The Affordable Care Act provided a benefit most new mothers were thrilled about - it mandated that insurance companies provide women with a breast pump with the birth of each child. This benefit that has been fought hard for, both nationally and in Rhode Island, so many of us were so happy to see it finally happen. Imagine our surprise when the biggest insurer in Rhode Island decided to only provide a manual pump. We have fielded many calls from women who have said no thanks to that option, and we don’t blame them. For many, the manual pump isn’t going to help them while working full time and traveling away from their baby. It isn’t the right pump for their situation, and we see situations like this all the time.
Some local hospitals are able to provide each postpartum room with a double hospital-grade electric breastpump. In doing this, every mother who needed a breastpump in that hospital has access to one in their own private room. Terrific, right? Initially, everyone thought so. But often, we see a few problems that we believe sabotaged the success of breastfeeding for many mothers.
The first issue is that since there is a pump in the room, many mothers assume they need to pump. Whether they need to or not, many mothers begin pumping as soon as they can, and feel if they are doing that, they don’t need to nurse their baby. Mothers who pump frequently, and nurse only occasionally, have babies that soon prefer the bottle. Other mothers believe that if nursing the baby was good, nursing and pumping is better. These moms start doing both right from the start and quickly became exhausted and gave up on both altogether.
Another issue is that mothers don't produce much milk in the first few postpartum days of pumping. A mother's milk typically comes in around day 3 or 4 postpartum and coincidently, occurs after most mothers have been discharged. While in the hospital, they only produced colostrum. This colostrum has everything a newborn needs, but is not produced in the same quantity as mature milk. For this reason, many mothers assume that they aren't making enough milk for their babies. We see many of these mothers in their home after discharge. They tell us, with great disappointment, that they are certain they don't have enough milk for their baby, because they barely got anything when they pumped in the hospital. They weren't supposed to get much, but they didn't know that. Mentally, that is disheartening for many women.
Anybody reading this newsletter knows HBHM Inc. is in the pump business. But really, we prefer to be in the business of getting people off to a great start nursing. The vast majority of mothers do not need a pump to do that. We wish that all moms knew that the most important aspect of nursing is getting your milk supply established and maintaining it. It is a challenging but easily accomplished task, provided you are doing the right thing from the start. The best way to achieve this, of course, is by nursing your baby. A baby with a correct latch is far better at establishing and maintaining a woman's milk supply than any pump.
In a situation where the baby is not nursing, whatever the reason, a hospital-grade double electric breastpump is essential to getting the milk supply established. It is also important that the mother pump frequently, as it is the frequency of pumping that will get more milk, not the duration of time spent pumping. Once the milk supply is established and maintained, most babies will eventually nurse successfully.
When a mom is pumping and not nursing, she must remember never to judge her milk supply based on what she gets from a pump. A baby that is nursing well will always get more milk from its mother than a pump will. Moms do not get the same hormonal charge from a piece of machinery that they do from their baby. These hormones are responsible for milk production as the baby is nursing. The body quickly replaces what the baby takes out. When a woman pumps, she is going to get what is in her breast. When a baby nurses, he is going to get what he needs because the body will keep producing milk.
So what is a mom to do when she finds herself in a challenging situation and has just spent $300 on a Pump In Style? Or her insurance only provides a manual? Or her sister has an old pump she can use? She should rent a hospital-grade pump for a week or two, and once she is off to a good start, she can use the pump that she purchased. We always try to make it clear to each mom who purchases a pump from HBHM Inc., that these pumps are intended for women who are nursing without difficulty and whose supply is well established. They are not for women with preemies in the NICU. They are not for women with supply issues. They are not for women whose babies won't latch.
Have we seen a mother with a baby born 3 months early, pump for 6 months with an Avent hand pump and never need to give her thriving baby formula? Miraculously, yes! Have we visited with a mother of preemie twins who pumped with a Pump In Style Advanced and had an abundant supply for both babies? Definitely! Do we know a mother who was the third user of an Original Pump In Style while she worked full time and never had to supplement with formula? Yes, we have seen all those things.
But please remember that these are very rare exceptions, and not the rule. More often than not, we see women who are using the wrong pump for their situation, and have had their milk supply and nursing relationship compromised as a result. For most women, if you do not get your supply well established from the start, it is very hard to turn the situation around.
We at HBHM Inc. are in the business of getting families off to a great start nursing. We are not in the business of selling or renting pumps that aren't appropriate for a given mothers' situation. If you are at all in doubt about what is appropriate for you, please call us. Ask questions and make sure you get the help you need. We are happy to provide just that!