Breastfeeding Vs Breast pumping - find out which is best for you and your baby (2023)

Whether breastfeeding, best pumping, or formula feeding fed is best, how you choose to feed your baby is ultimately your decision.

When a new baby arrives so does a tonne of information, and some parents may feel bombarded, we pick through with experts and share the advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding and pumping milk, maybe you've picked one of the best breast pumps out there, in that case the advantages could be greater. Dr Shazia Malik is Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist from The Portland Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK. She reminds us, “However a woman approaches feeding their baby, whether it be direct from their breast or through pumping, it is entirely up to them. All people are different and it’s about finding what works for you.”

Mom-of-twins, Dionne tells us; "I think all mums are trying their best and the decision on how to feed their baby is theirs, mastitis (opens in new tab) was a big fear of mine. It's like that funny meme says; 'breast fed or formula fed they all end up eating McDonald fries of the car floor.' My advice to mom friends is that they are the best mom for their baby, and any decision they make is the right one for them."

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendsexclusive breastfeeding - from either breast or pump, for 6 months. Continuing even after solid foods are introduced, until at least 12 months old or until both mom and baby are both happy to stop, though with the help of great nursing pillows (opens in new tab) some moms choose to breastfeed up until four years of age.

Breastfeeding Vs Breast pumping: the pros and cons

The bottom line is that, while breastfeeding requires very little kit, pumping milk provides mums and families with greater freedom, and can sometimes be very helpful if nipples are sore and other adults can step in to offer a feed. You can do both if that works for you, but again this decision is no one's business but yours and your spouses. Here's all the information to help you choose.

Breastfeeding - the pros

From speed to health to keeping up milk supply, breastfeeding can bring lots of advantages. If breastfeeding is established, then there’s no denying the efficiency and time-saving advantages. Registered midwife at My Expert Midwife, Cathy Tabner (opens in new tab), says, “No pump is as efficient as a baby feeding well. Some women prefer providing their pumped milk via a bottle but for speed and efficiency – baby does it better.”

We’ve often been told breastfeeding promotes immunity in babies. A study (opens in new tab) from the University of Oregon found that breastfed babies had higher levels of beneficial gut bacteria. Cathy adds, “Backwash spittle which the baby passes back from its mouth into the milk ducts via the nipple during feeds alters the immunity-promoting components of the milk such as antibodies to specifically target and destroy any pathogens detected in the baby.”

The World Health Organization, also referred to as WHO, recommends breastfeedinguntil 2 years old (opens in new tab) or longer because the benefits continue that long. These agencies recommend starting as early as one hour after birth for the biggest benefits.

Breast pumping - the cons

Using a pump means parents and carers can share the load and sore breasts can heal – without damaging milk supply. Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist from The Portland Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare, Dr Malik (opens in new tab) tells us, “Pumped milk allows a partner, relative or nanny to feed the baby breast milk whilst the mum takes a well-earned rest.”

Breastfeeding Vs Breast pumping - find out which is best for you and your baby (1)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

According to the World Health Organisation, less than 50% of babies worldwide receive breastmilk. Pumping ensures your baby is consuming breastmilk. If latch is proving tricky, Dr Malik advocates the use of expressed milk: “If a baby is struggling to latch on to their mum’s breast or has trouble sucking the milk, it can be easier to feed the baby through a bottle, whilst still using breastmilk.” Midwife Cathy adds, “Pumping can relieve the pain from a tongue tie by allowing the baby to take breastmilk by bottle. Babies coping with a tongue tie may fall asleep exhausted from trying to extract milk [from the breast]. Pumped milk can save the day in these cases!”

Breastfeeding – the cons

There’s no getting around it: to establish breastfeeding, the onus is on mum and baby, its a big, weighty and often lonely mission to take on. This can lead to sleepless nights as babies settle in for cluster feeds, sore nipples and limited opportunity to be away from baby, if desired.

Growth spurts are exhausting as babies can cluster feed day and night. Cathy Tabner adds: “Breastfeeding a healthy, full-term baby from anatomically healthy breasts is an incredibly efficient process but no new mother has it easy – the burden of being responsible for feeding a small baby can be a real challenge.”

Breastfeeding Vs Breast pumping - find out which is best for you and your baby (2)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

There can be a perceived pressure to breastfeed, which can leave women feeling low if their breastfeeding experience doesn’t match up to expectations. Continuing to breastfeed can be challenging for some women, especially if they don’t have the right support. Unicef UK found that eight out of ten mothers stopped feeding before they wanted to. Cathy agrees that, while natural, breastfeeding can be stressful. She says, “Maternal mood and the role stress can play in inhibiting the let-down of milk also needs to be considered.”

Breast pumping - the cons

While expressing can help to maintain milk supply and deliver freedom for mums, sterilising and prep can make it seem arduous.

Anna is a mum of two and found pumping milk took up time. “Breastfeeding is so portable, especially with your second baby. I breastfed on the bus, in soft play and while reading my eldest bedtime stories. I tried expressing too: I was attracted to the freedom and for my partner to feed and bond. Because it took me so long to express a tiny amount, I only did it a few times.”

Aside from the act of pumping, which generally takes longer than a breastfeed, it’s vital to keep breast pump equipment clean. The same goes for the bottles and teats. NHS guidance (opens in new tab) is clear and recommends sterilising until your child is 12 months old.

Charlotte Young is a lactation consultant and the founder of Milk Matters (opens in new tab) She says, “The reality of expressing is for most parents – there are of course exceptions – much more time consuming, difficult and unsustainable. You have to express the milk, which is a learnt art – very few women pick up a pump and magically remove good volumes of milk. We then have to feed baby by bottle which takes 20-40 mins. We then have to clean the pump and bottles. We effectively more than double the time it takes to feed a baby. Yes, it’s doable and we support parents – but it’s not a comparable approach.”

Your choice

Whichever method you choose, rest assured, you are doing a great job. Dr Malik reassures us: “Both breastfeeding and pumping are excellent ways to feed a baby breast milk.” And as Cathy Tabner reminds us, we are all individual and need choose what suits our own families. “You could say that the best method is what suits mum best.”

Whether you choose breastfeeding, directly from the source, or breast pumping, breast milk it's self provides optimal nutrition for babies. It has the right amount of nutrients, is easily digested, and is readily available.

Related features:

  • Best breast pumps - tried and tested (opens in new tab)
  • 31 breastfeeding tips - from moms and experts (opens in new tab)
  • How to increase milk supply - the 7 expert -approved ways (opens in new tab)

Video of the Week:


Breastfeeding Vs Breast pumping - find out which is best for you and your baby? ›

Pumping the breast is also a good choice, but the breast will not be able to respond to the baby directly. Breast milk is the ideal food for the first 6 months of life, and breastfeeding provides life-long benefits to the adult and baby. These benefits increase the longer a person breastfeeds.

Is pumping or nursing better for baby? ›

Healthy infants who breastfeed effectively are often thought to be more efficient than the expression of milk either by hand or with an electric breast pump. Breastfed infants have been shown to remove 50% of the total volume of milk removed at a breastfeed in the first 2 min and 80% in 4 min [31].

Is it OK to pump instead of breastfeeding? ›

Pumping allows you to feed your baby with breast milk even when you are away. When you have tried your best to breastfeed and it does not work, pumping is the best option to feed your baby with breast milk. However, there are other reasons why you may find yourself adopting the practice.

Does your body know the difference between nursing and pumping? ›

If this is you, rest assured, it's not just your imagination: Most women don't get as much milk from a breast pump as their babies do from nursing. Women's bodies respond differently to babies versus pumps, and it can have a huge impact on your ability to nurse long term.

What are the disadvantages of breast pumping? ›

All breast pumps can have unpleasant side effects: Some women, for example, find that their nipples become sore and irritated. Here it is helpful to try out several types of pump with different attachments. Some women find expressing milk stressful and awkward, or they may have problems operating the pump.

Does pumping affect milk quality? ›

Pumping increases milk production if a mother is pumping in addition to nursing her baby. But if she is pumping and then skipping breast feedings, pumping may decrease milk supply.”

Why do I prefer pumping over breastfeeding? ›

Many moms choose to pump due to medical conditions that prevent their babies from breastfeeding such as latch concerns. Babies who are slower to return to birth weight in the early days may benefit from direct breastfeeding and additional pumped breast milk until they reach their birth weight.

Do babies get more milk from breast or pump? ›

It's important to remember that your baby is much more effective at getting milk from your breasts than a pump will ever be. A healthy, thriving baby will get more milk than you a capable of pumping.

What if my baby wants to nurse right after I pump? ›

If your baby wants to breastfeed right after breast pumping, let them! Some babies are patient and will just feed longer to get the milk they need.

How long should I pump instead of breastfeeding? ›

At each session, you should pump for at least 15 minutes on each side. It can take a few minutes for your milk to begin to let down, so give yourself enough time. Also, try to empty your breasts fully at each pumping session. Emptying the breasts is an important part of stimulating the production of more breast milk.

Does pumping still give baby antibodies? ›

Babies that take in breast milk that is pumped still receive all of the same immune-boosting power as babies that feed at the breast. The only time this may not apply is if the baby is coming down with a cold.

Do you lose the same weight pumping as breastfeeding? ›

Since a breast pump mimics a baby sucking at the breast, your body responds similarly when it comes to the metabolic response. But while both pumping and breastfeeding burn calories, breastfeeding tends to be more efficient and therefore moms who breastfeed do it more often, burning more calories in the long run.

Does pumped breastmilk still have antibodies? ›

Breast milk contains antibodies that can fight infection. Those antibodies are present in high amounts in colostrum, the first milk that comes out of the breasts after birth. However, there are antibodies in breastmilk the entire time a mother continues to nurse.

What is the lifespan of breast milk after pumping? ›

Freshly expressed or pumped milk can be stored: At room temperature (77°F or colder) for up to 4 hours. In the refrigerator for up to 4 days. In the freezer for about 6 months is best; up to 12 months is acceptable.

Is pumping enough to maintain milk supply? ›

Draining the breast by pumping often, like your baby would be nursing, will build or maintain a good supply of pumped milk. Most babies breastfeed about eight to 12 times every day. Pumping should closely follow the same pattern as your baby would be breastfeeding.

Is it OK to breast pump everyday? ›

It all depends on how much milk you want to gather. On the other hand, if your little one is having issues latching or you desire to exclusively pump, you'll need to pump in place of all nursing sessions. This means pumping throughout the day and night as often as your baby feeds.

Can I go 8 hours without pumping at night? ›

Ultimately, if your baby has reached its birth weight and you're pumping enough milk during the day, it's okay to sleep eight hours without pumping at night. Keep in mind there is an adjustment period for your body as it begins to acclimate to the decrease in overnight milk removal.

Which food increase breast milk? ›

What foods should I eat while breastfeeding? Focus on making healthy choices to help fuel your milk production. Opt for protein-rich foods, such as lean meat, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils and seafood low in mercury. Choose a variety of whole grains as well as fruits and vegetables.

Can pumping too much decrease milk supply? ›

Can pumping decrease milk supply? Pumping itself does not decrease your breast milk supply. In fact, it can help boost it. But if you are having trouble with low milk supply, the first step is to check that you are using the right breast pump.

Does pumping burn as many calories as breastfeeding? ›

Pumping milk burns the same amount of calories that nursing burns. Pumping milk burns anywhere from 200 to 600 calories per day. This will also vary from mother to mother, pumping session to pumping session, and the number of pumping sessions per day.

How quickly do breasts refill? ›

Despite views to the contrary, breasts are never truly empty. Milk is actually produced nonstop—before, during, and after feedings—so there's no need to wait between feedings for your breasts to refill.

Do I need to pump at night when baby sleeps through the night? ›

Most women do not need to pump during the period of time that their baby is sleeping at night. However, some women may find that long stretches without breastfeeding or pumping can result in a lower milk supply.

How quickly can a baby drain a breast? ›

Some babies are snackers – they nurse for a minute or two, take a break, and then go back. Other babies can drain the breast in two minutes and be satisfied for a few hours. It depends on how much milk you're making and your let down, too.

How many ounces can you pump in one session? ›

In an average fifteen to twenty minute breast milk pumping session, most moms express between . 5 ounces and four ounces of breast milk total. Some moms called “superproducers” are able to express four to eight ounces of breast milk per pumping session, but that is definitely not standard.

Can I go back to breastfeeding after pumping? ›

Yes, it is possible!

The likelihood of success centers on the reason you are pumping. If you started pumping because your baby had a tongue tie, and you baby still has that tongue tie, then breastfeeding may not be comfortable for you or an efficient way to feed for your baby.

Is 2 oz of breastmilk enough for a newborn? ›

During the first 2 weeks, babies will eat on average 1 - 2 oz at a time. By the end of the first month they eat about 4 oz at a time. By 2 months, increase to 6 oz per feed, and by 4 months, about 6-8 oz per feed. By 4 months, most babies are drinking about 32 oz in 24 hrs.

How many times a day should I pump if I am also breastfeeding? ›

Plan to pump at least 8-10 times in a 24-hour period (if exclusively pumping) You can pump in-between, or immediately after, breastfeeding.

What is the best schedule for pumping? ›

During the early stages of exclusively pumping, avoid going more than 5-6 hours between sessions. While it can get exhausting, pumping 1-2 times per night will ensure that you have a sufficient milk supply for your baby. If you're a working mom, aim to pump every 3-4 hours per 8 hour work period.

Why am I only pumping 1 oz of breastmilk? ›

pumping 1 oz. every 3 hours is an absolutely NORMAL amount to pump for exclusively breastfeeding moms. The normal amount is anywhere between . 5 to 2 ounces (for both breasts) per pumping session.

Does kissing your baby change breast milk? ›

Kissing your baby will change your breast milk

When you kiss your baby, you are sampling the pathogens on her skin, which are then transferred to your lymphatic system where you will produce antibodies to any bugs. These antibodies will then pass through your breast milk to your baby and boost her immune system.

Are breastfed babies healthier? ›

Breastfeeding can help protect babies against some short- and long-term illnesses and diseases. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Breastfed babies are also less likely to have ear infections and stomach bugs.

How much breastmilk needed for benefits? ›

In fact, there is some research that indicates that even as little as 50 ml of breastmilk per day may help prevent disease in breastfed babies. Additionally, our body recognizes the importance of this protection and increases the concentration of SigA as our milk supply begins to decrease.

Does pumping change breast shape? ›

Dr Geetika says It is a common misconception that breastfeeding or the use of breast pumps causes breast sagging and it is not true. It is only when the nursing mother fails to wear a good quality bra while breastfeeding that the breasts sag.

Why is my baby so hungry after breastfeeding? ›

When your baby has finished the first breast, offer the second breast, to make sure he gets what he needs. Sometimes your baby will seem to be hungry all the time because he's having a growth spurt (that's when he's growing more quickly so he needs to feed more often).

Are breastfed babies happier? ›

Breastfed babies cry more, laugh less, and generally have "more challenging temperaments" than formula-fed infants, a study has found. But such behaviour is normal, and mothers should learn to cope with it rather than reach for the bottle, according to researchers.

Does COVID vaccine antibodies go into breastmilk? ›

Antibodies help neutralize the virus, though the levels decrease at the 6-month mark, data indicate. Breast milk from individuals who are vaccinated against COVID-19 provides protection to infants who are too young to be vaccinated, according to the results of a study published in Journal of Perinatology.

How do you know if your breast milk has enough nutrients? ›

Baby's Weight Gain as the Best Sign

In the first few days of life, it is normal for a breastfed baby to lose up to 10% of his or her body weight. 1 But, after the first few days, a consistent weight gain is the best way to confirm that your baby is getting enough nutrition.

What are the 4 stages of lactation? ›

The hormonal control of lactation can be described in relation to five major stages in the development of the mammary gland. (1) embryogenesis; (2) mammogenesis or mammary growth; (3) Lactogenesis or initiation of milk secretion; (4) lactation or full milk secretion; and (5) involution when the infant is weaned.

How can I make my breast milk refill faster? ›

Try these tips to help you make more milk:
  1. Breastfeed every time your baby is hungry. ...
  2. Make sure your baby is latching well.
  3. Offer both breasts at each feeding. ...
  4. Empty your breasts at each feeding. ...
  5. Avoid bottles and pacifiers in the early weeks. ...
  6. Get plenty of sleep, and eat a healthy diet.
  7. Pump or express your milk.

Do you have to wash breast pump parts after every use? ›

The CDC and most breast pump manufacturers recommend cleaning pump parts thoroughly after every use to help protect babies from germs.

What are the disadvantages of breast pumps? ›

All breast pumps can have unpleasant side effects: Some women, for example, find that their nipples become sore and irritated. Here it is helpful to try out several types of pump with different attachments. Some women find expressing milk stressful and awkward, or they may have problems operating the pump.

What is the closest formula to breast milk? ›

Why Similac 360 Total Care? This physician and mom recommends our closest infant formula to breast milk, Similac 360 Total Care.

Why am I not getting anything when I pump? ›

Why it happens: Low milk supply can be the result of not pumping enough, pumping too soon after a feeding or not nursing between sessions. You may also have a low supply if you're not pumping long enough, if you're using the wrong type of pump or you're not drinking enough liquids.

How do you combine breastfeeding and pumping? ›

You can let your baby nurse on one side and pump the other side simultaneously. Just remember to start your baby's next nursing session on the side they didn't nurse from previously as a breastfeeding baby is capable of emptying the breast more than any mechanical pump.

How do I know my breast is empty after pumping? ›

Your breasts will feel lighter

When your breasts are empty, they will probably feel lighter and no longer uncomfortably full, as they might have at the start of the pumping session. You can also pick them up to see if they still feel heavy or full of milk.

How many times a day should I pump or breastfeed? ›

Plan to pump at least 8-10 times in a 24-hour period (if exclusively pumping) You can pump in-between, or immediately after, breastfeeding.

Does pumping or breastfeeding increase supply more? ›

Pumping itself does not decrease your breast milk supply. In fact, it can help boost it. But if you are having trouble with low milk supply, the first step is to check that you are using the right breast pump.

Will pumping every 2 hours increase milk supply? ›

Pumping every two hours throughout the day should also help to increase your milk supply. It is recommended to pump at least every three hours during the day. What is this? If you are exclusively pumping, you should pump as frequently as your newborn feeds throughout the day in order to establish a full milk supply.

How long does it take for breasts to refill with milk after pumping? ›

If you're pumping for a freezer stash or to store milk for a future separation from your baby, try pumping shortly after you finish nursing – maybe 15 to 30 minutes. That way, your body will have an hour and a half or so to replenish breast milk for your next nursing session.

Do you lose weight faster when pumping? ›

You may lose some of the weight gained during pregnancy while exclusively pumping. Pumping mothers can burn up to 500 extra calories per day. But keep in mind, you'll need to eat often to replenish calories lost and keep up your energy levels.

Do you still lose weight when pumping breast milk? ›

Whether pumping your milk to feed your little one with a bottle or breastfeeding your newborn directly, your body is still producing milk. This process burns calories and can play a role in postpartum weight loss.

How do I build up my breast milk stash? ›

Tips to Create Your Stockpile
  1. Start pumping after the first 3-4 weeks, if possible. In the early weeks, before your supply has regulated, you will likely have more milk than you need. ...
  2. Pump longer. If you normally pump for 10 minutes, go for 15 or 20 minutes for several sessions. ...
  3. Try Power Pumping. ...
  4. Pump more. ...
  5. Sleep more.

What foods help produce breast milk? ›

What To Eat To Increase Milk Supply
  • Whole Grains. Whole grains like barley and brown rice are nutritious and contain powerful properties that have proven to increase prolactin, one of the important hormones in breast milk production. ...
  • Oats. ...
  • Lean Meat. ...
  • Garlic. ...
  • Apricots. ...
  • Chickpeas. ...
  • Herbs. ...
  • Seeds.

How many Oz should you pump every 3 hours? ›

How Much Breast Milk to Pump. At one week, you should be able to pump two to three ounces every two to three hours, or about 24 ounces in a 24 hour period. You would need to double this amount if you have twins, triple it for triplets, etc.

How can I double my milk supply? ›

Read on to learn some tips for things you can do to try to increase your milk supply while pumping.
  1. Pump more often. ...
  2. Pump after nursing. ...
  3. Double pump. ...
  4. Use the right equipment. ...
  5. Try lactation cookies and supplements. ...
  6. Maintain a healthy diet. ...
  7. Don't compare. ...
  8. Relax.
Feb 22, 2019

Is it normal to only pump 1 oz every 3 hours exclusively pumping? ›

pumping 1 oz. every 3 hours is an absolutely NORMAL amount to pump for exclusively breastfeeding moms. The normal amount is anywhere between . 5 to 2 ounces (for both breasts) per pumping session.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jamar Nader

Last Updated: 18/12/2023

Views: 5974

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (55 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jamar Nader

Birthday: 1995-02-28

Address: Apt. 536 6162 Reichel Greens, Port Zackaryside, CT 22682-9804

Phone: +9958384818317

Job: IT Representative

Hobby: Scrapbooking, Hiking, Hunting, Kite flying, Blacksmithing, Video gaming, Foraging

Introduction: My name is Jamar Nader, I am a fine, shiny, colorful, bright, nice, perfect, curious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.