January 20, 2020
There are many reasons why a mother exclusively pumps her milk and does not nurse. Common reasons include pain with nursing, and infant inability or refusal to nurse. Some mothers who return to work early postpartum assume it will be easier to just pump and bottle feed. Women with a history of sexual abuse may be uncomfortable putting the infant to the breast. There is evidence that mothers who exclusively pump do not provide breastmilk for their babies as long as moms who nurse their infants1. Women need to learn how to use their pump properly to avoid pump trauma and to ensure optimal and comfortable milk drainage.
Risks of exclusively pumping include:
- Plugged ducts due to uneven or insufficient breast drainage
- Nipple pain and trauma
- Insufficient milk supply
- Excessive milk supply
When babies breastfeed, they take the amount of milk that they need. If the mother generates more milk than a nursing infant needs, the lack of complete breast emptying feeds back to the milk-producing cells in order to bring the supply down. Many mothers who are exclusive pumpers drive their supplies up higher than needed, because they tend to pump to complete emptying, which is a strong physiologic message to the cells to make more milk.
Every mother who is an exclusive pumper ought to receive counseling on proper breast shield size, ideal pump pressure settings, and recommendations on duration and frequency of pumping, depending on her milk supply and her capabilities.
- Keim SA, Boone KM, Oza-Frank R, Geraghty SR. Pumping Milk Without Ever Feeding at the Breast in the Moms2Moms Study Breastfeeding Med 12(7) 2017 p. 422-429