If your baby is nursing well, sucking efficiently and gaining weight, the fifth or sixth week is a good time to introduce a bottle with an artificial nipple if you plan on using a bottle at any point in the future.
You may want to start doing this sooner, if you are interested in pumping (or expressing and storing) breastmilk. If your baby still seems to be learning how to suck from the breast, wait until you become a confident nursing couple before trying this.
If your partner wants to feed the baby, or you want to be able to leave the baby for a couple of hours, expressed breast milk in a bottle will make it possible. Learning to pump your milk requires the right pump and some practice. The key is to let down your milk in response to the pump just as you do in response to your baby’s sucking.
Electric pumps mimic your baby’s suck more closely than manual pumps, and therefore are more effective. They can be expensive to buy but can be rented for a reasonable fee from a hospital, pharmacy or lactation consultant.
Plan your first pumping sessions for an early morning, when you feel fullest, before your baby wakes and wants to nurse. Don’t worry about taking milk that your baby needs for breakfast.
Remember, the more milk you take from your breasts, the more milk your breasts will make. The first few times, you may pump an ounce or less. With practice, many mothers can pump as much as 8 or more ounces in a session!
Store your milk safely in the freezer in small bags or containers designed for the purpose (a lactation consultant can recommend these). For guidelines on storing, freezing and thawing breast milk, see the La Leche League website.
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