Why Pumping Breast Milk Isn't Same as Breastfeeding

Babies fed only by bottle may miss out on some of breast milk's benefits
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 26, 2014 12:39 PM CST
Why Pumping Breast Milk Isn't Same as Breastfeeding
In this Oct. 12, 2005 file photo, a father holds his baby as bottles of milk are seen in the foreground in Alpharetta, Ga.   (AP Photo/Ric Feld, file)

With many working moms in the US enjoying only a few weeks of maternity leave, frequent and even exclusive pumping of breast milk is on the rise. And Virginia Thorley, a lactation consultant who has been investigating the limited research available on exclusive pumping and its consequences, says that while most moms think of pumping as a way of having it all, this upward trend could be presenting a few problems. Those include less skin-to-skin contact, broken-down nutrients in the pumped milk, more bacteria introduced into the milk, and fewer health benefits for the mother, reports Pacific Standard. "Promotion of breast-milk feeding as identical to breastfeeding is misleading," she says.

"The new challenge is to use language accurately, and tell mothers the truth that feeding their milk to their babies by bottle is less than equivalent to breastfeeding," Thorley adds. She acknowledges that some women exclusively pump out of necessity—the baby doesn't latch well, for instance—and that women who choose to pump over buying formula are still offering the better option. (One blogger says that pumping, "like direct nursing, is a labor of love," reports the Huffington Post.) But Thorley says that even with a dearth of research on the subject, there is already evidence that babies who drink mainly by bottle are often overfed, and that babies who nurse have fewer ear infections thanks in part to their body position while they nurse. (Here's why babies breastfed by HIV-positive moms rarely get the virus.)

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