Like many moms-to-be, Maria Adcock, 38, fully anticipated breastfeeding her daughter Jasmine, now 16 months. But after an emergency Caesarean section and other complications, breastfeeding didn't come as naturally as she'd hoped. When a pal mentioned that she had only pumped, "it was like a light bulb went off," says Adcock, who went on to happily pump and feed Jasmine breast milk exclusively for 11 months. "It was like having the best of both worlds. I was able to give my child breast milk, but also have some of the freedoms associated with formula feeding."
Adcock is among a burgeoning group of moms who are choosing to exclusively pump. "A frequent reason for women to pump and feed breast milk instead of directly breastfeed is related to difficulties getting the baby to latch and suckle well," says Joan Meek, M.D., editor-in-chief of American Academy of Pediatrics New Mother's Guide To Breastfeeding. However, Meek adds, the pump is not an identical replacement for the breast. "The American Academy of Pediatrics states that direct breastfeeding is best and expressed breast milk is next best." One reason: Some nutrients can be lost during milk storage. For example, fat and fat-soluble vitamins have a tendency to adhere to both bottles and nipples-two "middlemen" not present when a baby nurses directly on mom's breast. "[But] the biggest drawback is the loss of the emotional component of breastfeeding and the physiologic response of both the mother and baby to being held skin-to-skin," says Meek.
For Adcock, pumping gave her the opportunity to provide her baby with the health benefits of breast milk, and it made it easy for other family members to help feed Jasmine. "My husband could be involved in a way that would have otherwise excluded him," says Adcock.
Of course, pumping wasn't all bliss. "You need to bring the pump wherever you go, and you feel like a cow. I went to Hawaii for my brother's wedding, and I had to pump on the plane. During our layover, the [electrical] outlet was by a sink. I put a shawl over me, and people were staring at me like I was crazy."
Although her husband and family were supportive, Adcock says she faced a bevy of disapproval from moms who felt strongly that pumping was no substitute for actual breastfeeding. Support and advice from like-minded women came via online pumping groups. "It made me realize I wasn't alone in finding a solution that allowed me to do what's best for both my daughter and myself," says Adcock.
While pumping exclusively wasn't Adcock's initial plan, she's glad she didn't give up on breast milk altogether. "What is breastfeeding? Ultimately it's giving your child milk from your breast. I was able to do that for 11 months."
Tips to Help Moms Pump:
1. To prompt milk let-down, have a picture of the baby or a blanket that smells like him nearby, especially if she isn't around when you pump.
2. Invest in a high-quality pump. Visit medelabreastfeedingus.com/bnn to locate hospital-grade pumps available for rent in your area.
3. Hold baby close, stroke him and maintain eye contact when feeding to help maintain an emotional connection.