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Pumping and Breastfeeding
By Sherri Hedberg, IBCLC

I often receive calls from mothers who are pregnant and want to know which breast pump to buy. In today's technical' world of parenting, we often make the assumption that if you breastfeed you have to have a breast pump. In many cases, it isn't necessary - and certainly not an item you have to have waiting for you when you get home from the hospital. But, if your baby is sick or premature, having a good quality pump can be a lifesaver.

The information I share below is my professional opinion on the different types of pumps available. (I am not receiving any kick backs or free vacations from pump manufacturers. <g>) Also, keep in mind that every mother is different. You will have to decide what your situation is and what pump will work best for you.

There are three situations (in general) in which a mother may need to pump. The first is a mother who has a sick/premature baby and is unable to breastfeed in the beginning. The second is a mother who returns to work and is separated from her baby. The third is a mother who only wants to express milk for an occasional supplement.

For a mother who is establishing her milk supply with a pump, a difficult job, she needs a pump that is portable, offers the best stimulation, and allows her to pump both breasts at the same time. In this situation, I recommend pump rental. The reason for this is that this mother needs the BEST pump that we can offer her and there isn't anything comparable that she could purchase. Medela has two choices - the Universal (501) or the Lactina. The Universal is a better pump, in my opinion, but it is bulky and difficult to transport. The Lactina is portable and I have never had problems with mothers doing early pumping with it. Both allow double-pumping and you can also purchase a cooler case to transport your milk in (though, a styro-foam cooler works just as well). Rentals run anywhere from $45 - $55 per month and you must also purchase a kit to go along with the rental that you keep - it also adapts into a manual pump. The kit is around $47. Ameda-Egnell also has a rental pump called the Lact-E Lite. It is comparable to the Universal, but it is lighter and a little more portable. It also allows double-pumping. It also has a 'cycling' feature that allows you to control the frequency of the draw on the pump - quicker or slower - seems to help with achieving let-down. The prices are about the same for this pump and its kit.

For the mother returning to work, there are more options. The major difference in this situation is that this mother's milk supply is already established so pumping will be easier. If she is returning to work full-time and will miss 2 or more feedings, she will definitely want a pump that allows double-pumping. The reason for this is that it will cut down her pumping time to around 10 minutes for both sides! Taking a 10 minute break to pump will be easier to fit into her busy day. Medela has a pump designed especially for working mothers called the Pump-n-Style. It is a double-pump that is built in to a purse-like bag with a cooler case. It runs about $189 - pricey, but if you are planning to pump for at least 3 months, it is cheaper than renting. Many mothers still choose to rent the Lactina for working because they are unsure how long they plan to do it - this offers a little more flexibility if you aren't willing to make a big investment to start.

For the mother who simply wants a pump to use for an occasional supplement, I highly recommend the Medela Manual pump. It is an excellent pump - easy to use, easy to clean, and gives great stimulation. It also has three suction settings, low-med-high, so you can adjust as your milk starts to flow. There is also the option of hand expression for this mother. Many mothers are more successful with expressing into a cup than using a pump.

I am sure that you will notice that I did not include any battery operated/small electric pumps in my list. The reason for this is that they just don't do the job. Battery operated pumps don't cycle well, and you will spend a fortune on batteries - not to mention that the pump 'slows down' as the batteries get lower. The small electric pumps, including the Medela Mini-Electric, tend to fall apart after extended use. They are also LOUD. You wouldn't want to go into a bathroom with tiled walls and use these pumps! Also, many of the pumps you can buy at the department stores are difficult to clean and have parts where milk can creep in and grow bacteria. Ideally, you would have a pump that would automatically cycle - it shuts off suction on its own - but most of these pumps make you push or release a button to shut off the suction and can lead to sore nipples if you let it suck too long.

If you are choosing a department store manual pump, stay away from the 'bicycle horn' pumps (they have a bulb that you squeeze at one end). The bulb is impossible to clean and can grow bacteria that can contaminate the milk in the container.

If you are currently pregnant, wait until you have your baby before you purchase a pump. That way you will have a better idea of what your needs are. Some mothers think that they will need a pump if they become engorged, but pumps do little to help engorgement (unless you have a severe case, then you would probably need to rent a high quality pump. . .). Your baby will be the best tool at keeping engorgement at a minimum.

When you do first try pumping, don't expect a lot. Pumping works very different than your baby and you will probably only get a drop or two in the beginning.

>>>>>>Pumping is NEVER an indicator of how much milk you have!<<<<<<

For more information on the pumps I've mentioned you can call:

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