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III. General pump-buying and getting started advice


This article is from the Breast Pumps FAQ, by bweiss@cs.arizona.edu (Beth Weiss) with numerous contributions by others.

III. General pump-buying and getting started advice

Things to look for [when choosing a pump]:
-- how easy will it be to clean?
-- how comfortable or awkward would it be to use it?
-- how noisy is it? (may not matter to you)
Some breast pumps attach directly to bottles, and this may be an
advantage if it works with the bottle system you've chosen. I don't
think that's all that important, though.

If you're planning to do any breast-pumping at work, you might want to
scout two things out in advance: a restroom or other quiet spot with a
comfortable place to sit, and a refrigerator if you're going to keep the
milk and take it home. Also expect to have some funny stories about how
people react!
Do you think it would be possible to put in a plea to women not
to use a pump if it hurts? Anytime you feel pain during nursing
or pumping, there is some possibility of tissue damage. Nipples
should be treated gently at all times. If a pump hurts, stop
using it or turn down the suction.

I've seen too many women lose their milk supplies using inadequate
pumps and I've seen some brutally damaged nipples from pumps that
don't have an automatic release cycle.
I believe that the important factor in comfort in using a breastpump
is the steadiness with with the force of the suction is increased. A
jerky increase in suction is more uncomfortable than a smooth one.
Sensitivity in women's nipples varies dramatically. Some don't mind
even the least smooth-operating breastpump, others find even the
smoothest somewhat uncomfortable and the others unbearably painful.
One of the most important points in using a pump is getting a good
let-down first. This reduces discomfort and increases yield
dramatically. Stimulation of the nipples is one way to achieve this.
Hint (which will make more sense once you are already nursing): To get
the most milk as quickly as possible when pumping, ensure you have a
let-down. This may mean thinking about your baby nursing or it may
mean direct nipple stimulation (the latter for me). It makes pumping
very much easier and faster. In addition, if you massage the breast
while pumping (sort of "pushing" the milk towards the nipple and
squeezing gently), you'll get a better yield.
I have one question to the more experienced pumpers. Is it common to
have three or four letdowns in a pumping session? Until I realized that
there was a lot more coming, I would stop much too soon.
I never got much milk from pumping, even with the Medela. I know woman
that could get more milk hand pumping then I could with the Madela. I
didnt have a very easy let down reflex. On the plus side, I didnt need
to wear breast pads either.

On one hand, I would suggest waiting until after you deliver, to see
what level of pumps you need, but the gerber pump was really great to
have around to help with some early breast feeding problems (inverted
nipples, clogged ducts, an infant that didnt want to suckle at first,
One thing to note is it will go though a lot of cycles, whether
hand-powered or electric, so the mechanism (espacially springs etc)
will have to be robust. The pump we used for the oldest had springs
break regularly: it was supplied with spares, but not enough.

Ease of cleaning/sterilising is also important. The metal bits can't
be chemically sterilised, and electic bits can't be submersed. I used
three different types of pumps (Magmag, Gerber, and Madela). The all
pumped the milk directly into bottles, and all three used a the
standard bottle thread. You dont need to use the ones they include.
The magmag bottle had a wide rimmed cup, but the lid had a smaller
opening that you attached the pump too. A standard bottle will fit it.

But--if you use a standard bottle that is *larger* than the one
supplied with the pump, i. e. has more cubic volume, more surface area
that the vacuum has to act on, or any slight mis-fit causing vaccuum
leakage between bottle and fitting, you get less suction so it takes
longer to pump. Medela gets around this problem by those little
thing-a-ma-jigs that pop up and down during the suction cycle. So it
doesn't matter what size of bottle you use with Medela. But with the
other cheaper pumps if you are using rechargeable batteries you are
going to get a reduction in suction over what you would have with non-
rechargeable batteries, because the voltage is slightly lower. I was
always running them with the suction wide open, and couldn't spare any
more loss of suction. I did notice a difference with bottles that
didn't come with it, so I just washed out the ones that did come with
it and transferred the milk into the playtex nurser type of bottles.
If you give birth in a hospital, one thing that might be worth looking
into ahead of time is whether the hospital sells breast pumps. The
reason that I mention it is that some insurances will cover the cost
of a breast pump along with other medical expenses billed from the
hospital. The hospital I gave birth at sold a battery powered unit
which turned out to be okay. Since I got the pump while I was a
patient at the hospital, the charge for my pump was included with
along with the rest of expenses incurred during my hospital stay and
my insurance covered 90% of the cost. I didn't plan it that way, but
it happened that way and was nice for me to get a pump at a cheap
price. So that way it's not so bad if the pump doesn't work out.
Many professionals (lactation consultants, etc...) will only recommend the
Medela or Ameda Egnel pumps because they are the ONLY ones that regulate
pressure, and test for pressure. Some other pumps (such as the previously
mentioned MagMag, as well as Gentle Expressions, and the like) can do some
SERIOUS breast tissue damage - and there is really no way to tell if your
breasts are going to be sensitive to a pump until it is too late.


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