Q&A: breast pumps

Woo-hoo! Back to alleged reality for most everyone today. Over the break, my cats pried seven of the keys off my laptop, I had wacky hijinx involving airline flights, and I discovered that somehow all the crap in my apartment is reproducing so the more I get rid of the more there seems to be. I hope you're well.

Today's question is from Maria, who writes:

"Do you have any advice on picking out a breast pump? I feel lost trying to pick one out!"

This is when I confess that my breast pump knowledge kind of stopped in 2005, when it became evident that my second son was never ever ever going to drink my milk out of anything but me, so I gave up on pumping, and if I was out he just ate something else or waited.

But I do think the advice I've been giving all along is basically sound: You don't really need to have a pump ahead of time.

Here's the logic: Some women don't need to pump at all for the first month or so, and, in fact, pumping can screw around with their supply and get them overengorged and just cause all kinds of wackiness that's basically unnecessary. (Those of you who suffered from undersupply may not believe it, but oversupply can cause problems, too.) Plus it's just another task added to your overstressed brain and body, and why cause more headaches for yourself if there's no reason to do it?

If you are having actual supply issues (and by "actual" I mean that it's not just the normal "am-I-making-enough-how-can-this-possibly-be-working-when-I'm-not-actually-doing-anything-and-why-does-the-baby-want-to-nurse-from-3-9-every-evening?" stuff) then you should go directly to renting a hospital grade pump for the first few weeks until all that shakes out anyway. Sometimes supply issues are a matter of management and time (if you have edema, for instance, or got a bad start or had a traumatic birth) and you'll end up needing your own pump, but you can figure out which kind once you know what kind of pumper you are. Sometimes you're going to need to keep the hospital grade pump for the duration of your nursing experience. Sometimes you have issues that mean nursing isn't going to work, and having bought a pump is just going to add to the whole ball of suck that surrounds that discovery.

So. Upshot: Unless someone else desperately wants to buy you one, and will only buy it now, or you live someplace where you need lead time to obtain a pump, hold off until the baby's a few weeks old so you know what kind you'll need.

Having said that, I'll recommend the two gold standard pumps from a few years ago. Please, commenters, if there have been any new developments in pumping, put them in the comments.

For people who only have to pump once or twice a day, the universal favorite was the Avent Isis. It's a hand pump, but women said time and time again that they get more and have an easier letdown with the Isis than with an electric pump. I know first hand that their customer service is phenomenal, so if you lose a part or are confused about something (the white star disc has to go in facing down or you won't get any suction) they will fix you up cheerfully and quickly. (I would not use any other hand pump, no matter how cheap or available, because it just isn't worth it IMO.)

For people who need to pump more often, the Medela Pump in Style (PIS) was the winner. It's portable and reasonably quiet and has great, comfortable suction. Everyone I know who had to pump on the jobsite had the PIS and loved it about as much as anyone can love a pump.

And with that, I'm going to leave you with my own opinion, which is that pumping sucks. I don't know anyone who liked it, no matter how often or for how long they did it. It's one of those things we do for our kids if we can, but just counts as a sunk cost of parenting. 

Any new pumps out there that beat the Isis or PIS? Has anyone tried the new dual electric Isis and want to give a review?