Finding the perfect breast pump is crucial whether you are a stay-at-home mum or a working mum. However, depending on the needs of you and your baby, what you look for in a breast pump will be different. Let MH help you in choosing the perfect breast pump to milk out the most of your dollar.
WORDS ALEXIS TAN
The time has come for you to step out of the house and leave baby for a few hours. It could be because you are heading back to work after maternity leave or simply getting a well-deserved trip out to the mall with your friends. Buying a good and suitable breast pump is an investment that many new mums should not skimp out on because they are looking to save a pretty penny. This is so that your baby will be able to benefit from your milk even when you are not available as the milk that you express out can be easily stored for future use.
Currently, there are several types of breast pumps in the market. Choosing the right one will help to keep your milk supply constant and prevent plugged ducts or an infection. For mothers who are returning to work, it is important to keep up the pumping so that the milk supply that is previously established at home will remain constant until you stop breastfeeding. The breast pump would also need to not only express milk efficiently and quickly, but also be portable and convenient. Breast pumps fall into mainly two categories, electric or battery-powered pumps or manual pumps operated by hand. Here’s a look at some of your options.
Hospital-Grade Electric Breast Pumps
Used by: Mums who have trouble nursing
Pros: Double collection kit saves time
Cons: Big and Bulky
This type of breast pump is usually used by mothers who have trouble nursing during the first few weeks after childbirth or if their baby is unable to nurse enough to build up their milk production. It is also likely to kick-start the milk production as a hospital-grade model with a double collection kit has a rapid suck and release cycle, which mimics the suckling rate of a baby. Thus, it is commonly used by mums who have preemies that are in the NICU to establish their milk supplies because their babies are unable to start nursing. Lastly, having a double collection kit which pumps both breast at the same time will allow you to halve the pumping time and drain both breasts more effectively. This is usually available for rent from the hospitals.
Top-of-the-line Electric Breast Pumps
Used by: Mums who pump more than once a day
Pros: Efficient and portable
Cons: More expensive and harder to sterilise
Electric breast pumps are favoured by mothers who have to return to work full-time or if they are frequently away from their baby and are unable to nurse them regularly. This type of breast pump is as efficient as the hospital-grade breast pumps and is much more portable.
The pumps are fully automated with quick cycling times, and with double pumps. Some models can even imitate a baby’s suckling patterns by mimicking the initial let-down response by sucking hard at first and tapering off into a slower suckling pattern. The adjustable suction levels can ease the discomfort you may feel and make pumping more comfortable. But do keep in mind that this may not necessarily increase your milk supply. These type of pumps come in attractive carrying cases and accessories like storage bags, labels, clips and bottles are often included. If you anticipate a situation where an electrical outlet is unavailable, there are even built-in battery packs. However, the downside to the electric pump is that it is loud when in use and may be harder to operate discreetly.
Smaller Electric or Battery Operated Breast Pumps
Used by: Mums who pump once a day or less
Pros: More affordable and portable
Cons: Time-consuming and requires more effort
These lower-end electric or battery operated breast pumps are best for short-term separation from baby like leaving baby with a babysitter while you pop out to the store to run an errand or go out on a date night with the husband. This will allow your baby to still get fed with breast milk instead of formula as a substitution. These types of pumps are much more portable than the higher-end pumps and are way more affordable. The models in this category usually allow you to pump one breast at a time which will take you twice as long to pump. The motors for the smaller electric pumps wear out faster than the more expensive models and if the pump is battery-operated, the batteries need to be replaced or recharged frequently. The suction rate for these pumps are also unstable and even when adjusted, can be too weak or too strong.
Manual Breast Pumps
Used by: Mums who pump once a day or less
Pros: Simple and convenient to clean and sterilise
Cons: Time-consuming and difficult
Choosing a manual breast pump is a good low-cost option if you are only going to be away from your baby once in a while and expressing milk only when you are going to be away for a short while. The biggest attraction of the manual pump is the simplistic design and convenient size, which can easily fit into your handbag. These inexpensive pumps require you to either pump a piston or squeeze a lever to create the suction effect for the milk to flow out. They only fit one breast at one time and may often require two hands to operate.
With a manual pump, expressing all the milk out from your breast can take a long time as it depends on how quickly you can squeeze the handle of the pump. A common complaint of hand pumps by mums is they are unable to empty their breast completely, which leads to a lower milk supply.
Watch Out For: Tips and Tricks
Try not to share your breast pumps with your friends or relatives as it can be unhygienic and breastfeeding experts strongly advise against it. This is because breast milk can carry a variety of diseases and this can be passed on to you and your baby. Even if you use your personal collection kit, droplets of milk can still get into the internal parts of the pump and it will not be safe. This is also the problem with second-hand pumps. Check to see if there is any warning from the manufacturer that it is a single-user pump before buying any second hand pump.
If you are using only one side of the breast pump, remember to seal up the side that you are not using. This is because if you do not do so, it will reduce the pump suction, which will in turn lead to a decrease in milk supply.
To prevent your breast from getting hurt or sore, choose the right size breast shields. To know if it is the right size, make sure that your nipple doesn’t touch or rub along the sides of the shield chamber.
If your next pump is in another few hours, it is wise to clean the pump before the next use. Take apart the pump parts and wash them with mild soap and water. Some breast pumps do come with a brush for cleaning. If you see milk residue in the tubes after expressing, clean them by running mild soap and water through the tubes. Make sure that the tubes are completely dry before hooking them back to the pump.
Essentials: Knicks Knacks
Some manual breast pumps come with bottles that can be attached directly to the pump so milk is expressed straight into the bottle. Having more than one bottle allows you to express more and keep the extra for future use.
If you are breastfeeding at the same time while expressing milk, breast pads can help to keep your clothing from being stained and prevent leakage.
Nursing bra and clothes
Nursing bras are more convenient and be sure to choose clothes that allows your baby easy access to your breasts. For example, clothes which are stretchable are ideal so that you can pull them down easily for your baby to nurse.
A nursing pillow can help to keep the baby elevated and off your lap to get into the perfect position for nursing. It also helps to take the weight off your arms should you have to nurse for a long time or frequently.
Breastfeeding a baby can lead to dry and cracked nipples which are really painful. Most nipple creams are safe if ingested so it is possible to apply them even before nursing although it is more common to apply the nipple cream after a feed.