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For the first 10 days to three weeks after your baby is born, your life will revolve around nursing. “This is the crucial time for establishing an adequate milk supply,” Walker says. For this reason, breastfeeding experts recommend against using pacifiers, bottles or formula until breastfeeding is going smoothly for you and your baby.
After those first two to three weeks, try to start pumping after each feeding; if it’s too difficult to pump this often, aim to do it daily after the first morning feeding. You can either store your milk in the freezer for when you return to work or, when your baby is a bit older, you can let your partner or other family members share in the joy of feeding by giving the baby breast milk from a bottle.
Once you and your baby have established a comfortable nursing relationship and he is at least 6 weeks old, offering an occasional bottle will not disrupt your routine, Walker says. Furthermore, many experts agree that you should introduce a bottle at least two weeks before you return to work. (Some maintain that the earlier you do it after the baby is 6 weeks old, the better; if you wait too long to introduce a bottle to your baby, he may revolt.)
Since many babies will not accept a bottle from Mom, this is a perfect opportunity to get your partner or other family members in on the act. The first few times you do offer a bottle, don’t wait until your baby is frantically hungry. Also, be prepared to leave the room (or even the house); if the baby sees you, he may want your breast rather than the bottle.
Some experts say that a month’s worth is ideal (if this isn’t possible, aim to store at least a week’s worth), so the sooner you start pumping and building up your stores, the better. Remember that you will bring home fresh milk every day, so what’s in the freezer can be considered the emergency or backup supply (you occasionally may not be able to pump as much milk as your baby takes in a feeding; you can make up the difference with the milk you’ve stored). Also, be sure to keep a few “emergency” cans of formula on hand in case your supply of breast milk dwindles.
Ideally, you should pump during the times when your baby would normally nurse. But if you can’t match your pumping schedule to his feeding schedule, don’t worry; pump during your breaks and lunch hour, and you’ll be in good shape. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get as much milk from the pump as you’d hoped or if, on some days, you have time to pump only once or twice. You can always make up the difference by pumping in the evenings and on weekends.
Also remember that your baby may adapt his feeding schedule to accommodate yours; some babies start to nurse more often or for longer in the mornings and evenings because they want the extra bonding time with Mom. And as long as your baby is growing and has two to five bowel movements and six to eight wet diapers a day for the first two months of life, this “reverse” feeding system can work.