Pumping isn’t the Same As Breastfeeding

When it comes to feeding your newborn, nothing tops breast milk. You probably already know that breast milk in any form is healthier than formula, thanks to the miraculous powers of the human body. But did you know that the method you use to feed your child breast milk actually makes a difference, too?

Many women in the US rely on pumping to feed their little ones. It’s kind of the best of both worlds—all the nourishment of real breast milk in convenient on-the-go bottles. And for women who have to go back to work shortly after their newborn arrives, it’s very much a necessity (the importance of paid parental leave is hugely undervalued in the US).

But recent research has shown that breast milk straight from the breast and pumped breast milk are not necessarily nutritionally the same.

According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, there are some interesting differences between breastfeeding and pumping. Babies who were given pumped breast milk tended to weight a little less around the 12 month mark than babies who were exclusively breastfed, according to data from 2,500 mother-newborn pairs.

How could this be?

Pumped Milk vs. Breast milk

One theory is that breast milk naturally contains a range of enzymes and hormones that make it uniquely nourishing to developing babies. However, it’s possible that refrigeration actually lessens the nourishing activity of these hormones and enzymes, meaning pumped milk can be a little less nutritionally potent. But again, that’s just an informed theory.

Pumping isn't the Same As Breastfeeding

But breastfeeding has another leg up on pumping. It actually helps babies learn to self-regulate.

When bottle feeding, be it pumped milk or formula, parents often encourage the baby to finish the entire bottle. On the other hand, breastfeeding encourages the baby to learn how to stop when they’re full—an important concept that can benefit them for a lifetime. That’s why researchers suggest breastfeeding whenever you and your baby are together and using bottles only when necessary.

At the End of the Day, Fed is Best

It’s very important to note that researchers are not claiming that pumping or formula feeding is bad. They’re just different. And when it comes to practicality, some women simply have to pump.

Not all women in the US can get paid maternity leave, and not all new mothers are physically able to breastfeed at all. That’s why when it comes to deciding how to feed your baby, you have to choose what feels best to you. While research is incredibly useful, only you can understand your unique circumstances, so make an informed decision.

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Images via Thinkstock

30 comments

Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Barbara S
Barbara S2 months ago

thanks

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Barbara S
Barbara S2 months ago

thanks

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Angela K
Angela K9 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Belinda Lang
Belinda Lang9 months ago

The important thing is breast milk is better for babies than formula.

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Elizabeth M
Past Member 9 months ago

thanks.

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Chad A
Chad Anderson9 months ago

Thank you.

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Peggy B
Peggy B9 months ago

tyfs

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Anne M
Anne Moran9 months ago

k

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Janet B
Janet B9 months ago

Thanks

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