Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A New Way to Feed Your Newborn: Exclusively Pumping

If I could venture a guess at the one thing a new mother worries about more than anything else it is how to feed her baby. This seems to be the question of all questions in the arena of new motherhood. Parenting magazine articles dedicate pages and pages to this topic and there are shelves of books and hundreds of web pages all full of opinions as to whether or not to breastfeed or formula feed your baby. Well, this particular blog post is to educate the masses that there is another option for new mothers out there: Exclusively Pumping.

Let me just say that I do not think that formula feeding is bad. And if a mother chooses to formula feed her baby from birth, I believe that mother is just as loving and caring as a mother that chooses to breastfeed. For myself however, I just can’t deny the evidence that breast milk is better for an infant than formula and if a mother would like to be able to provide her infant with breast milk, but the nursing thing just doesn’t work out, that there is another option available.

Exclusively Pumping is when a mother would like to provide her newborn baby with breast milk but for some reason is unable to feed her baby from her breast. It may be that there is a medical reason for not being able to nurse (clef pallet, premature delivery, etc.) or simply that it didn’t work out for other reasons (mastitis, latch problems, inverted nipples, etc.).

I myself exclusively pumped for both of my daughters (and am still exclusively pumping for my second) and have found it to be a livable option. I would have preferred to have been able to exclusively breastfeed in the early months, but it just didn’t work out for us. Therefore, by being able to exclusively pump I was able to provide my daughters with breast milk even though the actual act of breast feeding wasn’t an option. This is something that I am proud of.

Exclusively Pumping is not easy. Essentially a new mother has to “feed” the machine and then “feed” the baby. Typically mothers do not chose to exclusively pump until they have exhausted all resources trying to make breast feeding work. There are many tips and techniques for making exclusively pumping work for you and these can be found at several good websites including an ivillage message board and kellymom.com. I am not going to go into the specifics of how to make exclusive pumping work for you but am rather going to use this post to answer a few typical questions that I receive when I tell people that I am exclusively pumping.

Is exclusively pumping nutritionally just as good as breastfeeding?

It is always best for an infant to receive breast milk straight from the breast because that is when it is the freshest. However, when care is taken to the storage of expressed breast milk, the majority of the benefits are present. The freezing process does cause breast milk to lose some of its nutritional value so if at all possible it is best to give your infant breast milk that hasn’t been frozen. However, if the infant is given frozen breast milk it is still shown to be nutritionally superior to formula.

If you are exclusively pumping how to do you answer the question “Are You Nursing”?

How to answer this question is completely up to the mother. I tend to answer this question differently based on who asked the question. If it is a close friend I smile and give a short explanation that my daughter is receiving breast milk in a bottle. If the person asking the question is not as familiar to me, and more of an acquaintance, I simply say “Yes” and leave it at that.

The most important component of answering this question is to feel confident in your decision to exclusively pump. I can’t stress how important it is to not feel guilty for giving your child expressed breast milk rather than having your child take the milk from your breast; it is your gift to your child.

How many mothers out there are exclusively pumping?

I have never seen a study on this, but I don’t think that there are many. I believe there would be more mothers who chose this option if there were more education about it. As it is today, if breast feeding doesn’t work most mothers immediately turn to formula.

How do you find the time to exclusively pump?

There are tricks to exclusively pumping that make it a little bit easier. There are ways to go “hands free” as well as plugging your pump into an extension cord to give you mobility. I can work at the computer, read, eat, and play with my daughter all while I am pumping. If you get a battery pack to go with your pump you can even pump in your car so long as you take the appropriate measures to maintain your modesty.

Is your baby receiving 100% breast milk?

Both of my daughters received exclusive breast milk until they were 6 weeks old. At that time they received half breast milk and half formula. Any amount of breast milk is a gift and if I can even give them half of their daily intake as breast milk then that is something I am proud of.

All of us mothers need to let go of the “all or nothing” thinking. We can only do our best and our best has to be good enough. Treat yourself kindly and know that you are doing the best you can.

Happy Pumping!

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