When a new baby comes along many moms have to decide the benefits of breastfeeding vs. pumping. Do you want exclusively breastfeed? Do you want to exclusively pump? Maybe you plan to do a little of both. To make an informed decision, you should learn the pros and cons of all your options.
Which Mom are You?
Imagine four new mothers sitting on a couch at a social function:
* The first mother places her baby at the breast about every two hours for a feeding. She breastfeeds exclusively.
* The second mother heads to the kitchen to prepare a bottle of formula every two to three hours. She formula feeds exclusively.
* The third mother may breastfeed then prepare a bottle of pumped breast milk a couple hours later only to breastfeed the next time around. She mixes breastfeeding with pumping and bottle feeding.
* The fourth mother is a bit of a free spirit. She breastfeeds when it’s convenient. She pumps and uses her freezer stash whenever possible, but she also keeps formula on hand. Perhaps she passes the baby to her husband occasionally so that he can participate in the care of their baby.
Is one of these mothers doing it all right while the others are wrong? There has been great controversy over breastfeeding and pumping for generations, and every new mother must decide where she falls. Some mothers may breastfeed or bottle feed exclusively with the first baby while making a different decision for future children. Some mothers have barriers to breastfeeding, so they don’t have much of a choice.
This is an issue that will bring criticism no matter what decision you make. That means that new mothers should consider the benefits of each option before deciding what is best for her family. We know that breast milk is tailor made for the needs of a baby and is the most nourishing option, but how do you choose between exclusive breastfeeding, pumping and bottle feeding, or a combination of both?
You compare the benefits of breastfeeding to the benefits of pumping. We’ll provide you with that information right now because we want you to make an informed decision for your little one.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding Vs. Pumping
1.Breastfeeding is more nutritious for your baby. The fresher the milk, the better it is for your baby. For example: Milk directly from the breasts has higher amounts of Vitamin C. In addition, frozen milk loses some important immunity properties. (Schanler, 2010)
2. Breastfeeding is the most affordable option. Your body supplies everything that you need to breastfeed. You don’t have to buy nipples, bottles, liners or pacifiers to delay the bottle as needed. You don’t need a bottle warmer, and you don’t need to carry a breast pump in addition to your diaper bag when leaving home. You just need your breasts and the baby.
3. Breastfeeding takes less effort and time. Movies and television shows love to portray new mothers as exhausted creatures stumbling through the house in the middle of the night to heat up a bottle. That scenario will never play out in your home as an exclusive breastfeeding mother. Your preparation is limited to putting your baby in the right position and offering your breast. There are no bottles or pumps to clean when it’s all over. If you co-sleep, you don’t even have to get out of bed to feed your baby.
4. Breast milk is always the perfect temperature. You don’t have to squirt milk on your wrist or take a sip to make sure that the temperature is safe for your baby. Your baby will never spit out your milk because it’s too cold or a bit too hot. Your body is the ultimate bottle warmer. Milk in a bottle can change temperature rapidly, but your breast will maintain the right temperature even through the longest feedings.
5. You don’t need a private room to breastfeed. Covers for breastfeeding are everywhere today, and you can always just use a top that gives easy access or a blanket. It’s natural to breastfeed anywhere your life leads you, but you will need a private space with an electric outlet if you need to pump. While you may choose to breastfeed in private, it’s not required as it is for pumping mothers.
6. Skin-to-skin contact is easier to maintain when breastfeeding. (Singh, 2017) Your baby’s cheek will naturally touch the side of your breast while feeding. Many breastfeeding positions place the baby along the front of your body, so freeing your skin for more rewarding touch is easy. You can still do skin-to-skin contact while bottle feeding, but it isn’t as easy or natural. For your baby, this contact is so so important and can be easily be missed when bottle feeding.
7. Breastfeeding can deepen the bond and sense of trust between mother and child. While you can still look into your baby’s eyes and connect while bottle feeding, there’s something more intimate about the physical connection of breastfeeding. Studies show this is true! (Rasmussen, 2011) Your baby will look at you as their sole source of survival, and they will know that you’re always there when they need you. Most mothers also feel a deeper sense of connection to a baby when breastfeeding. This has been shown to have both physical and emotional benefits that go beyond the milk content itself.
8. Breastfeeding allows your baby to control how much he or she eats each time. This is best for weight gain and overall health. (You can implement paced feeding to try to simulate when you need to use a bottle…details here.)
9. Breastfeeding naturally stimulates your body to adjust to your baby’s unique needs (Hassiotou, 2013) from density to nutrients to immune-fighting…breast milk adjusts both in quantity and in biological makeup on demand. Yes! Breast milk can actually change to help fight off illness for a sick baby. How cool is that? (Formula can never be made to do that!)
The Benefits of Pumping
1. Pumping allows you to supply your baby with nourishing breast milk even if you aren’t physically with your baby. This applies to mothers with premature or otherwise compromised babies who must spend extended lengths of time in the hospital. If you need to return to work or have other responsibilities that prevent you from breastfeeding on demand, pumping may become a necessity. (Johns, 2013)
2. You can include the father and other family members in the joy of feeding. You must do the pumping, but you can pass a bottle of breast milk to others who want to spend more intimate moments with the baby. You may also get more sleep and have more time to do other things like shower or wash a load of laundry.
3. A well-stocked freezer stash gives a sense of security and peace of mind. Pumped milk is easily stored, allowing you to feed your baby no matter what happens. Emergencies never come with warnings, so many mothers appreciate the security of good milk in the freezer and a bottle nearby.
4. Bottle feeding breast milk allows you to measure exactly how much breast milk your baby consumes at each feeding and throughout the day. It’s impossible to measure the number of ounces consumed during breastfeeding, which makes it more difficult to determine if your baby is eating enough to sustain growth.
5. The production of breast milk is a supply-demand equation, and bottle feeding places you in full control of the demand factor. You decide how often you pump, at what time of day you pump, and how long you pump. Breastfeeding mothers depend on their babies to set the demand according to their needs, but you have more control to manipulate your milk supply as a pumping mother.
6. You can time your pumping routine to your schedule. Your baby’s natural feeding schedule isn’t a concern because you can prepare a bottle of breast milk at any time. When you pump is determined by you, which is essential when you return to work or have other responsibilities that place demands on your time.
What About Disadvantages?
Just as there are benefits for breastfeeding and pumping, there are some disadvantages that every mother must accept. For instance, breastfeeding can take a lot of your time at least for the first year of your child’s life. You may feel like you exist solely to produce and deliver milk. It’s difficult to maintain a social life, return to work, care for older siblings or exercise comfortably when you have a hungry baby reaching for the breast on demand.
Pumping may feel liberating because it allows you to detach from your baby more often. Your ability to work, see your friends, go to the gym and take care of your emotional health may require a bit more time away from the baby. The downside is that pumping requires some you to lug around equipment plus bottles and other supplies. You may have to haul a pump around with you everywhere, and finding a sanitary, private place to pump is often difficult when away from home. There is also the threat of accidental contamination or spoilage from storage and handling that is not there when you breastfeed. (Rasmussen, 2010)
There are ups and downs with any choice you make. What’s important is that you determine the best option for your baby’s health, your lifestyle and your family’s interests.
Making Your Decision – Breastfeeding Vs. Pumping Vs. Both?
There are many factors that may determine your choice between breastfeeding and pumping, including:
- Personal preference (mothers and babies)
- Physical ability to breastfeed
- Time availability (returning to work vs staying at home, etc.)
- Inclusion of the father
- Mental and emotional health (sleep deprivation, postpartum depression, etc.)
- Number of children in need of care
While some women breastfeed on demand naturally others have more complicated lifestyles that may make that more difficult. Some mothers may simply place more urgency on exclusive breastfeeding while others feel that pumping and bottle feeding is just as good because the baby receives the same nourishing milk either way. Many do a combination of both!!!
Your job is to determine what is best for you and this baby. Every baby is different, and your lifestyle may change between babies. Perhaps your first baby switched between your breast and the bottle like a champ but your second baby is confused by the change in nipples. Maybe you had more time available with the first baby than you do with the third or fourth baby.
Your circumstances are unique. You can make a unique (and informed!) decision with the best interest of your baby in mind. Imagine those mothers lined up on the couch. Which one are you naturally? You’re never locked into the choice that you make today. Remain flexible and adjust to the twists and turns of life and know you are doing your best!
- How Much Breastmilk Should a Newborn Eat? Answers For New Moms
- How Often Should I Pump Breast Milk? What Breastfeeding Moms Want to Know
- Breast Pumping at Work – Your Rights, Schedule & Tips for Working Moms
- Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk: Why, How and Tips for Success
- Breast Milk Stash: What it is, Why You Want One and How to Do it