As a lactation consultant I often get asked a lot about breast pumps. Those questions include which brands are best and how to choose one. The right breast pump for you really depends on your personal preferences and lifestyle. But to make things simple, here are 4 of my top things you need to know before purchasing a breast pump:
1. Is it a closed or open system?
Let’s talk about something that you probably won’t hear about that’s related to breast pumps: Closed v.s. Open system. A closed system breast pump has a barrier inside the pump that blocks milk from leaking inside of the pump. An open system breast pump usually will not contain a milk barrier so there will be a possibility of milk leaking inside of the pump.
Why does this matter?
The milk barrier helps to prevent contamination of the milk and mold from growing inside of the breast pump. Although it really depends on the type of breast pump and how often you use it, there is still a risk of contamination and mold growth inside of your breast pump if you have an open system breast pump. I’ve known people that have removed the face plate of their open-system breast pump to find mold growth!
2. Pumps under $100 may not work that well.
Let be real, breast pumps can get expensive. As tempting as it is to go out and get a $50 or $80 breast pump you saw on Amazon or at Target, your milk supply could suffer in the long run. The motors on these pumps are just not sufficient enough to properly remove milk from the breast. Making more milk is contingent on proper removal of milk, so it could possibly decrease milk supply.
I've seen past patients and clients that have used cheaper pumps and have experienced engorgement (pain and swelling of the breast) most likely because the breast pump was not able to effectively remove milk from some parts of the the breast.
3. Flange sizing may differ between pumps.
The flange is the funnel-shaped piece of the pump that fits around your nipple. Most pumps will give you at least two different sized flanges that will come inside of the box. Just because a pump may come with a certain flange size doesn’t mean it’s going to fit your nipple. Depending on the size of your nipple you may have to separately order a different size flange.
Breast size and nipple size are two different things. Measuring your nipple will give you accurate sizing to know what size flange to use. It can get a little confusing because not all flange sizes are the same for all pumps. Read the instructions for the type of pump you have and how to size your nipple for that specific pump.
The wrong flange size (too big or too small) could damage your nipple, impact your milk supply negatively, and possibly lead to engorgement or mastitis (infection of the milk ducts or surrounding glands).
4. You may need to get a new pump in between children.
It’s tempting when having multiple children to use the same breast pump you had for the previous child. Whether you can do this will depend on a couple factors: How much you have used your previous pump, and if it's a closed or open system. It’s best to get a new breast pump each time you have a new baby. Depending on how often you used the previous pump, the motor can began to wear out. This can put you at risk for engorgement and possibly decrease your milk supply if it’s not pumping effectively. Most pumps are only meant for single use. This means only one user per child, so double check the instruction manual that came with your specific breast pump.
In summary, when we review the four things you need to know before buying a breast pump, a closed system will decrease the chances of mold growth. If you buy or already have an open system pump, follow the instructions for proper cleaning and sanitizing of the pump and parts. Replace pump parts according to the manufacturer's instructions. This includes all tubing, flanges, membranes, etc. Investing in a high quality breast pump will save you money in the long run because it will prevent issues caused by ineffective removal of milk with a cheap pump. Ensure that you have the correct flange size. You can do this by measuring your nipple according to the specific pump you've purchased or having a lactation consultant size your nipple. Pain while pumping or decreased milk supply can come from incorrect flange sizing. And lastly, with subsequent children, you may need a new pump depending on how much the previous pump was used or whether it was a closed or open system. It is also not recommended to use a breast pump that was previously used by someone else. This increases the risk of milk contamination and the pump not working as effectively due to multiple uses.
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