Last updated January 7th, 2021
With all the throes of motherhood, breastfeeding is truly a real deal, especially for new moms. You only bear a fresh pregnancy wound for a week or two. But you suffer from latching pain and sensation, tender and heavy breasts maybe until your baby grows his set of baby teeth. But we, your healthcare providers, assure you that it will be all worth it.
Breast milk is the best nutritive gift you can give your baby for the first years of his life. Breastfeeding your child is not meant for satisfying hunger alone. Sometimes it is also a way of comforting him, showing him some love, or giving him reassurances. For some reason, not all moms and babies are capable of breastfeeding and pumping becomes the next viable option. There’s no guilt and reservation in that – pumping is just as good as breastfeeding. The only thing that differs between them is convenience.
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Pumping or Breastfeeding: What to Choose?
Human breast milk is biologically produced to provide essential nutritional needs for the growing child. What’s fascinating about it is that breast milk changes its composition as the child grows. In what Today’s Parents call “magical ways,” breast milk changes during feeding and the time of the day. During an illness, the food that you eat, and even your ovulation period can change the milk’s flavor as well.
But how you feed the baby, directly from you or with the help of a bottle is exclusively your choice. Feeding your baby on demand for the first few months of his life will help foster your bond together. But when maternity leave is over, and mom is ready to get back to work or school, the dilemma kicks in.
There isn’t a need to ditch breast milk feeding for your baby if you want. Exclusive pumping is an option that most mothers are relying upon. Some women only choose to breastfeed newborns for a while and just switch to pumping as the child grows older.
Breastfeeding: The Pros and the Cons
Breastfeeding does not only bring proper medical health and nutrition for your baby. It also harbors psychological and emotional attachment between the mother and the baby. The skin-to-skin contact releases hormones between them for a positive emotional bond according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is also a helpful act when soothing a baby when he is anxious or in pain after vaccination.
Aside from interaction, breastfeeding is also ideal because it is convenient and affordable. You can nurse a baby anytime while being discreet about it. Your baby’s suck reflex also helps dictate the amount of milk that your breast is going to produce.
There’s this unbreakable connection between them to keep the baby satiated, but without your breast oversupplying it. It is called a feedback loop between you and your baby.
- Enhances bonding and skin-to-skin interaction
- Encourages feedback loop
- Easily soothes baby when he is stressed
- Feeding on demand rather than schedule
- Overfeeding risks
- You can’t leave the baby for a longer time
- Latch on pain
- Nipple pain from biting especially when the baby is teething
Pumping: Pros and Cons
If you are expecting separation from your baby but want to feed him exclusively with breast milk, then consider pumping. Pumping breast milk can give you the advantage of letting a caregiver take care of your baby. This way you can share the child care duties with other family members to steal a little time for rest.
Babies with birth defects like cleft lip or palate and premature babies will have trouble latching on a mother’s breast. And since they cannot establish a suck-swallow reflex just yet, they need a special nipple to suck on. Newborn cleft babies are even fed pumped breast milk through a special feeding spoon.
When you are pumping, you will also be able to evaluate how much milk your baby is taking in. Babies cry for different reasons, but parents often relate this to hunger that leads to overfeeding. If you can document and clock it in, you will see if the baby is getting less or more during the feed. But then, pumping may not give you as much milk since breasts respond more to the baby’s suck reflex than pumps.
- You can schedule and measure the amount of feed
- Get out of the house while still feeding the baby
- Gives baby a stash of frozen supply
- Donate to other babies in need
- Additional expense (breast pump, bottles, nipples, sterilizers, storage bags, etc.)
- Difficult to store
- Lesser immune benefits without the feedback loop
While breast milk is generally good, it does not apply to every newborn. The CDC recognizes the rare exceptions for breastfeeding and expressed milk feeding. This includes instances when the mother is infected with a transmissible disease like HIV or Ebola or using illicit drugs.
In this case, the mother can either buy from milk banks or resort to formula feeding as an alternative. But AAP warns parents against buying expressed milk over the internet for safety reasons. It’s always best to take it from a trusted source like a breast milk bank if available in your area.
Exciting Facts about Breast milk
That breast milk is nutritious is just an understatement. There’s so much more that breast milk can do for both you and your baby. Here are some other magical benefits that you will reap out of it and little details you may not know yet.
Breastfed babies get sick less
Tummy problems are very common among newborns and infants. The risk of viral and bacterial infections also increases as they grow up. Breast milk arms your baby with protective properties that help minimize the effect of such intruders. They tend to be at a lower risk from an ear infection, tummy problems, and colic.
Breastfed babies are also at lower risk from illnesses and diseases later in life. This includes asthma, obesity, Type 1 Diabetes, and respiratory diseases. This can also reduce the risk of SIDS among younger infants.
Pumping and Breastfeeding Burns Calories
Did you know that your body can burn extra calories to produce breast milk? And that is more or less a whopping 500 to 700 cal a day! This may not be much in your weight loss journey post-pregnancy, but it does help.
According to La Leche League International, breastfeeding mothers may lose up to one to two pounds a month. Remember to supplement this with a balanced diet and some physical activities though. Ask your healthcare provider for the postpartum weight-loss program, especially if you delivered your baby through a C-section.
Breasts Never Run Out Empty
Milk is being produced all the time in your breast. It’s your baby who orders the right amount of milk to produce to tailor his needs. Right after birth, you will have an ample supply evidenced by leaking breasts. That’s because your body needs to prepare its “stock” if you ever have multiple births for it to cater to.
A soft breast does not mean an empty supply. It’s normal for a lactating mother’s breast to drop at about six to twelve weeks after birth. At that time it had adjusted to the baby’s needs and produced only the amount that he needs. It looks small, but it is always full. Decreased supply will only happen if your baby stops latching or you stop pumping.
Babies Are Their Own Boss
The feedback loop is your breast and your baby’s interaction. Not even a breast pump can dictate how much milk to produce except for the baby. The number of times to pump varies from woman to woman. It can range from five to ten times of expressing breast milk in a day. If you are exclusively pumping, it can be hard to trigger a let-down reflex sometimes.
A let-down reflex is a tingling sensation you feel when milk is ready to flow. This usually happens when your feeding is overdue that may also mean your baby is hungry. That’s why it will be ideal to enable breastfeeding whenever possible for continuous lactation.
Pumping Milk Has Apps Too!
Pumping can be time-consuming and without that let-down reflex, you may forget about it sometimes. So some geniuses devised pumping apps for phones (and there’s a lot of them at that) to help make it handy for you.
These apps can track the amount of milk that you expressed as well as your baby’s feeding schedule. Some can even keep a tab on your frozen stash to ensure that your baby has enough food for the day. Things like this will allow you to monitor both your lactation and your baby’s feeding habits.
Breastfeeding your child is not just answering hunger cues. It’s a strange engagement between the mother and child in equipping the young one with healing and protection. And, it is a two-way process that also brings healing and recuperation for the mother.
But under certain circumstances, some mothers may not be able to fulfill this round the clock. This is where pumping becomes absolutely necessary. This will ensure that a baby still gets as much benefit from breast milk to make him protected and life-ready.
Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She had experiences in handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also used to train in labor rooms and pediatric wards – helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.