For one reason or another you may need to use a breast pump…

Breast pumps are designed to extract breast milk. Mothers who have to go back to work find it very convenient to leave food for their babies while they are away. Consider also that you may want to go out and could stay longer than is anticipated. Knowing that the baby has her feed while you are gone is very reassuring and you only have to worry about getting back to be with her. On another occasion, you may just need some rest. Having breast milk available to give you that space is very convenient.

Breast pumps have been made since 1920 when the famous American Pediatrician, Isaac A. Abt commissioned German immigrant Edward Lasker to build the first electric pump for use with premature babies “who were too weak to nurse”. Of such the original use of breast pumps was for medicinal purposes and doctors of the day refused to send the pumps home with nursing mothers. Changes to the design and purpose of the pump, however soon saw the development and spread of the device and it being adopted in households. Breast pumps have become almost second nature as it is quite natural to have a pump as part of the baby preparation kit.

Types of Breast Pumps

Mothers can select from three basic types of pumps – manual, battery operated and electrical pumps.

Avent breast pumpManual Pumps – These are hand-operated. You basically cup the breast shield over the areola around the nipple and squeeze a lever that suctions the milk from the breast into an attached container.  Some women choose the manual pump for its smallness and simplicity, its low-cost and its convenience. Some will even tell you they get the same sucking feel as their baby when they hand pump.

Other women however, are not patient enough as they find manual pumps slow and quite tiring. Apart from the fact that it can only pump one breast at a time, the pump does not draw enough milk from some mothers, and for others, no milk is expressed at all. Manual pumps work best for persons who express milk occasionally, such as occasions when leaving baby for a short while.

Battery-Operated Pumps – Unlike the manual pump, you set this pump to work and it does the job. It is less expensive than one run by electricity and there are models that you can attach to your body while you work. Battery –operated pumps however take longer and therefore best suited to those women who want to breastfeed occasionally. Battery pumps also require you to have backup as you could find yourself out of power in the middle of pumping.

Electric Breast Pumps – This type does carry the most power, and their adjustable features allow you to pump both breasts at the same time, therefore cutting pumping time significantly. If you miss your baby, there are pumps that even mimic baby’s sucking sound to help you feel more comfortable. With greater activity the breasts are stimulated to produce more milk. Mothers who are returning to work and want their babies to get their regular breast milk will find the electric pump most convenient. It is also a help for those with twins.  Hospital grade electric pumps yield the greatest amount of milk. So if your baby is going to drink more breast milk from a bottle, this may be your preferred option.

Electric breast pumps however, are not for occasional pumping and you may find yourself with too much milk. They are a bit unwieldy also and not so easy to carry around. Some electric breast pumps can be noisy making a private occasion less than discreet. You will also find that they are pretty more expensive than other types. In fact, regular electric pumps will cost you between $100 and $300. If you are thinking of the efficiency of the hospital grade pump however, consider paying up to $1000.  If you still think that this is a better choice, but cannot afford the cost, you can rent one from a hospital, pharmacy or baby supply store. After all, you won’t be breastfeeding every day.

Making Your Breast Pump Work

Be Patient – You may not be successful or effective at using the pump the first couple of times. You will have to practice to get the hang of using it.

Relax Yourself – Place yourself in the same position and environment as you would feeding your baby naturally. It may be good to follow a routine – be in the same place at the same time. Support your arms and back with something such as a pillow. You will need to be comfortable especially if you are busy pumping manually.

Seek Privacy – Your milk may not flow because there are too many things going on around you. Avoid the distraction by retreating to a private area. Have everything you need in the area so you won’t disrupt the milking process and prevent milk from issuing.

Fit Your Pump Correctly – Ensure that the breast shields of the pump are the right size for you. Shields that come with the pump may not fit. You can ask your lactation consultant to source the correct sized shields. Shields that are too small could cause your nipples to be sore. Be sure to fit your pump correctly to your breast. Hold the breast shield that attaches to the pump between your thumb and index finger. Support your breast with the palm of your hand. Doing so will provide a seal between the shield and your breast and prevent the edges of the shield from pushing into your breast. This is usually the source of discomfort for some mothers who use a breast pump. Discomfort or pain can cause your milk not to flow. Improper application can also cause blockage of the milk duct.

Practice Good Hygiene – Bacteria can be passed easily through milk products. Always wash your hands before expressing breast milk.

Care For Your Pump – Check the manufacturer’s instructions to see how to care for your breast pump. In most cases you are only required to wash the parts with warm soapy water, then rinse in hot water for a few seconds and placed to dry. It is recommended that you do not wash the tubing of your pump. If you observe milk droplets in the tubing, simply turn the pump back on for a few minutes to dry the tube. Your pump can have a longer life if you know how to handle it. If you operate one of those double pumps, seal one side when using the other. This will protect the pump’s suctioning capability.

A breast pump cannot replace the satisfaction of having your baby at your breasts. They are however convenient little devices that can provide that reassurance that your baby is getting the right food at all times.