If you are an exclusive pumper, your breast pump is one thing that you absolutely cannot do without. You need to be able to remove milk from your breasts multiple times a day, every day, and unless you’ve mastered hand expression, the pump is the only mechanism that you have to do it. What if the power goes out or your pump breaks? For peace of mind and to be able to avoid clogged ducts in cases like this, it’s a really good idea to have a backup breast pump.
Backup Breast Pump – Manual or Electric?
In most cases, a manual pump will work fine as your backup pump. It’s ideal for situations when you’re without power, and manual pumps are small enough to fit in a large purse or in your luggage without taking up too much room. Electric pumps are bigger and usually have more gear, like a charger and two sets of pump parts and bottles.
On the other hand, if something goes wrong with your normal breast pump and you have to wait 24 hours for the manufacturer to ship you a new one, it’s not going to be fun to spend a full day cranking both sides on a hand pump.
I would say that if you live in an area where the power frequently goes out or you travel a lot, a manual pump might be better. Otherwise, an electronic pump might be a good option.
My Experience Needing a Backup Breast Pump
When my son was 10 months old, the three of us took our first trip as a family to California. We stayed in Santa Barbara for a few nights and then moved to LA for the last night, before we flew out. I was horrified when I realized at 10pm in the hotel in LA that I’d left my pump charger in the Santa Barbara hotel. (I hadn’t noticed it before then because I was using the battery on my Freestyle.)
At this point, it was 10pm on a Sunday, and my pump had about 10 minutes of battery life left on it. We were nowhere near a store than sold pumps, we didn’t have a rental car anymore, our flight left at 7am the next morning, and we had a four hour flight. There was no way I was going to be able to buy a new charger or even a new pump before we got home to Chicago the next afternoon.
At the time, I was pumping for two hours a day and getting about 35 ounces per day – and now I was going to have to go about 18 hours with only 10 minutes on pumping. I was definitely in a bit of a pickle. The good news was that I had enough milk for my son to drink, as I had oversupply at the time and had pumped enough extra while we were on vacation to feed him. But I didn’t know how to remove milk from my breasts so that I wouldn’t end up with a clogged duct or mastitis or, you know, explode.
I decided to ration the remaining battery life on the pump for the next morning, as I thought I’d be fuller and get more milk out more quickly then. That night, I tried nursing my son again after nine months of exclusive pumping. It did not go well, as he didn’t really know what to do, and now he had teeth. I got bitten, I screamed, and that was the end of that. I also tried watching YouTube videos on hand expressing milk and tried it in the shower, but I couldn’t figure it out and didn’t get much out.
When we landed, we headed to Target. I couldn’t find a charger there, and I didn’t want to invest in another $250 electric pump, so I bought a Medela Harmony (a single, manual pump) and started cranking away with it about two seconds after getting back in the car. There are no words for the feeling of relief I had after emptying my breasts for the first time in over 18 hours!
After that incident, I was really glad to have the Harmony as a backup pump in case anything ever went wrong again with my Freestyle. Because it doesn’t require electricity and because it doesn’t have a motor that can break, it is great for emergencies.
All that just to say – it’s not a bad idea to have a backup plan. And whatever you do, don’t forget your pump charger!
Have you had a major issue with your pump before? What did you do?