When I became pregnant with my daughter, I hadn’t yet decided whether or not I was going to nurse her or not. I told myself that I would make the decision then and there, when I had her in my arms. I wasn’t worried either way, since I’m a child of the baby bottle generation and I’m in perfect mental and physical health.
That said, my pregnancy did not go as planned. It was at only 29 weeks that I had to make this decision and, given the circumstances (premature birth and high death risk), I offered my child my breast milk to help increase the chances of her survival.
There I was at Ste-Justine, in my hospital room, post-cesarean. To the right of my bed, the big, turquoise machine that we call the “breast pump.” The breast pump that you’ll find in a hospital has little to do with the ones you can buy in a store. They’re impressive industrial machines. I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by compassionate and patient nurses during my first time, and thankfully, I was quickly given results and was able to give my child my breast milk.
Once I got back home, I had to keep pumping my milk. The hospital offered to lend me the equipment while I had time to buy what was necessary (renting is also an option if you don’t want to buy). So I started shopping for breast pumps. Wow! Look at all those options!
There are manual breast pumps, electric ones, singles ones and doubles. Already at this point I was getting overwhelmed, but then came the accessories. One step at a time!
In my case, given that I had to pump constantly and not just occasionally, I opted for a double electric model: I wasn’t fooling around. When you’re pumping milk every three hours for months on end, you have to be efficient.
Electric pumps are more efficient than manual pumps; they often offer much more power than those activated by your hand. It’s also possible to adjust the force and the speed of the pumping. This might seem unimportant, but that’s far from the case. A baby drinks from a breast at their own rhythm: at first to pull the milk and activate the flow, and then to drink it. Electric pumps offer more “natural” adjustments comparable to the way babies drink.
That said, electric pumps are often bigger and more expensive than manual ones. It’s very easy to slip a manual pump into a diaper bag or your purse during nights out with the girls, something that isn’t the case with manual pumps. While traveling, I opted for a small manual pump to manage the couple of times when I wasn’t with my son. It was also very easy to carry in our baggage when we were in transit. I was, however, pretty happy to only use it in the case of an emergency; I wouldn’t have wanted to do this every time my son wanted to drink.
It’s also possible to choose between a single or double electric pump. Once again, for efficiency’s sake, I opted for the double. I’m not the type of person who likes to stay in one place for very long. Having to spend 20 minutes attached to a pump was already more than enough, I wasn’t going to spend 40 minutes in place to do one session after the other. That said, if you’re already nursing your child on one breast, a single pump could conveniently decongest the other breast at the same time, promoting healthy lactation.
The most important thing here is to make sure you have the right size cup. That’s right, breasts are not all the same! Some have smaller nipples, others have larger or longer ones. In order to avoid hurting yourself and to pump the most milk possible, your pump’s cup size must be adjusted to the shape of your breast. Most come with a variety of cup sizes that fit most women. However, it could be that you’ll have to reduce or increase the size of your cups. You’ll have no trouble finding these accessories in-store.
The most popular breast pump brands are Medela, Avent and Ameda. I highly recommend opting for a well-known brand, it will be much easier to find accessories this way.
Some sets are nearly complete and transport easily, such as the Medela Pump in Style Double, which comes with a tote bag (this is what I had). What’s more, this model also comes with extra bottles and a small cooler.
Avent offers a similar kit, which even includes ready-to-use baby bottles (Philips Avent Electric Double). It’s also possible to buy bags to save your milk. When you pump your breasts as frequently as I did with my daughter, it makes sense to save some of your milk in the refrigerator for later use. The bags allow you to maximize space in your refrigerator.
Finally, if you simply don’t know if you’ll need a breast pump or not, opt for a single manual pump that can take care of the job efficiently: Medela Manual Harmony.
My last word of advice: don’t stress out too much about this whole business of whether you should nurse or not. You are the best mother for your child and you’ll know how to make the right decisions for them. Don’t let anyone make you doubt your capacity to take care of your baby.