What confused me about breast pumps?
Mainly, wondering endlessly whether I needed one or not.
I was entering the world of stay-at-home-mom, so I just didn't see when exactly I would ever use a pump.
The only thing I could think of was if my husband and I wanted to go out on date, I might need to pump. But I couldn't think of a single other reason that I might actually need to. And honestly, I didn't see date night being a regular event in our new-parent lives, what with our limited supply of baby-sitters, money, and time.
So I had been leaning towards only getting a manual pump.
And I wasn't even sure if I needed a pump at all!
(I had read you could get away with hand expressing. You can... BUT its not easy, and it take a LONG time.)
But I had some already-stay-at-home-mommy-friends who would tell me that they really recommended having an electric pump.
However through these conversations, I just could not get enough information out of them to really feel like I understood why. They just said they were nicer and they come in handy. I, being a person who wanted to get by with just the essentials of baby things, wasn't sold.
In the end, I wound up being eligible for a free electric pump after my baby was born, so I got one. And I also ended up with a free manual pump from my stay at the hospital (nearly all insurance will cover that for you, so check into it, and if yours does, make sure to ask a nurse for one while you are there.)
So I'll just share my experiences with both and how I ended up being really glad I had them, even if I didn't use them regularly.
I thought it might give you some insight as to whether you might also benefit from one.
I ended up with the manual pump first. I honestly didn't even notice I asked for one in my semi delirious new mommy state, but I somehow stated that I wished I had one, and next thing I knew one was brought to me in my hospital room.
Why did I say I wanted one in my first few hours of mommy hood?
Well, I was having a terribly hard time getting my daughter to latch onto my right side.
She did great with the left side. But the right side was not happening.
I didn't even really take note of this initally, but when I got pregnant, my left nipple just kinda popped out like I had permeant THO for my entire pregnancy. But my right side decided it didn't need to do that, and stayed its normal self -- which was not inverted of flat, but just not as prominent as the now standing-at-attention left one.
I, not paying attention to this issue, latched my daughter to my prominet left side the first time we nursed. (In retrospect I should have started her on the right side. It might not have totally helped, but at least she would have been initially introduced to the trickier side so that it seemed normal to her.) But since she got used to the easy side, she couldn't get a grip on the tricky side.
After I got the pump in my room, I was able to use that to pull my right nipple outwards some more. I found if I pumped for a minute or two and then latched her quickly after that, it really did help. (I also found that nursing her in the football hold on that side, for some reason really helped her as well.)
(Eventually, after nursing for a while that nipple finally relented and stayed out like the left side making life easier.)
So reason #1 a pump in general was nice: It provided me with latch assistance.
When I got home and had my electric pump I learned that there is a MASSIVE amount of difference in the strength of suction when comparing the manual and electric. (You need good suction to get milk out.) The electric is just about 100 times more efficient in its effctiveness. After using an electric, the manual felt like it wasn't even close to working.
Why did I use an electric pump in my first weeks of mommy hood?
This isn't all that common, but I had a very long delay in my milk coming in. It took me 10 days for my milk to come in. (Normal is 3- 5 days.) I'm not sure if it had to do with having a c-section or not (I was told it wasn't, but I'm not so sure.) But, regardless, it is what happened to me.
*If something similar happens to you, DO NOT PANIC! It's totally overcomeable. After my wait, my supply was perfect and me and my daughter went on to nurse forever.
During my wait for milk, we nursed every two hours (or as often as I could get her to wake up, she wasn't always awake that often), as well as supplemented with formula after a nursing session (this broke my heart, but it really was a God-send as far as keeping my baby healthy during the wait.) When I wasn't nursing, I pumped a lot to try and stimulate my body to get into gear and make some milk. I'm sure that was a good idea. (It also helped get that right nipple into shape.) And while I waited for my supply to come in, the pumping was able to visiually show me if it had happened yet. (Had I not pumped I wouldn't be able to see if anything was coming out of not.)
(We also went to our hospital's free lactation consultants a lot durning this time, which was very helpful in terms of: encouragement, practical help, and confirmation once my milk came in that it was safe to discontinue the formula.)
Pumping during Engorgement?
When your milk does come in, you will temporality be engorged. Its good and normal for that to happen. Initially our bodies make enough milk to feed twins, just incase. Then once it gets the message there is only one baby, it slows production down. (Well, unless of course you do have twins.)
I had been told varying things about pumping while you are engorged.
By books I was told, not to --- that it will over stimulate you to keep making too much milk.
By regular women I was told you will want to. Being a first timer I was prone to believe the books -- "books are experts they are right," I thought.
Well, when my milk finally did come in, I did become engorged. (Which for me was not painful, as I had very large breasts by that point. I was told by the lactation consultant we all make the same amount of milk, it's just we have varying amounts of storage space.) But I did find that I needed to ignore the books, and follow in the footsteps of real women and pump.
I know often times women often will choose to pump a bit during engorgement to alleviate the pain of being too full. For me that wasn't a big deal. But I still reached for the pump.
So why did I pump a bit during engorgement?
Well after about 2 hours of not nursing, my boobs would be as hard as a rock. And they would be so full that my nipples would not be able to stick out because the skin around them was pulled so tight. So with those two things going, it was really really difficult for my daughter to get latched on. So I would simply pump for a couple minutes before I fed her, to get my breast a little softer so she could nuzzle in and latch on.
I found that short pumping session could also help to lessen the intensity of my let-down, which during the engorgement stage could come out so strongly that it would cause my baby to gage.
Pumping a bit before nursing, was a totally helpful solution for me which I did not find to cause any problems in making me continue to over-produce milk. I was sure to not pump off a lot of extra milk, but just enough to make things workable.
I was really glad to have the electric pump in this moment, because the manual just was not very strong, and would have taken about 20 minutes to accomplish what the electric pump did in 5. And with the engorgement issues of hardness and difficult nipple access, the suction strength of the electric was also very appreciated, since the manual may have had a more difficult time overcoming those with less strength behind it.
So for me, those reasons alone, made having an electric pump so great and so worth it!
And, yes, of course the pump did come in handy for rare date nights that did happen on occasion. And yes, the electric pump is the one I used to accomplish that.
*For us personally, we ended up with one more reason I was really glad we had an electric pump. My daughter had a pretty random medical concern, regarding her liver. To rule out the way breast-milk jaundice could have played into that, we needed to take a breast feeding break for one week when my daughter was a month old. So having a pump during that was a must!
That's not a normal concern for babies, and a lot more went into it than breast milk jaundice (which in and of itself is totally benign and safe.) So I'm nearly certain this type of situation won't apply to you, my reader. But a practical point to take from this is: having a pump around for any random unforeseen circumstances is not a bad idea.
I'm sure there are many more reasons than I have encountered where a pump does come in handy!
And P. S. After a lot of double checking, my daughter's liver came back looking just fine. Praise the Lord! :)
On Getting an Electric over Manual:
It doesn't take up really any more space than a manual one. It just costs more. But you can find ways to help with that.
Often times you might be gifted one, especially if you register for one.
Or you may be like me and be eligible for a free one either through your insurance or a state program like WIC.
Or if those aren't options, you might look into a purchasing a cheap used one. Or adopting a handed down pump from friend or family.
It might sound gross to use a previously owned pump. But after having used a pump myself, I personally, see no problem with it. The main part (the expensive part) of the pump is the electrical part, and that in and of itself does not come into contact with the milk. Its just the thing that creates suction, but it does not process the milk in any way. Once you own that part, you can purchase brand new parts that do come in contact with milk (the suction funnel thing and the bottle that holds the milk) for yourself at any store that sells pumps.
And that will run you a LOT less.
Having a Pump Ready Before Hand:
Now that I have a pump around, as I wait for little #2 to show up, I can see that its a pretty helpful tool to have pre-baby. Nipple Stimulation can assist in getting contractions to start. So if you are hoping to naturally stimulate labor, a pump is pretty handy.
So, to sum up:
Even if you are gonna be a stay-at-home-mom who doesn't plan on using many bottles at all for your baby, having an electric breast pump is still really nice.
You can live without it.
But it is very nice to have around.