Disclaimer: I’m not an expert; I just play one online.
Earlier this year, I calculated a rough estimate of how much time I had spent using my breast pump earlier this year. By my guess as of March, I’d logged a whopping 86,000 minutes – that’s 59 days – give or take.
I only quit pumping regularly two weeks ago, and while I had whittled down my time to approximately 60 minutes a day, I still added a hefty amount to my total time with my pumps.
Yes, pumps. As of March, I had only used one – a Medela Symphony I rented from the hospital at which I gave birth. Less than a month after writing my pumping-time entry, I decided to take a plunge and switch pumps. I gave up the Symphony and fell in love with a Hygeia EnDeare (rented directly from Hygeia).
So, what’s the skinny?
If your baby is in the NICU, if you have more than one baby to pump for, if you don’t want to breastfeed but you want to bottle feed your breast milk – whatever the reason, if you intend to produce milk but don’t have the ideal breastfeeding start, you should start your breast pumping start with a hospital grade pump. They’re strong, they have bells and whistles, and they will better help you establish that all-important initial supply in the early months when you essentially train your body to supply what you demand.
Medela is the big name. Ameda seems to be where Medela is not. Hygeia is … where?
Hygeia is a hidden gem, one that follows the WHO international code of marketing breast-milk substitues, meaning word of mouth is how Hygeia intends their customers to find them.
If you take one thing away from this entry, let this be it: I wish I had chosen the Hygeia pump sooner.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved my Symphony while I had it. I had no issues and produced 2 liters a day at my highest volume. Obviously there was nothing wrong with the pump! After passing the one year mark, though, I noticed a marked difference in my production. It was becoming more and more difficult to produce what I had gotten in the past, and no amount of increased water, food or supplements seemed to help.
I honestly don’t know if the supply drop I experienced shortly before I quit the Symphony was something totally unrelated to the pump or if it’s at all possible for one’s body to just get bored with a machine and fail to perform as well, but I do know that the switch from the Medela to the Hygeia was like night and day.
Without getting into the science of how breast milk is expressed for those unexperienced with using a breast pump, I left the Medela getting only getting two let down periods in each session, and I really had to work for that second release. At my best before my supply dropped, I got three (with the third being hard work).
The Hygeia regularly allowed four let downs per session. My volume nearly doubled once I switched.
Both are hospital grade pumps, and at the point I switched, I really shouldn’t have seen much change – for the better or worse – in supply. I did, though, and I really think it had more to do with the different controls on the Hygeia.
The Medela Symphony has a control for suction strength and an automatic button that is supposed to stimulate a let down.
Hygeia’s EnDeare has a control for suction strength and a control for pump speed. There is no “let down button,” but you can find your own stimulation speed/strength combination using the two separate controls. I suspect this is where the difference came into play. Medela’s automatic button just didn’t, ahem, push my button anymore. Being in control of things myself made my time much more productive.
Hygeia Baby generously sent me a complete accessory pack to use with my pump after I gushed and gushed about the pump I rent (I still have it just in case) to Twitter friends and followers looking for breast pump recommendations.
You can use Medela’s accessories (tubes, flanges, etc.) with Hygeia’s pumps, so I honestly didn’t care to spend the money if they were virtually the same thing.
It turns out that some are the same and some aren’t.
The tubes are totally different, and I prefer the Hygeia pump tubes far more than Medela’s. They softer and are more flexible. I didn’t ever have to adjust the direction at which I grabbed the pump parts. It was like the difference between coiling the wire on your curling iron and coiling your garden hose. It sounds like a nitpicky thing, but I had no idea how frustrating Medela’s pump tubes were till I experienced how easy Hygeia’s were.
The flanges are also different. Medela wins this category, as the interior of their flanges are totally rounded, whereas the Hygeia flanges’ interior have a sharpish angle. It doesn’t seem like it’d be noticeable, but once I tried pumping, it was. It totally was. I had to quit mid-session and switch to the Medela flanges because my skin was getting raw. (Expert tip – always rub olive oil on the inside of your flanges where it touches your skin. Friction is no bueno, and olive oil is safe for most babies (allergies are possible but rare).)
The Hygeia accessory I was super excited to try was the valve that connects to each flange. Medela’s flange valves have a thin, removable flap that is easy to lose or drop into the garbage disposal. The hard plastic part of the valve is difficult to clean. Hygeia’s valves are a rubber-like (not sure what the actual material is) duckbill shape, all in one piece. I didn’t notice any difference in how they work at the pump, but the ease in cleaning made the Medela valves dead to me.
Since I was pumping 5 oz. to 6 oz. per side at the time of my switch (and up to 10 oz. at my highest), I’ve never used Medela’s or Hygeia’s storage bottles, so I can’t say who’s the winner there. (My vote goes to the 9 oz. Avent bottles we used for bottle feedings.)
All that said, the reason I rounded out this entry’s title with “M plus H” is because the pumping setup that worked best for me was the Hygeia EnDeare using Hygeia pump tubes, Medela flanges and Hygeia valves (plus Avent bottle connectors and Avent bottles).