One day you will be nursing your own child. One day you will inevitably be told that you should pump to see what your baby is getting from the breast. It will sound like very good advice. I will give you better advice: Don’t do it.
Unless you also open up the refrigerator and assume that what is in there is what you need to eat for the day. (And go hungry on the days where there isn’t much there, and stuff yourself on the days when it is full.)
Breasts are not pre-fab meals that are filled up at the beginning of each feeding as though they have ounce markers. They are not containers. They are not measured by what is in them, but by what baby gets out of them. What baby gets from the breast is what baby has gottten out of the breast at that feed when the baby stops nursing and pops off. That amount is unknown and does not NEED to be known. And if that amount is something that you are curious about, then pumping is the WORST POSSIBLE WAY EVER to know that mysterious number.
Pumps are ineffective. They mash your breast into a hard or soft plastic thing and use a vacuum to push the ducts up against the plastic thing while sucking and trying to extract milk with all the grace and ease of an elephant dancing the ballet. The pump goes fwip-fwip-fwip-fwip in letdown mode then FWIIIIIIP-FWIIIIIIP-FWIIIIIIP-FWIIIIIIP in pumping mode. It is a robot.
A baby nursing is a combination of many things. The tongue works the breast, the jaw compresses the breast, the baby applies variable suction. When the milk flow changes the baby’s nursing patterns change. Depending on what your breast is doing at the moment baby might go fwi-fwi-fwi-fwiiiip-FWIIIIIP-fwi-fwi-fwi-FWIP-FWIP-FWIP-FWIP-FWIIIIIIP or baby might go fwip-fwip-fwip-fwip-FWIP-FWIPY-pause-FWIP-FWIP-FWIPFWIP.
Your baby is not a robot. Your baby has a body that has needs and a brain that processes those needs real-time as the baby nurses. Milk coming too fast means baby slows down. Milk coming too slow means baby works harder.
The pump is dumb. The pump does not know your body’s rhythms and patterns. The pump simply repeats a pattern of ineffective nursing in the hopes that your body will release milk. For some women it will cause milk to be released, for others it will fail miserably as it can only do two of the dozens of things that a baby does in order to get the milk out of your breasts.
Not only is it horribly ineffective, it has very different needs than your baby does. The pumps “need” is whatever size bottle you have attached to it, with however many ouncey-lines it has. Got a gallon bottle attached? Got a 4oz bottle attached? Those are the needs of the pump.
Babies are biological critters whose needs vary across the day. Just as you might want a tall glass of water after you’ve been outside jogging on a hot day.. Or a huge breakfast if you’ve slept a long time and woke up ravenous. Imagine if you were given a huge breakfast of dry toast after you just ran three miles. Or if you were given a glass of water when you were REALLY FREAKING HUNGRY. Baby knows what baby wants, and knows how to get what baby wants, and will communicate that to the breast.
The pump will just go fwipfwipfwip FWIIIIP FWIIIIP FWIIIIP no matter what. Because the pump is a dumb robot.
There are sometimes problems with supply, but they are NEVER EVER EVER something that you can diagnose with a breastpump. Just as you can’t diagnose cancer with a psychic.
Your oldest brother nursed exclusively until he was 6 months old, never had a problem. I couldn’t pump more than a half ounce most of the time. (He nursed for three years and never had formula.) He needed more than what I could pump, and he worked for it and got what he needed.
Your middle brother nursed exclusively until he was five months old. I had no problem pumping but he had weight gain issues. Turned out he was tongue tied and needed to have the tongue tie released. (He nursed for 18 months and never had formula.) He needed more than what the pump could get, and he needed for his tongue tie to be released in order to get it. (He would vomit when he used a bottle, as his tongue tie would not allow him to effectively eat from a bottle either.)
You nurse wonderfully and I can pump enough to feed three of you. It’s called oversupply and it makes you miserable sometimes. If I were to gauge your needs by the pump instead of by your behavior then you would easily consume upwards of 48 ounces of milk per day and be miserable and unhealthy rather than consuming what you need. Whatever it is that you need. I don’t know what you eat. I’ve never measured. Instead I look at the number of wet diapers you churn out with enough frequency to cause me to have a never-ending source of cloth diaper laundry. You need much less than what I can pump. And when you nurse, you nurse for what you need.
The pump is a pump. Your child is a baby. What you can pump is exactly that: What you can pump. Don’t extrapolate from that.
What you need to know is that your child will not make enough messy diapers each day if your child is not “getting enough”. You will see a diaper count that does not reflect a baby whose needs for “amount” are being met.
And if the messy count is good but there are other issues such as weight problems? The problem is NOT “amount”. It is something else that the breast pump cannot see. It is an allergic baby, or a tongue tied baby, or a baby with reflux. It is an undiagnosed baby.
The breast pump will tell you nothing other than “This is how much you can pump today at this time with this pump.” Don’t base your success or failure at breastfeeding on what the pump tells you any more than you would happily accept failure as predicted by a fortune cookie.
Those who suggest the pump mean well, but they are repeating a myth. Success is in facts, never in myths. And the measure of your supply is in your baby, never a pump.
**Please note: This is NOT about moms that are exclusively pumping. This is about the myth that a mother who is exclusively breastfeeding should pump, see what she gets, and that is what baby eats per feeding. (Ie: if mom pumps 9oz in a session, that’s what baby is getting each feed. If mom pumps a quarter of an ounce in a session, that’s what baby is getting. That is a myth.
If anything, I hold Exclusively Pumping moms in high esteem. Pumps are annoying and cumbersome, so for a mom to EP when that is the only way to provide her baby with breastmilk.. I am in awe. They work much harder than either EBFing moms or formula feeding moms.)