I had a significant set of difficulties breastfeeding both of my sons. If not for the patient and devoted La Leche League leaders and lactation consultants who gave me advice, support, and a shoulder to cry on, I could not have nursed both of my boys into toddlerhood (and still going…) the way I believe nature intended me to. I wanted to be able to provide that advice, support and shoulder to women who struggled to breastfeed. So, last year I became certified as a Lactation Educator Counselor as the start of my pursuit to eventually become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
Since becoming certified, I have been privileged to counsel a handful of women, mostly over the phone, and a few in person, with what I deem success: confidence in breastfeeding and mothering was bolstered, problems troubleshooted, babies breastfeeding happily, and mothers and fathers more rested.
In recent months, I have counseled two women with week old babies who both had the same question: they wanted to know how to start using a breastpump. Neither woman worked outside of the home or had any difficulty breastfeeding, establishing the milk supply, or adjusting to life with a baby. They were simply ready to start pumping to “sock away milk” and “get some time away.”
Before I go on, I want to say that I understand why breast pumps are helpful and useful. A breast pump helped me establish my milk supply and give my newborn the precious colostrum he needed when he was in the NICU for the first four days of his life. Breast pumps can help women continue to provide breastmilk for their children when they return to work or are away from their babies. I have used breast pumps and I understand why people use them.
So what’s my lactivist beef? (Could that sound any more un-kosher?!) Why do I not recommend (nor would any lactation consultant) using a breast pump with a newborn if there is no pressing need to?
The Science. Establishing and maintaining a milk supply is best achieved by breastfeeding. Period. A breast pump cannot take the place of a baby and can, in fact, interfere with your body learning the rhythms and breast milk desires of your baby. No pump can match the stimulation and sucking power of a human baby, and frequent on-demand baby-to-breast ’round the clock for the better part of the first 3 months is the “best” way to do that. This is good for the milk supply, good for the baby (no artificial breast milk has ever come close to matching human breast milk and that’s not propaganda, it’s just the truth), and it’s good for the mama’s mental and physical health as well. Read the rest of this entry →