If a mom wants to breastfeed but is unable to do so — for example due to infection or she has to return to work, which means time apart from her baby — expressing breast milk is an option. Some moms choose to use a breast pump to provide relief if they struggle with engorgement (when the breast tissue overfills with milk, blood and other fluids, causing the breasts to feel very full and become hard and painful).
“Many mothers will feel pressured to begin using the pump as soon as they start breastfeeding,” says Lactation Counselor and Dietitian Catherine Brennan. “But the truth is that it is most important to establish a breastfeeding routine first and to think about the pump later.”
When to begin using a breast pump depends on the needs of the mom and her personal circumstances. If a mom is planning on going back to work or school or is planning on being away from the baby for an extended period of time, Brennan recommends pumping in the early postpartum period or a few weeks before the separation, to become comfortable with it and to build up a supply.
“For many moms, it is good to pump in the early part of the day for a couple of days to collect enough for a bottle,” she says. “When the baby is taking the bottle, the mom should pump to replace that milk as well as to signal the body to continue to make milk and to avoid engorgement.”