Welcome to the world of breastfeeding!
The importance and benefits of breastfeeding, perhaps, need no further introduction nor affirmation.
So much so, it has been recommended by the World Health Organization that if possible, moms should breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of baby’s life. To achieve this, you'll need a breast pump.
What Is A Breast Pump
First off, what is a breast pump?
To put it simply, it is a mechanical device that is used to extract milk from the breasts of a lactating mother.
Different brands have different design, but they generally look like this:
Types of Breast Pumps
Generally, breast pumps can be divided into two categories: Manual vs. Electric and Single vs. Double.
As with everything else, both have their own pros and cons. See below a side-by-side comparison:
Manual vs. Electric
Powered by hand where you squeeze or pull a handle in repetitive fashion
Powered by electricity or battery through a motor which supplies suction through a plastic tubing to a flange that fits over the nipple
A good breast pump will massage and stimulate your breast (so that milk flow can be induced) before moving on to the expression phase. Heard of the revolutionary 2-Phase Technology?
Not only does this provide a more comfortable and pain-free experience, it also increases and helps maintain a sufficient supply of milk.
Nevertheless, there is actually one type of manual breast pump that we would not recommended, that is, the “bicycle horn” style.
These are very affordable, but they can actually damage your breast tissue when used long-term.
Also, due to their design, bacteria can easily harbour in the rubber suction bulb as it is difficult to clean this area thoroughly, so our advice is - stay away from these.
Single vs. Double
Likewise, there are also Single and Double breast pumps. The former has one pump only while the latter has two, as straightforward as that.
The ideology behind is equally simple - single breast pump lets you pump one breast at a time only while double ones allow you to pump both sides simultaneously. With the latter, some models allow you to do both even.
Which is why a double electric pump is a smarter investment if you’re planning to express regularly, or if you know you will be away from your baby for long stretches of time. Here are some of its pros and cons:
Nevertheless, a single manual or electric pump can be useful if you only need to pump occasionally, or when you want to breastfeed and pump at the same time.
Also, it could be particularly useful if you're on the sensitive side as taking turns to pump each breast let the other one take a break which in turn reduces discomfort level and subsequently increasing milk supply.
Why Do I Need A Breast Pump
You will not be with your baby at all times.
Even if you are a stay-at-home mother, there will be times when you have to leave your baby at home while you run for errands or attend to other matters.
Needless to say for working moms who spend at least 8 hours outside without baby by their side.
Breast pumps mean you do not have to sacrifice breastfeeding if you're in these situations. You get to still express and store your milk supply even when you are not with baby so that s/he can still have constant feed whenever needed, .
It also help keep your supply level ongoing and consistent because if you don't already know, irregular pumping will slowly wean you out. You'll find yourself run out of supply one day and be forced to quit your breastfeeding journey (unless that is the intention otherwise).
So really, breast pumps are one of the must-have items, in fact, equivalent to that of essentials like baby crib, stroller and diapers etc in the preparation of your bundle of joy's arrival.
How To Use A Breast Pump
Before anything, make sure that your breast pump and all parts that will come into direct contact with the expressed milk are clean and sterilized before use.
If this is the first time you're using your pump, make sure that you read the manual to familiarize yourself with the process.
There are actually some differences in terms of how you use a manual breast pump, compared to that of an electric one.
How to Use A Manual Breast Pump
- Wash your hands to ensure they are clean.
- Start hand expressing by gently massaging each breast in a pumping motion (squeeze and pull the breast out, then release and let it fall back into place).
- Once you’ve stimulated your breasts, center one nipple inside the flange of your pump and position it flat against your breast.
- Start to gently pump the pump handle with a rhythmical, smooth action that should imitate your baby’s sucking cycles.
- Keep in mind that you may need both hands to work the pump at first but once you get the hang of it, you will be used to one-handed pumping.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 on the other breast. Move between breasts as many times as needed to help with milk flow.
- Finish by hand expressing
For electric ones, you may want to check if your pump is fully charged/have batteries, or you may want to find a quiet place with a power outlet.
How to Use An Electric Breast Pump
- Wash your hands to ensure they are clean.
- Assemble the breast shield, milk container, tubing, and breast pump.
- Position the breast shield over your breast. It should be fitted and not painful. The tunnel size should be 3 to 4 millimeters larger than your nipple. Center it and press gently to make a good seal.
- Think about your baby to stimulate the let-down reflex. Turn the pump on at a low intensity setting. You can increase the intensity slowly as long as it isn’t painful. Continue to adjust until milk flows.
- After each use, clean the breast shield and all parts that came into contact with the breast milk. Each breast pump will have different cleaning instructions as listed in the manual. Follow these carefully.
Now, electric breast pumps usually have a few in-built suction level. While a higher or faster speed may help you produce more milk at a more efficient pace, it may be uncomfortable or even painful if you don't ease yourself slowly into it.
You see, the international standard for suction power of a breast pump is up to 40KPa, go any higher and you may hurt your breast. So we suggest to always start with a lower intensity first before adjusting it higher to achieve maximum letdown supply, and a pain-free session.
Does It Hurt to Breastfeed?
Speaking of pain, there has always been this general myth surrounding breastfeeding - that it hurts. This, cannot be any more wrong.
Breast pumping should not hurt. The rule of “no pain, no gain” does not apply here. At most, you may find the suction uncomfortable but if you experience pain, it means something need to be adjusted.
More often than not, pain during pumping is caused by setting the pump suction too high.
You see, a common misconception most mothers have, especially first-timers, is analogizing pumping to straw-sucking – the higher the suction setting is, the more milk is pumped. This is not the case.
Instead, most milk comes only when there is a let-down (or milk release) without which most milk stays in the breast. Too-high a suction can actually slow down your milk flow.
So set your pump at the highest suction that you feel most comfortable with. A tip? If you are gritting your teeth, the suction is probably set too high!
Another common cause for pain is the incorrect size of flange.
24mm is usually what comes with most pumps as this is the size that fit most, however, it can be too small or too large for some as different women are shaped differently.
Find a better fitting flange and it should eliminate any pain, in addition to pumping more milk. Here's an indication of what's the best fit:
Remember, comfort should be a top priority for expressing moms so if you experience unbearable pain,stop using the device immediately. The breast pump that you have chosen may not be suitable for you and you should look for an alternative.
If pain still persists despite several tries on different models, see your lactation consultant immediately.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding, however, is advantageous beyond its nutritional benefits.
It protects babies against infection, regulates and enhances the physiological systems of mother and baby, as well as facilitate intimate bonding between them.
For the latter, skin-to-skin contact and tactile stimulation of the nipple release oxytocin - a critical component of milk ejection reflex that in turn, increases blood flow to the mum’s chest and nipple area.
This raises the skin temperature and thus creates a warm and nurturing environment for baby.
You see, physical contact between mother and baby during the early postpartum period not only help prolong the lactation period but also help mom’s gastrointestinal tract adapt to the increased energy demands during lactation.
Other benefits include:
The first and most apparent benefit of breast milk is its superior nutritional value. Not only does it immensely support a baby's development and growth, nutrients like biochemical and cellular components are present as well to protect baby against infection.
In particular, studies have found that it has the following impact on newborn babies:
Beyond the newborn stage, breastfeeding is found to have benefits as such developmentally:
Now that you have a better understanding of breast pumps, why not check out our Top 10 Best Baby Breast Pumps to see what are some of the best options available in the market?
We promise it will provide you tremendous help as we have done the hard part of eliminating the substandard ones so that you choose from only the best.