HEALTH TALK: Is pumping as good as breastfeeding?

Monday May 27 2019

A mother breastfeeds and pumps at the same

A mother breastfeeds and pumps at the same time. PHOTO | SCIENCE NEWS 

By Joan Salmon

Seven years ago, my first born refused to breastfeed. I opted to pump because I could not imagine giving her anything other than breastmilk. So for the next seven months, I pumped milk for her. What made it even more difficult was that she took only a little milk and her weight was alarmingly low.

Luckily, my second born was able to breastfeed and had healthy weight. Not only did he blossom but his eating habits have remained good.

Timely milk

Breast milk also changes according to the baby’s needs such as age, the time of day and even during a given feeding. According to, the fat concentration of expressed milk increases with the baby’s age in the same way that breast-fed milk does. But if mothers do not pump for long enough at each session, their infants may receive predominantly fore milk (which is high in carbohydrates) and not enough hind milk (which is high in fat).

Feeding on demand

During antenatal classes, mothers-to-be are advised to feed on demand, but that is difficult when feeding a baby on pumped milk.


Sr Victoria Elizabeth, a senior midwife at Paragon Hospital, says: “Milk production is produced on the basis of demand. Feeding a baby on demand at the breast rather than pumping to a schedule can encourage a continuing milk supply, and ensure a long and healthy feeding relationship.”

However, Eve Nabaggala who did not breastfeed her child could not control how much milk her child consumed. “She barely took 25ml in one feeding in the first three months and only increased to 50ml in the fourth month. It was disheartening because while I had plenty of milk, she had refused to breastfeed and her weight was described as unhealthy during the hospital visits,” she says.


A lot goes on while a mother breastfeeds their child. From the soothing touches, a few pecks as well as noticing anything that might be amiss. But that was never Christine Namale’s experience.

“Failure to breastfeed my child was a present pain, so I never enjoyed bottle feeding her in as much as it was breastmilk. I guess it also affected the bonding process because all I cared for was to ensure she fed. Looking back, I wish I would have done better.”

Medics also say that the skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding promotes relaxation and helps mother and child learn a lot about each other.

Nancy Namara is thankful for the skin-to-skin contact owing to breastfeeding because without it, she would never have realised that her child was developing jaundice.

“In the first few days from hospital while breastfeeding my child, I noticed a yellowish shade on her skin. I would never have noticed it if it was not for the close contact during breastfeeding,” she says.

Benefits of pumping

That said, pumping milk also has its benefits. Caregivers control pumping time to a schedule that works for them. That way, milk does not flow uninhibited. Besides that, they are also able to return to work, more so in places where a nursing room is not provided.

That helps put a mother at rest that her baby will still have food while she is at work.

Shared feeding responsibility is possible, only when the baby is feeding on pumped milk. That is unlike when the baby is breastfeeding where only the mother is responsible for the many times the baby needs to feed, even in the wee hours of the morning.

Sharing the responsibility helps the mother not to feel overwhelmed and creates convenience as the mother can be allowed time to rest.