Can I breast pump before my baby is born?


Hey mama! We know that each pregnancy is different, because each mama’s body is unique and special. Because of this, some may start pumping after their baby is born, while others may start pumping before. That’s right, breast pumping before your baby is born is possible, but it’s not for everyone! Keep reading to learn more about pumping before birth, and how to do it safely.


Is pumping before birth recommended?


If you have a normal, healthy pregnancy, then pumping before birth is often completely safe. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, it may be better to play it safe. As you begin to experience physical changes during your pregnancy, you may notice that your breasts leak small amounts of colostrum. Have no fear, this is normal!


The lactation process starts as early as your first trimester–your body is simply preparing to feed your little one once they arrive. While the production of breast milk begins early on, you may only experience leakage near the end of your pregnancy. Some mamas don’t experience leakage until after their baby is born. Because of this, pumping before birth is completely optional and dependent on you and your body.


It’s important to note that pumping before birth may cause contractions, but these are not harmful to your baby. These contractions are caused by the release of the hormone oxytocin, which stimulates the uterus.


Because pumping helps to stimulate the nipples and release oxytocin, some studies suggest that pumping before birth for full-term mamas can help to induce labor. While it is safe to use pumping as a method for inducing labor, the results of these studies do not contain significant results to conclude that it is truly effective.


Besides being used for induced labor, pumping before birth can also help mamas get ahead with their milk storage before their baby is born. Having small amounts of colostrum on hand can help keep your baby nourished as you recover post-labor.


When to pump during pregnancy


Before pumping during your pregnancy, you may consult with your doctor early-on to discuss your plans. Remember that pumping during pregnancy is safe if your pregnancy is healthy, so getting a check up before starting may help provide some peace of mind. Because some mamas may experience leakage while others don’t, there is no set rule for when to start pumping during pregnancy. It can be anywhere from two months before birth, to a few weeks.


For mamas that plan to exclusively breastfeed, you may not want to begin pumping right away. You and your baby establish a rhythm during breastfeeding, and sometimes that can be thrown off if your body is already on schedule with a pump. With that being said, you can certainly combine breastfeeding and pumping, but possibly at a later stage!


How to increase milk supply and get comfortable with pumping before your baby is born


Pumping before giving birth can help to increase your milk supply once your little one is born, but it can also give you some practice with your pump. Below are tips for ensuring that your pre-birth pumping experience is both positive and effective.


Eat well and stay hydrated


Did you know the types of foods you eat can affect your milk supply? While it’s important to maintain a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids throughout your pregnancy (and after), there are foods called galactagogues that are known to stimulate milk production. These are not required for maintaining a healthy diet throughout your pregnancy, but if they’re known to help with increasing your milk supply, why not give it a shot?


Set up a feeding station in your home


To practice setting up your breast pump and establishing a spot to keep your gear, you may set up a feeding and pumping station at home. You can practice getting familiar with the buttons and different settings on your pump, and attaching the pump to your breasts. Whether you start pumping before or after birth, do whatever makes you feel confident and ready to feed your baby when the time comes!


Establish your feeding team


You’re not alone in this process, mama! Lactation consultants, doctors, friends, partners, and family are here to make sure that your pumping experience is a positive one. If your partner at home wants to be involved in your baby’s feeding, you can let them help you clean gear, store milk, or encourage them to learn more with you about the glories of breastfeeding.


Practice different nursing positions


While you may not know which nursing position works best for you and your baby, before your baby is born, you can still practice different nursing positions to gain some confidence and comfort. Grab a pillow and play around with positions you find easiest or most comfortable.


Whether you choose to pump before or after birth, we hope that your experience is fulfilling and positive! At Willow, we believe that every mama is a superhero, and we know you’ll do great. Have more pumping-related questions? Head to the Willow blog to get all of your answers covered.


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