by Sunny Layne
KWWL -- They call it "nature's gold" - research shows breast milk is best for building immunity, staving off disease, and even fighting obesity. But does breast milk have to come from the breast? a growing group of moms say no.
Four year old Owen loves his pb&j, but when he was a baby, breast milk was on top of the menu
"Breastfeeding is less expensive," mom Cheryl Knauer said. "It is natural and it's healthier."
But Cheryl had difficulty breast feeding naturally. So she turned to a pump instead.
"Originally, we felt it would just be a short amount of time until we got breastfeeding established, but because of the problems that we had, it winded up being a long term solution," she said.
Now, a new generation of moms are "exclusively pumping" and feeding their babies breast milk, exclusively from a bottle.
Doctor Lori Feldman-Winter is with The American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding.
"It's a growing trend. Some moms want to breastfeed but can't, like Cheryl. For others it's a matter of choice," Feldman-Winter said.
"They feel a little embarrassed to be out in public. And, so, they feel that if they can express their milk and feed their milk in a bottle, then they will be more acceptable as a cultural norm," she said.
Some say pumping is more convenient - especially when it's time to go back to work.
A number of online communities, support groups and forums are popping up about pumping.
"I was able to find a lot of support online," Knauer said.
When it comes to breast milk, is there a difference between breast and bottle? Preliminary research out of Temple University found pre-school children who had been breastfeed could more easily determine when they were full than those who were fed breast milk from a bottle- suggesting a possible link between breastfeeding and obesity prevention.
Dr. Feldman-Winter's take?
"There is a big tendency to overfeed breast milk that has been pumped because it took so much effort and energy to express that milk that you hate to waste any," she said.
And officials at the breastfeeding group "La Leche League" say by exclusively pumping, moms and babies may be missing out on a benefit or two.
"The mother learns to respond to the baby's need for breast milk and then a milk let down will come, where now if a mother's pumping, she has to learn to get acquainted to the response of a pump," League leader Loretta McCallister said.
And if she can't, experts worry a mom may make the choice to switch to formula too soon.
"We want them to continue 'til at least a year and that's hard to do with exclusive pumping," McCallister said.
But in the end, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the La Leche League officially support a woman's choice to breast feed from a bottle.
"Ultimately, the baby is getting breast milk, which is wonderful. It's liquid gold, great immunity for the baby and we have to respect choices that mothers make," McCallister said.
As for Cheryl, she says she's happy the pump allowed her to give Owen and her other two children the best start in life.
"If you want to breast feed and you are not able to, I think this is the next best thing," she said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is on a mission to encourage moms to offer breast milk - whether by bottle or breast - to their children for an entire year. Right now, according to the CDC, while 73 percent of women start breastfeeding, only 40 percent make it to the six month mark. 20 percent make it an entire year.
Reporter: Sunny Layne