Breastfeeding vs Pumping (Pros & Cons)

As a mom, you are undoubtedly aware that breast milk is what is best for your baby. But did you know that how your baby ingests that milk can influence everything from family bonding to the type of breast milk your body produces?

Pumping breast milk and breastfeeding tend to be viewed as virtually the same thing when, in fact, both have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Before you decide to pump exclusively or to never, ever let your baby’s lips touch a bottle nipple, make sure you can see all sides of both options.

Pumping

The long and short of pumping is that you utilize a device that attaches to your breast and ‘suctions’ your milk into a container. These devices can be electronic or manual, and come in enough variety that virtually any mother who decides to pump can find one that is both comfortable and effective.

PROs

  • Family Bonding — Since breastfeeding is quite literally a one-woman job, the rest of the family misses out on the intimate bonding that nursing the baby provides. Pumping gives your baby the benefits of breastmilk while Dad, Auntie, or Grandma can bolster their relationship with their newest family member by giving her a meal.
  • Share the Responsibility — Your baby will be an eating machine for the first, oh, eighteen years of life. In all seriousness, your infant requires feeding every couple hours for those first few months, and that means a lot of sleepless nights when you’re breastfeeding. Using a bottle means that your partner can take some of the load off your chest and give you some much-needed, uninterrupted, snooze time. (Source)
  • Working Moms Gotta Work — Are you chomping at the bit rejoin the workforce? Whether you are an exclusive or part-time pumper, these little contraptions can get you back in the game much quicker than moms who only breastfeed. If the thought of pumping at work to keep your milk supply up gives you chills, don’t fret. New mothers have plenty of rights that extend to this sort of thing. For example, Americans are often protected under the federal “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law. (Source)
  • Calorie Counting — There’s no shame in wanting to drop that baby weight as soon (and as healthily) as possible, and pumping can be a pretty useful tool to help you balance your diet. Instead of broad generalizations of a breastfeeding mother’s caloric needs, you will be able to calculate the exact number of calories you are putting out with relative ease. Simply start with 22 calories per 1 ounce of milk and plan your day from there. (Source)

CONs

  • Expenses — Pumping can get pretty pricey pretty quick, depending on your individual needs. While there are bargain pumps on the market that start in the $20 – $40 range, you can easily spend several hundred on something a bit more high end. You also will need to take into account bottles, nipples, and the extra sanitizing products you will need to purchase. (Source)
  • More Cleaning — Speaking of sanitizing: every bottle, nipple, and piece of equipment used to pump will need to be cleaned regularly. The CDC advises that your pump be sanitized every time it comes into contact with your milk; that means disassembling its parts and making sure everything gets a thorough clean. It is also recommended that you disinfect the pump’s dials, and power switch before each use. (Source)
  • Slow to Thaw, Slow to Warm — When you thaw out your frozen breastmilk, you will need to do so by leaving it overnight in the fridge or by running/soaking it in warm water. To gently heat it up before feeding, use only warm water. The use of a microwave, which can be tempting if you’re in a rush, is a big no-no, as is using boiling water. Not only could you create ‘hot spots’ in the milk that can burn your baby’s mouth, but you also run the risk of destroying valuable nutrients. (Source)
  • The PM Pump — Just because you are pumping doesn’t mean you completely get away with not waking up from your evening slumber. It is recommended that you do at least one night pump. That is when prolactin, a hormone that helps to ensure consistent milk production, is at its highest. A baby nursing or a pump pumping stimulates the release of that prolactin, which in turn tells your breasts to keep making milk. (Source) In this case, the main pitfall of a late PM pumping is that, while breastfeeding is an intimate bonding experience, pumping can be a bit…impersonal. Since there is less of an emotional return, it will probably make forcing yourself out of bed at 2 am slightly more difficult.

Related reading
10 Best Nursing Covers for Breastfeeding (2019 Reviews)

Breastfeeding

If you want your baby to drink straight from the tap, you will be met with plenty of pros, but alas, it’s not all roses and sunshine in Boob Land.

PROs

  • Mommy-Baby Bonding — Breastfeeding is one of the earliest forms of bonding you will experience with your child. The skin-to-skin touch, the loving eye contact, and the trust building that goes on while nursing will not only promote healthy development in your child but also release hormones that engage your motherly instincts. (Source)
  • Less Chance of Overfeeding — Breastfeeding has been shown to decrease later instances of obesity in children. It is thought that when bottle feeding, us moms might unintentionally cajole our kiddos into eating more than they otherwise would. Many professionals believe that since nursing directly from the breast allows the baby to decide when she has had enough, that she is learning to self-regulate. Discovering self-control before it ever becomes a problem can have really positive effects on your baby later in life! (Source)
  • Baby’s Backwash — Ew right? OK, but hear us out. While bottle feeding your milk to your baby is considerably healthier than formula, allowing your baby to nurse directly from the breast can add a whole other layer to their nutrition. Evidence shows that your child’s saliva can allow them to order off the menu, so to speak. The salvia sends a message that your baby’s little body needs x, y, or z, and just like magic, your breasts can make it happen. (Source / Source)
  • Breastmilk Quality Control — While we all do our best to clean everything as well as we can, none of us are infallible, and your pumped milk will be coming into contact with several foreign surfaces before reaching your baby’s tummy. From pump to bottle, each time you move your breast milk between containers or tubes, there is a chance for bacteria to contaminate your child’s next meal. When your baby is nursing directly from your breast, your milk is going from Point A to Point B with no pitstops in between, and thus no chance of cross-contamination. (Source)
  • You Never Leave Home Without Them — Life gets really busy, really fast. One day you might find that you have remembered to bring plenty of extra diapers, you aced packing not one but two extra outfits for your infant, you even brought plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated during your commute, and have arrived for your lunch date across town five minutes early! …But you left the cooler with your breastmilk on the counter. Hey, it happens. But consider this: You will never leave your breasts in a cooler on the counter.

Cons

  • Poor Latch Consequences — Some babies never seem to develop a proper latch with their mother’s nipple. If this happens occasionally, it can be frustrating and disheartening. If it’s happening all the time, perhaps due to prematurity or another medical condition, it can be downright dangerous. When an improper latch leads to improper nutrition, you will see your baby failing to thrive. You may also find your nipples extra sore, or even badly cracked, and can sometimes experience mastitis several times over. (Source)
  • Awkward in Public — Whether due to cultural issues, outdated local laws, or good old-fashioned shyness, breastfeeding in public remains a hurdle that many women struggle with, sometimes to the point that they remain hidden behind closed doors to avoid the situation altogether. Having a freezer of breastmilk-filled-bottles that you can thaw and take on the go can certainly alleviate any issues you are having with publically breastfeeding your baby.
  • Unknown Amount of Milk — Bottles have the advantage of being transparent, with helpful measurement markers on their side. Our breasts, however, are neither transparent nor pre-marked for milk amounts. This means that you will never know exactly how much your baby is ingesting with each nursing session.
  • Teeth — Your baby will have them…and they will probably pinch you with them.

Related reading
10 Best Nursing Covers for Breastfeeding (2019 Reviews)

Wrapping up

There are countless reasons why you would choose to pump exclusively. It can be a great way to monitor your baby’s milk consumption, keep track of your caloric needs, and might even be medically necessary for your little one’s health.

There are also countless reasons why you might prefer breastfeeding exclusively. After all, it’s a fantastic bonding experience, you will not have to worry about cross-contamination, and you’ll never forget your breasts at home when you run out the door.

Then, of course, there is the third option. Perhaps you will find your meal-time sweet spot by not going steady with either method, instead deciding to blend both approaches into your daily life.

Remember, raising a child is not about what the rest of the world tells you to do. It’s about what is best for your baby, your family, and you.

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