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Sometimes when breastfeeding is a struggle for a mom, she will ask me if it’s okay to just pump and bottle feed. My answer is always, absolutely. I go back to one of my favorite phrases, “You drive the bus.” That means that you decide where the bus is going. My greatest hope for all babies is that they are able to get breastmilk for a full year. I want to do everything I can to help that happen.
I also want to help a mom decide if she really does need to only pump and not be able to directly breastfeed her baby. Is there something else that I can do to help her do that? In the end, if the answer is that exclusively pumping and bottle-feeding is the best choice for her, then I will give her every bit of information and advice that I have to help that decision be the easiest one for her to manage.
There are primarily three reasons I want to help this mom be able to directly breastfeed.
Reason #1 – Exclusively pumping and bottle-feeding is time consuming. Mom has to pump and bottle-feed, most likely at every feeding. Some moms will have very abundant supplies and get to the point where they don’t have to pump as frequently as their baby eats. However, that won’t be most moms. Essentially, it will be double-duty. This leads us to reason #2
Reason #2- Exclusively pumping and bottle-feeding often is not maintained for a full year. I know a lot of moms who have been very committed to making sure their baby gets breast milk for a full year, and have pumped for that time period. Some moms will do this for even longer than a year. It seems I have heard from more moms who haven’t done it for a year.
Reason #3 – There is value to directly breastfeeding. Breastfeeding from the breast helps proper jaw development. Exclusive bottle use increases the chances for the need for orthodontia later in life. I also wonder if it affects a moms ability to respond to her baby’s exposure to viruses and bacteria by increasing antibody production. I am not aware of this ever being studied.
There are times when a break from breastfeeding is exactly what a mom needs. It may be a break once in her 24-hour routine, or for a full 24 hours, even for a week or two. As long as she maintains pumping frequently enough, she will be able to maintain milk production.
Some moms come to the conclusion that, whatever problem they are trying to fix, is not fixable, or it is too emotionally difficult to continue breastfeeding. They make the decision to exclusively pump and breast milk feed. This is still a breastfeeding mom. They don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why.
Moms who choose to exclusively pump and bottlefeed need a special kind of support. This is actually a big topic. My next full post will be about this.
Peres, K. G., Barros, A. J., Peres, M. A., & Victora, C. G. (2007). Effects of breastfeeding and sucking habits on malocclusion in a birth cohort study. Revista de saude Publica, 41(3), 343-350.
Montaldo, L., Montaldo, P., Cuccaro, P., Caramico, N., & Minervini, G. (2011). Effects of feeding on non‐nutritive sucking habits and implications on occlusion in mixed dentition. International journal of paediatric dentistry, 21(1), 68-73.
Peres, K. G., Cascaes, A. M., Peres, M. A., Demarco, F. F., Santos, I. S., Matijasevich, A., & Barros, A. J. (2015). Exclusive breastfeeding and risk of dental malocclusion. Pediatrics, 136(1), e60-e67.
Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC
Andrea has been working with new families as an RN for over 35 years and a Lactation Consultant for over 25 years.
She has her MA in Health and Wellness with a focus in Lactation.