Friday, April 26, 2019

When manual pumps are best


Because Baby Seal for a very very long time was going to be an only child, I went ahead and gave away most of the baby stuff (I hate clutter--if there is a medical word for the opposite of a hoarder, then that's me. I throw stuff away almost compulsively). This means that when I got pregnant again, I had to start again with different things...well, except for the cases where I got some old stuff back from the friend I'd gifted it to...

This is annoying, but in some ways it can be quite nice to start afresh and discover stuff that's different and better. I love having a proper newborn pram that faces me, for example (and feel quite guilty for making Baby Seal face away from me in that crappy sit-up-and-beg rattler....). And then there is the breast pump. With my first, I--in a spirit of "nothing but the best for my baby!!!"--invested in a Medela double-electric breast pump; I had of course read all those online articles assuring me that, as a mother on maternity leave, I could "get by" with a manual pump, but who wants to "get by"? Surely it stood to reason that a double electric pump must be better. After all, it costs more. This time round, however, I got gifted an unused manual pump, and reluctantly decided to use this until I had the time and energy to purchase something better.

In fact, I've ended up sticking to the manual one, and I honestly think that manual pumps are sometimes the best solution if you are staying at home or on maternity leave. 

My abiding memory of that bulky double-electric showboat that I had first time round, was the perennial puzzle of "...but when do I pump? I am taking care of this baby all day long and feeding her constantly."

With a small manual pump, the problem largely solved itself. Because it was so simple to sterilize and set up, doing so didn't feel like a burdensome task and I was motivated to get it set up every day. As for fitting in a pumping session? Feed the baby at one side, then switch her to the other while pumping the first, then switch back and pump the second breast. A small single-side pump makes this much more practical. Because a single manual pump is small and light and you are not tethered to one spot, you can also hold the pump and express with one hand while you walk around taking care of stuff in the house--many's the morning when I have basically pottered around the room working the breastpump with one hand while making beds and rinsing crockery with the other. (No, I am not convinced by the new Elvie-type contraptions which fit into your bra and supposedly allow you to pump hands-free and move about at the same time; the online reviews I have seen mostly confirm my suspicion that such devices neither pump efficiently nor allow much freedom of movement.)

Also, when you get overly full at night due to a baby who sleeps through unexpectedly or nods off during a nighttime feed after only finishing one side, pumping will help you stay comfortable while also allowing you to sock some milk away, and I personally have found a manual pump to be way better--quieter and less disruptive of sleep. With my first I used to hand-express into a towel, but why throw that milk away if it can be saved?

Finally, strange though it may sound, some women actually respond better to manual pumps, and I think I may be one of them. I have absolutely no idea why. Perhaps it's psychological, perhaps it's because the rhythm of hand-pumping is closer to the way a baby feeds at the breast, or perhaps it's because with manual pumping you are more likely to "get your hands in there" and use compressions and so on to help out, rather than relying on the machine to do all the work for you. But there you go.

No doubt this is one of those Your Mileage May Vary thing, and I know that many women struggle with aching hands when using a manual pump. But to anyone who is at home for the first few months of their baby's life, it may be worth starting out with a manual pump only, and then switching to an electric model if and when desired, rather than investing in an expensive pump that you may not end up using all that much

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