Breastfeeding Versus Pumping- Everything You Need to Know

breastfeeding versus pumping



There are absolutely benefits to both pumping and breastfeeding and comparing breastfeeding versus pumping is ultimately going to yield the same result. At the end of the day, your baby is getting breastmilk. Yay, you!

First, it is awesome that you have decided to make it a priority that your baby receive 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/pumping experience easier by sharing some great 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, the fact that you’re choosing to do it at all 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, or you must just breastfeed. You can most certainly do one or the other, but you can absolutely do both! I was a breastfeeding/pumping mom because I went back to work when we had our first. Before becoming a stay at home mom, I was a teacher, so I figured out a schedule that worked for me. I will share that later in this post.


Exclusively Breastfeeding

If you are exclusively breastfeeding, one of the greatest benefits 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 a HUGE one! Another benefit of exclusively 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. I’m not sure how accurate that is, because personally I feel like my babies were up nursing more frequently than some of my friends who formula fed, but I can at least tell myself I’m getting more sleep.

One con to exclusively 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 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!


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 (this is the pump I HIGHLY recommend!) that you’re comfortable using. I started out using one pump when I went back to work, and I knew something wasn’t right. I bought a new breast pump, and immediately, not only was the experience with the 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 a pumping mom!

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 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. That could be the difference of being able to continue to breastfeed and not.

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!


Breastfeeding and Pumping

I fell into this category with my kids. After my first, I went back to work and finished the school year. I was breastfeeding, so it was necessary that I pump at work. It was difficult at first to get into a rhythm that was going to work for me. But I 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 breastmilk aren’t there to aid you. One way to fix this 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 that 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.


Are there any benefits to pumping instead of breastfeeding?

One of the greatest benefits to 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 but to go back to work. And for other moms, the breastfeeding relationship with their baby just didn’t work, but they still want to give their baby the benefit of breast milk.

Another benefit of 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 seriously be the difference between not having a mental breakdown.


It is ok to just use the 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 nurse versus pumping, you may decide that either nursing isn’t working or it just isn’t for you, and that’s totally OK!


Related Post: The 4 BEST Comfortable Nursing Bras with Support!


What is a good breastfeeding and pumping schedule?

When I was working, I develop 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 during my plan period, which was 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 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 milk based upon the time of day it was pumped, storing it in the correct storage containers, and following the proper 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 settings for maximum milk output can seem impossible.

With time, you will master the breast pump and be pumping on the go. You will figure out how, where and when to pump 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!

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 about these things. I am just sharing with your 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 nursing mom.


What does “nursing a baby” mean?

When someone says nursing a baby, they mean that they are a breastfeeding mother. The term goes way back. And, there are even some people who are “wet nurses”, which means that they are breastfeeding their own baby, and someone else’s. For me, I think breastfeeding my own was enough, but what an incredible gift they are giving someone else’s baby.


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 a route you plan to go.

For me, I felt like 3 weeks was more than adequate time to be working on my milk stash. I had a LOT of 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.


Related Post: Breastfeeding While Sick- Is It Safe?


How to start pumping while still breastfeeding?

The best way to start pumping is to 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 milk stash to have extra milk to cushion the beginning of your time away from the baby.


What are some great pumping breast milk tips?

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 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. There are a lot of things you can try to improve your 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 was 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 length of time for babies to receive breast milk is one year. 12 months may seem like a long time! Once you get into a 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 at work.


It should be evident that the biggest thing is that you are giving your baby breast milk and that is awesome! There are benefits and disadvantages to both nursing 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!


blessings to you, Lisa






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2 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Versus Pumping- Everything You Need to Know”

    • According to the CDC, you can freeze breastmilk in a freezer safe storage container for 6-12 months. The best way to thaw breastmilk is to take it out of the freezer, place it in the refrigerator, and let it thaw naturally. (Milk that was once frozen, should only be kept in the fridge for 24 hours max.) Then, when you’re ready to use it, you would put it in a bottle, and let it sit out until it reaches room temperature. At that point, you have 2 hours to use the milk. You should never refreeze thawed milk. Click on the CDC link for more specific information is you need it! I hope that helps!

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