Bottle Feeding and Breastfeeding: Is There a Third Option?

Bottle Feeding and Breastfeeding: Is There a Third Option?

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Updated on May 17, 2012

Most women have heard of the value of breastfeeding their babies, but for many new mamas, nursing simply isn't an option. Rather than turning to formula, some moms are exploring another alternative—exclusive pumping. These mothers use a breast pump to express milk, and then bottle feed their babies with the resulting breastmilk.

Many women who decide to exclusively pump do so after experiencing difficulty breastfeeding. They choose to pump rather than giving formula because they strongly believe in the value of breastmilk, but face breastfeeding challenges. This may be for any of the following reasons:

  • Lack of knowledge or support about nursing challenges, such as your baby refusing to latch
  • Medical problems in the baby or mother, such as mastitis
  • Premature birth of the child

In these situations, exclusively pumping can be especially helpful to new mothers as an alternative to formula. “Providing expressed breast milk is also a means of controlling an otherwise uncontrollable experience,” explains Stephanie Casemore, author of Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk: A Guide to Providing Expressed Breast Milk for Your Baby. “I believe many women will EP as a way of working through the loss of the breastfeeding experience they had hoped for and expected.”

Is It Possible?

When a mother finds out that nursing will be difficult or impossible for her to attempt, she may not realize that exclusively pumping (EPing) is an alternative to formula. While doctors actively publicize the research regarding the benefits of breastfeeding, women often don't realize that while there are many advantages of breastfeeding that EPing can't provide, EPing can still give their baby the nutritional and immunological perks of the breastmilk itself.

“Many women are told by medical professionals, and sometimes even lactation consultants, that it is impossible to pump exclusively and that if they are not directly breastfeeding they will not initiate and maintain a strong milk supply,” laments Casemore. “But this is not true! Overwhelmingly, women who are having challenges maintaining their milk supply have had difficulty accessing and implementing accurate information. When good practices are put into place and the necessary time is given to pump frequently, most women are able to initiate and maintain a milk supply that will meet the needs of their baby.”

Pumping Problems

At the same time, there are several issues that EPing mothers may encounter on this different route to giving their babies breastmilk. Based on the questions that Casemore receives through her website, here are the three main issues that EPing moms often deal with:

Issue #1: Supply Problems

The suckling actions of a newborn stimulate milk production more strongly than a breastpump can, which is why some EPing mothers can experience supply issues. At the same time, moms can take steps to help build up their supply and avoid these issues. For example, they should make sure to use an excellent double-electric breast pump, pump frequently, make sure not to miss pumping sessions, ensure that their pump is maintained properly, and check the size of the flanges on the pump to ensure proper fit. Mothers with complications that can impact supply, such as a premature baby or PCOS, should use a hospital grade pump in order to increase their milk production even more. Some mamas may also take galactogogues (milk-making herbs) such as fenugreek or prescription medications.

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