Let's look for a moment at the History of the Breastpump....
- Ancient Greeks and Romans used different ceramic or glass containers to catch or extract breastmilk.
- Breastpumps were first invented in the mid-19th Century.
- The idea of the breastpump was taken from the dairy industry....go figure.
- Breastpumps were first invented for use by mothers who had inverted nipples or who had babies that were too weak to breastfeed.
- The modern in-home electric breastpump has only been in use for about 24 years.
- Medela created its first hospital breastpump in 1980.
- 1983 Medela's handpump was put on the market.
- 1991 Medela starts selling it's mini-electric breastpump.
An amazing invention, the breastpump allows women to work away from their babies and to provide milk for them with much more ease than in the past. Our foremothers had to work very hard to provide milk for their babies if they were away working.
Good reasons to use a breastpump:
- For a premature or sick infant who is unable to feed at the breast.
- To provide supplementary milk when baby is not able to take in enough on their own (a transfer issue).
- To provide milk for your baby while you are working outside the home.
- Inducing lactation for an adopted baby.
- For drawing out nipples that are flat or inverted (if baby has trouble latching).
NOT good reasons to use a breastpump:
- Relieving engorgement. Hand expression works wonderfully in removing engorgement without the hassle of pulling out the pump, washing it all before and after, etc.
- To allow other family members to feed baby. There are so many other ways for the rest of the family to bond with baby. Feeding baby is not one of them. The time that baby is exclusively breastfed is so short. Soon baby will be starting solid foods and family can assist in feeding then.
- To take a break from baby. Do mothers deserve a break? Yes, of course. But there are so many ways that partners and family can give momma a break that don't involve her having to pump for a bottle -- a long bath while someones takes baby for a walk (or at least stays on the other side of the house), a haircut (these don't take so long that baby will need a bottle), a walk alone (take your phone in case baby needs you), etc.
- To create an emergency supply. When did this idea of an "emergency supply" surface?? I have known many women who have breastfed for many years and never had any milk stored up "just in case." Ultimately if an emergency situation happened, your family would either feed the baby formula for that hopefully short period of time (a good use for formula) or your dear friends that are breastfeeding might offer to donate breastmilk to you.
- For mothers of multiples to feed baby. Since the beginning of time mothers of multiples have been able to provide milk for their babies at the breast. It definitely takes time and juggling, but it's also very empowering to meet the needs of multiples.
- Maintaining a milk supply. Feeding baby at the breast whenever you are together is much more effective for maintaining your milk supply.
- Donating milk to a milk bank or informally sharing breastmilk. This is such a worthy cause. HOWEVER, your baby should always come first. If pumping is taking time away from your baby or causing an oversupply (which could lead to plugged ducts and/or mastitis), then it is possibly not the right choice for you.
Ultimately, a breastpump is a tool that was designed to be used when you are AWAY from your baby, NOT sitting right in front of your baby. Too often we see mothers who are obsessed with their pumping output instead of concentrating on just relaxing and feeding their baby. We look at the numbers on the outside of a bottle or milk storage bag and judge ourselves and how much milk we can release from our bodies. Stop judging your body. Nurture your milk supply by nursing your baby early and often from birth and then on demand as baby grows. If your baby shows signs of not taking in enough food (low weight gain, low diaper output or dehydration), seek the assistance of an experienced International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and your Health Care Provider.