Breastmilk; Is Pumping equivalent to Breastfeeding?

While breastmilk is breastmilk and is always beneficial for baby, having baby latch directly, if you can, has some added benefits.

Below are some comparisons for both breast and bottle feeding. We understand it’s not possible for everyone to breastfeed.

Your breastmilk is tailored to suit your baby’s needs, when baby is directly breastfed.

Right from day 1 of baby being born, our bodies start to produce milk according to what baby requires at that time. You start producing colostrum first, which is very important & beneficial for your baby in the first few days of life outside the womb. Then your milk matures to meet the nutritional needs of baby. Each level of direct feeding is designed specifically for your baby!

Your milk changes daily.

Milk produced at 2 months is much different than milk at 4 or 6 months & so on. So feeding baby a bag of milk you’ve had in the freezer for 2 months, while still being beneficial, isn’t going to have the needed fats and other nutrients baby currently needs.

When a baby latches, their saliva enters our mammary glands and our body “reads” what the baby currently needs. Be it a certain amount of antibodies for healing of something specific, more fatty hind milk, or simply the amount needed.

Antibodies are blood proteins produced in response to substances that the body recognizes as alien, such as bacteria and viruses. Close physical contact with your baby helps your body create antibodies to germs in his environment. When you breastfeed directly, your body creates antibodies in response to cues from your baby’s saliva and other secretions. After exposure to new germs, your body can make targeted antibodies available to your baby within the next several hours (Chirco 2008) (Cantini 2008). While a bottle of milk from a previous date will provide your baby with immune factors, it will not contain antibodies to germs he was exposed to today.

Are There Differences Between Breastfeeding Directly and Bottle-feeding Expressed Milk? Native Mothering

The content of the breast milk itself may differ when it is exclusively pumped. A mother’s breast milk changes according to a baby’s needs, as it ages, as well as throughout the course of a day and the course of each feeding session. Research has confirmed that the fat concentration of expressed milk increases with the baby’s age in the same way that breast-fed milk does. But if mothers don’t pump for long enough at each session, their infants may receive predominantly fore milk (which is high in carbohydrates) and not get enough hind milk (which is high in fat). (from Pacific Standards.)

The baby is more efficient at emptying the breast as well, so this helps to avoid the possibility of clogged milk ducts, or decrease in milk supply. Breastfeeding on demand, by baby’s cue tells our body how much and how often it needs to create more milk. When we express by pumping, our body can only produce milk according to how much we are able to express with the pump.

Bottle feeding also fills baby’s belly up faster, stretching their belly & in turn, making them need more milk, more often. Pace feeding is recommended for bottle feeding a breastfed baby. (video how-to)

Breastfeeding prevents cancer & other issues for both mama & baby

  • Protects baby from many illnesses infections, and allergies. (Decreased risk of ear, chest, & stomach infections)
  • Protects against breast uterine and ovarian cancers
  • Prevents brittle bones later in life
  • Decreases risk of SIDS

Lactation consultant, Thorley adds that breastfeeding protects against ear infections not just because of breast milk’s anti-infective elements, but because of the posture of the baby’s head and the dynamics of the suck/swallow/breathe cycle while nursing. She says babies fed by bottle miss out on these aspects.

And we haven’t even addressed the potential health impacts for mothers. We don’t know if pumping breast milk offers moms the same benefits of breastfeeding, such as increased postpartum weight loss, and reduced risk of postpartum depression, multiple reproductive cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. (Pacific Standards)


Breastfeeding is about more than the milk. Babies don’t just breastfeed for nutrition; they nurse for comfort, closeness, soothing, and security.

– Pacific Standards. 

Breastfeeding creates this amazing & irreplaceable bond that lasts a lifetime.

Breastfeeding gives us skin to skin time which helps improve your milk flow & supply, as well.

“This is a time for studying and memorizing each other’s faces, for speaking or singing to your baby and developing her trust and nonverbal communication.” Nursing: It’s More than Breastfeeding | Baby Reference 

Of course you can still create this bond with bottle feeding. Hold your child close or skin to skin.


“Research has shown that breastfeeding directly correlates with a positive mood in mothers. One study examined the effects of breastfeeding and bottle-feeding on maternal mood and stress. After breastfeeding, the mothers in the study were found to have both a reduction in perceived stress and a more positive mood. In contrast, after bottle-feeding, mothers were found to have an increase in negative feelings. The researchers suggested that the higher levels of oxytocin released by breastfeeding may contribute to both reduction in stress and better mood (Mezzacappa & Katkin 2002).” – Native Mothering

When Weaning isn’t Wonderful

As I worked with mothers all over the world, I increasingly began to hear of a“delayed” postpartum depression that some of them experienced. As we discussed it further, many began to make the connection between when they weaned off of breastfeeding, and this marked increase of emotional depression.

Remember, for some women, oxytocin does function as a conduit for uplifted mood and bonding, so their emotional wellbeing during breastfeeding was being bolstered by the rise in oxytocin. As breastfeeding ends, so does the regular hormonal production of prolactin and oxytocin.  When this drops, a woman again is susceptible to the mood impacts of her hormonal state bottoming out, until her body recovers a normal hormonal rhythm again.

Read more at: Motherhood: How Breastfeeding and Weaning Affect Your Emotions

Other things to Consider

Cost, Cleaning, Sanitizing, Storing bottles, nipples, Pump accessories.

Possible Contamination:

As for contamination, everything breast milk touches outside the body during the process of expression and bottle-feeding is a chance for it to obtain harmful bacteria. Bacterial counts are higher in milk expressed with a pump than in milk expressed by hand.

(Pacific Standards)

Night time feeding takes much longer with a bottle. Getting up, preparing bottle by either warming up or de-thawing milk, feeding baby & then trying to get you both back to sleep. Breastfeeding can be done in bed, calmly and quietly, while you both relax. Breastmilk is always the right temperature, too! Exclusive pumping is also a lot of work!

Storing Correctly and Safely.

Freezing breastmilk can break down its immunological cells and lipids (but doesn’t affect its antimicrobial proteins), refrigeration reduces ascorbic acid concentrations, and both storage methods reduce antioxidant activity. Microwave thawing, which is not recommended, drastically decreases breast milk’s anti-infective elements. The effects of these changes, if any, are unknown. (Pacific Standards)

There are lots of great charts you can find online that help determine how to safely store breastmilk and for how long. Here’s a detailed one from Kelly Mom.  Different freezers and temperatures do make a difference, so be sure to do your research prior to storing. There are more links at the bottom of this post for references on storage & safety.

Closing Note

We understand some mothers are unable to breastfeed, so of course if you are able to pump to supply your baby, that is still far more beneficial than jumping right to formula.

 Check out our list on the Benefits of Breastfeeding.

Lactation Consultants

Below is a list of services to help if you’re having trouble breastfeeding. You can Google programs in your immediate area. Most towns have many options for help. Just reach out. Even to your online mom groups on Facebook.

If you’re struggling to breastfeed, I recommend you also try Baby led latching & skin to skin time. You can also try pumping to help build your supply. The only one I had any luck with is this one from Medela.

Don’t give up. If you’re determined, you can do it! Here are some things I learned on my journey of breastfeeding. If you’re having supply issues you can try boosting it with some Lactation Boosting Cookies or Porridge.

A fed baby is best! ❤

References, Reading & Resources:


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