Opinion

Readers React: No shame in pumping milk at work for breast-feeding moms

To the editor: Courtney Jung portrays pumping breast milk in an unfavorable light, as something to be ashamed about rather than to be celebrated. (“Is pumping as good as breast-feeding?,” Opinion, Nov. 29)

When I returned to my job as a full-time physician eight weeks after delivery, I was happy to be able to pump to develop my milk supply. Rather than feeling embarrassed for being “holed up half-naked” at my desk, I was proud to be able to provide my daughter the nutrition she needed while doing the job I love.

How does Jung suggest that I “maintain [my] hard-won dignity and professionalism” if I need to quit my job so that I can breast-feed instead of pump?

We are fortunate to live in a society where we have numerous methods available to feed our infants. I celebrate women who breast-feed or feed their children expressed milk, formula or donated milk. Jung’s article promotes a scientifically unsubstantiated view while creating a divisive and antagonistic experience for new mothers, who are already grappling with the overwhelming task of having a newborn.

Julie Schallhorn, MD, Los Angeles

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To the editor: In most circumstances, breast-feeding is probably preferable for mothers and infants compared to pumping and bottle-feeding stored milk. However, the suggestion that refrigerated breast milk “is degraded into unbound fatty acids that can cause cell death in babies’ intestines” implies a real-world danger to infants that has not been documented in any clinical study.

In fact, administration of breast milk (usually stored) is by far the best means available of preventing necrotizing enterocolitis, a devastating disease that causes intestinal necrosis and, in about 40% of cases, death in premature infants.

It is clearly a priority to better enable working mothers to breast-feed, and more generous parental leave policies should be pursued. But propagation of dubious associations between stored breast milk and intestinal injury may prompt parents to wrongly switch to formula, depriving their babies of the benefits of breast milk and breast-feeding.

Gerald Gollin, MD, Solana Beach, Calif.