…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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Got Milk? Part 3: Let’s Pump and See

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? 

Many lactation consultants and health professionals are encouraging a dependence upon pumping.  They have been sold on the notion that the pump is as good, if not better than a baby feeding directly from the breast.   They tell mothers, “Pump to see how much milk you are making.”  Another common piece of advice is “Pump after every feeding to increase your milk supply.” 

Clinical evidence shows that pumping is always second best when compared to direct breastfeeding with an excellent latch.   What is obtained from pumping is only a percentage of what the baby can get when properly positioned on the breast.  

The impression of increasing the milk supply often comes from the fact that the breast seems fuller with the combination of breastfeeding and pumping.  Assessing the quality of breastfeeding is essential because the appearance of fullness can be misleading. 

  • If the baby has a poor latch and the mother is relying more heavily on the pump for removal of her milk, the breast will build up its storage capacity. 
  • An excellent latch leads to a breast in equilibrium rather than having a leaky, full and uncomfortable breast.

Pumping most definitely has a place in the breastfeeding experience of some, but not all, new mothers.  Those mothers who encounter challenges due to prematurity, maternal/infant illness or those who work outside the home, will most likely need to pump if they are to  maintain their milk supply.  

It is both ironic and disturbing that such a profound lack of confidence in milk supply by mothers has grown in an environment where there are legions of lactation consultants and breastfeeding advocates now among us.   It turns out that the allied health profession of lactation consulting (IBCLC) and Medela, the leading manufacturer of pumps world-wide, have been closely linked throughout the past 25 years.  (I don’t seem to be alone in voicing my concerns.) Read more here.

  • A rise in individual pump ownership and use since the mid-1990’s is directly proportional to this increased focus on breast milk supply versus direct breastfeeding.  

 As far as I can tell,  mothers do not lose sleep worrying about how many ounces of amniotic fluid their placenta is making for their babies.  They trust in the wisdom of their bodies to manufacture what is needed to get the job done.   Before the advent of routine sonograms, “the bag of waters” was not even on the radar until time for labor.

Breasts would be see-through or come with alarm systems if the volume was the critical factor to be considered.  The notion of volume  being important comes from a formula feeding model-nothing changes in that processed food save for calories delivered by the ounce.

This collective obsession, pun intended, with proving how much breast milk we have, makes me think of the biblical figure, Doubting Thomas.  

Why do we need to see our milk  in order to believe in the ability of breastfeeding to nurture our babies?


1 Mtn Jim Fisher { 06.27.10 at 4:06 pm }

Didn’t know about the “pumping to increase the supply” issue LOL. where I work, the gals do it by necessity…12 hour night shifts on a busy Medical/Surgical hospital floor!

Mtn Jim

2 Liana { 06.27.10 at 4:13 pm }

Thank you! I hope more women can find trust in their bodies. My daughter was born at 24 weeks, I had to pump. But as soon as I was able to exclusively nurse her, the pump was gone.

3 Stephanie Fellows { 06.27.10 at 5:03 pm }

I totally agree!!!! Unless working outside the home or directly ordered by a doctor to supplement because low milk supply, then the actual breast is best. And I have 3 happy, healthy, well nourished children to prove it!! Thanks for pushing the social envelope.

4 Tweets that mention Got Milk? Part 3: Let’s Pump and See — ConsciousBreastfeedingConnections.com -- Topsy.com { 06.27.10 at 6:48 pm }

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Máire Clements and Gwen Tanner, James E Fisher. James E Fisher said: RT @salonmaire: (#16) Got Milk? Part 3: Let's Pump and See http://budurl.com/cbc30day16 #blog30 [...]

5 Máire Clements RN IBCLC { 06.28.10 at 4:12 am }

Of course, working moms who are away from their babies on a 12 hours shift would need to pump for comfort and to maintain their supply of breast milk to feed in their absence. What concerns me are the mothers who are breastfeeding their babies, following up every feed with pumping and then supplementing with the expressed milk as a “routine”. Natural out the window. If the latch is excellent, these babies can be getting over-fed. If it is not, the moms are under the misimpression that they are increasing their milk supply. In reality, the milk expressed in the latter scenario is some of what the baby should have accessed while breastfeeding. It’s a catch-22. Removing milk from the breasts does increase supply. However, the removal should ideally be done by the baby and not by a machine.

6 Máire Clements RN IBCLC { 06.28.10 at 8:56 am }

That’s fantastic. I worked for six years in a NICU and know how important breastfeeding was for both you and your daughter. I’m glad to hear that you were able to exclusively nurse her when you took her home.

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