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Can You Pump Breast Milk Before a Baby Is Born?

author image Toby Pendergrass
Toby Pendergrass began writing and editing in 1998. He has served as editor for numerous custom health publications and physician journals. His work has appeared in publications such as Hospital Corporation of America's "YOU." He enjoys writing about cardiology and cancer care and holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Can You Pump Breast Milk Before a Baby Is Born?
Don't giving your baby a bottle too early in his life. Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images

While you might notice small leakage from your breasts in the final stages of pregnancy, a new mother's first chance to pump breast milk occurs after delivery, according to MayoClinic.com. Recognize when to safely pump breast milk to ensure your own health and the well-being of your baby.


Colostrum, which is the earliest form of breast milk that appears yellow or watery, typically leaks from your breasts in minimal amounts during the third trimester of pregnancy, although your initial opportunity to safely pump breast milk occurs in the 48 hours after you give birth. Some mothers find pumping difficult in the early period after delivery because the amount of colostrum released by the breasts remains fairly light, according Pregnancy.org.

Size and Time Frame

Your breasts will likely produce less than 1 oz. of colostrum during the first day of pumping. Your baby can receive the pumped milk with a bottle or through a small tube that attaches to your nipple, according to Family Doctor.org. Transitional milk in larger amounts follows colostrum within three to four days after childbirth and is eventually replaced by mature milk.


Colostrum produced by your body is high in protein, minerals and vitamins. It also contains immunoglobulin, which is not found in commercial formulas that protects your baby from harmful viruses and bacteria. While pumping colostrum may cause discomfort because of the small amount of milk released by your breasts, the low volume ensures that your baby remains hungry and will want to consume the milk on a steady basis, according to Pregnancy.org. The regular feeding also alerts your breasts of the need to produce enough mature milk to keep your baby satisfied and healthy.


Because colostrum contains the richest amount of ingredients that protect your newborn against infection and enhance the baby's ability to digest milk, some experts recommend saving as much colostrum as possible in a plastic or glass bottle. Label the colostrum to ensure the baby receives this milk first. Your hospital will freeze or refrigerate the milk based on when your baby can begin feeding. Colostrum can be refrigerated for at least 24 hours until it must be used, according to St. John's Mercy Health Care.


Family Doctor.org reports that some experts discourage new mothers from pumping and feeding their babies with bottles prior to the introduction of breast-feeding because the baby might eventually prefer the bottle as a faster substitute for the breast. While some babies might prefer the bottle to breast-feeding, evidence is lacking to suggest this is the case with most babies.


Babies carry a higher risk for hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, when they are born to mothers who have been diagnosed with diabetes. Unlike commercial formulas, colostrum produced by your breasts immediately after childbirth can help balance your baby's blood sugar and lower her risk for the condition, according to Pregnancy.org.

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