One of the biggest problems that I had with middle of the night pumping sessions was getting back to sleep afterwards. I’d feed the baby, pump, clean everything up, and go back to bed – and lie awake, thinking about how I only had two hours to sleep before getting up to do it all again. If you’re in the same boat, one thing that might help you go back to sleep is keeping the lights low while you pump! There is a special light for pumping flanges called Lactalites that allow you to pump in the dark so you can still see what you’re doing.
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The owner and creator of Lactalites, Patrick O’Malley, was nice enough to answer some of my questions about how they work.
What gave you the idea to create the Lactalite?
When our son was born and my wife was pumping, I could quickly see how stressful this was. One afternoon, I had come home from work and Kelly was in our room sitting on the recliner pumping. Even though it was light out, our room wasn’t very well lit and she was using her cellphone light to see if she was expressing anything.
I just had a lightbulb go off in my head, so I went to the garage and found an old foam “pool noodle.” I cut a small piece of foam out so that it would fit into the back end of the breast shield and then put a small thumb light into the foam. It fit perfectly and she turned it on.
The only way to describe it is that I could see the stress melt off of her face. She no longer had to worry about being able to visualize whether or not she was expressing milk or not. She started to use it at night and quickly commented that she could not pump without it. I was doing some medical device work on other projects, so I took it to this team I was working with, and we sped it through the process and came up with the design we currently have today. We got a patent and began manufacturing!
Can you walk me through how a Lactalite works? How does it attach to a breast shield? Are they easy to attach and turn on in the dark?
Lactalite is pretty simple to use. There is a clear plastic clasp that snaps over the tunnel portion of the breast shield. It is flexible, so it can fit on the majority of breast shields. There is a slight tapering of the clasp to coincide with the slight tapering you see on the breast shield.
It can be spun around the entire circumference of the shield so that you can find the position that works best for you. Having it on the underside with the light directed upwards seems to provide the best visualization, but you can play around with it.
The on/off button goes from off, to a white light, then blue light, then off.
There is an automatic 30 minute shut off to prevent the battery from burning out, and the battery is easy to replace if it runs low.
Do most moms keep the light on for their entire pumping session? Is it primarily for positioning and knowing when your milk lets down, or are there other reasons to keep it on?
From what we hear, moms will attach it to the breast shield and leave it on during their pumping session. It doesn’t really interfere with anything so leaving it on makes sense. Almost all of our orders have been as a pair, since most women pump both breasts simultaneously.
We got a lot of feedback from IBCLCs stating that Lactalites have been helpful in showing moms proper nipple placement, especially when moms are just getting familiar with the pumping experience. It can help demonstrate proper flange sizing as well because you can really see how far the nipple is being pulled in.
Its a personal preference as to whether or not mom wants to leave the Lactalite attached throughout the whole pumping session. I think leaving it on allows for a quick “spot check” to see how the flow is going. Another great use for this is being able to see how manual massage can affect milk flow. As a physician, it was really fascinating for me to be able to visualize how massaging different parts of the breast almost “activates” or recruits additional milk ducts. You can see flow from several ducts, and then with massage, 2-3 additional sprays started up.
Do Lactalites work with all pumps? (What about manual pumps, like the Medela Harmony?)
It does work on Spectra, Medela, Ameda, Lansinoh, Ardo, Bailey, RumbleTuff, and Tommee Tippee. We have not tried it with every single breast shield, but we estimate 90% or greater will work. Very tiny or very large flanges may or may not work.
We have tried it with several manual pumps and it has fit just fine, but again, we have not tried it with every single manual pump available.
How long does a Lactalite battery last? Is there any other maintenance needed?
Lactalites come with CR2032 button batteries installed, so it works right out of the box. Battery life can vary, but from our own testing, we have gotten 60+ hours out of the batteries. If they start to dim, you can replace the battery.
No other maintenance is needed. You can wipe it off with an alcohol prep pad, damp cloth, or baby wipe should you get some breast milk on it. It’s not waterproof, so make sure you don’t accidentally throw it in the sink when washing all those wonderful pump parts!
Updated 9/12/18: This post was originally a giveaway and has been updated to removed outdated information about it.