How Breast Pumps Hurt Breastfeeding Moms More Than They Help

breast pump breastfeedingWhen an op-ed in the New York Times featured the headline "Is pumping as good as breastfeeding?" I instantly thought, No. It's not. But something has happened that has made mothers believe they must pump. I'm blaming our dismal maternity leave and the fact that we aren't trusting our bodies. Breast pumps can hurt more than they help.


Writer Courtney Jung's excellent piece on this important topic has some startling numbers that we cannot ignore. Forty percent of the world's breast pump market is being funded by American women. It is only here that pumping has become an integral part of breastfeeding. Why?

Just last week I spoke to my friend who had a baby three weeks ago. She's currently on leave from work and can breastfeed on demand, but her doctor made her believe she also has to pump between feedings. There are always cases where pumping helps -- I'm not about to bash a breast pump that clearly helps so many -- but I cautioned my friend not to replace breastfeeding with pumping. Nothing, not even the most expensive and "best" pump on the market, will enable a mom to produce the breast milk and also supply that needed skin-to-skin contact and bond that happens when a mother breastfeeds her child.

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I've seen far too many cases where a mother doesn't trust that she is producing enough milk for her baby so she turns to her pump. This uncomfortable contraption makes her think it's a way she can see exactly how much milk she is producing, but here's the catch -- it's not. We stress ourselves out over not producing enough, so we further stress ourselves by using a mechanical device, denying ourselves that oxytocin from breastfeeding, and all that stress can reduce the amount of milk we produce. When baby breastfeeds straight from the source, the benefits are there for mom and baby, and the milk produced is widely believed to be greater than what can be produced from a pump.

Pumps are often pushed on moms who think they aren't doing a good job at breastfeeding. Congratulations on your baby! You want to breastfeed? Great! Now here's a breast pump! We need to stop this mentality. I feel this is a case of relying too much on modernity -- good old-fashioned baby to breast is best in most cases. Introducing a pump when it's not needed only confuses everyone and stresses out mom. Stress means less milk production. We need to instill confidence in new moms. You can do it. You can breastfeed. You don't need a pump to have success.

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And there is another looming stress in the back of the mind of many new moms -- and that's the end of their maternity leave, the day they know they have to leave baby with anyone that isn't them and have an ample supply of breast milk so baby can have the best when they are at work. The clock starts ticking the day maternity leave starts, if a mom has any leave at all. Congratulations on your baby! Now here's a breast pump -- a consolation prize of sorts -- for you overachieving mothers who have to go back to work and want to breastfeed.

A breast pump is really a torture device in a neutral pastel color that makes it painfully clear you have to be away from your baby because of terrible maternity leave policies. Nothing is going to beat skin-to-skin breastfeeding. Nothing. We produce more and it's more fulfilling for mom and baby. Instead of America spending all this money manufacturing, marketing, and buying pumps, that money should go to help mothers stay home with their babies longer. So we can breastfeed. So we can develop our relationship with our babies. So we can gain confidence in being a mother. It should be, Congratulations on your baby! Here's a maternity leave policy that makes sense because we're a country who puts our future and what's best first. If only.

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