Mary Cassat's mother and child
Breastfeeding is not just about the human milk. Human milk is best for human babies, it is true. But breastfeeding is also part of your relationship with your baby. This relationship is about attachment of mother and child. It is also about learning your baby’s cues and your baby learning to trust that his needs are answered. This give and take is the start of your mothering experience.
The good news is that women who have difficulties making a full milk supply, can still have this breastfeeding relationship. They can still nurse their baby at the breast with a supplementer. Adopting mothers can also do this.
Some breastfeeding moms who return to work use bottles of breastmilk which they pump for their babies. It is a good way to continue giving your milk while you have to be away at work. When you get home, nursing your baby is a great way to reconnect.
There is another thing moms are doing, which makes much less sense. Some moms feel that nursing a baby is icky and so they pump their milk out to give to their baby in a bottle. They know that the milk is important for their baby’s health but they don’t want to be tied down to their baby.
There are several reasons I don’t think this is the best solution. First, instead of bonding and forming the attachment of nursing, these mothers distance themselves on purpose. Second, it is much more difficult to pump your milk and maintain an adequate supply, especially over the long term. Even though pumps are continually getting better, your baby is much more efficient at getting milk from your breast. Also, pumps can’t stimulate your breast to make as full a supply as your baby can.
So pumping out your milk to keep your breast out of your baby’s mouth takes much more work and has fewer rewards. It is also strange. As a cultural phenomena I think it says we are still stuck on breasts being sexual objects rather than nurturing ones. My hope is that our society will get over that and that we will become a breastfeeding culture once again.