If you’re pregnant and thinking about exclusively breast pumping from birth, trying to figure out what you’ll need and how to manage pumping in the delivery room, hospital, and when you get home can be a challenge! Here is everything you need to know.
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Here’s What You’ll Need to Get Started
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I figured I would wait to buy a lot of pumping stuff, since I wasn’t really planning on pumping until I went back to work – and if breastfeeding didn’t work out, the $300 breast pump would have been a waste of money. However, if you are planning on exclusively breast pumping from birth, you will obviously need some pumping gear before you have your baby.
I would recommend having at least following:
- A double electric breast pump. You don’t need a hospital grade pump, though if you would prefer to rent one, that will work fine. In the U.S., you should be able to get one through your health insurance, if you have it. It is possible, though very difficult, to exclusively pump with a single electric or manual pump, so I suggest getting a double electric one if possible.
- A hands-free pumping bra. This allows you to use your hands to do things besides holding your flanges up to your breasts while you pump. It is life-changing when you are spending two hours a day pumping, and will make the first weeks (and your entire pumping “career”) much easier!
- Plenty of bottles to pump into. You will need two bottles every time you pump, and when you’re pumping eight times a day, it’s helpful to have extra sets so you’re not washing things all the time.
Additional breastfeeding products that might be helpful are discussed here.
Immediately After Birth
If you give birth in a hospital or birthing center, you’ll probably be asked while you’re in labor whether you plan to breastfeed your baby. This … is a surprisingly hard question! (I didn’t know how to answer the question”are you breastfeeding?” until my baby was about 10 months old, when I decided to just say yes.)
If you have a vaginal delivery and you both are doing well, you will probably be offered your newborn to nurse. (Obviously, if you had a c-section or if your baby needs special care, this won’t apply to you.) You can either just do this one nursing session, or you can decline and plan to start pumping when you get to your recovery room – or whenever your caregivers are okay with it.
You will want to make sure to let the staff know you’re breastfeeding, so that you can get a pump when you’re in recovery.
How to Pump in the Hospital (Pumping In Recovery)
Here’s how to pump in the hospital after having a baby.
- Once you’re in recovery, you should be able to get a breast pump from the hospital to use while you’re there. (It’s always good idea to check with your hospital ahead of time to see what they provide. You can also bring your own pump as a backup.)
- You’ll want to pump about every three hours. Usually, with a newborn, I would say to pump about as often as your baby eats, but my babies all conk out for 24 hours after birth, which would be way to long to not pump! My personal opinion is that it’s okay to go a little longer than three hours that first day if you need to sleep and recover from childbirth. I would just try not to go too long.
- Usually the pump parts come in a sterile bag. If your nurse hands you the bag and you have no idea what to do with it, ask her to help you assemble the parts. It’s important to get everything in the right place, or the pump might not work right.
- If you are able to pump some milk and your baby isn’t ready to eat yet, most hospitals will store it for you. Just ask how you should label it.
- Ask if how they want you to wash the pump parts in between uses. They may have a wash basin or something you can use to avoid washing directly in the sink.
If you’re able to pump some colostrum, that’s great! When your baby is ready to eat, you can go ahead and feed it to him or her.
You might want to be prepared to supplement with formula in the hospital.
Some women – myself included – have a really hard time pumping colostrum. I never got more than a few milliliters in the hospital. (This led my baby’s pediatrician to say the soul-crushing words – “that is a very small amount to have pumped” – to my postpartum self.)
If the colostrum you pump isn’t enough and your baby is hungry, then formula is a good option until your milk comes in. Obviously, you’ll want to talk to your baby’s pediatrician in making a decision.
Going Home With Your Newborn
Your milk should come in about 2-4 days after you give birth. Since you’ll be pumping, it should be very clear when this happens! In my case I went from getting a few drops of milk to a few ounces of milk at the next pumping session.
When you get home, you’ll want to get on a schedule of some sort. I started by pumping whenever my baby ate, but other women prefer to have set times to pump. Everything you need to know about exclusively pumping for a newborn (how long and how often to pump, how much milk to expect, etc.) is outlined here.
If you find you have an oversupply in the first few weeks, don’t get lazy and start to skip pumping sessions. I did this, and it was not a good idea! When my supply regulated, I went from easily making over 35oz a day to exactly 24oz, which was barely keeping up with my baby. I had to work hard to get that supply back, so I would not advise following in my footsteps.
Make Sure that You Are Sure about Exclusively Breast Pumping from Birth
The last thing I would recommend is to make sure that you’re sure about exclusively pumping. Deciding to exclusively pump can be a big decision, because if you decide later you’d really rather nurse, it can be hard to get your baby to cooperate.
Many moms nurse during maternity leave, and then their baby refuses to take a bottle when it’s time for them to go back to work; the same thing can happen if your baby becomes used to taking a bottle. Some babies will just refuse milk that’s not offered in the way they prefer.
There are tons of good reasons (for example, being a sexual abuse survivor, or just really not liking the idea of nursing) to decide before your baby is born that you definitely want to exclusively pump from birth! My only caution would be that if you’re on the fence, maybe give nursing a try. I personally found it easier than exclusive pumping. Obviously, whatever you choose is the right decision for you!
If you’re not sure if you want to exclusively pump, here is more information on preparing for pumping in general.
- Barger, Jan, IBCLC. “How Many Days Will It Take for My Milk to Come in?” https://www.babycenter.com/404_how-many-days-will-it-take-for-my-milk-to-come-in_8897.bc
- Bonyata, Kelly, IBCLC. “My breasts feel empty! Has my milk supply decreased?” https://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/breast-fullness/