Milk supply is at the forefront of most breastfeeding moms’ minds, even before they give birth.
Having enough milk supply means having ample milk production.
For many women who notice they are leaking milk while still pregnant, the thought crosses their minds that maybe pumping colostrum while pregnant can provide the jump start they need to ensure a good milk supply.
This article will delve into and answer the question: Can you pump while pregnant?
Boobs leaking during pregnancy
You may notice that your bras or shirts are starting to have little wet spots in them from time to time.
This typically means that you are starting to lactate, and your body is beginning milk production.
While it varies from woman to woman, most women start to build up a small milk supply during the second and third trimesters.
While some women never leak breast milk, others leak it continuously from as early as sixteen weeks gestation.
Colostrum is what comes in before normal breast milk.
Your baby will drink this substance for the first few days of life and benefit enormously from it. It doesn’t have the fat content regular breast milk has, but it is jam-packed with nutrients, antibodies, carbohydrates, and protein.
It’s basically a super food for a newborn baby.
When the baby arrives, they will need all the help they can get as far as nutrients go.
Your little one has spent nearly a year in a warm and safe environment. Their immune system is still developing, and this thick, yellow milk called colostrum helps to give them the defense they need against all of the new germs and viruses in the world that they can’t cope with on their own.
Can you pump while pregnant?
There is no direct evidence that pumping colostrum while pregnant will lead to issues in a healthy pregnancy.
In fact, if you are already breastfeeding an older baby and become pregnant, it is safe and even encouraged to continue breastfeeding during pregnancy, so long as you don’t have complications and maintain what is considered a low-risk pregnancy.
You can continue your baby’s regular breastfeeding routine while pregnant and use your breast pump to extract extra milk to freeze and save for when your baby arrives.
When it isn’t safe to pump colostrum during pregnancy
In some circumstances, pumping colostrum while pregnant is not advised, as it can lead to complications. If you have any of the following issues in your pregnancy, please consult your doctor before you break out your breast pump and start to pump colostrum.
1. Risk of preterm labor
Preterm labor is when your body goes into labor before 37 weeks of gestation.
Premature babies are lower birth weight, which risks complications for the development of the body, brain, and vital organs, making it more difficult to latch when nursing or breastfeeding. Premature babies also have weaker immune systems.
Pumping with a breast pump when preterm labor is a risk factor has been known to induce labor in some cases, and keeping your baby in utero for as long as you can up until your due date is essential.
In these cases, it’s simply not worth the risk to start pumping colostrum.
2. High-risk pregnancy
There are many reasons that a woman may have a high-risk pregnancy.
If you are high risk, consult your doctor before deciding to use your breast pump while still pregnant.
Sustained and intense pumping and even nipple stimulation can cause your body to go into early labor, and if you are a high-risk pregnancy, early labor is often not advised.
3. Having twins
If you are pregnant with multiples, it is not advised that you use a breast pump during pregnancy, even if your pregnancy is considered a low-risk pregnancy.
Many twins and other types of multiples are born early, and pumping can trigger preterm labor for some women.
Preterm labor, even in healthy pregnancies, can cause complications, and when carrying multiples, your pregnancy hormones are higher than they would be when pregnant with a single baby. This makes the risk of preterm labor higher.
The hormone called oxytocin is released when you pump. This is the same hormone responsible for causing the uterine contractions that cause your body to go into labor.
4. You have uterine pain
Uterine pain during pregnancy is relatively common, but when it becomes severe or occurs because your unborn baby is in distress, milk output needs to take a backseat to your baby’s health.
Trying to express colostrum with a breast pump can end up inducing labor.
Providing milk early on isn’t worth the risk if the baby is born too early.
5. You have been told not to have sex during pregnancy
Typically, if you’ve been told not to engage in sexual intercourse during pregnancy, there is considerable reason to assume that pumping while pregnant is also not a good idea.
While there are various reasons that your doctor may have for telling you to abstain from sex while pregnant, it is usually because doing so can start labor too early.
Breastfeeding or pumping when pregnant can have the same effect.
What to do if you are leaking before the baby is born
Even if your plan is exclusive breastfeeding to feed your baby, you can still safely express your leaking milk without a pump while pregnant.
Since more milk is produced as the body releases hormones in preparation for labor and delivery, the breasts can become engorged.
As a result, many women who feel discomfort or fullness of the breasts during their low-risk pregnancies choose to engage in hand expressing, just enough to relieve the pressure in the breasts.
If you hand express, you most likely won’t have enough expressed milk to save for the baby, but you can rest easier knowing that you are not putting yourself and your baby at risk of early labor.
Signs milk is coming in during pregnancy
If you haven’t noticed any leaking yet, but suspect that your milk is coming in during pregnancy, there are sure signs you can look out for.
Many women worry that leaking or being able to hand express colostrum means that baby is coming soon, but this is not always the case.
Colostrum and breastmilk can come weeks before labor starts.
The following are signs that your milk is starting to come in while you are still pregnant with your child.
If you are pumping breastmilk or feeding your current nursling while pregnant, you may still experience some of the following signs.
If your breasts feel heavy, full, and larger than usual, it’s a good sign that your breastmilk is coming in.
Although all women experience changes to both their uterus and their breasts during pregnancy, full breasts, or heavy breasts, are tell-tale signs that colostrum production has begun.
You don’t have to start pumping to get leakage from your breasts. Often, this happens at night or after exposure to heat in the shower.
Leaking can also occur when you hear a baby cry, get emotional, or smell a baby.
If you notice that you are starting to leak colostrum and have a go-ahead from your doctor to start pumping, you can begin pumping, as long as you do it safely.
Remember that your output will most likely not be enough to sufficiently breastfeed your child until days or weeks after your birth.
Changes to nipples and areolas
As oxytocin is produced to allow for colostrum production to begin, your nipples and areolas are also affected.
If you notice them getting darker, more prominent, or the skin around them feels tighter, it can signify that your milk is coming in.
You may not be able to feed a baby with what you are producing yet, but mothers are usually still pretty excited at this point at the prospect of breastfeeding progress.
Pumping while pregnant
Breastfeeding is something that many mothers look forward to long before their child is even born.
Before birth, we dream of the moment when we successfully breastfeed our little one.
The bond that is created is a truly special one, and being able to feed our babies with our own bodies, either by pumping or nursing, is one that we cherish.
As long as you are at no risk and your doctor approves of it, pumping colostrum before the birth of your little one can be a great way to prepare for the baby, even if it doesn’t yield much milk.
It is essential, however, to do no more than gently express milk with your hands if you are at risk of having a baby too early or if you are considered to have complications during your pregnancy.
It is still best to raise any other concerns you may have about your unique situation with your doctor and a lactation consultant.
Always ask your doctor first, as the oxytocin that your body releases when you pump is the same hormone that can start labor.
Pumping early is excellent if you can do it safely. Knowing that feeding your baby after their arrival is possible because you are already starting to save colostrum is a fantastic feeling.
However, your health and your baby’s health are never worth jeopardizing.
Breastfeeding can still be done successfully, regardless of whether you pump before the delivery of your baby. Trust your body to do what it is created to do on its own.
Trust your physician to provide you with professional and reliable information and medical instructions on whether saving up pumped milk for feeding the baby later is safe.
Your little one will be here before you know it. Arriving too early isn’t worth the possible complications, and feeding your baby is feasible with or without breast milk.
You’ve waited this long for the baby to arrive. Waiting just a little longer seems unfair, but if your doctor advises against early pumping so that you don’t go into labor too early, the wait will still be worth it.