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Friday, January 12, 2007It seems appropriate that I've got this product review ready to go just as several moms have delurked to tell us that they're still nursing after returning to work. Any breastfeeding mom knows what that means...it's breast pump time!
But figuring out which breast pump to buy can be challenging. After all, we're not talking about a $20 baby monitor or a $4 toy, we're talking about a major investment that can top a few hundred dollars and that can literally define the success or failure of a breastfeeding relationship. No pressure, right? As a mom that spent nearly 14 months exclusively pumping for her oldest daughter, breast pumps are a topic that I've always been interested in. Especially since good information on pumping is sort of hard to come by. That's why I was excited when the good folks at Lansinoh offered to send me one of their brand new double electric breast pumps to take for a spin.
The Lactivist Says: The most affordable breast pump that you bet your supply on!
Extremely affordable at under $200
Patented system to product from fluid backup
Speed and suction adjust independently
Duel power options
Small and portable
Small collection containers
Extremely hard to take apart
Didn't express as much milk as my PISA
Get ready for a lengthy review because when it comes to breast pumps, there are a million things that you need to consider. Overall, I found the Lansinoh Double Electric Breast Pump to be a good option at an extremely affordable price. At under $200 retail it's nearly $100 cheaper than most comparable breast pumps. While my initial reaction was that I thought it would be a great choice for a mom that pumped occasionally, but maybe not for a mom that pumped exclusively, I've since spoken with another mom that uses it to pump during work hours and she's had a great experience with it. Thus, I think my own testing was sort of tempered by being used to my Medela PISA. I firmly believe that bodies learn how to let-down for pumps the same way that they learn to let down with babies, so I'm 99% confident that a mom that used this pump consistently would get good performance out of it.
With that in mind, let's get to the good stuff.
First let's talk size and portability. As someone who lugged around a hospital grade Medela Lactina for six months, I can assure you that portability is a BIG deal to a mom that pumps frequently. The first thing that impressed me about the Lansinoh Double Electric Breast Pump was the size. It's only a few inches high and doesn't take up as much counter space as a DVD case. It's also incredibly light. Even out of the bag, my PISA pump is pretty heavy to lug around. You could toss the Lansinoh pump in a large purse or tote bag and hardly even know it was in there. (Note: The pump doesn't currently come with a tote bag because Lansinoh wanted to keep the cost of the product down, it's possible that in the future you'll be able to buy a tote bag specifically designed for this pump.) Another big bonus to the Lansinoh pump is that the pump itself has a compartment for six AA batteries. That's a plus to anyone used to carrying around a separate battery pack for their Medela.
Now that said, I'm not a huge fan of the pump parts themselves and the space that they take up. I'm used to being able to detach the flange from the rest of the pump body so that I have several small pieces to pack. The Lansinoh system allows you to unscrew the bottle from the flange and to remove the valve, but that's it. It's sort of like packing a blow dryer that doesn't fold...it's just an odd shape and it seemed kind of awkward to pack.
Next, let's consider cleaning. The biggest hassle when it comes to pumping (at least in my mind) is the clean up. (I'm the mom that bought the Playtex drop-in system simply because I didn't feel like washing bottles) Originally, the design of the Lansinoh system kind of irked me. Once again, I was used to my PISA and I wanted to be able to break it down into all it's tiny pump pieces. I kept thinking to myself that I couldn't possibly be getting the pump properly cleaned if I wasn't able to detach the flange from the rest of the system. After all, it's not uncommon to get "ring around the flange" from the suction on your nipples. That needs to be scrubbed out.
Once I thought about a bit more, I realized that Lansinoh was actually on to something. You see, the PISA has to separate because the suction system runs through the back of the pump. That leaves all sorts of little holes that have to be cleaned out. Since the Lansinoh system uses a whole other method of suction (more on this later) their parts don't have the same issue. In other words, there's far less crevices that you've got to work to get the milk out of. That's NEVER a bad thing. Finally, the valve that's used in the Lansinoh pump is just pure brilliance. (that's it on the left) When I first opened the package I looked at it and went "what the..." Then I realized that the pointed end is flexible and opens slightly to let the milk pour through. It works the same way as any other "membrane" or "flange" system, but it's sturdy enough and big enough that I didn't have to worry about accidentally losing it or throwing it away. (The pump also came with three extras, just in case.)
Now, on to functionality. After all, who cares how portable or easy to clean something is if it doesn't get the job done. Design and functionality are an area where Lansinoh has really scored some points. It's pretty clear that they put a lot of thought into the design of this product. Right off the top, two features stood out to me.
1.) The patented design that keeps milk or fluids from backing up into the tubing. One of the biggest issues I have with my PISA is that unless my pump parts have air dried to the point that there's not a molecule of water on them, I start seeing little bits of fluid and condensation working their way through the tubing as I pump. (And once that water gets in there, it is NEVER coming out.) Lansinoh addresses this issue in a way that's pure brilliance. What they've done is create an air chamber above the flange that's designed to create the suction. You can see from the slightly blurry picture over there on the right that there's a little rubber membrane that slides in there and a small tube that connects into it. The pump works by sucking the air out of the INSIDE of the rubber membrane which collapses and creates a suction effect for the pump. It works extremely well and in the dozen times I used the pump, I never saw a single drop of fluid in the tubes.
2.) The next feature that really caught my eye was the ability to individually set the suction and speed levels. When I moved from a hospital grade Lactina Select to my PISA I was dismayed to find that the only way to go full speed was to go full suction (ouch!). Having this level of control is unheard of on a pump that costs so little. I found that I was able to start on medium suction and full speed and then to slowly work my way up to higher suction levels as I went. This is probably the single most impressive feature (to me) of this pump.
So how did the pump perform? Well, the first time I put it all together and sat down to use it (while on a business trip in Chicago...see how much faith I have in the folks at Lansinoh?) I pumped about 8 ounces in 5 minutes. (Now remember, my milkshake DOES feed all the kids in the yard...) I was all ready to head home and write a raving review of the product. The problem was that the next time I used it, I got about 2 ounces in 5 minutes. In fact, for the next week, I found that anytime I used the Lansinoh pump I got about half the amount that I'd get at the same time of day if I used my PISA. Now I was ready to write a review slamming the product. (See why you take your time before writing reviews?)
Then I started to pay a little more attention. Apparently what had happened was that I wasn't getting that thin little membrane properly dried. Unless it air dries completely, it didn't tend to get the right suction going on in it's little vacuum chamber. Once I gave it another go while paying attention to that little trick I saw the amount that I could pump increase back to more reasonable levels.
Overall, I still find that I can pump a few ounces more with my PISA than I can with the Lansinoh pump, but as I mentioned earlier, I think a big part of it is what your body is used to. I'm pretty confident that if I used the Lansinoh pump exclusively for awhile that I'd start to see an increase in output that would match what I'm used to getting. If I was starting from scratch, I wouldn't hesitate to give the Lansinoh Double Electric Breast Pump a try.
Now, what were my issues with the pump? Well apart from the few I mentioned already, here they are...
1.) The white plastic cap that snaps onto the top of that vacuum chamber is darn near impossible to get off. I mean darn near IMPOSSIBLE. I'm used to unplugging the hoses (a no-no on this system) and taking the entire collection kit to the kitchen when I'm done pumping. With this system, you pretty much have to unscrew the bottles and take them in separately. Otherwise, you risk spilling or sloshing the milk while you try to pry those caps from their comfy little homes.
2.) The bottles that come by default are a little on the small side. They're basically four ounce bottles, though you could likely squeeze closer to five if you were careful not to spill. As someone with a pretty good pumping output I found that annoying. I can pump 12 ounces in a sitting (please don't hate me) and stopping to empty out the bottles is kind of a pain. That said, the pump will screw on to quite a few standard size bottles so I imagine you could remedy that by simply pumping into something other than the bottles that come with it.
For pumping moms (like me) that find themselves losing parts fairly often...no need to worry. Lansinoh's web site has an online store that sells replacement parts. (They're pretty affordable too!) It also sells larger sized flanges for women that need a little more space around the nipple.
Overall, I'm pretty impressed with Lansinoh's first foray into the world of breast pumps. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised...any company that creates a product as heavenly and salvationy (is that a word?) as Lansinoh's Lanolin Cream SHOULD know a little something about how to treat breasts.
While you can buy it online, quite a few major retailers are now carrying the Lansinoh Double Electric Breast Pump. You can run a search for a Lansinoh retailer near you or you can simply hit the nearest Target, Walmart or Meijer.
Labels: Product Reviews