The Battle of the Breast Pumps

I have a friend who is expecting her first in just a few weeks. (yay!) I have tried to give her some advice, but I well know that nothing can truly prepare anyone for the "shock and awe" of first time motherhood. Anyway, as she is preparing to make the transition from baby machine to milk cow, she is trying to decide which kind of breast pump to buy. She has received the following advice: Mommy A swears by the industrial strength pumps that you rent. (I too, love these, 5 minutes, and you're done. No sweat. This is my choice. But, simply put, I am a milk cow when I have my babies and have to stop pumping, not when the milk stops coming, but when the bottles are full. And I am talking 11 ounce bottles here. MOO MOO) Mommy B says those are overkill, and all you need is a simple small battery powered one. (I can get behind this one, I had one of those with my third, and it worked fine, although not as efficiently as the bigger ones.) Mommy C says to hand express. (I believe Mommy C is crazy and should be institutionalized. I simply can not support hand expressing except in cases of emergency. Why? Why would you? There's a reason we live in the 21st century, "we have the technology.") Mommy D says to get a hand pump. (Only slightly better than hand expressing. The only benefit I can see here is if you have to pump while you're out. They're the most portable.) Anyway, the whole debate is stressing her out, and since I know she reads the blog, I thought I'd take the debate to a larger audience. Which choice did you go with, or do you wish you had gone with? Cast your vote! A,B,C,D, or E - none of the above. If you choose E, however, please give another option. (Oh, and she is not planning on working outside the home once she has the little niblet, so that might change your thinking. I understand it is not practical to transport a large pump if you need to pump at work).


Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

You have to know that I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding and am not above tsk-tsking when a pregnant woman announces that she doesn't plan on breastfeeding in order to appreciate this comment:

if she isn't going to be working but is only going to pump so she can get out every once in awhile, SHE SHOULD HAVE HER HUSBAND OR SITTER GIVE THE BABY A BOTTLE OF FORMULA.

A bottle every week or so will have no discernable impact on the kid and saves her a lot of work. What's the point of a few hours of mommy-free time if you have to prepare for it by squishing your breast mechanically or otherwise?

4/13/2005 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

My kids never took both formula and breast milk; it was either one or the other. Picky eaters. Still are.

I used a battery-powered one for the first two (bought it when I was still working with the first one) and when that died (after the second) I bought an Advent hand pump. It works just as well and costs less.

4/13/2005 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger Amira said...

I've never had or used a breast pump. In fact, it never occurred to me that I might need a breast pump.

I agree with Julie. If I had ever had a need to leave one of my boys for more than 3 hours (I found that three hours was plenty of time for a date or to get most anything done), I'd have had someone give him formula.

4/13/2005 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

I loved my Avent hand pump, and even brought it to work the few weeks I worked after Jacob was born. Of course, I have microscopic breasts, so I don't even know if they would have fit into those huge milking machines!

And I'm with Julie--a bottle of formula now and then when you are breastfeeding will not kill the baby. In fact, my husband loved it when he could feed the baby a bottle, and now it makes total sense that I should have just given him some formula then having to suck it out mechanically from my poor little boobs.

4/13/2005 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger TftCarrie said...

As already discovered on the previous "DH made a funny" post, Heather O. and I seem to be quite similar in the boob category. I had the battery powered Medela breast pump which I used less than a dozen times. When I realized that it took me 45 minutes to get barely 4 oz, it just wasn't worth it. I was definitley NOT a milk machine. I had no plans to go back to work, so my daughter got formula in a bottle once a day (the 3am feeding by my husband).

The bottom line is that all boobs are not created equal. And while it is good to know your options, I wouldn't commit to anything until you know what kind of milk producer you are and exactly how you are going to use the expressed breast milk in your daily routine. Until then, ask around and see if anyone has one you can borrow until you decide (or do people find that gross to lend out your breast pump?)

4/13/2005 06:06:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Well, Julie, the only thing about giving formula instead of a pumped bottle, for me, is that I am a huge milk cow.

If I leave for longer than a few hours (dinner and a movie)and do not pump right beforehand, I am in so much pain, I can hardly breathe. I didn't pump with my first one, and didn't know what I was missing! I rented one with my second (because I had to, she wasn't growing on nursing alone, and the pediatrician wanted me to pump and bottle feed for a week, see if it helped. It did, BTW).

Oh, the JOY of having my breasts emptied in 5 minutes! The relief! So, while I, too, am not above formula, the pumping was not a chore, but something to ensure that my mommy-free time was also pain-free.

4/13/2005 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger Beck said...

I used a battery-powered pump for the few months I worked after my first was born (before I decided I really, really couldn't stand leaving the Boy). It was great. Especially because it was "double-barrelled". Got more milk that way because I could empty both breasts when the let-down came. Doing one side at a time I always got less from the second side I pumped.

BUT, if she is not going to be working and is just using it for engorgement or for when she has to go somewhere, I think a hand-pump would be adequate. I was trying to be his only food supply while working full-time, and I was really struggling to make enough milk. (Once I quit, I didn't have a problem.)

4/13/2005 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger the special one said...

I would so recommend an electric pump, I had a hand pump, it was a horribly painful experience for my hand. But then I could pump for 10 minutes and only get 1 to 2 ounces. I envy those of you who had plenty of milk. My girlfriend had both a hand pump and an electric, she preferred the electric one. She was able to hook both sides up at once and in 5 to 8 minutes she was done. Also your friend should look into Babies R US, one of the ladies in my ward said that they have a 30 or 60 day return policy on electric pumps, even if they have been used, I never looked into it, but it’s worth calling and asking then about it. With my 1st child my milk never really came in and for the first 6 weeks I did both, nurse and formula feed, I never was able to get enough milk to nurse him without supplementing, and eventually quit nursing at 6 weeks, it was to stressful for me trying to do both. With my second, my milk totally came in, but she was jaundice and wouldn’t nurse, so my milk left. I’ve already decided that with my next one I’m buying an industrial pump and doing it that way.

4/13/2005 06:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to avoid the allergy risk of introducing milk- or meat-based foods (formula) before the baby is six months old, you could do rice milk instead of formula. (Obviously this would only work for the occasional substitution, probably not for a daily feeding for a young infant.)


4/13/2005 07:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few weeks after our first was born, my wife became so productive that it became painful, and I had search our Manhattan neighborhood for the nearest breast pump. I found the (expensive!) Medela electric double barrelled that comes in a leather briefcase-thing. It worked great and I highly recommend it -- variable speed, variable suction power, built in refrigerator compartment, the veritable rolls royce of breast pumps.


4/13/2005 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Wow, it takes a man seriously comfortable with his manhood to comment on a post about breastpumps. Welcome to the Mommy Wars, dude!

4/13/2005 10:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My son is 3. When I had him the lactation nurses recommended the Avent Isis hand pump. I also used an electric double pump at work. I actually was better with the hand pump than the electric. Go figure. If she's not going back to work, she shouldn't spend too much money. However, I would buy a pump anyway. It's always nice to have something to pump with for those rare occasions when your baby sleeps for 5 hours straight and you get engorged. Plus, I would pump in the car on long road trips--then we wouldn't have to pull over every 2 to 3 hours for a feeding.

4/13/2005 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger Bryce said...

Rosalynde --

Every box of rice milk I've ever bought has a warning label: Not a replacement for infant formula.

(I realize that you're not advocating full-time use, but still, I thought it should be mentioned)

4/13/2005 11:54:00 PM  
Blogger Bryce said...

On the subject of breast pumps, some hospitals will let you borrow an industrial strength electric pump on a trial basis, so you can see if you like/need it. Our first hospital did, as I recall.

Also, we got a free cheapie pump for free with each child. It always worked well enough in a pinch.

Really, you should try before you buy. Ask around -- in a typical LDS ward (assuming your friend is LDS) there are plenty of breast pump models to borrow. When you find one you like, go ahead and buy.

4/13/2005 11:59:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

Don't hand express except in an emergency. It is bad for the breast--because you don't equally express from the ducts.
Hand pump is probably useless.
If you really see pumping as something you want to do a lot, buy the ones for $135 or so. Double electric. They work. They do both sides at once (which with let down is half the battle, one side at a time is useless)

4/14/2005 12:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bryce, thanks for underscoring that important point. Although there's nothing harmful in it, rice milk is not a nutritive substitute for formula, particularly for young infants.


4/14/2005 09:32:00 AM  
Anonymous claire said...

Wow, everyone is an expert. I notice no one said AB or C (was there a D in there?) Does she have allergies in the family? That would be a real good reason not to use even the occasional formula feeding, esp. in the first 6 months or so. My humble opinion: I like what Bryce said. Try some different options before you buy. (However, the 'free' one you get in the hospital is sponsored by your friendly neighborhood formula company, who has a vested interest in you 1. thinking you don't have enough milk, and 2. thinking breastfeeding is hard and overwhelming, so keep that in mind if it isn't working for you).
** IMPORTANT FACT: Pumping succcess is NOT an indication of milk supply, only an indication of how well you let down to that particular pump at that particular moment in time. **

Lots of women respond well to the Avent Isis even though it is a trigger/hand pump, and it only costs $50 and is easy to clean and maintain so that is a great choice for occasional use. Like Amira said, she might realize she doesn't even need one. I'll shut up now.

4/14/2005 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Mary Siever said...

I would suggest consulting your local La Leche League.

I have been nursing forever (currently expecting number 3) and never formula fed, and never needed a pump. But I have heard good things about the Avent pump/s.

4/14/2005 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger halcyon67 said...

Your site is very entertaining.

4/14/2005 07:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Carrie W. said...

I know it's all pretty much been said, but I want to put my plug in for the Avent Isis hand pump. I work full time and used it for both of my kids. It does take a little longer than the Medela, but you don't need to worry about an electrical outlet or making noise (if you have to pump in a bathroom stall like I did - fun). I was able to breastfeed #1 for 6 1/2 months and #2 for 10 months.

4/15/2005 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Bryce said...

Ok, this may not be directly related, but it's the best place I know to post it:

From the BBC:Woman breastfeeds pet monkey (with picture)

4/15/2005 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger the special one said...

okay, that article is disturbing in so many ways. And did they have to include the photo. I'm going to have nightmares about that for weeks!

4/15/2005 04:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

I didn't breast feed any of my kids.

4/15/2005 11:53:00 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

We had bought at least 3 breast pumps--all of which I melted while trying to sanitize them (you know, when you're a crazy, frazzled, first-time mom, you tend to forget that "oh! something's cooking on the stove!").

So, I turned to hand expressing. It was SOO easy. Then again, when my milk comes in, it REALLY comes in (non-stop leakage, too). I, of course, used this as a last resort, but it can STILL be done! =)

4/18/2005 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Wow. That article was just so, so wrong, on so many levels. But I guess it's one way to keep up the nursing boobs!

4/18/2005 11:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

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5/06/2017 12:02:00 AM  

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