To Pump or Not to Pump – Breast Pumping Explained

Over the past few years, electric and manual breast pumps have become common tools that help mothers express their breast milk and feed it to their babies in a bottle. There are many different reasons why someone would choose pumping as their feeding strategy, from difficulty or inability to breastfeed to relieving engorgement and more – and we’ll get into all of them shortly.

What’s important to know is that pumping is a great way to feed your baby breast milk whether you do it exclusively or switch between breastfeeding and pumping.

So, to pump or not to pump? This is the main question we’ll answer below by giving you all the reasons why many mothers choose to pump their breast milk - as well as the benefits pumping offers. 

Reasons for Pumping: When to Consider Breast Pumping

Let’s start this by saying that not everyone needs to pump. Just as breast pumping is sometimes the only option for many, it’s also a choice mothers make due to various reasons. Let’s briefly get into each and every one so you can figure out whether to pump or not to pump yourself.

Increase Milk Supply if You Have Low Milk Production

For various reasons, many mothers simply don’t produce enough milk to satisfy their baby’s needs. This is most common when there are two or more babies in the picture – and this is where pumping comes in.

Did you know that regular pumping can actually increase your milk supply? This is the simple logic of supply and demand - the more milk you remove from the breasts, the more milk will your breasts produce. When the breasts are regularly stimulated and emptied out, the body, in turn, increases the amount of milk your breasts produce.

So, if for any reason you want to increase your milk supply – give breast pumping a try.  

Engorged Breasts due to Overproduction of Breast Milk 

On the other hand, many mothers experience engorgement only weeks or even days after giving birth. Engorged breasts are a consequence of the overproduction of milk when the breasts usually feel hard, tight, and uncomfortably full.

The only way in which you can relieve the pain and discomfort is by removing the milk - either via breastfeeding or pumping.

If you have this condition and your baby is either unable to breastfeed or can’t take enough milk, pumping is a great option that’ll remove the excess breast milk and relieve the pain. 

Separation From Your Baby

For mothers who are going back to work, to school, or just plain and simple have to be separated from their baby for some time every day for whatever reason, breast pumping can be of great help - especially during the first year.

This way your baby can have your breast milk while you two are apart, so consider pumping if you don’t want to feed him or her baby formula when you’re away.

Difficulty to Breastfeed

While breastfeeding can be a daunting task for many mothers during the first week, some breastfeed with much more difficulty than others, even after the first couple of weeks. The reasons are different for everyone. 

We already mentioned engorgement, and that’s one reason - when they overproduce milk, mothers can feel pain and discomfort in the breasts as a consequence. If you suffer from breast engorgement, it can be very painful to breastfeed due to the breasts’ tenderness, so pumping can be the less-painful option that will relieve the pain once the excess milk is taken out.

Lots of women experience pain even when they’re successfully breastfeeding, especially on the nipples. Sensitive nipples can become sore fairly quickly and can even crack or swell which makes breastfeeding extremely painful, sometimes even impossible. Sore nipples can also be a consequence of the baby developing a habit to bite or if he or she doesn’t latch on properly, and this is when pumping can be a lifesaver. 

Inability to Breastfeed

Mothers who exclusively rely on pumping are simply unable to breastfeed due to various reasons.

This can happen because the baby simply refuses to or can’t latch on due to the mother having flat or inverted nipples. Some mothers are also unable to breastfeed if their baby is born prematurely or for some other reason needs to be in the neonatal intensive care unit. Some have an extremely low milk supply while others cry in pain while breastfeeding – there are plenty of reasons.

This is where pumping will keep your baby fed and nourished, so if you’re unable to breastfeed choose a manual or electric pump and try it out.

Share Feeding Time With Your Partner

Since breastfeeding is something only mothers can do, sometimes the husband or the other female partner feels left out and wants to participate in the feedings. After all, this is when the parent and the baby can experience the most intimate bonding and it’s something that more and more husbands want to be a part of. 

If you want your baby to be fed by dad as well, you can use a breast pump and give him this amazing experience that up until a little while ago was exclusive to mothers during the first year. 

By letting your partner feed your baby you won’t have to be the only one to get up every night when he or she gets hungry. Both of you can share this responsibility so you can have a good night sleep once in a while, especially during the first few months.

The Choice Not to Breastfeed 

Some women who have enough milk supply and can breastfeed, simply choose not to due to various reasons – and this is perfectly fine. Pumping is a great option where you can bottle feed your baby your nutritious breast milk but beware - exclusive pumping is not always a walk through the park. It can be very difficult and time-consuming, but then again, it all depends on the specific person.

Many mothers also decide to switch between breastfeeding and pumping, or pumping and baby formula, so it’s up to you and your decision on what’s best for you and your baby.

Donor Milk 

Some mothers who produce more milk than their baby can consume decide to pump their breast milk and either donate it or sell it to other mothers who can’t breastfeed or produce milk.

Final Words

As you can see, there are plenty of different reasons why many mothers decide to pump their breast milk. Pumping can come in handy in many situations and can even increase your milk supply, but if it’s too difficult for you have in mind that stress can be counterproductive and actually decrease your milk supply.

If you want to know more about breast pumping and how to easily and successfully do it, make sure to check out the Best Breast Pumping Tips New Mommies Should Know or take a look at our recommendations for the best breast pumps on the market today - both manual and electric.

One more thing – have you ever heard about pumping being the cause for sagging breasts and stretch marks? If you have, know that this is the biggest myth surrounding breast pumping so don’t even think twice about it. Happy pumping!