…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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Are You All Pumped Up?

Single-use, high quality electric pumps have been available for consumer purchase since the early 90’s.  During these intervening years, the amount of pumping has increased exponentially in the United States and across the industrialized world.  Pumping is very much part of the popular culture, often being featured in sitcoms and instructional media geared to expectant parents.  There is a not too subtle imperative to own a deluxe pump before the baby is even born.  Doctors, Nurses and Lactation Consultants encourage pumping as a way to both evaluate and to increase a mother’s milk supply. 

Pumping for some women is their idea of Breastfeeding.  Are you all Pumped Up?

Symptoms include, but are not limited to the following: 

  • You Breastfeed and pump after almost all feedings
  • You wake up in the middle of the night to pump
  • Your are pumping weeks worth of extra milk, just in case
  • You “power pump” if you get less milk out than usual in order to increase your supply
  • You pump whenever you feel something is wrong with your breasts
  • You pump to “empty” your breasts

I field inquiries in all my venues about pump management.  Mothers have been sold on the idea that the pump tells the whole story about their Breastfeeding.  They worry when they can’t extract the same amounts as their friends or in volumes that compete with ready-made formula bottles. 

Those women who do obtain copious amounts of milk when they pump will often have issues in their breasts while breastfeeding.  They tend to be out of sync with the baby and often contend with excessive leaking and engorgement.  Some will report having had Mastitis which was the result of inadequate drainage from only pumping or mixing pumping with direct, but inconsistent patterns of Breastfeeding.

Pumping can actually compound any problem brewing in the breasts.  Women who have sore nipples and engorgement are often advised to pump, rather than to correct the latch.  Congestion can build up and if not relieved the mother will spike a temperature leading to a course of antibiotic therapy.  Whenever, the health of the breast has been compromised it is essential to use the baby and not the pump to solve the problem.

Of course there is a time and place for Pumping…

  • Premature Delivery
  • Illness of mother or issues with the baby or babies that require a delay or interruption of direct breastfeeding
  • To obtain human milk if supplements are medically indicated
  • Returning to Work outside the home

Other reasons cited, may include:

  •  Mom needs a break from breastfeeding
  • Dad/partner wants to participate in feedings
  • To know how much the baby is getting at feedings

Since the mother is the only one pumping and Breastfeeding, it is not exactly a vacation.  Pumping will increase her workload and can create additional anxiety as her milk output can vary greatly depending upon when she pumps.  The mother who feels overwhelmed and worried about her milk supply may begin supplementing and make decisions that lead to early weaning. 

If you are pumping or have pumped what has been your experience?  Are you all pumped up?…or more aptly all pumped out?  I invite your comments and concerns related to pumping.


1 Elita { 07.28.08 at 11:03 am }

I work out of the home and returned to work on June 9th after a wonderful 6 month maternity leave. I have a perfect nursing relationship with my son, but the pump is another story. I DETEST pumping. I can’t seem to letdown, I never produce enough milk and my baby has to have some formula during the day in order to make up for what I can’t pump. This has made me feel very guilty and stressed out. We co-sleep and he nurses frequently at night and on the weekends. I wish I could give him nothing but breast milk. Discussing pumping is incomplete without discussing the reasons that mothers need to pump so frequently. We really should have 1 year maternity leave, like Canada, so moms wouldn’t even have to contend with the pump. On-site daycare or allowing moms to bring their babies to work would be great, too. Instead of looking at and discussing the real issue (lack of adequate family friendly policies) all of us just complain about how difficult it is to pump for our babies and try to come up with the best solutions possible. All the while the cash register goes cha ching for the formula companies, since most women quit breastfeeding once their maternity leave is up.

2 Got Milk? Part 3: Let’s Pump and See — ConsciousBreastfeedingConnections.com { 06.27.10 at 3:45 pm }

[...] Mothers are literally buying into the idea that pumping is the magic ticket for breastfeeding success.   Thanks to the ‘pump pushers’  it is a rare woman who actually believes that she can only breastfeed.  I have written about this “Pump Mania” extensively in  Are You All Pumped Up?  [...]

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