Not all pumps are created equal.
When my first baby was on the way, and I was looking at what I wanted to buy in preparation, a breast pump was on the list. So I bought a basic one, and then when the moment arrived and I needed to relieve some engorgement, out it came…and it it was like a torture device!
‘How do people even USE one of these?’ I thought in despair. ‘Surely I must be doing something wrong!’
Turns out I wasn’t doing anything wrong, it was just that the pump itself was wrong – for me, anyway. The problem with basic manual pumps is that they come with one level of suction and one size of breast shell in general; and because all breasts are not the same then it makes sense that a ‘one size fits all’ kind of pump isn’t going to work for everyone either.
So first off, it’s a good idea to know how to hand express. It’s actually a very effective method of extracting breastmilk, and a lot less effort than you might think. Perfect if you just want to express a little to relieve engorgement and you can collect the milk in a sterilised jug to save for use later too.
Second, if you ARE going to invest in a pump – manual or electric – think about what you’ll be using it for. If you plan to only express occasionally and for short periods, you may find that a manual pump is best for you. Whilst very basic pumps (such as the one I originally bought) might not work so well, other manual breastpumps such as the ARDO Amaryll come with a variety of breastshell sizes and inserts so that you can experiment and find the one that fits best for you. As a basic guide, if your nipple is rubbing on the siides of the tube (rather than the areola) or your breasts always feel tender after pumping then you may be using a breast shell that is too small.
And if you plan to express a bit more regularly, then an electric breastpump may be the best choice. For short periods of intensive or regular pumping there is the option to hire a hospital grade pump – many NCT branches have a pump hire volunteer who you can speak to or you can arrange hire directly through the ARDO website too. From my own experience, hospital grade pumps are absolutely fantastic if you are trying to establish or maintain breastmilk supply – they are efficient and minutely individually tailorable so you can make sure that you are expressing as efficiently as possible. I owe my breastfeeding relationship with Bubby D to a hospital grade breastpump!
For longer term use, or if you are returning to work then there are some great electric pumps at a reasonable price. Some are single, and some are double…and there are a few things to look out for:
- mains or battery powered? Having a pump which can do both is handy as it means you can easily take the pump out with you if necessary without having to carry around wires and locate plug sockets. Conversely, a pump that is battery powered only can be an issue if you run out of batteries. So having both options is great!
- convertable from single to double? It may be that you only ever want to pump from one side (for instance if you pump one side while your baby is feeding from the other). However, if you are going to pump in situations where speed and efficiency are a consideration (such as while at work) then a pump that can do single or double pumping may be a good choice. Some pumps come ready packaged as double systems, and others have the option to add a double conversion kit to a single pump.
- size? The size of pumps (both the pumping unit itself and the bottles + breast shell attachments) vary enormously. A more compact model might be better if you want it to fit in your handbag.
- noise? The noise level of a pump varies massively too. Some are very quiet, others so loud that you can barely hold a conversation over them! Think about when and where you’ll be pumping – if you’ll be in the bedroom in the middle of the night or in a room at the office you might want a quieter, more discreet one. Take a look at pump reviews before you buy and see what people are saying about noisiness.
- compatibility with bottles? If you already have bottles or you plan to pump and then feed from bottles rather than cup, finger or syringe feeding it’s worth considering what type of bottles the pump can be used with. Some bottle manufacturers make pumps which only take their own bottles. Other, small necked bottle types of pump may be interchangeable.
- versatility/controls? Most electric pumps have a two phase expression system that mimics the let down and then suckling rhythm of a baby feeding. Take a look at how this can be altered and by how much: more choice means more likelihood of finding a setting that really works for you.
- open or closed system? Some pumps will be open system (meaning that milk can potentially get into the pumping system) and some are closed. Particularly if you are buying pre-loved, look for a closed system as open systems should not be used by more than one person.
- compatibility with steriliser? You’ll need to be able to sterilise bottles, breastshells and lids – will they all fit into whichever sterilisation method you are using?
So take the time to investigate, and get the pump that’s right for you! (and if you fancy winning a breastfeeding set including ARDO Amaryll pump, bag, sterilising bags, gold cream and breast pads then why not enter my competition too?).
For other posts about pumping, take a look at:
And don’t forget to check out Thrupeny Bits too – they make gorgeous nursing pillows that are perfect for resting your pump on comfortably – plus they’re offering a nursing cover as part of the Grand Prize which you can win by entering the rafflecopter below: