Mums choose breast pumps for various reasons. Maybe they are returning to work following maternity leave and they’re still breastfeeding. Alternatively, the baby may not be fully weaned, so a breast pump is required to express the milk. A breast pump can be manual which is cheaper and fairly lightweight as well as easy to transport. However, many people opt for an electrical model which comes in both single or double form and is inherently more expensive and bulky to carry.
Hospital-grade pumps are also available for rent by mums who plan on expressing milk for a very short time. The milk should be stored in the fridge once pumped. It is usually safe to store breast milk in the refrigerator for two days maximum. Milk can also be frozen.
It’s important to not fret about expressing milk. Whilst, in general, a baby is more adept at obtaining milk from the breast than a pump, milk volumes can vary, particularly during the first few weeks. Remember too that milk volumes may vary at different times of the day or with other factors such as stress levels. Many mums, therefore, choose to combine expressing and breastfeeding for consistency and peace of mind.
How much is a breast pump?
Pumps can start from as little as £20, whilst high-end models may cost several hundred pounds. Breast pumps vary in cost according to the technology used. Manual breast pumps are the least expensive, while electric and double pumps are more expensive. Before buying a pump, set yourself a budget and make a list of the pros and cons of each.
How do breast pumps work?
The hormone prolactin which kicks in after the baby has been born, sends the signal to the mother’s body to begin milk production. The more milk that is pumped, the more that arrives. The shield on the pump creates a vacuum against the breast; the cone-shaped part is held over the nipple and this creates a seal.
The nipple is then pulled gently into the tunnel, mimicking a baby’s sucking action. The mother will squeeze a lever on the manual pump to create and release suction which brings about the let-down. Electrical and battery-powered pumps are switched on to create this action.
Where are breast pumps designed to be used?
Manual breast pumps can be used just about anywhere that breastfeeding can occur, from the home, to the workplace and even in public places. If pumping in the workplace, the law requires that the mother is entitled to a private, comfortable room in which to express milk. The bathroom or toilet area is not acceptable. Mums routinely express milk in parks, in the car, at the airport, or in shopping centres.
Most women will use a nursing cover, as if they were breastfeeding. Battery-powered pumps can also be used discreetly in public.
Pros and cons of electric breast pumps
Electric breast pumps are faster than manual pumps and they don’t require as much effort. They can be more comfortable and more flexible, and double pumping can be carried out. However they are more expensive than manual breast pumps, but they may be more cost-effective if you are considering using them for some time.
More noise is emitted and they are more difficult to sterilise. They are bulkier to carry too, but if you have decided upon an electric pump, lighter models are available for easy transportation. As they rely on a mains socket, this can be a problem if you plan to be out and about with your baby and a battery-powered model may be a better option.
Pros and cons of manual pumps
Manual pumps are less expensive than electric pumps and there is no requirement for a power source. They are easier to sterilise as there are fewer parts. They are smaller and easily carried in a handbag or baby changing bag. Mums appreciate the quiet aspect of manual pumps, especially if they are also breastfeeding. However, the pumping action can be tiring as hands are constantly being used and it can be difficult to maintain the process.
BPA stands for bisphenol A which is an industrial chemical that has been used since the 1960s. It is used in many consumer goods and research has shown that BPA can leak into food from containers that are created using BPA. Most mums prefer to use BPA-free products for their health and the health of their babies. Non-BPA plastic bottles are sturdy and many believe that this is a safer way to store breast milk rather than using plastic storage bags, which can easily become contaminated with bacteria.
Safely refrigerating breast milk
Breast milk can be stored in the fridge safely for 24 hours, or it can be frozen for three to six months. However, it is best to use expressed milk as soon as you can and avoid stockpiling it, as it may have to be thrown away. Bottles of expressed milk should be refrigerated as soon as possible.
If you are expressing on the go, make sure that you keep the milk cool. All frozen breast milk should be labelled and stored at the back of the freezer. If you are using frozen breast milk, it can be thawed out using a bowl of warm water. Microwaving it is dangerous as it can create hot spots which can burn the baby’s mouth. It’s important never to refreeze breast milk once defrosted.
There are many pros and cons of manual, electric and double pumps and it’s important to carry out the research and choose the one that is best for you.