How Soon After Delivery Can a Breast Pump Be Used?

breast pump to increase milk supply for breastfeeding mother
When breastfeeding is delayed, a breast pump helps to stimulate milk production (Image: dml5050/iStock/Getty Images)

In theory, you can use a breast pump soon after delivery, as desired. A breast pump is a device primarily used to extract breast milk. However, it is also often used to stimulate breast milk production after delivery and before the milk supply is established a few days after birth. A suckling baby is usually more effective than a breast pump at stimulating and extracting breast milk. However, circumstances exist in which using a breast pump first may be necessary. In practice, many factors determine how soon after birth a woman can use a breast pump.

Rationale for Early Use of Breast Pump

The sooner you latch your baby onto your breast after delivery, the better. Early breastfeeding is advantageous for the mother and baby. Breastfeeding at birth and continuing every two to three hours, provides the baby with colostrum, promotes bonding, stimulates the uterus to contract, and helps to reduce bleeding. Most important, early and regular stimulation of the breast encourages breast milk production. When the baby is not able or is not available to nurse soon after delivery, using a breast pump every few hours can help establish lactation. Hollister.com recommends that women using a breast pump start soon after birth, and pump at least eight to 10 times per day.

Availability of Breast Pumps

Breast pump availability influences how soon you would be able to pump after delivery. Growing numbers of hospitals now encourage and support breastfeeding. Hospital maternity units often provide lactation services for patients, and they make breast pumps and other supplies available for patient use. If you anticipate needing or wanting a breast pump after delivery, it is a good idea to tell your nurse or doctor when you arrive at the hospital.

Circumstances Related to Delivery

In theory, you can use a breast pump right after many deliveries, but doing so in practice can be impractical -- especially during the first hour or two after birth. After an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, the midwife or doctor often needs some time to attend to a woman’s physical needs. It is not unusual for an hour to pass before a woman is cleaned up, changed and able to fully attend to the baby or anything else. With a routine cesarean section, a woman usually remains in the operating room for at least another 30 minutes after the baby is born and, often, quite a bit longer. The use of a breast pump before finishing surgery is highly impractical, and is likely not permitted by many practitioners.

Your Condition

After your baby is born and delivery procedures are complete, how soon you use a breast pump will also depend on your condition. Many nurses and doctors try hard to accommodate the specific needs and desires of each patient. Someone who strongly prefers to use a breast pump soon after giving birth is usually free to do so. However, if you are feeling weak, tired or uncomfortable after delivery, you may benefit from waiting until you feel better. The physical changes that occur at delivery are often challenging enough, without adding an extra task. Delaying breast stimulation for a few hours after delivery is unlikely to have an adverse effect on lactation.

Alternatives When There Is No Breast Pump

In situations where a baby is unable or unavailable to nurse and there is no breast pump, nipple stimulation by hand can help to encourage milk production. Fortunately, breast pumps are sold and sometimes rented at many major retail stores. The La Leche League International advises against borrowing another woman’s personal-use breast pump, or purchasing a used one, due to the risk of contamination.

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