Thursday, May 15, 2014

Choosing Your Breast Pump

When I found out I was pregnant I remember telling my mom I was just going to pump because I was too nervous about breastfeeding and thought that was the best choice.  My mom told me that I would love breastfeeding once the baby was here and I would get over feeling uncomfortable and nervous. She was 100% right.  I pump and nurse my 6 month old, I am very lucky he takes both.  If you are anything like myself, you may not feel comfortable or don’t have the patience and that is totally OK.  We are so lucky now because there are so many different kinds of pumps to be sure that your baby can get your milk even if you don’t want to nurse.  I am literally more married to my breast pump than I am my husband right now.  My family is always joking about it because it feels like every time I see them I am pumping. My dad calls it the dairy farm.  Considering that you will be basically in a relationship with your pump if this is the route you chose, it is so important to get a good pump you are comfortable with and all the proper accessories.

Some advice I can give you is to absolutely take advantage of the few days post birth that you are in the hospital.  The nurses are there to help.  Do not be afraid to ask questions, talk to a lactation consultant, really utilize the time you have with the staff.  When I was in the hospital for the few days post birth, I had the most amazing nurse.  I told her my reservations about nursing and that I wanted to just pump.  She was so supportive and set me up with a pump ( I already had received one at my baby shower, but did not have it in the hospital).  She did encourage me to just try nursing because babies are better at getting the milk out of your breast.  I nursed and he latched wonderfully and I also pumped.  She waited with me while I pumped each breast for 20 minutes each and guided me through every step of the way.  If you are feeling nervous or uncomfortable, I urge you to take advantage of the nurses and lactation consultants.

There are 3 specific types of breast pumps you can choose from to use.

Hospital-grade Breast Pump
Hospital-grade breast pumps are the most powerful pumps.  These are the pumps typically used to establish your milk supply.  In some cases where mother and baby are separated because of complications hospital-grade breast pumps are used to be sure your baby will get your milk even though you can not nurse.  Hospital-grade pumps are also available to rent from stores and hospitals.  You will need to get all your own proper accessories for your pump if you do rent.

Electric Breast Pump 

Electric breast pumps are offered as a single-breast model or a double-breast model.  With a single-breast model you can only pump one breast at a time.  A double-breast pump allows you to pump both breasts at the same time and you can also pump one breast at a time if you need to.  
Electric breast pumps are a very efficient way to pump milk. The beauty of the electric pump is it mimics your baby’s natural sucking pattern. You should expect to pump for at least 15 minutes every time you pump, 30 minutes if you pump each breast separately, 15 minutes per breast. 
Most electric pumps come with the necessary accessories you will need for pumping effectively and feeding your baby.
Electric pumps can be expensive, but now, most insurance companies will help pay if not completely pay for your breast pump.  You should absolutely contact your health insurance and inquire about this before you buy a breast pump.
A note for all mommas, do not share your breast pump with anyone. Even if you’re friend is going to use their own accessories, I do not recommend it. Small drops of milk can get inside the pump and pass viruses and bacteria.

Manual Breast Pumps 

Manual breast pumps are exactly as it sounds, you manually have to pump your breasts by squeezing a hand pump.  A manual breast pump is great for on the go if you don’t want to bring your electric pump when you go out and you know you will need to pump.  They are much more discrete than the electric breast pumps.  I always keep my manual breast pump in the diaper bag just in case.  It is small and easy to use if my electric breast pump is unavailable.

There are so many accessories for your breast pump, but it is normally a one time expense.  Most breast pumps come with what you will need, but if you want to get back ups or your pump doesn’t include them, here is a list of all the accessories you will need for pumping.
Breastshield -- They are cups that fit over your nipples and areolas.  They are not one size fits all.  There are different sizes for the breast shields because women have different nipples.  They do sell different size shields and you want to make sure that the breast pump you choose allows for different sizes.  This is something you will want to discuss with the nurses and lactation consultants in the hospital.  You will want to try different sizes to be sure it is comfortable.  A girlfriend of mine used the wrong size and it was very painful and did not efficiently suck the milk.

Valves and Membranes -- These parts allow the milk to drip into the bottles with the proper suction.  They sell these online or in store.  I get mine on Amazon because I can get them in bulk and for cheap!  I have torn a few membranes so it is good to have these on backup.  They are sold either together or separate, whatever you choose.

Tubing -- The pump uses tubes to either suck or flow the milk through to the bottles.  It is always good to have spare tubing.  My cat decided he was going to play with the tubing and tore it.  I was not a happy camper, thank goodness I had backup!

Bottles and Adaptors -- Your pump should come with the bottles that fit your pump.  Some women use different bottles than the one which come with your pump.  In this case they do sell adapters online and in store.  I also got this on Amazon.  My son uses the Tommee Tippie bottles so I pump both into the bottles that came with the pump and if I know he will be eating within the hour I use the adapter and pump directly into the Tommee Tippie.

Electricity Source -- Some pumps come with the wall unit and a battery pack.  This is great for when you are on the, if you have the battery pack you just plug that directly in and you can pump anywhere, anytime.  My husband and I lost power about a month ago and I was in a panic because I didn’t have my pump! I remember it came with the battery pack and it saved me! We were without power for 5 days and thank goodness for the battery pack!  Also, consider getting a car adapter if you are one for travel.  Having this really benefits me for when my husband and I are on the road.

Insulated Cooler and Ice Packs -- Some pumps come with and insulated cooler which hold 4 bottles of milk and an ice pack which molds the form of the bottle.  It is small and very convenient for on-the-go!  If it does not come with one you can always get the separately and if you are like me and need more than one because you make an obscene amount of milk, you can always get backups.

Cleaning Products -- I am super compulsive about cleaning the breast pump.  For this I use either the bottle soap or special breast milk removal soap and then I use microwavable cleaning bags that steam the products to get all the bacteria off.  I also have wipes that are special for the pump for when we are out or in the car and I can not access a sink.  They have these in store and online and they are wonderful for cleaning the breast pump.

Storage Bags and Storage Bottles -- There are special storage bags and storage bottles for freezing milk.  Most brands have storage bags, some have the bottles.  Storage is great to have for when you produce more than your baby needs and it is good for up to a year. For the first 5 months of my son’s life I had 2 whole freezers filled with breast milk! 

You can also find nursing pads if you find you are leaking and lanolin if you are in pain.  I used lanolin for the first month or so until I was used to it.  The first month was a little painful for me but your nipples will get used to it.  They also have gel pads for added comfort if your breasts are in pain.

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