of milk in your freezer beforehand. The best way to do this is to start expressing about 6 weeks before returning to work. This length of time allows you to get into the swing of things if you haven’t already expressed your milk. It also allows you to build a good amount of back-up milk in the freezer without having to express too many times per day!
Again, try expressing in the mornings as often your baby will have a certain time frame where they sleep well, and our milk supply is highest in the early hours. Depending on how much milk you express you may want to express once or twice per day.
Adjusting To Your New Normal
When you go back to work, you need to think of the expressing you do as replacing your baby’s normal breastfeeds during the time period you are at work. If your baby can be brought into your work, then breastfeed as normal. However, if your baby cannot be brought to you, you will need to express to maintain your supply. For example, if your baby would usually have 2-3 feeds in an 8-hour period, then try to express twice during your work day.
If you need to pump multiple times throughout the day you might want to invest in a double pump such as the MAM 2-in-1 Double Electric Pump. This pump can be used as both a manual, single and double electric pump and will save you lots of time, it’s also very useful if you need to pump for twins.
You will probably notice that your baby wants to breastfeed more frequently once you get home from work. This is very normal. This behavior also helps to give your supply a boost as well. As time goes on, you and baby will get used to feeding, expressing and working and everything will settle into an easier routine.
Avoiding Nipple Confusion
There are a few methods to feed your baby expressed breast milk. The most common is, of course, via a bottle. The MAM Easy Start Bottle is designed to help babies use the same sucking mechanism on the bottle as they do whilst they breastfeed, which reduces the risk of confusion. With a 94% acceptance rate you can be confident of your baby feeding comfortably and effectively. It’s always a good idea to introduce your baby to a bottle at least once a week from 6 weeks rather than waiting until 6 months, this way they will be used to the bottle and you won’t be worrying about introducing something new whilst returning to work.