Breastfeeding VS Pumping – Differences, Pros & Cons

Last Updated On: 

November 27, 2017

When it comes to feeding your baby, there’s more ways than one you could go about doing this. You could breastfeed them in the most direct of ways, you could use a breast pump to store breast milk for future use, or you could ditch all of that and opt to feed them formula instead.

a mother is filling up her baby's bottle with electronically pumped breast milk

However, and at this day and age, there’s no doubt about it anymore that breastfeeding is the absolute best way to go from a nutritional standpoint, as there’s really no better quality than momma’s milk!

But, since breastfeeding the good ol’ fashion way isn’t equally convenient (or applicable) for all moms alike, pumping breast milk into a bottle has become the “next best alternative” and is often seen as the best way to get the best of both worlds: Your baby still gets fed breastmilk and not a manufactured formula, but you don’t have to face some of the hardships that come with old fashioned breastfeeding.

To which extent this is actually true is always a subject of debate between parents and experts alike, but we’ll state the information you need to know in this article so you’ll be able to make a well informed decision for yourself and according to what works best for you and your little baby.

What Are The Similarities Between Breastfeeding And Pumping?

Same Source: Both breastfed milk and pumped milk come from the same source – 100% natural milk from the mother’s breast.

The only difference here is that when you’re breastfeeding, your baby is getting their milk from your breast through your nipple, while when you’re pumping, you’re filling up a bottle that your baby can feed on afterwards.

Which Of The Two Methods Is Better?

Before getting to the answer for this question, you should know that you’re not limited to either breastfeeding or exclusively pumping – you can meet your baby’s nutritional needs with a mix of both methods perfectly fine.

Some mothers choose to exclusively pump, others choose to stick to only breastfeeding through the nipple – but if both you and your baby are fine with either method, then there’s no real reason why they can’t complement each other in your baby’s feeding regimen.

Advantages Of Breastfeeding Over Pumping

More Nutritious: There’s one rule you have to always remember when it comes to feeding your baby: The more fresh the milk they’re getting is, the more nutritious it will be, and vice versa.

This is specifically true about the vitamin C content in your breast milk, as it will have the highest vitamin C content when your baby’s directly getting it through your nipple.

When you’re pumping breast milk, the more time that passes by with it stored in a bottle, the more vitamin C it will lose as a result.

More Health Benefits For Baby: Even though your baby is still technically drinking your breast milk if they’re being fed from a pumped bottle, there is a fair amount of research out there that shows they’ll still be missing out on some of the health and developmental benefits directly associated with the act of breastfeeding itself.

For example, babies that are actively breastfed have been found to have lower chances of developing ear infections, thanks to the repeated physical movements required from the baby during the act of breastfeeding.

It’s small details like this that make you want to stick to the natural basics instead of opting for man-made methods instead.

More Health Benefits For Mom: Not only are there numerous health benefits associated with the act of breastfeeding for your baby, there are also health benefits for you.

For example, studies have shown that mothers who breastfeed their babies tend to have lower risks of cancer development, as well as an easier time losing their pregnancy weight after giving birth.

Less Risk Of Weight Problems: Because of the fact that babies tend to consume milk from their bottles at a much faster rate than they do from their mother’s breast, this could easily lead to excessive weight gain problems if the mothers don’t really know what they’re doing.

If you can get it down to an exact science where you calculate just how much your baby needs to be fed from their bottle per session, then you’re probably safe.

But if you’re leaving it up to your baby to decide when they want to stop feeding, then there’s a good chance they’re going to gain weight at a faster rate than they should be, as babies tend to take a significantly less amount of time to draw the same amount of milk from a bottle than they would from their mother’s breast in one feeding session.

Less Resources Hog: When breastfeeding your baby in the most direct of forms, you’re not using nearly as much resources as you would be pumping breast milk into a bottle.

When pumping, you first have to spend money on a high quality breastpump (which is a significant investment in and of itself).

You then have to get a load of bottles which you will be filling up and storing to feed your baby over the course of the coming days.

That means you have to preserve adequate space for these bottles in either your refrigerator or your freezer.

After they’re done feeding through these bottles, you then have to wash and clean them up for the next re-fill, which is a time drain as well (not to mention the water being spent throughout this cleaning process).

Oh, did I mention all the sanitizing you need to do as well? Bottle sanitizing, nipple sanitizing, etc .. All to make sure no harmful bacteria makes its way into your baby’s body.

With direct breastfeeding through the nipple, you don’t have to worry about any of that, as it’s a much simpler and more straightforward process.

No Milk Gone Bad: When breastfeeding, you also don’t have to worry about feeding your baby milk that’s gone bad.

As we’ve previously covered in another article, breastmilk pumped into a bottle will go bad after some time and doesn’t last forever.

So, you always have to keep track of when the milk in the bottle was pumped, where you store it and how you store it, to make sure that it’s still good to feed your baby and hasn’t gone bad yet.

This problem does not exist when you’re breastfeeding, as the milk is obviously as fresh as it can be.

You also have to go the extra mile to make sure all the parts involved in this process are as clean and sanitized as can be, so that nothing your baby comes in direct contact with is contaminated.

Less Gas: When being fed from a bottle, babies tend to swallow a significant amount of air in the process, which ends up making them gassy.

Now ofcourse, there are bottles specifically designed for gassy babies, but the point is that this entire problem is something you won’t have to worry about if you’re breastfeeding your baby, as they won’t be swallowing excessive air during the process.

The Magic: Last but not least, what kind of “breastfeeding pros” list would this be if we didn’t mention the magic that this process entails? Only mothers that have breastfed at least once before will know what this feels like.

Not only will this mother-baby experience mutually improve the bond between you and your little one because of all the skin to skin contact involved, there’s just very few experiences in the world that could mean more to some mothers than this.

Breastfeeding is also a surefire way to comfort, sooth and make your baby feel secure – all things that are associated with the act itself and aren’t as attainable with feeding them through a bottle.

Advantages Of Pumping Over Breastfeeding

Less Commitment: You have to physically be there right next to your baby each and every time you want them to breastfeed from you, but you don’t have to be physically next to them when you’re having them drink from a bottle of pumped breastmilk.

So, this translates to less commitment on your side if you pre-plan everything properly beforehand and get it all ready for the coming days.

Less Time: If spending minimal time on all of this is really important to you, then pumping is just a blessing.

It’s not unusual for babies to require double the time to finish their feeding session when being breastfed, as opposed to half the time to finish their feeding session when they’re given a bottle.

This may not be a very big issue for some mothers and they may let it slide in favor all the pros of breastfeeding, but for other mothers that may have very busy schedules and responsibilities, it makes a huge difference in their lives.

Also, a high quality breast pump is able to absorb all the available milk in both a mother’s breasts in a matter of minutes, while this is definitely not the case when you’re breastfeeding your baby.

A Helping Hand: When feeding a baby through a bottle, you can delegate this task to someone else and have a helping hand pitch in if you’re not available to do it at the time.

Be that your husband who’s at home at the time, your nanny, or any other household member, you won’t have to do this all alone.

Speaking of a helping hand, this is also a great opportunity for your husband to pitch in to improve their bond with the baby as well.

Less Stress: Let’s face it, pumping milk into a bottle and feeding your baby from it afterwards is WAY less stressful than having to breastfeed them.

When breastfeeding your baby, it’s extremely hard to complete a session from start to finish if your baby is a bit too aggravated or hungry.

If your baby isn’t doing their part in a gentle fashion, it’s going to make you stressed, which in turn will negatively affect your milk supply and flow.

On the other hand, if you’re feeding your baby through a pumped bottle of milk, they can feed whatever way they’d like to, all roads will lead to one destination at the end of the day because we’re now dealing with a bottle and not a human being that has feelings.

Less Pain: For mothers who have sensitive nipples that become sore at the least bit of breastfeeding, you may want to consider pumping in order to give yourself a break from all that (sometimes excruciating) pain.

Try giving something like a cream for sore nipples a try first, though, and see if that helps out before making the switch.

When Should I Consider Pumping Instead Of Breastfeeding?

The following list discusses some of the most common circumstances which, if you ever find yourself in, you should give some thought to pumping and feeding your baby through a bottle instead of breastfeeding.

If none of these reasons (or any other reason that may prevent you from breastfeeding) apply to you, then continue doing things as you already are, and keep pumping and bottling for another time.

Hectic Schedule: Women that lead a pretty busy lifestyle, especially one that involves a full time job, will find it incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to breastfeed their baby in each and every single one of their feeding sessions.

If this sounds like you and you’re not always physically able to be right next to your baby to breastfeed them whenever the time is due, then having them feed from a previously filled bottle of breast milk is the best alternative – certainly better than feeding them a bottle of milk formula.

Then, whenever it’s time for a feeding session of there’s and you’re able to breastfeed them, opt for that and keep the pumped bottle for later.

That’s the best way you could have these two methods complement each other if your life is pretty hectic right now.

Latching Problems: If you ask some mothers, they’ll tell you that they’ve tried everything they possibly can to get their baby to properly latch on but just can’t seem to get them to do it properly.

If you’re in this spot, then you could either seek the guidance of an expert in the field to get to the bottom of the problem and fix it, or you could resort to pumping instead.

Then when they’ve grown enough to be able to properly latch or have learned how to latch the correct way, you could revert back to breastfeeding them.

Medical Problems: If your baby suffers from any kind of medical problem that deems them unable to feed directly from your breast through the nipple, then that’s not really something up for you to decide and feeding them bottles of pumped breast milk may be your best alternative.

Public Places: Unfortunately, and at this day and age, not accepting breastfeeding in public is still a problem in many different areas around the world.

Whether you/we agree with preventing breastfeeding in public or disagree is not the issue here, as each is entitled to their own belief and this is a free world.

You just have to know that if you’ve got your mind set to breastfeed your baby but find yourself in a public space, then this may not really be up to you and you may find yourself having to feed them through a bottle instead, at least till you’re back home or can find somewhere private to get the job done.

Wrapping Up The Battle Between Breastfeeding And Pumping

This issue is very easy to over complicate, dwell on and spend a huge amount of time and energy debating which way you should go about feeding your baby – but you really shouldn’t be doing that.

If there’s anything you should take away from this article, it’s the following.

The absolute best case scenario is one where you could directly breastfeed your baby in the most old fashioned of ways – direct contact between the baby’s mouth and the breast’s nipple.

If for any case you or your baby have any physical or medical reasons that prevent this process from occurring, then your next best alternative is pumping breast milk into a bottle that your baby later on feeds from.

This may not be as beneficial as direct breastfeeding, but it’s certainly better than feeding your baby formulated milk – and at this point there’s nothing you can do about it and you’re only left with this choice as your best alternative.

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