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Are you anxious about nursing your baby 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?
Don’t worry. It’s perfectly normal to feel this way, especially if this is your first child.
The decision to give your baby breast milk is a wonderful one with many benefits, but usually leads you down a rabbit hole of questions and further research.
You may wonder how you will make it work if you plan on returning to work.
Is pumping just as good as breastfeeding? What are the pros and cons of pumping vs breastfeeding?
Let’s find out.
What is breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is when a mother feeds a baby or a young child directly from her breast as needed. Also known as nursing, this method of feeding babies is the most natural form and has a host of benefits for the child and mother.
What is pumping?
Exclusively pumping is when the mother does not nurse the child herself but expresses the breast milk that she produced to feed the baby. The milk is given to the baby with the use of a bottle, or sometimes a cup if the child is older.
Is pumping the same as breastfeeding?
Expressing milk and feeding it to your baby is not exactly the same. There are differences between pumping vs breastfeeding, both of which have their own pros and cons.
By using a breast milk pump, you will be able to bottle and store beneficial milk to feed your baby at a later time.
One thing to consider when you compare the pump vs breastfeeding methods is the amount of time the breast milk is stored.
By not using the milk right away, it can lose some of the antibodies and health benefits. It will still be there for your baby, but the effectiveness can diminish the longer it is stored.
Breastfeeding vs pumping: pros and cons
How you decide between breastfeeding or pumping to feed your infant will be dependent on what works best for your family. Don’t feel any pressure to choose one method over the other because your mother-in-law or next-door neighbor says it’s the best way.
One thing to remember is that there are situations where a baby cannot latch or feed properly, and the mother must consider pumping vs nursing. There are several advantages and disadvantages of each method, and some mothers use a combination of both types for feeding.
There can be several benefits of breastfeeding vs pumping when you compare the two methods.
For some moms, this is the easiest and most practical way to nurture their infant. Take a look at the pros and cons of each style to help you decide which is the best fit for you and your situation.
- Convenience, the milk is always ready (no need to heat or prepare)
- Inexpensive, no milk to buy, no bottles or cups to use or wash
- Milk production responds easily to baby’s feeding needs, especially as they grow and need more milk
- It can help with mom’s weight loss
- It aids in shrinking the uterus
- It is soothing for the baby
- There are more natural antibodies in the milk than in formula
- It creates a strong bond between a mother and her child
- Only mom can feed the baby when necessary
- It can make everyday tasks for the mom difficult to schedule around the baby’s feeding times
- You cannot measure how much or how little your infant is eating
- Moms can have nursing issues, like sore nipples, engorgement, or other painful side effects
- Feeding your baby in public can be a hassle or be uncomfortable for some moms
- Nursing bras and tops can be expensive
- Some medical problems with infants can create latching issues
There are also benefits to using a pump vs breastfeeding. And, sometimes, this option works best for mom and baby.
If will be returning to work or are considering supplementing your baby with a bottle of breast milk for any other reason, this could be a viable option.
- Your baby is still receiving the healthy breast milk
- Other people can help with feeding times
- It gives the baby a chance to bond with other individuals
- It helps give mom a break from nursing to heal or rest
- It is cheaper than formula feeding
- You can effectively monitor how much your infant is eating each time
- It can be time-consuming to extract milk
- It can be expensive to buy a breast pump, multiple bottles, and sterilization equipment to express and store the breast milk
- It may be more work to maintain proper milk production
- It can cause engorgement
- It will not hold off a menstrual cycle as breastfeeding can for many women
- Fewer antibodies remain in stored milk
Can you successfully feed your baby using both methods?
Yes, you can absolutely use a combination of pumping and breastfeeding, if that’s what will work best for you and your family.
Sometimes it’s best for the mother’s mental health to not be the sole provider of meals for the baby. It can be emotionally and physically draining when you’re trying to balance a new baby’s feeding schedule with a growing family’s needs.
For families with multiple children, having expressed milk ready for feeding times when mom is exhausted or busy with other things can make a world of difference.
Combining both methods may also work best for mothers who have to return to work and still want to breastfeed.
The important thing to remember is that your baby will still get the benefits that come with consuming breast milk no matter which method you choose.
Related: 7 Best Short Nipple Bottles for Breastfed Babies
Commonly asked questions
1. Can I breastfeed my baby after I have expressed milk?
Yes, your body will still continue to produce milk even after you have finished if your infant wants to nurse.
2. How much milk should I have after expelling it for my baby?
The amount of milk you produce will be dependent on how old your baby is. Newborns will not require as much milk as a 9-month-old baby. A 3-month-old baby, for example, may drink 4 to 6 ounces at a feeding.
3. How long can I store breast milk?
You can store expressed milk that is sealed properly in a fridge for up to 4 days. You can freeze breast milk anywhere from 6 to 12 months.
The CDC offers more guidelines and tips here.
4. Will pumping still keep my milk supply up?
Although pumps are not as effective at draining the breast as a baby is, it will trigger your body to continue producing milk. If you are nursing and extracting milk, it will help increase your supply.
When comparing breastfeeding vs pumping, many considerations will determine which method you choose.
Remember that every baby is an individual, and the journey of growth for your little one can be dramatically different than that of another infant.