Can I pump and preserve my milk while I’m still pregnant?

My fourth child is due in a month. I have a hospital-quality electric breast pump at home and would like to start pumping and preserving the expressed milk in the freezer. First, will this work? If so, is it safe or will it possibly send me into premature labor?

Question:

I admire your enthusiasm but suggest you wait to begin to store up expressed milk. The milk you are producing right now is colostrum, which is specially geared for the needs of a newborn. It would not be the most suitable for your baby as he gets older and has different needs.

Another characteristic of colostrum is its density. It’s very viscous, which makes it difficult to remove with a pump. Pumping when you have little milk flow can cause nipple irritation. When women need to remove colostrum in the early days after childbirth if their baby isn’t feeding well, hand expression works much better. This remains true until the milk becomes more dilute and thinner, sometime after the first 24 hours and usually by 72 hours.

Expressing milk either by hand or with a pump stimulates uterine contractions, which in the course of normal expression usually would not be strong enough to initiate labor. There may be a risk of early labor, however, since other conditions can make the uterus irritable, increasing the potential impact of expressing milk before childbirth.

Although many mothers like to stockpile milk for future use, this activity has disadvantages even after your baby is born. Time you spend pumping for future needs may be time you should be resting or enjoying your baby. To cope with separations when you may not be available to breastfeed, you only need enough milk for the time your are away. Some of this can be stored in advance before your first “adventure” but you should also relieve your breasts after feeding your baby, immediately before your departure.

If you will be missing more than one feeding, you will also be expressing milk in the place of breastfeedings during the separation. Getting additional breast drainage by expressing after the feeding upon your return will provide backup milk for your next departure. This method allows mothers to avoid building up too much milk. If too much supply is stimulated, pumping must be continued on a regular basis or gradually reduced. This creates more work for mom.

Enjoy your time with your baby. Save the pumping or expressing for times when it is really needed and savor every moment of peace you might find as the mother of four!

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