What is the right breast pump for you?
Should you invest in a manual, an electric or a double breast pump? If you’re looking to buy one, then address these questions before your purchase
As a new mother, you might have prepared a list of ‘things to do.’ You might have even stuck to this list that mostly reads, “Feed, clean, bathe, repeat.” But now it’s time to go back to the corporate jungle and claw your way back up the ladder. And if that’s the plan then you are probably in the market looking for a breast pump.
Since there are many kinds of breast pumps, you will have to select the one that you feel would work best for you. Which means that this type should keep the milk flowing and prevent clogged ducts or breast infection.
So on your next visit to the gynaecologist, you may be advised to buy it way before you actually plan to use it; which means almost a month or so before you head back to work or plan to introduce the bottle. Dr Ragini Agarwal, surgery and cosmetic gynaecologist, W Hospital by Pratiksha, Gurgaon, explains, “New mums who are about to resume work or need to stimulate lactation because of low milk supply, or to relieve engorgement (a painful condition whereby the breasts are overfull) urgently need a breast pump.”
You can also consider buying a breast pump for the following reasons:
- The baby needs extra breastmilk as a ‘top-up feed’ following a breastfeed
- The baby is in the nursery and, therefore, separated from the mother
- The mother is forced to wean due to the infant’s death
- You wish to maintain or increase milk production
- To pump exclusively if the new mother is hospitalised after birth
- If the mother cannot nurse for physical reasons such as a cleft palate
- The baby may not be able to suckle well at the breast
In case you are planning to use a breast pump soon after delivery, experts advise that its best to start pumping within three to four weeks of delivery. Dr Geetika Gangwani, lactation consultant, Mamma Mia, Fortis, Delhi, says, “Each mother and baby is different, so the need to express milk will be very individualistic.
For instance, mothers whose babies are in the NICU soon after birth, need to start expressing using a breast pump within six hours of their delivery. Whereas some mothers only express once they go back to work and a few might not need to express at all.”
So how do you select a breast pump? Before heading out to the market, ask yourself two questions. First, what are the different types of breast pumps. Second, how safe is it for you as well as your baby?
Continue reading to know more about the types of breast pumps and their safety norms.
Let’s begin with the first question. There are many models of breast pumps in the market, but they are primarily categorised into two types- electric and manual.
- Manual breast pumps: They are operated by squeezing or pulling a handle in a repetitive fashion. This allows the user to directly control the pressure and the frequency of milk expression. Manual breast pumps are small and inexpensive and are, therefore, easy to use. They also come with many accessories such as breast shell, a pump membrane (this helps in maintaining the suction and is vital for pump functioning) and tubing (this connects the mechanical apparatus to the collecting bottle).
Cost: They can cost anything between ₹ 200 and ₹ 3,000. “But they require significant effort and can be tiring because the user provides all the power. They also allow for only one breast to be pumped at a time,” says Dr Priyanka Mehta, senior gyneacologist, ePsyClinic.com, Delhi.
- Electric breast pumps: They are ideal if a mother pumps daily. They are larger than manual pumps, but portable models are also available in the market. These are also divided between hospital grade and personal use pumps. While hospital grade pumps are larger and intended for multiple users, personal use pumps are smaller and generally intended for a single user.
Cost: A high-quality, electric pump costs anything between ₹ 3,500 and ₹ 7,000. “These will help you express your milk most efficiently. You could also opt for a double breast pumps that pumps both breasts at same time and can cost up to ₹ 20,000,” says Dr Mehta.
A word of caution: Try to keep your hands off the piston type or the bicycle horn pump (they can damage breast tissue and harbour bacteria in the suction bulb) or the rubber bulb (they can also harbour harmful bacteria) from the range of manual breast pumps in the market.
Now how do you decide which type is best for you. Dr Gangwani explains why this is not a question to worry about. “Successfully expressing breastmilk is an art that mothers usually master over time. Research shows that electrical breast pumps along with massaging the breast gives maximum output.
When choosing a pump, please keep in mind the frequency of its use. If you plan to pump at least three to four times per week, an electrical pump is recommended. If the frequency is lesser, then you could use a manual pump or hand express as well,” she says.
The second question you must address is the safety of a breast pump. Because quality breast pumps don’t come cheap, you might consider borrowing it from a friend or buying a cheaper version. That’s a complete ‘no-no.’
Breastmilk can carry bacteria and viruses of hepatitis and HIV, and they can contaminate the pump. Also, in some cases an exclusive pump for your own personal use can be unsafe because the milk can get into its internal parts. However, pumps that are originally designed for more than one mother are still safer. You can try rental and hospital pumps, they are usually cleaned properly and are sterile.
“Dr Gagnwani says, “In addition, mothers can also try manual breast pumps. Apart from being less expensive they are also easy to clean and portable, making them a safe option.”
While you weigh in all of these options, also keep in mind a few other things:
- If you have chosen a double breast pump, seal the unused side. If you avoid this practice, it can reduce the pump’s suction and reduce milk production.
- Wisely choose the breast shields. Your nipple should not run along its chamber, you can hurt your breast this way.
- If you are to feed within a few hours, take out all the parts and separately clean them with a mild soap and warm water.
Buying a breast pump can be tough, especially when you are a new mother. So to make things easy, first understand the types and functioning of the pumps you may have finalised for yourself and then read the safety precautions for their use. All this information will not only help you but also help another confused new mum who may turn to you for some advise.
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