The joke is that pumping “sucks,” right? Both literally and figuratively? Last weekend, I ran across this article about a project (a “hackathon,” actually) intended to vastly improve the breast pump (and make it only suck literally):
The goals for the hackathon were to educate ourselves and our colleagues about the mechanics of breast pumping, discuss design challenges posed by current technologies and societal norms, and generate ideas for how we could change our machines and our society to make breastfeeding and breast pumping a normal, painless, and not-degrading experience for moms. We want to bring the breast pump out of the lactation closet, so to speak.
The group started by listing the some of the reasons that pumping is less than pleasant – lack of user education (on suction level, positioning, importance of having the correct size flanges), difficulty with milk let-down (no cute baby there to help, the pumping mom is often under a time crunch), too many parts to sanitize and clean, the motor is loud and mechanical, some women find the process degrading, and social norms (breast pumping is seen as something to be embarrassed by and hidden).
I love the idea of making the breast pump better. As much as I like my Freestyle, there is still so much room for improvement, and I think it’s especially important given how much time a working mom or an exclusive pumper devotes to using this product. (An exclusive pumper who pumps 2 hours a day for a year spends 43,800 minutes using her pump!) Additionally, breast pumps are sold at a price point where customers should be able to demand innovation and improvement. I realize breast pumps and iPhones aren’t exactly an apples to apples comparison, but why doesn’t Medela come out with a flashy new pump every couple of years? (Can you imagine women camping out overnight to buy the new Pump in Style 3S? Okay, neither can I. But still!)
I would change a few things about the Freestyle, some of which the “hackers” touched on:
- Cleaning pump parts is too time-consuming, and there are too many parts to keep track of. It’s a pain to take them all apart, wash them, and wait for them to dry. It would be great if there was a way to have fewer parts, or there was a system that cleaned/sterilized the parts without disassembling everything. Medela offers a steam clean bag now, but you are supposed to wash the parts first.
- The pump should be quieter – ideally, if you’re talking on the phone, the person on the other end shouldn’t be able to tell that you’re pumping.
- The pump should come with a longer power cord and an extra battery pack.
- A breast pump should come with one of each size of breast shield, with illustrations to guide you on which size to use. (The group discussed flanges where you could “dial” the size, which would be even better.)
In addition to changes to the pump itself, I thought of a few products that as far as I know don’t exist and would make pumping easier:
- A pumping cover, so that pumping in public places isn’t as weird as it is now. Nursing covers work okay for this purpose, but there are a few things that aren’t ideal about using them for pumping. For one thing, they aren’t wide enough – with a baby, you generally only need to cover one side, while with a pump, you need to cover both. I would also make the top of it adjustable so that it is easy to see down to adjust your pump parts while you’re setting up, and then when you’re done, you could close it (I’m picturing pulling a string like on a hoodie) so no one can see down if they’re standing over you.
- Some solution for making all of the stuff that you need to pump on the go easy to pack up and to remember. (Caps for the bottles. I ALWAYS forget caps for the bottles!) There must be a better way – a graphic checklist on the side of the bag, and insert bag with places for everything?
- A waterproof blanket (like a waterproof mattress pad?) that you can put on your lap while you pump in case of spills. Nothing says professional like breast milk on your work pants.
What do you think? Which pump do you use and do you like it? What would you change about it?