If your milk supply is plenty and you have to express milk to finger feed or cup feed your newborn, don’t express every few hours. Here is why;
Most moms who start pumping within 48 hours after giving birth do so, because their milk supply is insufficient and they need a little help to start producing lots of breast milk.
Some moms however, have plenty of milk right from the start. In most cases their babies only lose 3% of their birth weight and start gaining weight after the second day.
Sometimes a mom with plenty of milk gives birth to a tiny baby that needs a lot of help latching on.
The first days after birth are a battlefield for these babies. They struggle to keep their temperature, and drinking breast milk costs them so much energy that they lose up to 10% of their birth weight.
In these cases, we (maternity nurses and midwives in the Netherlands) advice to shorten the time (not the frequency, just the time) they drink at the breast during a few days, and help them with a little ‘easy milk’ (10 to 30cc every 3 hours) after breastfeeding until they start gaining weight. In most cases, this will take 3 days max.
To feed the baby after breastfeeding, we prefer to use breast milk of course. Why use formula milk while the best food for your baby is available? So the mother has to express milk to give it to her newborn in a cup or a syringe after breastfeeding.
Pumping schedules for the first week usually are focused on stimulating milk supply.
A typical schedule, found on the internet, will tell you to express milk every 3 hours like this: pump 5 minutes with a double breast pump, wait 5 minutes, pump 3 minutes again, wait some more minutes, pump 2 minutes.
This is more effective than one session of pumping 25 minutes; the breaks make for a new signal to the brains to stimulate milk production. With this schedule you give yourself 3 stimulants to produce more milk within just one pumping session.
This schedule is what you have to avoid at all costs if you already have plenty of milk! Even the every 3 hour expressing schedule will make your breasts nearly explode with engorgement!
Your baby drinks 8 to 12 times a day during the first week, that is more than enough to keep your milk production up. Even 6 times would be enough, if you already have plenty of milk.
Pump one time, without breaks, in the morning. Express 150 to 250 cc and you have enough for the next 24 hours.
Let your baby latch on every time he wants to, but let him drink for a maximum of 10 minutes on each breast only. After that, finger feed him with your expressed breast milk in a cup or a syringe. This way, your little one can sleep, because his hunger is gone. Babies need their sleep to gain strength and grow!
The moment your baby gains weight and gets stronger, your intervals for finger feeding get bigger of course. We usually go from every 3 hour extra feeding to finger feeding after every other feeding for 24 hours. This means if you finger feed your baby after the breastfeeding of 7 am in the morning and he asks for a drink again at 9:15 am, you just give him your breast without the 10 min on each site restriction (but with a max of 45 min total drinking), and with the next feed at 10:50 am (on demand) you feed him again with some easy milk.
The 24 hours of alternating ‘breastfeeding + extra feeding’ and ‘breastfeeding only’ aren’t written in stone; a lot of babies are really quick in letting go of the finger feeding the moment they start gaining weight. Don’t force them to drink extra, ‘easy’ milk from a cup of a syringe if they’re not interested anymore. Now is the time to start enjoying the intimacy and ease of breastfeeding your child, without worries…
If you are looking for local support groups for breastfeeding moms or a consultation by a (well trained) volunteer, check La Leche Legue and click on your country to find help near to your home.
When it comes to breastpumps, Medela has excellent ones. If you plan to express milk when you go back to work, investing in a double breast pump is worth every penny. Double pumping has 2 advantages: it takes less time, and your milk production increases.
When you can borrow a breast pump from a friend or relative, buying your own spare kit of attributes is the safest and most hygienical option.
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