The early days after birth may not be the best time to learn to express milk unless baby’s ability to transfer milk well is in question.   Many moms find this time to be full of challenges and may not want to add another. If an infant is taking all his/her nutrition at the breast, a mother may find that it is easier to wait for a few weeks to add in the task of learning to express milk. When a mother is ready to learn these skills, the Stanford School of Medicine (2010) has online tutorials for learning to hand express and learning hands-on-pumping techniques to maximize milk production.

Expressing milk by hand or pump is a learned technique. Unlike putting an infant to breast, it is not instinctive. Breast-pumps and hands are not always as efficient as an infant, in removing milk from the breast, so it is important to practice this skill. It is common for mothers to have trouble expressing their milk in the early days of learning. The La Leche League FAQ on pumping lists helpful information and resources for easing the learning process and for choosing a pump best suited to a mother’s needs. LLLI (2008)

Many employed mothers wonder when to start bottle feeding their infants in preparation for separation of mom and infant. There are not scientific studies for determining the best timing and method of introducing alternative feeding methods. Based on clinical experience of respected authorities in lactation, it is generally recommended to wait until the infant is at least 4 weeks of age, after breastfeeding is well established, to introduce bottles. If there are any unresolved breastfeeding issues, it is helpful to wait until approximately 2 weeks after breastfeeding has been going well, before introducing a bottle.

Bottles are not always necessary. There are alternatives if a mother prefers to not use them or if an infant refuses them. If mom isn’t going back to paid employment until after the first few months, she may be able to use a cup instead of a bottle. Some infants as young as 4 months can take breastmilk from a, “sippy” style cup. If the mother chooses to use a bottle but baby is refusing, experimenting with different positions (sitting up, facing out, feeding in adult’s arms while adult is walking around the room etc.) or someone other than mom feeding the baby, can help.

© Laura Spitzfaden 2010