I know that there are many who will comment on our clinic’s approach to pumping and disagree with me. However, pumping to increase milk supply can be very overwhelming for the mother. There are situations, of course, where pumping or hand expression is appropriate, but I don’t think that pumping is a good idea in the situation where the mother is already supplementing with formula. For the following reasons:
1. Pumping is expensive (to rent or buy the machine). Hand expression, of course, is not expensive, but in general, mothers are not taught the technique of hand expression.
2. Pumping is tiring and time consuming. Most mothers are already tired after the birth of a baby and also don’t have much time.
3. Pumping diminishes the mother’s enjoyment of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding should be pleasurable for the mother, but too often it is not.
4. Pumping, if not done properly, may cause sore nipples.
5. In spite of everything we tell mothers, that pumping does not tell the mother how much she is producing or can produce or how much a baby is getting from the breast, mothers look at the amount they pump and get discouraged.
6. Breast compression, which we do encourage mothers to do, is like pumping, but instead of pumping into a bottle, the mother expresses directly into the baby. It works even better, in my opinion. But see the information sheet on compression and the video clips at our website on how to do compression properly.
7. Too often, instead of helping mothers with latching the baby, teaching her how to know a baby is getting milk at the breast, using compression to increase flow to the baby, switching sides when the baby is no longer getting milk even with compression and repeating the process, and, if necessary, using a lactation aid to supplement at the breast, ”helpers” suggest the pump as the major way of fixing the problem of ”not enough milk”.
8. Pumping turns breastmilk into a product, a commodity and mothers tend to worry too much about how much they pump and not the breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is much more than the milk. It is a close, intimate relationship between two people who usually love each other very much.
Unfortunately, the importance of pumping is so emphasized, that many mothers will actually quit breastfeeding altogether. When we suggest to the mother that it’s better to quit the pumping than quit breastfeeding, most give a sigh of relief. One mother said recently in response to our suggestion to stop pumping, ”Pumping takes away your will to live”.