3 Things Every Parent Should Think About When Choosing a Breastpump

As a breastfeeding peer supporter, the question “Which breastpump?” comes up fairly often. I usually try to find out a bit more about why a mother is thinking of pumping (sometimes she doesn’t actually need or want to). If this question is posed to a group, brand suggestions get thrown around and people get surprisingly passionate in defence of their milk machines. I suppose the more time you’ve spent with your pump, the more likely you are to form an emotional attachment of some sort. But is it just a matter of personal preference and personal experience or are there actually facts to consider?

If pressed to give a suggestion mine is always ARDO breastpumps and I’m going to explain why in a minute. In the spirit of full disclosure, ARDO is my sponsor for next month’s Mumsnet Blogfest Conference and this post is my way of announcing that. This is me doing a little happy dance about getting to work with a brand that I entirely trust both because of my own history with their Calypso breastpump and also because they genuinely live up to all of the standards I believe every parent should think about when choosing a breastpump.

3 things to think about when choosing a breastpump

1. Does the breastpump brand have a closed system?
A what? If you’ve never heard of this before, you’re not alone. Many veteran breastfeeding mothers don’t know what a closed system breastpump is or why it should matter. I didn’t until after my pumping days were over. Simply, a closed system makes it impossible for expressed milk to travel and get into the pump unit itself. It creates a vacuum in order to extract the milk rather than allowing the free passage of air. It is therefore A LOT more hygienic. This is a big deal.

To put it another way, if your breastpump has an open system, it’s possible for mould and bacteria to get to places in the machine that you can’t see and, therefore, can’t clean. It is commonplace for people to buy secondhand electric breastpumps so this becomes even more problematic. Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths writes a detailed post with a compelling argument against reusing a specific popular electric pump that is often recommended online whenever the “Which breastpump?” question arises. Please read it. For me, it’s not just an argument not to use pumps with open systems secondhand, it’s a whole heap of reasons not to use them at all.

ARDO’s VacuuSeal Technology ensures a total barrier between your expressed milk and any pathogenic agents. It guarantees protection against contamination. This actually makes it the ideal pump to be used by several mothers at once. In fact, the breastfeeding peer support service I volunteer for hires ARDO pumps to mums with breastfeeding problems in Bristol because of their safety.

calypso_double-500x500

2. How adjustable is this breastpump, really?
Back when I pumped a couple of years ago, it was to increase my milk supply. If you’ve followed my journey since then, you might remember the story: a late diagnosed tongue-tie which resulted in low milk supply. Long story short, I had to pump A LOT to create the demand my baby wasn’t making so that my body could produce enough milk for her. When you have a pumping schedule, you appreciate how important it is for a pump to be as adjustable as possible.

ARDO pumps are gentle and efficient. Often when the milk stops flowing you think you need to kick things up a notch, which, my friends, is the pathway to getting blood in your milk (so speaketh experience) when actually your breasts might be more responsive to a lower setting. Certainly, the settings on the Calypso are incredibly adjustable – rhythm and speed. I could set it to mimic my baby’s rapid initial suck and go into the rhythmic suck-swallow pattern, drawing the milk out. There’s a choice of flange sizes and you can even add a few extra bits to turn it into a double pump for not much extra cost.

3. Is the breastpump brand compliant with WHO Code?
The WHO code is shorthand for The International Code for the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. It’s the carefully researched set of guidelines that stands between mother-baby pairs and the brands who stand to profit from them. The Code protects and supports breastfeeding and is very specific about what brands are and are not allowed to do, in the interest of making sure they don’t sabotage breastfeeding relationships. Sadly, the WHO Code is not law and many brands that claim to be breastfeeding-friendly do not live up to it. Personally, I would feel awkward about promoting a breastpump from a brand that doesn’t prioritise breastfeeding in this way because it would make me wonder both about the quality of their products (is this pump really going to protect my milk supply?) and about their motives with regard to other products they sell, bottles and teats specifically.

Here’s what ARDO has to say about what the WHO Code means for them:

“Taking into account the fact that teats may have a negative effect on the duration of Breastfeeding; ARDO does not offer or supply feeding bottles.

Currently the subject of the WHO Code on mother’s milk substitutes is under intense discussion amongst experts in the field, in conjunction with producers of Breastfeeding products. We wish to declare unequivocally – as a matter of company policy – that ARDO is completely committed to observing absolutely each and every WHO Code.”

This post certainly isn’t intended to make anyone feel crummy about a breastpump they’ve used in the past. As always, I just wish there was more information out there, accessible to mothers trying to make good decisions. More information = more power!

I am delighted to welcome ARDO as my sponsor for Mumsnet Blogfest 2013. It’s a great fit.