A few weeks before Elsie arrived, we were faced with the prospect of an even earlier delivery, at 34 weeks gestation. This was due to the IUGR, and a doppler scan revealing reduced blood flow through the cord to baby. 34 weeks was deemed to be the earliest safest point to deliver, and so my bag was packed and sat dutifully in the car during each and every hospital appointment that followed. During all of this, a conversation on Twitter regarding scheduled c-sections and breastfeeding had me thinking. A fellow mum had been told to start expressing milk two weeks prior to her c-section to enable the milk production to begin ahead of baby’s delivery and I suddenly realised- I need a breastpump! I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to review the Medela Swing Maxi double breast pump, and here are my thoughts.
Firstly, I’d like to say that Medela are a wonderful brand to be in touch with. Along side the extensive information already on their site (breastfeeding tips and advice, making breastfeeding part of your lifestyle, information on the extensive research Medela carries out, information on breastfeeding and premature babies and information for professionals) the team are always on hand to answer questions on Twitter or Facebook and over email too. Knowing this, I asked the question about expressing ahead of a scheduled c-section and was told that:
“Antenatal colostrum collection is a very topical debate and is currently under review by BFI hospital inititative. The current line of thought is only to collect colostrum under the instruction of your antenatal midwife when complications are more likely to occur ie diabetic mum baby requiring special care.
The recommendations are to only hand express and only 2-3 times a times a day for 5 mins – from 35 weeks gestation. This is because oxytocin the hormone for milk ejection is also involved with labour and contractions.
If you are having a planned section then the best way to get breastfeeding off to a good start is in the recovery room and put to breast in skin to skin from birth and get an early feed in within first few hours after birth.
The problems with antenatal colostrum collection is that there are no guidelines around initiation, and the biggest is how you are going to collect minimising bacterial contamination and also how you are going to store safely in labour suite either in frozen or thaw state. Talk to your midwife at your next antenatal review and see if it is something you need to do but don’t use a breastpump until after baby is born.”
I hope this information helps other mums to be who are planning a scheduled c-section!
The Medela Swing Maxi double breast pump- my story
Regular readers of my blog will know that Elsie and I did not get off to a great start with breastfeeding. She was born incredibly sleepy and really quite small, so she struggled to latch on and when she did manage it, she struggled to stay awake for longer than 20 or 30 seconds. By 11pm on her first night, 12 hours after birth she had only managed a couple of 30 second feeds and we were growing concerned. To get colostrum inside her and to start the stimulation of breast milk, I hand expressed 1ml into a syringe and fed her that way.
At home, things didn’t improve and my breastfeeding support worker advised me to continue with the syringe feeds until she was bigger and more able to latch on and stay on for a feed. I always offered the breast first and did all that I could to encourage her but she just was not able to feed. Hand expressing was hard work! As my milk had not yet come in, it would take around half an hour or more to get 1ml of colostrum into a syringe for her, but we stuck with it.
On day three, my milk came in. Not a great feeling at the best of times, but with a baby who didn’t want to feed it was excruciating! My breastfeeding support worker told me it was important to express as much as I could to make sure that my body knew to keep producing milk. As Elsie wasn’t feeding, there was a real chance my body would assume the milk wasn’t needed and production would end. Hand expressing at this point was not an option as it was just too sore and taking too long.
THANK GOODNESS for the Medela Swing!
Without the breast pump my daughter and I would not be breastfeeding now, 4 weeks down the line. Our journey would have been over. Instead, I was able to offer the breast, and allow my daughter to feed for as long as she was able to. I then used the pump to drain the remainder of the side she fed from, and the other side too so that my body was able to then produce more milk for the next feed, ready for the time when Elsie would be able to take it all herself. This helped to establish my supply, and to maintain it once milk production settled down.
Using the pump
The breast pump is VERY easy to use. The instructions are simple to follow too and once you’ve assembled all the parts and plugged the wires in you are ready to go. The controls on the panel are easy to use too, and there is the option to speed up or slow down the pump to match your baby’s suck. As it’s a double pump I am able to quickly and effectively express from both sides in under 20 minutes, so I’m not spending huge amounts of time at each session- a must for busy mums! The pump also comes with a Calma bottle, which we’ve yet to use and can also be used as a single pump if needed.
This breastpump saved our breastfeeding journey! Today, Elsie feeds for around 10 minutes on one side, so I still use it to empty that side she feeds from and to drain the other side too. The milk is stored in the freezer to be used when we introduce a bottle. She no longer needs to be topped up in between breast feeds and now weighs a respectable 6lb 8! The pump is easy to use and efficient at expressing from both sides in a timely fashion.
The only drawbacks to the Medela Swing electric double breast pump is the price- it retails at around £239 which is a lot. BUT in my opinion, it is worth paying the extra for the performance of the pump. Another thing I would change if I could is the noise. I tend to place the pump on a cushion with another cushion over the top as it can get quite loud during expressing, and sometimes it’s hard to be discreet. Breastfeeding storage bags can be purchased from Medela but it would be nice if some were included with the pump too. We were caught by surprise in how early I needed to start expressing milk and Ghostwriterdaddy had to run out to the 24 hour pharmacy to grab some storage bags for me so that we could store the milk safely.
All in all, I would thoroughly recommend this pump to all mums who intend to breastfeed, whether you plan to introduce a bottle or not. Nobody knows how your breastfeeding journey is going to pan out and if you need to express, this is the way to do it.