Contributed by: Nancy Dixit
If you’ve had kids—or are considering having them—you’ve probably heard the mantra “breast is best.”
On this World Breastfeeding Week 2022, we’ll be highlighting the pros and cons that breastfeeding and pumping can bring to the health and welfare of babies and benefits to maternal health, focusing on good nutrition.
A majority of doctors recommend that mothers breastfeed babies exclusively for at least the first six months of their lives.
Studies have proven that breastfeeding substantially enhances the physical and socio-emotional connection between both infants and mothers.
Did you know breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese and less prone to diabetes later in life?
Breastfeeding is when you feed your baby breast milk, usually directly from your breasts. It’s also called nursing.
Many medical experts strongly recommend breastfeeding exclusively (no formula, juice, or water) for 6 months.
Even after the introduction of solid foods, it is recommended to continue to breastfeed through the baby’s first year of life.
During the first week, your baby will drink colostrum. This first stage of breast milk is concentrated and very nutritious, so a tiny amount is all your baby needs
Confused about how often you should breastfeed?
Well, the frequency of breastfeeding often depends on whether your baby prefers small, frequent meals or longer feedings. This will change as your baby grows.
Newborns often want to feed every 2 to 3 hours. By 2 months, feeding every 3 to 4 hours is common, and by six months, most babies feed every 4 to 5 hours.
Pros of breastfeeding
Some examples of breastfeeding benefits include-
Exclusive breastfeeding means not having a lot of bottles or pump parts to clean after each feeding session.
Breast milk is safe, clean and contains antibodies which help protect against many common childhood illnesses.
Improved milk nutrition
Breastmilk provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life.
It continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one-third during the second year of life.
Your breast responds to the baby’s saliva content, producing antibodies for viruses or bacteria to which the baby has been exposed.
Bonding time with your baby
The time and closeness during breastfeeding promote a special bond between parent and child.
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, there’s no need to worry about whether you have a formula or pumped milk ready to feed your baby.
Cons of exclusively breastfeeding
Here are some reasons why few women dislike breastfeeding:
Exclusive breastfeeding can leave some parents concerned since you’re not able to easily know exactly how much milk your baby has consumed.
Exclusively breastfeeding can cause pain in the breast and nipple area, especially in the initial phase (first few weeks). But it gets better eventually.
Potential food and medication restrictions
Certain medications, foods, and alcohol can transfer to your infant through breast milk. Therefore, an exclusively breastfeeding parent may need to avoid consuming certain items.
Lack of sleep
In the first few weeks of your baby’s life, you need to feed the baby frequently. It may require getting up every 2 hours to ensure your baby has sufficient food.
This can be hard mentally and physically after having just given birth.
If you want to feed your baby breast milk but due to some reasons you are not able to breastfeed, or you don’t want to, one option is bottle feeding breast milk.
But sometimes babies just flat out refuse bottles, so exclusively breastfeeding is the only option.
During the first few days after the birth of your baby, you will only be able to pump and collect a small amount of colostrum.
After you have hand-expressed a few spoonfuls worth, pumping for a short time is a good way to stimulate milk supply until your milk fully comes in.
Some parents may wonder if it’s okay to use these feeding methods, and the answer is definitely yes. With this approach, you pump your breast milk using a breast pump and give it to your baby in a bottle.
A breast pump is a mechanical device that lactating women use to extract milk from their breasts.
Pros of pumping
Exclusive pumping might be really useful in some situations like- a premature baby, difficulty in latching, a baby with a cleft palate or when breastfeeding is extremely painful.
Here are some benefits of pumping breast milk:
Exclusive pumping allows you the ability to do it on your own time schedule.
You can store the breast milk for occasions when you might want to have an alcoholic beverage or eat something that doesn’t suit your baby’s stomach.
Additionally, when you are able to pump breast milk, this means you can build up a supply in the fridge or freezer that allows your partner or other caretakers to participate in feeding your baby.
Pumping can offer a way to avoid breast discomfort due to poor latch, bites, or other issues.
Feeding milk through a bottle helps you to know exactly how much milk your baby is consuming in a day.
Note: “Whether you’re directly breastfeeding, pumping and feeding expressed milk, or doing a mix of both, your baby is still getting the nutrients they need for proper growth and development.”
Cons of pumping
Exclusive pumping might have some disadvantages also, such as:
There are lots of extra pump and bottle parts to wash and sanitize. This is the utmost thing that needs to be careful about and it takes a lot of time as well.
It’s true, that breast pumps can be expensive and equipment like breast milk storage bags can add up the cost.
Pump suction is not always as effective as a baby’s mouth at getting milk out of the breast.
As a result, depending on the person, exclusively pumping can result in less milk production than breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is something that closely affects the relationship between you and your little one.
Breastfeeding and pumping both have their benefits and downsides. Ultimately, you will have to decide which is best for you and your baby.
If you have any concerns about lactation, breastfeeding, pumping breast milk etc. make sure you schedule some time to talk with a lactation consultant.
However, once you decide to wean off breastfeeding or begin weaning your body from pumping, you will need to approach it slowly.
Talk to your doctor or lactation consultant about how to effectively wean without causing issues for you or your baby.
Moreover, you should also frequently opt for health screening. It provides you with vital insights into your health, allowing you to take necessary measures to improve it.