Should I Start Pumping Before the Baby Is Born?

Medically Reviewed on 2/3/2022
Should I Start Pumping Before the Baby Is Born
While there is nothing wrong with pumping breast milk and storing it before your baby is born, it is not necessary

While there is nothing wrong with pumping breast milk and storing it before your baby is born, it is not necessary.

During late-stage pregnancy, breast size increases and you may experience some leaking. If you feel your breasts are too heavy, pumping may relieve some of the heaviness. However, the more you pump, the more milk your body will produce.

Learn when pumping your colostrum before birth may be useful, and how you can do it.

What is colostrum?

Colostrum is the initial milk produced when you start breastfeeding. It is extremely concentrated, protein-rich, and nutrient-dense, so a little goes a long way and it is the perfect way to get your newborn off to the healthiest start possible.

Colostrum appears thicker and yellower than regular breast milk. Its composition is different too because it is tailored to the newborn’s specific needs.

Colostrum plays an important role in the overall development of a baby:

  • Supports the immune system
  • Fights infections
  • Provides essential vitamins and minerals
  • Prevents jaundice
  • Aids in growth

What are potential advantages of pumping colostrum before birth?

Pumping breast milk before your baby is born means you have a store of colostrum at hand, which may have several benefits: 

  • Your newborn will get extra colostrum.
  • You can feed your baby immediately after birth in the event that you are unable to breastfeed or if your baby is unable to latch due to a medical problem (e.g., cleft lip or tongue-tie).
  • As you are learning to breastfeed, you will have colostrum on hand if needed.
  • If your infant is premature, milk can be fed to them through a feeding tube.
  • Your baby will learn to feed with a bottle, which can help if you are working or need to be away from your baby for an extended period of time.
  • You can donate colostrum to infants in need.
  • The extra milk can be given as a supplement along with formula.

How to collect colostrum using a pump

Learning how to express your milk may help you feel more confident when it comes time to breastfeeding your baby. Here is how to collect colostrum with a pump:

  • Get a clean, hygienic container ready.
  • Wash your hands and apply a warm flannel to your breast. Alternatively, you can take a warm shower or bath.
  • It may take some time to encourage milk flow, so make sure you are in a warm, peaceful setting with few distractions.
  • Begin with 1-2 minutes of gentle breast massage, stroking from the top of your breast down toward your nipple to promote the letdown reflex.
  • Form a C-shape around your breast, with your fingers supporting underneath and your thumb on top.
  • Slide your fingers and thumb forward along your breast toward your nipple until you feel a little ridge under the skin, usually near the areola. When you have located it, gently squeeze and release your breast.
  • You should detect colostrum beads forming at your nipple. Pull the beads up into the syringe using the syringe plunger. You may need an extra pair of hands for this. If your flow slows or stops, try again by rotating your hand around your breast.
  • If your milk begins to flow more freely, express it onto a sterile spoon or into a sterile container. Then, with the syringe plunger, suck the colostrum into the syringe.
  • Repeat the process up to 3 times a day, expressing both breasts 2 times in each session. You can use the same syringe throughout the day but remember to chill it between sessions. You should always use a fresh syringe at the start of each day.
  • At the end of the day, freeze the syringe and label it with the date. Colostrum can be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months.

When it is time to use your colostrum, defrost it under warm running water or at room temperature. Defrosted colostrum can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.


16 Early Signs & Symptoms of Pregnancy: Could You Be Pregnant? See Slideshow

What is the right time to start pumping breast milk?

The right time to start breast milk depends solely on your situation and preferences. 

If you start to express milk before your baby is born, you may feel contractions in the uterus caused by the hormone oxytocin, which is responsible for the release of milk in addition to uterine contractions. Mild uterine contractions before delivery is not an issue, however, and you don’t need to be concerned that expressing milk will lead to premature birth.

Some new mothers begin pumping breast milk immediately after their baby is born to aid in the initiation of breastfeeding or to increase their milk production. It is crucial to start pumping as soon as possible if you are not able to nurse your baby for medical reasons.

Other mothers will wait a few weeks before beginning to pump, as there is typically very little time between nursing sessions to pump in the early days of breastfeeding. Lactation specialists suggest delaying feeding using a bottle until breastfeeding is fully established. However, many babies switch back and forth between bottle and breast from the start.

Breastfeeding should be well-established by the time the baby is 4-6 weeks old. You should have enough time between feeding sessions to pump additional milk that can be saved for later use. Start pumping 2-3 weeks before you expect to return to work to get the hang of it and build up a surplus supply of milk.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 2/3/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Children's Minnesota. Breast pumping when your baby is in the hospital.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Breastfeeding and Delayed Milk Production.