Breast Pumping Advice

I love giving advice.  I’m not talking about in the patient care setting- I find that to be different.  When I’m discussing, say, birth control options with a patient, it’s more about counseling.  I review the different methods, pros and cons, and ultimately based on the woman’s preferences, she chooses what’s best for her.

I’m talking about straight up giving advice.  You just had a baby?  Oh boy, do I have a ton of advice to give you!  When it comes to baby advice, there is no shortage of it for new parents.  The thing is, every baby is different, so not all advice applies to all babies and parents.

So I’m gonna try to stick to advice that I think is generally helpful to most new parents.  Today, I’m going to share my experience with breast milk pumping.

Luckily, my supply was good early on and WZW didn’t have any issues, so I was able to breastfeed exclusively.  Even then, it wasn’t easy- my nipples were sore for the first few weeks, and then finally they started to get used to the multiple daily and nightly beatdown.

We started giving WZW a bottle of my pumped milk at 4 weeks to get him used to the bottle.  A lot of babies are particular about brands of bottles, or just won’t take a bottle, period, after getting used to the boob.  But my kid had no issues- he was just happy to get fed.  We gave him a bottle every other day, then realized that since he didn’t have any issues taking a bottle, we might as well conserve my frozen milk.  So we spaced it out.

He was generally satisfied with one breast, so I’d pump on the opposite side while he was feeding.  With a baby that doesn’t exactly stay calm and still during his feeds, that wasn’t always easy.  I looked into bras that I could simultaneously pump and breastfeed with.  I came across some that clipped like a regular nursing bra, but had a layer underneath to hold the pump.

Then I came across the Rumina bra, and it is seriously the best thing ever!  I wasted money buying other nursing bras, because now it’s the only one I wear.

RuminaRumina with flanges

I love it because it’s comfortable like a sports bra (wireless), and I can wear it all day even at work.  When it’s time to pump, I can just lift my shirt and stick the flanges in the bra.  It’s available on Amazon or the Rumina website, and best of all it’s $34.  That’s half the price of some of the other simultaneous pumping/nursing bras I found.

They have two versions, the Classic Crossover and Relaxed Crossover.  I haven’t been able to tell the difference, but then again my boobs never got that big even with lactation.  Unlike most women, I wore my usual bra size throughout my pregnancy- 36A (though I’m probably really 36AA).  Even with postpartum engorgement, I only got to like a 36B.  So I can’t speak to the support for women with larger breasts, but I love the design of the Rumina bras.

I had previously gotten the Simple Wishes Hands Free Pumping Bra, but found that it was extra effort to have to put it on.  Plus, the holes are too small to fit the pump flanges in from the outside, so you have to place them before putting on the bra.  Way too much effort when you’re in a rush to quickly pump at work.

Simple Wishes

In November, as WZW’s feeds started to space out to every 4 hours, I realized I could no longer feed one breast and wait till his next feed to empty the other breast.  So with every feed, I was feeding him on one side as I pumped on the other.  It was a lot of work, but I ended up amassing a good amount of milk.

IMG_1473

After a month of that, and seeing how much I had, I got pump fatigue and decided it was too much.  It was a lot of work to be dealing with a fussy baby trying to feed, and pumping simultaneously.  And it was extra work to have to wash the pumping accessories at night.  So I switched to feeding him from both breasts until I went back to work and needed to pump.

Alas, now that I’m back to work and pumping twice during the day, my supply has gone down, so I often don’t pump as much milk as he is consuming during the day.  So even though the picture above looks like a ton of milk, my husband defrosts a significant amount each week.  My pumping at work replaces most of it, but not all.  Hopefully I won’t ever run out completely, as it would be nice to stick to breastmilk and not need formula.

The first pump I bought was the Limerick PJ’s Bliss, based on an article my husband found regarding breast pumps, which referenced this article from The NightLight which ranked it #1:

http://thenightlight.com/best-breast-pump/

PJ's Bliss

The biggest difference and advantage of this pump is that it has silicone instead of plastic flanges.  I find that the comfort is similar, but the silicone adheres to my skin better.  So that means the flanges stay in place better as I’m dealing with a fussy baby or typing at work.  Between the silicone flanges and the Rumina bra, I was able to simultaneously pump and breastfeed.  I probably wouldn’t have been able to do so if I started with plastic flanges.

When I realized that it would be a lot of extra hassle to have to take my pump and accessories to and from work daily, I decided to get a second pump, and went for the Spectra pump, which is ranked #2 and I’d heard about from my colleagues who had just had a baby.  Spectra makes the S1 (blue) and S2 (pink), and the difference is that the S1 has a rechargeable battery pack.  Since the PJ’s Bliss didn’t come with one, I got the S1.  But the PJ’s Bliss does have a battery pack option that you can purchase for $80.

Spectra

After using both the PJ’s Bliss and the Spectra, here is my breakdown of their pros and cons:

As I mentioned, the PJ’s Bliss has the silicone flanges which are great.  It’s also lighter in weight than the Spectra, and more compact in size for transporting.  When you purchase it, it comes with a little backpack as well as a small cooler pack which fits 4 bottles and comes with 3 ice packs that fit in the slots in the cooler pack.  I love the tiny cooler- it’s so small, just the right size for the milk.  The PJ’s Bliss has two bottle holders that easily attach on either side of the main unit, and hold the bottles securely.

The biggest con of the PJ’s Bliss is that it’s louder.  I can speak to patients on the phone while I’m pumping with it at work, but I’m sure they can hear it, so I tend to avoid doing so.  Other cons include the price- at $257, it’s more expensive than the Spectra, and if you want the rechargeable battery pack then that’s another $80.  The Spectra S1 is currently selling on Amazon without any accessories for $158.  For me, the cost of the PJ’s Bliss was similar to the Medela Pump in Style Advanced, which friends who had their babies several years ago told me was the go-to pump.  For me, given how frequently I’d be pumping, it was worth the investment.

The way the filter and tubing are designed, if you lean forward too much when the pump is active and there is a lot of milk in the bottles, the fluid will go into the tubing and to the filter.  This doesn’t happen that easily, but once I forgot and leaned over to pick something up on the ground.  Whoops.  Once the filter is wet, it must be replaced.  One extra filter is included, but additional cost $15.  If the flange is attached to the bottle and there isn’t much milk in it, it will fall over.

The main advantage of the Spectra is that it’s quieter.  The pump mechanism is a little different.  Unlike the PJ’s Bliss which goes suck, suck, suck, this has a more vibration-like quality to the pumping, with multiple quick tiny pumps per suck.  Also, the pumps are significantly cheaper, even to get the S1 which has the rechargeable battery.  It is really helpful to have the rechargeable option just in case.  I used it when I had a work all-day meeting at a hotel, and as I suspected finding an outlet wasn’t as easy.

The design prevents fluid from getting in the tubing.  I haven’t needed to do it myself, but I’ve heard you can use Medela supplies with the Spectra.  This is convenient because you can more easily find them at Babies R Us and the like in a pinch, as opposed to waiting for things to ship.  The Spectra also has a built-in nightlight.

The downsides of the Spectra include that the plastic flanges don’t stay on as well as the PJ’s Bliss silicone ones.  One has to lean forward to catch the milk.  I’ve heard about angled flanges to help avoid this issue, but I’m not sure if they’re compatible in size with the Spectra.

The one spot for holding a bottle isn’t a secure holder like with the PJ’s Bliss.  It’s a space that’s wider than the bottle, so although the Spectra bottles don’t tip over as easily, you can easily knock over a bottle if it’s in this Spectra resting space.  And there’s only one, so what do you do with the other bottle?

Although the Spectra looks newer and fancier, the round shape is ultimately more bulky and the unit is heavier.  At least the S1 is.  I’m not sure if the S2 is lighter.

The pumps are different in their adjustment function, which I don’t think makes a difference.   The PJ’s Bliss has two dials, one for frequency and one for strength of suction.  The Spectra is digital, so you just press the buttons to go up or down on frequency or strength.  Both pumps are clear in letting you know how long you’ve been pumping.  The PJ’s Bliss tells you how many minutes you’re at, while the Spectra has a digital timer so it tells you to the second (which is not necessary).  I haven’t noticed a difference with either pump yielding more milk.

For me, bottom line is that I like the PJ’s Bliss better, so that’s the one I keep at work.  I have the Spectra for when I need to pump sometimes at home or elsewhere.

I have a friend who has used 4 different pumps- she rented an Ameda hospital grade pump for a couple months (not sure if Platinum or Elite), borrowed the Medela Pump in Style Advanced from a friend, used the Medela Symphony at work where it was present in their pumping rooms, and purchased the Spectra.  From most liked to least liked, she ranked them #1 Ameda, #2 Spectra, #3 Medela Symphony, and #4 Medela Pump in Style Advanced.

One last piece of related advice- I got the Nuk breast milk storage bags based on a compelling Amazon review.  Someone posted a review saying something along the lines of being a researcher, and for whatever reason she needed to ship her breastmilk, so she tried all the different brands, and these held up the best.  I haven’t had a problem with them, either.

Happy holidays!

 

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