I have recently been amazed by all the items, applications, shortcuts and “hacks” I have come across that have simplified my life and saved me money. I am currently learning tons about nutrition by viewing videos when and where I have the time to do it. Amazon Prime has saved me time and money on several occasions. Applications on my phone keep me up to date with my finances, help me track workouts, call an Uber, listen to a Podcast, and order a lunch pick up at the nearest Panera. All good things as far as I am concerned!
However, I am increasingly seeing hacks that Moms are using related to breastfeeding that are having detrimental effects on their milk supply. Often, I get involved too late and am unable to reverse the situation, much to the dismay of the women I care for. The first hack is demonstrated in the many YouTube videos showing Moms how to use their Medela breast pump parts with their new Spectra pump. Eager to have more than one set of pumps parts to use, Moms are reconfiguring their old parts to work with the pump of a different manufacturer. And it does “work.” You will get suction and probably some milk too. But it doesn’t work as it is intended to. Each pump manufacturer has created their pump and its parts with a considerable amount of biomedically engineered research and development. Manufacturers then go through a strict FDA approval process. When the pump is used as intended, the results are great.
However, when the pump isn’t used as intended, it often has very detrimental results for women intent on giving their babies breastmilk. Women using these parts incorrectly at a time when they are trying to establish their supply, or increase it, are often crushed when it just doesn’t happen in the way that they had hoped. And rather than questioning the pump or the set up they are using, they assume it is the fault of their body. Convinced something is wrong with them, they give up. But, they saved themselves $50 in new pump parts.
Another new hack are the Freemie Collection Cups that can be used to allow you to pump discreetly and hands free with any compatible pump. These cups connect to your pump and advertise the convenience afforded with hands free pumping. You can now leave Women and Infants Hospital with both your pump and this device. Because it was given to Moms at the hospital, many assume it means they should use it immediately. I am seeing women using this when they are unable to nurse and are trying to establish their supply. In this situation, Moms should be using a hospital grade rental pump, and when they don’t, the results are not good. When I teach them how to use their pump without the Freemies, Moms are amazed at the difference in the strength of suction and the increase in the amount of milk they obtain. Again, the manufacturers don’t engineer pumps to be used with an additional product and it decreases the effectiveness of the pump. And at the most critical time of establishing your milk supply, you are not giving your body the best option to get things going.
Lastly, I need to say a word (or several) about pumping with an individual patient pump that has been used by another woman. The pumps are all warrantied for a year and intended to be used by one woman. This is both for sanitary reasons, and the effectiveness of the pump. Eventually, these pumps will die and you will notice a decrease in suction, unless of course the suction was low when you started using it. I have had patients that have 3 pumps: one upstairs, one downstairs and one at the office. The one upstairs is new. Downstairs is the one her sister used for two kids, but is in “great shape.” The one at the office is her girlfriend’s, who is done with babies and doesn’t need it anymore. She gets different amounts of milk with each, and attributes that to a defect in her body’s ability to produce milk, rather than the age and past use of the pumps. Ultimately, her supply has been affected, which is why she is calling me.
One of the greatest things about the Affordable Care Act is the insurance coverage of a new breast pump for each mother with each pregnancy. If you will need to pump, please take advantage of that. Get a new pump for yourself. Use it as it was intended to be used. Insist that the Durable Medical Equipment Provider that gives it to you, shows you how to use it. If they can’t teach you how to use it, they shouldn’t be providing it for you. Be sceptical of the need to purchase any additional attachments to make pumping “better”. Order your pump before you have your baby and know how to use it before you need it. This way you are not making decisions or purchases at the last minute when engorged, hormonal or overwhelmed in the hospital. And if you have questions about what pump is best for you, ask them. Don’t let anyone tell you that you only have one option. It often means you are getting the pump that is most profitable for the provider, and not necessarily the best option for you.
But most importantly, know that you don’t have to pump. As great as the ACA is, this pump coverage has made women think that pumping is the most important part of breastfeeding, and somehow essential to success. Nothing could be further from the truth. The best way to get breastfeeding off to a great start is to nurse, and not to pump. In fact, early pumping can cause a host of problems and get you in a situation where you have to pump. Best case scenario, pumping can come in later, in preparation for your return to work, if necessary. Have confidence in yourself and trust your body.
Please advocate for yourself, and find someone that can help you with nursing, and pumping if necessary. As always, we are happy to assist you with this. I never leave a home visit without making sure my patient knows how to use her pump correctly. I always determine if what she is using is appropriate for her situation. And lastly, spend the money to get what you need-whether it is lactation support, or an appropriate pump. It will pay off in a excellent supply, a beautiful nursing experience, decreased (or no!) formula costs, and a healthy baby. Your family deserves it!