Let’s Talk Breast Pumps

Whether you are returning to work and wish to continue feeding your child your breast milk, expressing the occasional bottle so you have a bit of mobility (and precious time out for mom!) or are immersed in the world of exclusively expressing, a good breast pump is essential. If you are only expressing one or two feeds a day, or less, you can get away with using a manual pump. The advantages here are that you can express anywhere and it is quiet. But if, like me, you are exclusively pumping, you will want to get yourself an electric pump – and preferably a double electric.

My daughter was born with a lip tie, posterior tongue tie and a high palate. As a result, she couldn’t form a seal around the breast and she couldn’t latch. My only option to feed her breast milk was to dive into the world of exclusively pumping (EPing). (For more info on EPing click here). I have a love-hate relationship with my breast pump. I love it because my daughter has received nothing but breast milk since she was born and my pump makes it possible. I hate it because this ‘mechanical baby’ is not my child and I get none of the blissed-out-on-breastfeeding feelings that I experienced with my other children. EPing is a pain in the butt, but a good pump can make all the difference.

 

The breast pumps reviewed below have been supplied by the manufacturers (with the exception of the Lansinoh pump which I purchased while pregnant). I have received no payment from the suppliers so that reviews remain unbiased, and prices are approximate at time of publication.

Lansinoh Affinity Double Electric Breast Pump

Approx price: R1900

What the manufacturers say:

  • Can be used as a single or double pump
  • ComfortFit™ breast cushions for a soft, secure fit
  • Independently adjustable speed and suction levels, adjust to the level you find most comfortable without compromising on effectiveness
  • Two separate phases to simulate the baby’s natural sucking pattern (let-down and expression)
  • Quick change button to switch easily between the two phases

This is the pump I used when I started expressing, and so far, I have found it to be the most effective of all the pumps I have reviewed. I use it as a double pump only so it is really quick. Depending on the time of day, I can get 270-320 ml in about 10 minutes. The flanges (bits that the nipple goes into) are a decent size and are comfortable. I love that you can adjust both speed and suction independently, so you can set it to moderate suction and fast rate to mimic initial feeding pattern of baby until you get your let-down reflex and then press the let down button which sets it to a slower, stronger rhythm. It has an automatic program so you turn it on and get let down stimulation for a couple of minutes followed by the slower stronger setting. I skip this now though and just do my own thing. The pump can be used with both mains and battery, and is quite small and easy to tote around. I like the time display so that you can keep track of your session too.

The down side of this pump is that it is quite noisy. I had a funny incident using this pump: I was at a midwifery conference and needed to express. The only place to do this was the toilets, so I went into a stall and settled in. Being a midwifery conference I assumed that everyone would know what I was doing. What I didn’t realise was that Top Billing was holding its Durban presenter search auditions in the same hotel so the toilets were filled with primping tv hopefuls. I don’t want to know what they thought of the rhythmic mechanical noise coming from my stall!

 

Spectra Dew 300  

Approx price: R1200

What the manufacturers say:

  • Spectra single/double electric breast pump
  • Sold in over 21 countries worldwide. 
  •  Can be used single or double
  •  Powerful adjustable suction power up to 330mmHg
  •  BPA free attachments
  •  Motor tested to last up to 1000 hours
  •  1 year quality guarantee 
  •  Ultra quiet… weighs 2.1Kg

When they say ‘ultra quiet’ they mean it! I love this pump for expressing at work because no one can hear it through my office door. Again, I use it as a double pump so expressing is quite quick. The flanges are comfortable but don’t have any rubbery seal around them so I find that they lose their suction quite easily of not held in position (so, hard to balance and type while pumping – quite important if you need to multitask like I do!). There is a knob on the front to adjust the suction but unfortunately not the speed, so no let down simulation. I found this pump to have the strongest suction of all the ones I tried out. The motor part is quite bulky. This is fine if you only pump in one place, but if you’re using it at home and then taking it to work with you, it could be a bit cumbersome. I think one of the huge selling points for this pump would be the price, which is much lower than other pumps in its class.

                                 

Philips AVENT ISIS Electric Breast Pump

Approx price: R1300

What the manufacturers say:

  • All Pump Parts Made of BPA Free Plastic
  • Programmable Electronic Memory
  • Infinitely Variable Speed & Suction Controls
  • One Button Control Right at Your Fingertips
  • Let-down Massage Cushions
  • Safe and Hygienic Closed System Design
  • Ultra Quiet, Powerful Motor

This pump works quite differently from the other electric ones I’ve tried. You set the rhythm for it by using the handle to pump manually then click the blue button and it carries on with your rhythm and suction strength. It is very easy to change the rhythm or suction – just click the blue button, change, then click the blue button again. It also has a memory function so it remembers your last session. (The technology in this little pump boggles my mind!) It is a single pump so potentially, it could take longer to express both sides. But being a single pump it could be handy when feeding baby from one side and expressing from the other. It is very light and easily portable. The one I tried out came in a really nice insulated carry bag which can be used with cold packs to keep the milk cold. The pump is very quiet and discrete. The flange on its own is comfortable, but if you have large nipples you may find that the let-down massage cushion pinches. It can be used just as well without the cushion, so not really a huge issue.

What I love about the Avent products is that everything fits together and is inter-changable. So you can pump with the electric pump into a bottle and feed directly, or use the Via cup attachment,  pump into a cup and pop it in the freezer. The manual pump handle fits onto the electric pump so you can easily switch between manual and electric (which I have done when the batteries ran out).

 

Philips AVENT ISIS Manual Breast Pump 

Approx price: R700

What the manufacturers say:

  • Handheld manual pump–easy to assemble and use
  • Unique soft five-petal message cushion mimics baby’s suckling for steady milk flow
  • Flexible and portable–perfect for travel
  • Interchangeable with other AVENT products–express directly into a storage cup, Via cup, bottle or training cup
  • BPA-free

I used this pump with my first three children when I was breast feeding full-time and just expressing one feed a day. Once you get the hang of putting all the parts together it is a super-easy pump to use. It uses all the same attachments (minus the motor and handle) as the electric pump, so same comfort and fit. The seal is good and it is quick to use. Obviously it is a single pump so double the pumping time if you are doing both side. The only negative with this pump is that if you use maximum suction (depress the handle fully) sometimes the little valve on the inside pops out and has to be fitted again. Other than that, a really nice pump to use if you are going the manual route.

 

Playtex Manual Breast Pump Kit

Approx price: R450

What the manufacturers say:

  • Ergonomically designed thumb grip requires less hand work and reduces fatigue
  • Angled cup is tilted to help reduce backaches
  • Design lets Mom sit upright so gravity drives efficiency
  • Connects to both wide and narrow bottles and is dishwasher safe
  • Soft, comfortable, silicone cup moves in and out for Baby-like motion                                        

I found the silicone cushion on this pump to be very tight and had to remove it in order to use it. You can hold this pump in two ways – thumb in the front with fingers on the handle or thumb through the thumb grip. I found that quite awkward to use, but holding it in front was comfortable. The pump comes with a whole kit with drop in milk storage bags which connect with the Playtex bottles. I assume this would be really handy if you are using the Playtex system. I did find that the pump dripped milk when I was finished pumping – every time. I have read other people had this problem so I assume it’s not something I am doing wrong. I didn’t find this pump that effective, and it took ages to pump my usual amount.