Breastfeeding Versus Pumping- Everything You Need to Know
There are huge benefits to both pumping and breastfeeding! Regardless of how you choose to feed your baby, when comparing breastfeeding versus pumping, you’re going to end up with the same result- A FED BABY!
First, it is awesome that you have decided to make it a priority that your baby receives breast milk. There are so many great benefits for both you and your baby, that it balances out with the bit of inconvenience it can be at times.
I want to make your breastfeeding and pumping experience easier by sharing some super helpful breastfeeding and pumping tips with you. Some are from my own personal experiences of nursing and pumping, while others are tips that were given to me by some of my friends.
Regardless of which is best for you and your little one, and how long you choose to nurse your baby or pump breast milk, the fact that you’re choosing to provide breast milk for your baby is awesome!
*This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. I only recommend products I love or would personally use.
What are the pros and cons of breastfeeding versus pumping?
First, I don’t want you to think that you either must just pump breast milk, or you must just breastfeed.
That’s a TOTAL LIE!
You can most certainly do one or the other, but you can absolutely do both!
I would breastfeed my baby at home, and then have to pump breast milk at work because I went back to work when we had our first baby. Before becoming a stay at home mom, I was a teacher, so I figured out a pumping schedule for pumping on the go that worked for me.
Pros and Cons of Exclusively Breastfeeding
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, one of the greatest benefits, in my opinion, is convenience.
You don’t have the hassle of bottles and formula. Not only that, but you don’t have the expense of formula either.
That is one of the HUGE benefits of breastfeeding your baby!
Another benefit of exclusive breastfeeding is that you will always have milk available for your baby without having to worry about whether you have a bottle prepared in the middle of the night. Research shows that breastfeeding moms get more sleep at night too.
One disadvantage to exclusive breastfeeding is that no one else can feed your baby. It is completely up to you to handle every single feeding. That can seem daunting as a new mom who is exhausted. Another thing is that your husband doesn’t get the chance to feed the baby. If neither of those bothers you, then you’ll be fine!
Here is the COMPLETELY ONLINE breastfeeding class I recommend for all first-time breastfeeding moms:
Pros and Cons of Exclusively Pumping
If you are planning to exclusively pump, or if your little one has issues latching, make sure you have an excellent breast pump that you’re comfortable using. (This is the pump I HIGHLY recommend!) I have used it with all of my kids- yes, it’s that reliable!
I started out using one breast pump when I went back to work, and I knew I wasn’t pumping enough milk. I bought the Spectra S 1 breast pump, and immediately, not only was the experience with the breast pump very different than the one I first used, but I was getting about an ounce more of milk per pumping session. That is SO critical when you are only pumping breast milk!
I love that the Spectra breast pump is comfortable and easy to use. The pump parts are easy to wash and easy to replace. The feature I love the most about this breast pump is that it is portable, and has a rechargeable battery that will give you 3 hours of cordless pumping, meaning you don’t have to be attached to a wall. GAME CHANGER! This breast pump also has backflow protection which is designed to keep breastmilk from seeping back into the pump. It also has a nightlight and only weighs 3 pounds, making it easy to take wherever you need to go!
Make sure that you not only have your breast pump ready, but I would HIGHLY recommend that you have at least one set of spare breast pump parts. Chances are you’ll need them at some point anyway, but the last thing you want to happen, is for something to break on your pump and you not be prepared to fix it. Or, you accidentally forget your pump parts at home. (I may or may not have had this happen to me at work.)
Another thing I would recommend if you are going to be exclusively pumping is to have a manual breast pump available just in case you need it. I have not personally used it, but I know the Haakaa Manual Breast Pump is loved by a lot of pumping moms!
The Benefits of Breastfeeding and Pumping
I have been a “breastfeeding and pumping mom” with all of my kids.
When I first became a mom, I went back to work as a teacher and finished the school year. I was breastfeeding, so it was necessary that I figure out how to use a breast pump at work. It was difficult at first to get into a rhythm that was going to work for me. But, once I did, it wasn’t an issue.
There is a big difference between breastfeeding and pumping. When you are breastfeeding, you have all of the senses helping your release milk. When you’re pumping, you aren’t with your baby, so, things like the scent of your baby and the sight of your baby are not present. This means that the hormones that usually help release breast milk aren’t there to aid you in having milk letdown.
One way to fix this issue is to bring a baby blanket with your baby’s scent, as well as a photo or video of your baby. Although I didn’t use them every time, I will say there were a handful of times that I had trouble getting a letdown and those two things helped greatly!
I know a lot of people say that you shouldn’t start pumping right away because your milk needs to regulate itself. And, I agree with that. My lactation consultants said to start pumping and creating a breast milk storage stash when my baby was between 3 to 6 weeks old.
If you’re headed back to work and you’ll know you’ll be pumping, I HIGHLY recommend you take this course! I know what it’s like to navigate the world of pumping at work, and there are some amazing tips here!
Are there any benefits to pumping instead of breastfeeding?
One of the greatest benefits of exclusively pumping is not being tied to your baby.
Don’t misunderstand me here. I know that being with your baby is important for so many reasons, but I also know that some moms don’t have a choice and have to go back to work.
For other moms, the breastfeeding relationship with their baby just didn’t work, but they still want to give their baby the benefits of breast milk.
Another one of the benefits of exclusively pumping instead of breastfeeding is that other people can feed your baby too. You will love this especially when you are exhausted and want to get more than 2-4 hours of sleep at a time. When my babies were little, I would often only get a max of 4 hours of sleep at a time. If your baby has colic, which one of mine did, letting someone else feed your baby while you sleep can be a serious gamechanger.
Need some help figuring out exclusive pumping?
It is ok to just use the breast pump and not breastfeed?
YES! Anything you can do that will give your baby the incredible benefits of breastmilk is awesome! There are also some great benefits for you as well. As a new mom trying to decide to breastfeed versus pumping, you may decide that either nursing isn’t working or it just isn’t for you, and that’s totally OK!
A Must Read!: The 4 MOST Comfortable Nursing Bras with Support!
What is a good breastfeeding and pumping schedule?
When I was working, I developed a routine that worked really well for me.
I would feed on demand at night. I would get up in the morning and pump, then if the baby woke I would nurse as well. (Let me just say that it’s incredible how much milk a baby can get AFTER a good pumping session!) I would finish getting ready and head to work.
I would get some stuff done at school and then pump before students arrived. (approx. 7:20 am) The next time I would get a chance to pump would be around 10:20 am. Then, I would pump again at around 1 pm. If I had a meeting after school, I would pump between the end of school and the meeting, but if not, I would head home and feed the baby once I got home. Once home, I would nurse on demand until the next morning and then I would do it again.
What does an exclusively pumping schedule look like?
Much like breastfeeding your baby, you’ll need to settle into a pumping schedule. I will say, every woman’s body is different when it comes to milk production. So, me giving you a schedule doesn’t mean that you can take the schedule and, voila, it’s going to work.
Some people can keep up their milk production and only pump once, maybe twice while at work for 8 hours. For others, it may be necessary to pump every 2-3 hours. That is likely how often your baby would be eating if they were nursing.
An example of a pumping schedule would be to pump in the morning when you get up. Then, once during your morning break and again at lunch. If needed, pump again before heading home from work. You could pump at dinner time and again at bedtime. You may also need to pump once or twice at night. All of that can change depending on your personal breast milk production. I just want you to see that it is likely going to take just the same time commitment as if you were nursing.
How many times a day should I pump while breastfeeding?
As I shared in the schedule, you’ll likely find yourself pumping anywhere from 2-4 times if your only pumping while away from your baby, or anywhere from 6-9 times if you’re exclusively pumping.
If you’re pumping to start building your milk stash before returning to work, then what you’ll want to do it start pumping after feeding sessions during the day and storing that milk. However, make sure that you are storing breast milk according to the time of day it was pumped, storing it in the correct breast milk storage containers, and following the proper breast milk storage guidelines.
What are the disadvantages of using a breast pump?
If you’re a new mom, a breast pump can seem complicated. On many breast pumps, there are multiple settings. Figuring out the exact breast pump settings for maximum breast milk production can be overwhelming as a new mom.
With time, you will master the breast pump and feel more comfortable pumping breast milk. You will figure out how, where, and when to pump breast milk at work. You will make the most of the time you have to pump, and you’ll give that precious liquid gold to your baby which will make the temporary hassle all worth it.
What are the side effects of breastfeeding on a mother?
A lot of women report that they have a longer span between giving birth and the return of ovulation. What this can mean for you is a long time before your period returns. This can be awesome when you already feel like you have bled enough for the next year!
One claim that I have heard a lot of women make is that they lose their baby weight quickly. I don’t believe there is any scientific evidence that proves this to be completely true, but if it is, that is an awesome benefit! I have personally experienced this both ways after pregnancy. After some pregnancies, while breastfeeding, I lost weight quickly, and other times I did not. It may also depend on how you delivered your baby as well, either via c-section or vaginally.
Another thing I have also heard is that breastfeeding can decrease your risk of female-related cancers.
I will be totally honest here and say that I haven’t conducted much research into these things. I am just sharing some of the information I have heard before. Regardless, I will take my chances on any and all of those being good things for me as a breastfeeding mom.
When to pump while breastfeeding newborn?
You should be given some recommendations from your medical care team before you leave the hospital. They will likely instruct you to begin pumping around 3 weeks if that is what you plan to do.
For me, I felt like 3 weeks was more than adequate time to be working on my breast milk stash. I had a LOT of breast milk stored in the appropriate breast milk storage containers, which eased my mind about returning to work.
If you are exclusively pumping, you’ll want to start pumping when start to notice that your baby is getting agitated. Usually, that is about every 2-3 hours. Sometimes, I could squeeze in 4 hours between feedings, but I couldn’t depend on that being the case.
Helpful Tips: Breastfeeding While Sick- Is It Safe?
How do I start pumping while still breastfeeding?
When figuring out how and when to start using a breast pump, wait until you notice that your milk has regulated. What I mean is that you feel like you’re giving your baby the milk they need, and you don’t feel “full” afterward. That will likely take a few weeks to get to that point.
Once your milk has regulated to meet your baby’s needs, you can start pumping after feedings. This is how you build up your breast milk stash to have extra milk to cushion the beginning of your time away from the baby.
What are some great tips for pumping breast milk?
There are so many great resources available, and I could seriously write an entire post on this topic. I will share with you two of the biggest things I didn’t learn about until later in my pumping journey.
The first is to make sure that you literally massage and squeeze your breasts to empty them. Once I started doing this I would get at least ½ ounce more per pumping session, and sometimes it would be a full ounce.
The other thing I would share is don’t panic if you have a couple of rough days. This is one of the reasons it’s important to build a breast milk stash. Once your period returns, you’ll likely produce less milk for a few days. It will recover, but it will make you nervous every month. I often found myself trying to figure out how to increase breast milk supply. I would encourage you to figure out some that work for you. Some involve eating certain foods, while others can be done by applying products topically.
How long to pump breast milk?
Session Length: When I started pumping before going back to work I was pumping at least 10 minutes. I was also told not to pump for more than 20 minutes. This advice is for anyone using a double breast pump. If you are using a single, or manual breast pump, you’ll likely want to pump for about 10 minutes on each side.
Length in Months/Years: The length of time you choose to pump breast milk is completely up to you. The recommendation for the length of time for babies to receive breast milk is one year. A full year of breastfeeding may seem like a long time! Once you get into a pumping routine that involves you pumping breast milk, it shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience. The only difficulty I ever encountered was finding the time to pump at work.
Yes, You Can Breastfeed and Pump Breast Milk!
It should be evident that the most important thing is that you are giving your baby breast milk! There are great benefits and at times some disadvantages to both breastfeeding and pumping. I hope I have been able to answer some of your questions here! If you can think of other questions I can answer for you, share them in the comments and I would love to help you out!
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