Electric Pump Reviews: Avent, Tommee Tippee, Medela

I’ve mentioned a few times on the blog that I’m currently expressing for my son who’s four months. In that time I’ve had three different pumps so I thought I’d compare them for those who might be looking for one:

Phillips Avent Comfort Electric Pump
Price: we got ours from Boots for £93 – they’re now slightly more expensive in store but less online.
Review: buying the Avent pump was out of necessity rather than choice – we’d just checked in to the Ronald McDonald House by the Children’s Hospital and found out there was no pump there I could use. Cue a dash to Boots ten minutes before closing time to get the last pump they had.
Regardless, I found it quite a good pump to use. There weren’t too many parts to sterilise or fit back together after and, as Max took to the Avent teats we bought their bottles and could attach them straight on to the pump which was easier than decanting.
I found I could express more without the comfort shield on.
Unfortunately it broke after just over two months’ use, however as I pump about seven times a day it may just be that it wasn’t suited to such heavy use and might be better for someone who’s maybe just expressing one feed a day?
Overall: 7/10

Tommee Tippee Electric Breast Pump
Price: £100
Review: I totally gave up on this pump after two days when it took me half an hour to get 10ml. I knew my supply hadn’t dropped that much and I still felt full afterwards. The tube which connects into the pump itself came out constantly (and my husband tried connecting the tube too so it wasn’t just me being an idiot) and there were SO many parts to wash and sterilise. I’m a big fan of Tommee Tippee having used their bottles and steriliser with Alexandra but I’m afraid it feels like they’ve overcomplicated their pump just for the sake of it. I didn’t get on with this one at all.
Overall: 1/10

Medela Swing
Price: £100
Review: the daddy of all pumps (or should that be mommy). If you’ve been on a postnatal ward you’ll probably have seen the yellow Medela pumps lurking around as that’s what they use in hospitals (or the ones I’ve been in certainly). While the Swing is never going to match up to the hospital ones which are very expensive, it’s the closest you can get at home. I’ve been able to increase my supply using it and it’s SO simple to clean and sterilise as there are only three parts which need to be washed. Also it’s incredibly quiet (for a pump) – I express downstairs overnight to save waking anyone, our lounge is directly underneath the bedroom and my husband says he can’t hear the pump at all whereas he could hear the Philips one. Had I not had to go with the one available at the time, I would have got a Medela first.
Overall: 9/10

My overall advice here is: there’s a reason hospitals use Medela! It’s not any more expensive than the others and it’s far superior! There are also double options which are pricier but quicker (and you don’t have to deal with the whole ‘one leaky boob’ situation).

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Donating Breast Milk

Max is very pleased another baby is benefitting from the milk he couldn’t use.

I’ve mentioned briefly before that I donated some of my milk but I wanted to use today’s post to talk a little more about that process.

When I had my first, Alexandra, I wasn’t really aware about donating milk or even using donor milk so when I stopped breastfeeding we just switched straight to formula. Because I was so unwell I didn’t even express and so our journey with my milk was over – I went cold turkey and my milk dried up eventually.

With Max, I started expressing the day he was born despite the fact he was nil by mouth. I’m still expressing now so he’s having four bottles of boob milk a day and one of formula. Because he hardly drank anything in the early days when he was poorly, we ended up stocking up the freezers in both hospitals he was an inpatient at and when we fetched both batches we had around four litres of milk in our freezer.

My plan was to gradually use the freezer stock (as there’s obviously a time frame when you need to use it by) and replace it with ‘newer’ milk. This meant I could potentially stop expressing at some point but still give him boob milk from the stockpile. However at six weeks he was diagnosed with a severe dairy allergy which meant I had to cut out dairy and soya to carry on feeding him. It also meant we couldn’t use anything from the freezer as that had been expressed before I cut dairy from my diet.

The thought of throwing away my milk which had taken so long to get made me feel a little bit ill! So I began researching how I could donate it. The milk bank nearest us said they normally only took milk as an ongoing thing from moms who were breastfeeding but had an over supply but when I explained the situation they were willing to take the stash. However once they started filling in the paperwork they said it wasn’t possible for me to donate because I have had blood transfusions in the past. This for the same reason that I can’t now give blood – there’s no test they can do to rule out that you haven’t been given CJD (mad cows disease) from the blood so they ban you from donating in case you pass it on. Annoying but I can see why! Donated milk is extremely heavily screened before being sold to neonatal units.

So I turned to Facebook. I joined a couple of sites including one called Human Milk for Human Babies. I posted on there explaining how much I had to donate and some details (they ask you to include things like any medical conditions you have/medications you’re on, whether you drink etc). I got one really weird message but then within hours I got a comment from a lady who was pregnant and had supply issues with her previous two babies so was stockpiling donor milk so her new baby wouldn’t struggle with weight loss in the way they had.

The lady came to pick the milk up from us, which felt a bit weird at first giving someone what is essentially your bodily fluids! But once I met her and chatted to her for a bit I felt so glad it was going to be used and not thrown away! She’s now had her baby and keeps everyone (there’s quite a few people who’ve donated milk to them) informed on a Facebook page which is lovely. Because all the milk is labelled, she was even able to tell me they were using my milk the other day!

It’s lovely to know I’ve been able to help another family and it’s really changed my viewpoint on donor milk – in fact I feel a bit gutted I don’t have enough of a supply to regularly donate but I’m already having to supplement with formula.

To anyone out there with an oversupply – or anyone who knows they can’t breastfeed due to a medical issue but desperately wants to use breast milk, milk donation is definitely something worth looking into!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Dairy And Soya Free

You have to like someone an awful lot to give up milkshake for them.

Long term readers of my blog will know I breastfed my first baby for just under a week before switching to formula for a variety of reasons not limited to her generally being terrible at feeding and me being incredibly unwell. She thrived on formula, started putting on weight, importantly didn’t become jaundiced again and has been on the 75th centile since she was a few months old. She’s a happy and healthy toddler who (touch wood) we’ve only ever taken to the doctor’s once and that was just to confirm a little rash was indeed viral as we suspected.

This time round I decided I’d quite like to give breastfeeding a go again. By the time he was a few hours old, Max was on NICU so I was advised to begin hand expressing for a couple of days then move on to using a pump. I welcomed the chance as it meant I could do something useful while the doctors, nurses and machines were doing their own extremely important jobs.

Fast forward to him being two weeks old and they were happy he was tolerating being tube fed following his surgery, so we could begin feeding him orally. That evening I opted to try him with a bottle of my expressed milk and he took to it so well we carried on doing it that way rather than him breastfeeding directly.

Skip to six weeks and Max was back in hospital after becoming incredibly unwell after we were advised to begin introducing formula as he wasn’t putting on weight quick enough. Three days into that stay and we were given a diagnosis of a severe dairy allergy and told it was likely he’d also react to soya. So I had a choice – either I could stop expressing and we could rely solely on prescription formula or I could cut out these things from my diet.

I chose the latter, not realising at the time how many things have dairy or soya in them! Dairy on its own isn’t too bad (apart from crisps – why do so many crisps have milk in them?) but so many of the alternatives have soya in that trips to the supermarket are no longer about choice but about having to have the one thing available.

I wasn’t allowed to give Max the expressed milk I had in the freezer and because I’ve had blood transfusions in the past I can’t donate my milk to an official milk bank but luckily I found a lady through Facebook who was collecting expressed milk for her baby (who was born last week! Congratulations!) so I didn’t have to face the shit situation of throwing four litres of the stuff down the sink.

Of course, some people would say I don’t have the right to moan because I’ve chosen to go dairy and soya free. But I’d invite those people to come and see how well Max takes a bottle of my breastmilk compared to a bottle of formula. With his reflux (a side effect of his hernia), he struggles with too much formula – even the prescription stuff which is free from the things he’s allergic to – and he’s like a different baby now I’ve managed to increase my supply and only offer one or two bottles of formula a day compared to the four he was having previously. We deliberately don’t offer him formula overnight and he’s so much more settled because of that.

So that’s my dairy and soya free story. I don’t know how long I’ll express for – I’d like to get to six months but we know weaning will be a tough journey with this one so it may be I keep going with the boob milk as we know he can tolerate it, especially if he doesn’t outgrow his dairy and soya allergy (his paediatrician doesn’t think it’s likely). In which case next March will be my next taste of chocolate, pizza or milkshake!

Some tips for anyone who’s having to cut out dairy or soya, in terms of what I’ve found out there:
– Koko products are really good. Their yoghurts actually taste like real yoghurts! And their coconut milk is much tastier on cereals than almond milk, in my opinion.
– Doves Farm do an excellent range of Freee bars which don’t contain allergens. I was looking for an oat based product to help my supply so was thrilled to find these in apricot, apple and even chocolate flavours.
– Co-Op’s donuts! Neither their custard nor their jam donuts contain soya or dairy. Winner.
– Pringles. Lots of crisps contain milk but their plain and Texan barbecue varieties don’t (possibly some others but I haven’t checked up on all their offerings).

Do let me know if you’ve found any other great soya or dairy alternatives!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Express Yourself

From a few weeks ago, but the expression on Max’s face is great!

So the time has come to talk about feeding! We all know the great breastfeeding/formula feeding is one of the big debates designed to make moms feel judged whatever side of the fence they fall on! You may also know if you’ve read previous posts of mine that I breastfed my daughter for just under a week before switching to formula, partly because she just wasn’t getting the hang of it and there was a worry she’d become jaundiced again and wasn’t putting enough weight on, and partly because I was very poorly.

This time round I’d decided I wanted to try and feed my son if I could. Then within hours of his birth he’d been transferred to NICU and was being attached to various wires and tubes so I was advised to start hand expressing and then on day 2 to start using the electric pump to build up my supply.

As it was, Max was partly tube fed for the first two weeks of his life while being nil by mouth on the other days. When it came to establishing feeding on day 15, I was told to essentially pop him on the boob and ‘see what happens’ although I was warned he was small so may not take to it. I tried on that day a few times but felt massively unsupported. I was sat in a room with a curtain around our section of it, trying to get this tiny poorly baby to attach himself to me. He was so tired he kept nodding off with the effort of it.

And I cried. I cried at every feed because it was bringing back all of the memories of trying unsuccessfully to feed Alexandra. I cried because I knew the only way we would get out of the hospital is if Max started gaining weight and he had to be having a substantial amount of milk to do so. I cried because I really didn’t know what I was doing – and neither did he bless him.

So when they gave me the option of feeding him from a bottle (still
my expressed milk), I took it. And he drank the entire thing straight away despite them saying he may struggle to do so because of his size. And from then on, I carried on expressing and giving him the milk from a bottle. I didn’t even try putting him on the boob.

When we were discharged a few days later, I knew his fast progress was because he’d taken to bottles so quickly and I wondered how much longer it would have taken for us to establish breastfeeding. Occasionally I thought I should have stuck at it longer but I figured he was still getting exactly the same milk, just from a different receptacle!

When we got home they said I could try breastfeeding there if I wanted to. Perhaps I would have done if he was my first but I couldn’t see a way to sit all day trying to establish breastfeeding when there was also a toddler to look after and SO many hospital appointments to attend. Probably once feeding was established, it would take less time than expressing but I couldn’t see a way we could get to that point?

Max is now on a mixture of my milk and a special Neocate formula since he was diagnosed with dairy allergy FPIES. I’ve donated the four litres of milk I’d got frozen from before I went dairy free. Max has 120ml every three hours which is a lot more than most babies his size, but he’s trying to catch up because he’s still the size of a newborn not a two month baby! So if I was able to express eight times a day I would probably be able to build my supply a little and solely give him EBM but it’s normally more like six times a day that I express and sometimes it has to be a quick five minutes rather than a full go, so that’s why we’re topping up with formula.

I don’t know how long I’ll carry on expressing. I felt like it was important for him to have my breast milk, more so because of him being prem and poorly. It would be SO much easier to transfer to just formula (have you ever tried looking after a baby and toddler on your own while expressing?!) but I don’t want to do that just yet.

I’ve only had one bit of outright negativity (I may talk about that separately) and the advantage is that other people are able to feed. So for example sometimes Dylan will be feeding Max overnight and I can go off and express – or even try and get some sleep.

Downsides are I do feel incredibly like a cow ‘milking’ myself all day and night!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Plans For Baby 2: Feeding

Today I wanted to talk about my plans for feeding Baby 2. A quick recap of the Baby 1 feeding story is that when I was pregnant, I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself but ideally wanted to breastfeed. I breastfed Alexandra for almost a week after she was born. It was tough! The first issue we had was that she was hardly making any effort to feed, she would latch properly sometimes but then just sat there doing nothing – not particularly helpful! So we were topping up with expressed milk/formula from the second day I think and everyone at the hospital was spending an inordinate amount of time trying to help her start feeding properly. I’ve heard a lot of women say they didn’t feel supported to breastfeed while staying in hospital but I felt exactly the opposite, everyone spent so much time trying to help me.

I’d like to think we would have got over the first issue if it hadn’t been for the second: the fact that I was so poorly, trying to feed (or do anything) was horrendously painful. I had a scan which meant I had to express and throw all of my milk away for 24 hours which was the most disheartening thing ever – especially as I was expressing a ridiculous amount. It got to the point where I was crying every feed, which probably wasn’t helping Alex with her feeding issues (I’d probably be a bit weirded out if someone was crying at me every dinner time) and the midwives said to me they were concerned she wasn’t putting weight back on and could become jaundiced again.

So Dylan and I had a chat and we switched to formula and that was that. (I realise that was not a particularly quick summary!).

This time round, I would still like to give breastfeeding a go. I think it would be easy (and probably justified) for me to say let’s just formula feed and avoid adding any more stress on to the situation. But I know for me, I would feel incredibly guilty if Baby 2’s newborn days were less dramatic than Alex’s and we hadn’t at least tried to establish breastfeeding. I will still probably feel an element of guilt if we end up formula feeding, but at least I’d have given it a go.

Also I think there’s an element of ‘making it fair’ in my mind. I tried to breastfeed Alexandra, I want to at least give my second child that chance too! I know it’s ridiculous but they’ll never know, it’s not like he’s going to turn round to me in years to come and query why I fed his sister for a few days but didn’t with him, and equally it could work the opposite way. I could end up breastfeeding him for a year and then he would be treated differently to Alex.

I am firmly, firmly in the camp of ‘fed is best’ and really can’t stand the *minority* of breastfeeders who are so judgemental about formula feeders, as if they’re pouring vodka down their baby’s neck. But I do want to give it a go this time and it would be lovely for it to last a little longer than the first attempt.

Harriet, Alexandra and bump x

The Great Feeding Debate

I originally wrote this post for Mum Amie’s brilliant blog – you can find it here but wanted to share it here too as I think it’s important to talk about feeding and the way people’s opinions can make us as mothers feel! Thanks to Aimee for publishing the post!

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If there’s one baby debate that has the potential to divide parents (and even other onlookers), it’s the breastfeeding v formula feeding choice. There are arguments on both side of the fence and everyone from those extended breastfeeding or even tandem feeding two or more children to those who formula fed right from that first day has an opinion. What I can’t stand about the debate is the pressure it puts on new mothers and pregnant women to make the ‘right’ choice. In an ideal world, a woman would be able to read up on the facts and make the decision accordingly, perhaps with some input from her partner. In reality, there’s pressure from family (perhaps wanting to be able to help feed the baby or having breastfed themselves and believing that’s the only way), pressure from the outside world (some antenatal organisations present breastfeeding as the only option) and even celebrities wading in with their opinions as if they’re experts.

And of course, there’s very little focus on expectation v reality and what to do if the option you wanted to go for doesn’t work out for you. There’s very little done to reassure a mother that she’s doing a good job regardless of whether a teat or a nipple is going into her baby’s mouth at feeding time.
When I was pregnant, I decided I’d quite like to give breastfeeding a go. I’d read and heard about the potential benefits to baby and myself, I thought it was worth trying. What I didn’t realise is that I would still feel an element of guilt over a year on that it was such a short-lived attempt. From what I can remember of Alexandra’s first few hours in the world, she did feed (or at least try to) but what followed over the next week was an endless battle of tears and frustration. I had more than enough milk, that wasn’t the problem. I was still in hospital so I had an endless round of midwives and healthcare assistants trouping in to try and help. But Alexandra simply didn’t get the hang of it.
One lovely staff member sat and showed my husband Dylan how to feed her tiny sips of expressed milk from a cup on our second night. Others would come in every time I pressed the buzzer and spend exasperatingly long amounts of time trying to get her latch right and then once we’d got that sorted, trying to persuade her to actually do anything other than fall asleep. I lost count of the number of people who touched my boobs over that week in an attempt to sort out the feeding issue.
We had a whole 24 hours where I had to express then throw away all of my milk after I’d had a CT scan, where dye is injected through your veins so you have to wait for it to clear before baby can breastfeed again. That was obviously best in terms of safety but didn’t help when she hadn’t got the hang of it yet and morale-wise it was heart-breaking to be throwing away all of the milk which I had in abundance. By this point I had pneumonia and blood clots in both of my lungs, even holding her to me was painful, breathing was painful and I was crying every time I tried to get her to feed. Alexandra had dropped to 5lb 15 from an initial birth weight of 6lb 7, which was fine, but she wasn’t putting any weight back on and they were concerned she’d become jaundiced again.
Dylan and I made the decision to switch to formula feeding. At the time I felt awful but took some comfort in the fact she started to thrive almost immediately. Looking back now, there was no way we’d have ever carried on breastfeeding as I was readmitted to hospital without her when she was less than four weeks old.
But yet when the conversation about breastfeeding v formula feeding comes up, I still feel the need to justify myself, to recount that first week, to say I really wanted to but the fact of the matter was she couldn’t get the hang of it (she wasn’t the greatest bottle feeder either, taking hours to feed and dribbling most of it down here – but she more than makes up for it now with a ferocious appetite aged 13 months) and I was so poorly, it was horrendous even trying.
I hate that pressure from other people makes me feel this way. I hate the need women feel to justify themselves and their choices. My baby is very much alive, happy, healthy, hitting her milestones and yes, in an ideal world she would have got there relying on me for sustenance, but so much of my post-partum experience was the exact opposite of ideal. I ask of anyone who lectures, berates or moans about other women’s feeding choices to simply put away their judgey pants and accept the choice is utterly complicated and every mother and baby’s story is unique, there will always be more to the decision than simply ‘I breastfed’ or ‘I formula fed’.

Harriet and Alexandra x

Feeding Guilt

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I’m absolutely all for mothers having a choice when it comes to feeding their baby. I wrote a post on here while still pregnant stating I would be trying to breastfeed but wouldn’t beat myself up if I wasn’t able to for whatever reason. I think moms should feel comfortable feeding wherever they like and shouldn’t have to deal with comments from ignorant jerks who don’t want to see a baby being fed by its mother.
However I can’t help but have this tiny bit of guilt attached to the fact I didn’t maintain breastfeeding. We tried to get Alexandra latched on pretty quickly after birth – although in my hazy drug-addled and exhausted state I have no memory about whether she actually fed properly that time. Over the next seven days I tried repeatedly to get breastfeeding to ‘work’ for us. I was producing milk, a lot of milk, so that wasn’t the problem. Alex just didn’t seem to want to go to the effort of feeding properly. She might latch on sometimes but then she wouldn’t actually do the necessary to get any milk.
Each day we seemed to spend longer and longer trying to get her to feed. It seemed I was either trying with her at my boob or expressing. She was being cup fed by Dylan occasionally and then we were also having to top her up with formula. Countless people tried to help us out (by people I mean midwives and healthcare assistants not just random passers by!) and offer advice and a helping hand. So many helping hands I felt like someone was constantly touching me!
By the Friday (she was born the previous Saturday) I was crying a lot about it. I know I’d just given birth and was hormonal anyway but I was very seriously ill by this point, I hadn’t been able to try breastfeeding for 24 hours due to a CT scan (they put dye through your veins which obviously isn’t safe for baby as it can get into your milk), during which time I’d had to express and throw it all away.
I was in pain, I was hooked up to oxygen 24/7, I couldn’t get to the bathroom and back on my own. Midwives were expressing concern Alex’s jaundice could return and she’d dropped the 10 per cent of her body weight and was a tiny 5lb 15 so we couldn’t afford for her to lose any more. Dylan and I had a chat and decided the best thing to do would be to formula feed. Immediately she began eating so much more and all the concerns about her health and the crying at every feed (from both of us) stopped. I knew we’d made the right decision. And thank heavens we did because three weeks later when I was back in hospital without her, how would we have coped then if I was still breastfeeding? And even if I’d managed to express enough to keep her going through the nights when we were apart, she would have to have been solely formula fed by the time I was in intensive care two weeks after that. By the time I came round my milk supply had ceased.
So all in all I think I have a reasonable back story to why I don’t breastfeed, even if I didn’t it would be absolutely fine. But I do still get these occasional pangs of guilt. I like to think I’d have tried for longer had I been well but who knows. I just know when people who don’t know me ask me whether she’s breast or bottle fed or when I perceive looks from people seeing me bottle feed her in public, I want to explain to them. I want to tell them I tried and it didn’t happen. I want to tell them even if we’d got through the first few weeks there’s no way we could still be breastfeeding now.
And I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have to explain to anyone why we as a family made the decision we did. As much as it’s horrific for breastfeeding mothers to feel pushed out of social situations or to be sat at home feeling like they can’t go out, we also should be supporting bottle feeders! After all, we know the benefits of breast milk but as long as your child is happy, healthy and eating something – and you’re happy too – surely that’s the important thing?
Harriet and Alexandra X

Breast Is Best?

GetAttachment

20 week bump.

One of the biggest things which seems to divide opinion in the pregnancy/motherhood world is the whole battle between the breastfeeders and the bottle feeders. It really is the ‘issue du jour’ and seems to get people going more than most other subjects. I do find it bizarre when people have such a strong opinion they act so aghast at the other side’s reasoning – it seems like they’re forgetting these mothers are still going to feed, wash and look after their children. In some circles, saying ‘I’m not going to breastfeed’ does really produce the same reaction as if you said ‘I’m keeping the baby in a cupboard, putting it up the chimneys or down the mines when it’s seven and I’ll wash it only for birthdays and Christmases.

I completely understand how much research there is out there suggesting ‘breast is best’, detailing all of the wonderful things which will happen to your child if you choose to give it your own milk rather than Cow and Gate’s (other brands also available). We all know your baby will take its A-Levels aged 18 months, graduate at the age of four and probably be the world’s best piano player/runner/author before its tenth birthday if you breastfeed. But seriously, is there a need to be so anal about the whole thing? It’s not a war, both sides can win. I can’t imagine going to parents’ evening and the teacher saying ‘little Timmy is terribly behind with his times tables, it must be because you didn’t breastfeed.’

I also think the view is completely unfair on those who wanted to breastfeed but for whatever reason weren’t able to – if it’s out of their control then all you’re doing is being hugely spiteful rubbing it in their face how perfect you are because you managed to express liquid from your nipples. Well done.

When bump comes along I would like to give it a go – it might work, it might not. Myself and/or baby will come to some sort of agreement along the way I dare say – whether that’s a bottle, a boob (probably one of mine, not a random one) or a mix of the two. If it works, great! I’ll be happy, baby will be happy and maybe, just maybe, if someone asks for any helpful tips or advice I’ll impart what I’ve learned along the way. I definitely won’t judge, lecture or gloat. If it doesn’t work, then I’ll move on with my life and that’ll be that.

What’s your opinion? Did you/do you plan to breastfeed? Have you experienced bitchiness because you bottle fed?

Harriet and bump x

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