Do you really need a breast pump?
We all have different ways of expressing ourselves. Grace Nixon, aka The Baby Lady, looks at the pros and cons of electric and manual breast pumps.
Every parent has a unique feeding journey, and how you feed your baby is up to you. If you breastfeed, a pump is a handy piece of equipment, but with an array of options on the shelves – which pump should you choose?
Breast pumps provide support in many ways. They allow dads and other caregivers the chance to feed a breastfed baby while Mum has a break. Pumps enable mothers working outside the home to express during office hours. Health professionals often recommend the use of a breast pump to increase breastmilk supply or to help empty the breast to give relief from mastitis. Breast pumps fall into two main categories: electric or manual, both of which have pros and cons and cater to different needs.
These automatically pump the breast. They have adjustable settings for suction strength and cycle times so can be set at a comfortable level. Powered pumps are perfect for the mum who has gone back to work, is pumping more than once a day, is trying to increase her milk supply or has multiple babies.
Electric pumps tend to be much more efficient than manual ones. They are also usually sold as a double pumping kit so you can express both breasts at once, saving you time and effort. Most electric pumps have a built-in battery pack which makes them portable.
Generally these are larger and heavier than manual pumps, although there are lightweight options around. They’re definitely noisier than a manual pump, making it harder to be discreet while pumping. And they’re more expensive – so if you’re on a budget, save up until you’re sure you need an electric pump.
These require you to pump a piston or squeeze a lever to create suction and stimulate the breast to release milk. This type of pump is perfect for expressing around one bottle per day.
They’re extremely portable and tend to be lighter, smaller and very quiet. Some mums say that manual pumps feel more natural and closer to a baby’s sucking, as the suction strength can be controlled by hand. Manual breast pumps are cheaper than their electric counterparts.
They usually come as a single pump, which means it takes you twice the time to express (although some double manual pumps are available). It can take longer to empty your breast and your hand may get tired, especially if you are using a single manual pump to express off both breasts. Some mums find that they don’t empty their breast as effectively as an electric or battery-powered pump.
Other things to consider:
If you don’t have a breast pump and a health professional recommends you use one for a short time, they can be hired from the hospital.
Never buy a used pump as breast milk can carry bacteria and viruses that can contaminate the pump. Rental or hospital pumps, however, are safe as they’re designed to prevent breast milk from getting inside the pump. So long as you use the sterile collection kit provided, you’re safe.
Check that the breast suction cups are the correct size. If your nipple is turning red or white, or rubbing painfully on the sides, or the cups are sucking in an excessive amount of your areola, the cups are the wrong size. If your breasts still feel full after you’ve pumped, this may be another sign that the suction cups are the wrong size.
Following the instruction manual, make sure you wash and store your breast pump after every use, and know how to safely and hygienically store your expressed breast milk.
Some health professionals recommend not introducing a bottle until you’ve established breastfeeding, which takes around six weeks. However, it’s worth having a conversation with your LMC and getting some advice specifically for you and your feeding situation before you’re discharged.
I recommend not purchasing a breast pump until after your baby is born, as then you’ll know more about your personal feeding experience and milk supply. You might change your mind about when, how, or if you want to introduce a breastmilk bottle. If you’re tossing up between purchasing a manual or an electric/battery-powered breast pump, then I’d especially wait until you’re clear on your requirements, as the additional investment may not be necessary.
Philips Avent Comfort
This single electric breast pump is designed to enable your milk to flow directly into the bottle, even when you’re sitting up straight. The pump automatically starts in gentle stimulation mode, and the massage cushion mimics your baby’s sucking to help stimulate let-down. From $299.95, from leading baby retailers.
The 2-Phase manual breast pump has an ergonomic swivel handle which allows you to begin with short fast pumping in the stimulation phase (using the short side of the handle) before switching to slower stronger expression once milk has been let down. RRP$119 from leading baby retailers and pharmacies.
Tommee tippee Closer to nature
This pump is electric or battery-operated, making it great for home or travel, and it connects to all Closer To Nature bottles. Three levels of draw-down allow you to progress slowly as you gain confidence expressing milk. RRP$249.95 from Farmers, The Baby Factory and Babycity.
The Jolie is sturdy with just a few parts, making for quick assembly and easy cleaning – it’s dishwasher-safe as well. It has an ergonomic lever for smooth action and is ideal to express milk for the occasional night off or appointment . RRP$109.99 from Babycity, The Baby Factory and selected pharmacies and baby retailers.
With seven levels of massage modes and nine levels of expressing modes, the Minuet provides powerful double expressing performance. It features an LCD display, a USB charge port and a new improved hygienic back-flow protection system. RRP$275, find retailers at unimom.co.nz.
HAAKAA Silicone Breast Pump
This eco-friendly pump is compact and easy to use with no assembly required. It fits in any handbag or baby bag, so it’s great for travel and those quick and discreet pumping sessions. Simply suction it to your breast and let the pump do the work. Dishwasher-safe and BPA-, PVC- and phthalate free, $27.90, haakaa.co.nz.
Grace Nixon is an Auckland-based nursery specialist. Find her at practicalparentingantenatal.com to learn about her antenatal classes.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 41 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW