Do people pump before giving birth?

There are many baby-related things that it doesn’t hurt to get a head-start on – buying nursery furniture for instance, or taking a birthing class. But with other things, it’s less clear. So what’s the verdict on pumping breast milk before your child is actually born?

Like so many other things, there’s no clear answer, but we have some ideas. Pumping before birth is known as Antenatal Milk Expression (AME), and though it’s not very common, it’s not unheard of either. However, unless otherwise instructed, it’s generally accepted that moms-to-be should wait until their babies are born before starting the pumping process. This is largely because nipple stimulation is known to release the hormone oxytocin, which your body uses to induce labor. The fear is that a woman will pump too early, which will bring on premature labor. However, even if you’re full-term or beyond, it’s still best to check with your healthcare provider before you do any pre-baby pumping.

But there are some possible advantages…

Until three or so days after birth, your breasts will produce colostrum, a thicker-than-regular-milk yellowish substance that is perfectly formulated to nourish a newborn. Anecdotal evidence suggests that pumping and storing colostrum to have on reserve might be helpful, but there haven’t been enough studies conducted to take a stance one way or the other.

For those with certain medical conditions, however, doctors and healthcare providers may actually recommend antenatal milk expression. You should always talk to your provider before AME, but the list of conditions includes the following:

  • PCOS
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Previous breast surgery
  • Multiple sclerosis

Chances are, if you have one of these conditions, your healthcare provider may have already spoken to you about pre-baby pumping, but if not, it never hurts to ask. Even if you don’t have one of these conditions, you can always speak to your healthcare provider about pre-baby pumping just to learn his or her opinion.

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