Pumping Moms Take Risks

Katherine - posted on 07/31/2011 ( 14 moms have responded )

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Re-Posted from cafemom

The name of a recent study published in a scientific journal says it all: The Quiet Revolution: Breastfeeding transformed with the use of breast pumps. There’s no question that more babies get breast milk thanks to the more prevalent use of breast pumps, and that’s a good thing for the most part.

But Kathleen Rasmussen, co-author of the study and a professor of nutritional science at Cornell University, wants to add that with the advantages comes the risk of issues from pumping, and she wants scientists to have a chance to investigate those issues.

There’s no doubt that better breast pumps are a good thing. Thanks to them, preemies like my Penelope can get their mom’s milk, including colostrum, even if they can’t digest them until weeks after birth. And moms who go back to work don’t have to give up on breastfeeding. And babies who have trouble latching can get that good stuff via other delivery systems. And moms can donate milk to other moms who are having trouble with supply but don’t want to resort to formula.

It seems kind of insane that something almost every mom does at one point or another – sometimes in the hospital, sometimes at home, and sometimes in workplace bathrooms – hasn’t had some kind of scientific attention.

Even though federal guidelines specify that employers provide a room other than a bathroom to pumping moms, “those guidelines only apply to companies with 50 or more employees,” says Rasmussen. “Many women are not pumping in the most ideal circumstances. They’re doing it in their cars, or supply closets.”

Some of the questions we don’t have answers to:

What is the risk of bacterial contamination of pumped milk?
What containers are safer for the storage of that milk?
How do most women store and transport their milk?
Do babies eat differently when fed at the bottle v. the breast?

In addition, there has been some research of stored milk, and it finds that microwaving milk drastically reduces its anti-infective qualities, and that breast milk’s composition changes over time. What are the effects of these changes on the baby’s nutrition?

And there’s the emotional component. What happens to the bonding experience when you get a jolt of oxytocin with only an ugly black backpack to look at? What bonding and learning experiences do moms and babies miss out on when the baby only gets expressed milk?

Each question is more mind-boggling than the next. Rasmussen isn’t saying it’s bad to feed babies expressed milk; she’s just saying that it could be different, and we need to know how so we can best support breastfeeding moms and protect their babies. She even wonders if the presence of pumps will, counter-intuitively, lead to less support for breastfeeding, as moms will be expected to hook up and pump rather than staying home with their babies during longer maternity leaves.

It is insane to me that we, as a society, claim to care about family values, yet this is yet another way to support families, specifically working moms, that hasn't been studied, and isn't being looked at. That these questions don't have answers -- that's what really drives me up a wall.

All these unanswered questions are building up in Rasmussen and her colleagues like … well… like engorged breasts! It’s like a massive let-down of questions with no answers to … hey, it’s not a perfect analogy. The point is, while better pumps are great, we don’t know what additional challenges they might bring. Here’s hoping Rasmussen can continue her work and tell us the best way to use pumps – and when to pack them away and use the direct-deposit method.

Do you think we'd be better off if we knew how many women pump, how much, and where that milk goes?

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Mary - posted on 07/31/2011

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As someone who pumped at work, I think these questions are sort of stupid. I cannot believe that anyone who did even the slightest amount of asking around didn't know to NOT microwave breastmilk. I used a Medela pump, and trust me, all you needed to know (and more) about the safe storage and usage of pumped breastmilk is contained in every single piece of paraphernalia they sell.

As for the "...bonding and learning experiences do moms and babies miss out on ..." - well, for me, this involved my daughter being held and snuggled by her daddy while I was at work. I don't think she missed out - I think she gained some really special and important time with her daddy. It was good for both of them!

As for contamination....never had an issue. I had that kid who didn't get sick until she was 2 years old, when I stopped working, and starting taking her to all of those little mommy & me things with other kids. Pumping, and cleaning your equipment is not rocket science, nor is it particularly difficult. I think this is making a mountain out a molehill

Ez - posted on 07/31/2011

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I'm just speculating here, but maybe the study is necessary to force some workplace policy changes in support of pumping mothers? Perhaps they're trying to get the law changed to include all businesses, and they need the 'scientific' research to back that up.



Otherwise, I guess there is a social/anthropological aspect that an academic would be interested in. Exclusively pumping is a different way of feeding, and takes the most work and dedication IMO. These elements seem more relevant to me than scientific data on milk storage and reheating.

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Stifler's - posted on 08/01/2011

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The nurses taught me how to hand express and store milk and heat the milk when I was in the hospital. It has enzymes in it to prevent contamination for 8 hours out of the fridge (apparently).

I had to express to get both my kids to drink even in the hospital. Renae just would NOT latch. I'm glad I got 5 days of expressing before my nipples started to bleed and the milk became red. I think my pump was way too hard on my breasts to be honest.

Kristi - posted on 07/31/2011

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When you leave the hospital a lactation specialist comes to talk to you and gives you tools are resources for pumping and breastfeeding. Most have a 24 hr number you can call if you have any questions or issues too...

~♥Little Miss - posted on 07/31/2011

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Yeah, and if you don't want to just look at your pump while pumping, bring a picture of your child! Big duh....and if you are having trouble letting down when doing it, bring an article of the babies cloths to smell or keep near you.

Kristi - posted on 07/31/2011

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I think it's great to want to make sure all moms know how to store milk but a whole study seems a little much. Are you missing out on a little bonding, yeah you are but you pump because you want to give your baby the best even if you can't be there all the time. As for wanting to know how moms transport their milk...really? Ummm...is that really a question for people or just common sense. Unless this study is going to show that my boobs are going to somehow fall off from pumping, I think all the information a study would find is already readily available to moms.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 07/31/2011

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AWESOME! Thank you Kathleen Rasmussen for giving MORE stress to already stressed out mother's who are breastfeeding and need to return to work. Instead of asking questions about IF people are doing it properly, maybe spread word to make sure they ARE doing it properly. Seriously, I think this is ridiculous. Any mother caring enough to attempt pumping is going to try their best to give their child sterilized milk. Which quite frankly, as Mary said, it is hard to NOT have it be handled properly. Why go through the effort (which YES it is a LOT of work) to contaminate it through improper handling. Yeah. Whatever.

Rosie - posted on 07/31/2011

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i think it's stupid., lol. many people would not breastfeed at all if they couldnt' pump, so scare people from pumping? sounds completely logical to me.....

[deleted account]

Every now and then I come across colleagues in a PhD/EdD program with ridiculous dissertation subjects. So who knows? Perhaps this study is being done through someone's PhD dissertation and obviously it had to have been an approved topic through the committee.

Katherine - posted on 07/31/2011

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Is is really that much of a puzzle? It doesn't seem to have to be THAT in depth to me. I know it's important knowing how to store milk, how much your baby eats and so forth, but a study? It's an interesting one, but not necessary IMO.

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