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Pregnant women are often told “breast is best” and breastfeeding is highly promoted by midwives and health visitors alike. When I was pregnant with Jacob I decided I would like to give breastfeeding a go and see how I got on although I was staying open minded. With a holiday, a hen night and a wedding beckoning in the few weeks after Jacob’s birth, I also realised that breastfeeding wasn’t going to be 100% practical all of the time and so I was drawn more to the idea of expressing as a good compromise.
With the expense of a first child, I bought a manual pump, that being the cheapest option – well except physically squeezing my own boobs which, I would imagine, would just take forever. Due to a melting accident (somehow I forgot to put water into the steriliser!) the pump didn’t last until child number two so when I was expecting Jon I made the decision to splash out on an electric pump. To be honest I never really got on with the manual pump. Within weeks of using it, it was becoming harder and harder to express enough milk to satisfy a growing baby and so I thought an electric one might stimulate milk production more effectively.
~ ~ ~ Buying The Pump ~ ~ ~
So the search for an electric pump began. And it really was a search. Mothercare World in Derby had no electric pumps of any description. They phoned through to the Nottingham store – no joy. I looked in Argos, Boots and Tesco but still nothing. Electric breast pumps must have been in high demand. A couple of weeks later we were back in Derby’s Mothercare World and there was one electric breast pump. It was made by Medela, a company I’d never heard of but as my due date was getting ever closer I really couldn’t afford to be too picky. I paid my £39.99 and it stayed neatly packed away awaiting Jon’s arrival.
~ ~ ~ Assembling The Pump ~ ~ ~
It didn’t take all that long before it was taken out of its box. Jon’s feeding habits are erratic to say the least and after one evening of feeding him more or less constantly for five hours, I was struggling to keep up with him. Expressing my milk was the way to regain control of the situation.
Time to discover what my forty pounds had purchased. Included was the motor (excluding batteries), the breastshield, a small bottle, a plug, a stand to place the bottle into and a valve which is only small but vital as if it is missing or not fitted correctly, the suction action doesn’t happen and therefore no milk is expressed.
The pump fits together very easily. The motor screws into the breastshield with one twist and the bottle screws onto the bottom of the shield. The valve is positioned at the top of the bottle neck.
The pump can be used immediately, even if you have no batteries to hand, as it can be plugged in and used from the mains. Of course, this is quite restricting as you must be sat near a plug socket and the wire is of standard length meaning you can’t go very far.
I prefer to use it with the batteries. It requires 2 AA batteries and these are placed in the motor section. Battery life is a little on the short side. In order for milk to be produced in sufficient quantities, expressing should be done several times a day, copying a real baby’s feeding pattern. I express in total for around an hour a day and the batteries last about 2 weeks. Having said this you can tell that they are running down after about a week as the suction gets slower and the noise lessens but it is possible to keep using them until the suction becomes uncomfortable.
~ ~ ~ Using The Pump ~ ~ ~
Once the pump is positioned on the breast, the on-off switch, located at the far end of the motor, is easily reached. Switching the pump on will start the suction action straight away. One thing to note is that the suction can be adjusted so I start off on the minimum setting and gradually increase the level as my nipples get used to the feeling. I’ve found the lowest setting is too gentle for any milk to actually be expressed but it’s a good starting point and doesn’t hurt at all. I’ve also found it necessary to turn off the pump when it is not sucking my nipple into the breastshield. This way the pump can be easily removed from the breast. It can be quite difficult and painful to take off the pump if your nipple is halfway up the tube! (Ouch!!)
After activating the pump the first thing I noticed was the noise level. It really is quite loud and makes watching the TV quite difficult. This is a shame as it makes the pump quite indiscreet to use. I couldn’t imagine, for example, that I could use it in the toilets at work if Jon is still on breastmilk in 4 months time.
The pump supposedly mimics the suck-release-relax action of a baby to stimulate the milk flow. The advantage over a baby is, however, that it doesn’t fall asleep while attached to the breast, making the whole process a lot quicker! Jon is currently having bottles of 4 fluid oz and it usually takes me between 10 and 20 minutes to express this from each breast, making up two feeds in one go. Compare this to the half an hour to an hour Jon would feed from the breast for one feed and you can soon see which is the more time-consuming.
One downside of using the pump is the bottle that is provided only holds 5 fluid oz. When you consider that Jon is already having 4oz and this will increase as he gets bigger, pouring the milk into another bottle is necessary. However I have discovered that my Mothercare bottles with narrower necks also fit onto the breastshield and these hold 9oz which is far more convenient.
~ ~ ~ Cleaning The Pump ~ ~ ~
Of course, when dealing with feeding equipment for young babies, cleaning and sterilising is of the utmost importance and this breast pump is very easy to clean. The breastshield, valve and bottle can all be washed in warm, soapy water and all the parts fit well in my steriliser. All the washable parts are dishwasher safe too.
~ ~ ~ Overall ~ ~ ~
If you can put up with the noise this pump is a good buy. I was expecting to pay a lot more than £40 for an electric pump and so far it has been good value. It is easy to use and easy to clean and due to the adjustable suction there has been no sign of my milk supply giving up on me just yet.
Compared to the manual pump I had, I am pleased at the speed at which it expresses the milk requiring very little effort. With a toddler also running around this is important to me. I’ve found through two attempts at breastfeeding that expressing gives me more control and freedom, yet my children have still had what is considered the “best” for them. More importantly having my milk in a bottle means that Paul cannot escape the night feeds! For that reason alone I am thankful I found the Medela breast pump.