I was very lucky to have not one but two different pre-loved breast pumps passed onto me when I was expecting baby R. Some might find the idea of a second hand breastpump a bit odd or gross, but if anything is to be passed on, something that comes apart for every single little bit to be steralized is probably one of the cleaner and safer items!
At first baby D refused to Breast Feed. He was jaundice and sleepy. In fact he slept for about 20 hours a day when he first came home from hospital, which made feeding him a huge challenge. I had no particular problem with offering him formula if he genuinely needed it, but was keen not to be sucked in to using formula to supplement his feeds, and then not producing enough of my own milk due to the complex supply and demand nature of producing breast milk. So this is where the pump came in.
We would give baby R skin to skin for 20-30 minutes before every attempted feed. Then we would have a go at breast feeding. This involved stripping him down to keep him cool and awake, tickling his feet and chin, poking him, anything we could do to keep him awake. He was perfectly capable of a good latch (taught by the fantastic midwives at both the antenatal class and at the hospital) but would just fall asleep. After 30 minutes or so of failed feeding at the breast, we moved onto expressed milk which we would take out of the fridge (the 30ml or so) and heat gently. Then after that, we would usually need to do a small top up of formula, which of course has to be mixed with boiling water, then cooled. Once that process was finished and we were happy we’d got a decent feed into him, I then had the pleasure of expressing for the next feed.
The thinking behind this was twofold- and for anyone not aware of how breast feeding works this might be helpful. One midwife described the process as “like a toilet cistern. If you don’t empty it, it won’t fill back up” (I like to think of it more as finishing your glass of wine at a lovely restaurant so the waiter can fill it back up again!). So the process of removing milk from my breasts wasn’t just to be able to feed it to Baby R in a bottle for the next feed, but combined with the skin to skin time and the attempted feeding at the breast, would further stimulate the supply. So I got to know our pumps well over the next few months.
I’ll be honest- there were also pipe dreams….. maybe of my lovely husband being able to do a night or evening feed so I could have a little rest, or even (shock horror) the concept of me going out one evening baby free and daddy doing a whole evening shift. Sadly bottle refusal from 6 weeks old mixed with a healthy (?) dose of colic put pay to that idea. The colic didn’t last, the bottle refusal lasted over a year!
Ok so here we go with the reviews!
Medela Mini Electric Breast Pump
I had no idea what to expect from a breast pump, but when I showed the midwife what I had she was very impressed and said that they’re some of the best on the market, and what they call “hospital grade”- i.e the midwives and health visitors in the hospitals use these themselves. It was pretty easy to put together and use. It’s important to get the positioning right otherwise you can end up with a rubbed nipple- and with everything else they go through whilst you learn to breastfeed, it can be very uncomfortable. I also had the issue that the standard size flange (the bit that goes over your nipple) wasn’t big enough (though it certainly looked it). When I went to the specialist Breast Feeding clinic in Farnborough, the BF advisor kindly lent me a larger one (which I must return at some point!).
The pump is easy to use, extracts milk well, with a dial to change the strength setting and I found the sound of the motor very reassuring and relaxing!
Although they will take batteries, it’s easiest to use plugged in which slightly limits where you can use it. I found travelling to work, with it, for example, quite challenging. The pump has only one “pattern” so it sucks for around 1.5 seconds and releases. This means it isn’t particularly efficient.
Avent Comfort Manual Pump
The manual pump was a bit of a revelation to me. I tried it first at 2 days Post Partum, beofre the thick colustrum had changed into thinner milk. At the time I assumed that the colostrum was too thick to pump, but there’s definitely a technique which I am now aware of which may have worked then too.
I started properly using the manual pump when I went back to work for my Keeping In Touch days. Having never left my baby for more than a few hours previously, a 10 hour plus day away from him seemed a bit of a challenge for my poor swollen breasts. As I don’t work in one office, but visit lots of partner organisations, it was hard for me to request rooms to express in for regular breaks during the day. I realised that (for me) a shower room would suffice, but of course they lack in three pin sockets. So I decided to crack out the manual pump.
The important thing with this one is to ensure that all the parts are tightly fitted together, especially the cushion around the flange. It takes a few pumping motions to create enough of a vacuum to get the milk flowing. However, once it gets going, you can create your own pattern of pumps to match the speed and volume of milk that comes out and your own natural rhythm. This was a total revelation to me, and made expressing much easier and more efficient. In addition, providing there’s not too much other background noise, you can hear the milk shooting into the recepticle so you don’t need to watch what you’re doing.
More efficient and comfier to use due to the cushioning. Quieter!
Sometimes the flange fills with milk and you need to remove it and reposition to let the valve work properly
I will just add in the bottom something about hand expressing. It’s not something I’ve personally had much success with (bar the odd late evening at work recently where I’ve just relieved the pressure). However, those in the know say that it’s the most efficient way to express if you do things right and learn a good technique- and there are certainly plenty of useful videos and instructions available out there.
And finally- it’s really important to remember that your ability to express, and the amount that you can produce using a pump- electric or manual, or hand expressing- is NOT a representation of how much milk your baby will get during a feed. Babies are made by nature to get milk from their mummies, so trust in their ability to do this. They are much more efficient than a piece of machinery, and unless your health visitor or midwife has any serious concerns about your babies weightloss or ability to take in milk, don’t be alarmed if they lose a bit of weight after birth. The NCT have a great page here:
which tells you all about what to do if you worry that your baby is not getting “enough” milk.