Breastfeeding is the medically recommended choice of nourishment for babies. However, some mothers find it difficult to breastfeed their babies for multiple reasons. These range from illness, to heading back to work. For such mums, giving expressed milk is a good option to continue providing their babies with the goodness of breastmilk. But what some mums might not know is that there are potential side effects of using a breast pump.
We’re not suggesting that you throw away your breast pump already. But, as with anything baby-related, it’s always good to know the pros and cons of things so you are well informed.
These are some of the side effects of using a breast pump you probably never knew about.
Did you know about these side effects of using a breast pump?
5 Side effects of using a breast pump
1. It may lead to nipple confusion
Your baby is hard-wired to know your nipples: the texture, taste and smell are unique and bring comfort and nourishment to your baby. However, in order to establish a good breastfeeding pattern that includes proper latch and suck, your little one needs good exposure to your nipples and breasts.
If you introduce an artificial nipple too soon (even if your expressed breastmilk flows through it), it could lead to nipple confusion in your baby, meaning, he might reject your breasts altogether.
The good news is that you can take measures to prevent this, even if you feed baby your milk through a bottle.
- Try to avoid introducing a bottle too soon. According to La Leche League International, the best time to introduce a bottle (if you must) is when your baby is at least one month old, and breastfeeding is well established.
- Mums should avoid giving their babies expressed milk from a bottle, as your smell and presence will make baby want to direct latch, rather than take the bottle. Instead, ask another caregiver to give baby the bottle.
2. Potential contamination of breastmilk
A poorly cleaned breast pump can cause contamination of the breastmilk it helps collect.
Just last year, a preterm infant in the USA contracted severe meningitis and was left with destroyed brain tissue after being fed milk from a contaminated breast pump.
Tests showed she had Cronobacter sakazakii growing in her spinal fluid. Now while this bacteria is very rare, it has been linked to cases of baby milk formula contamination.
However, this baby never had formula. During investigations, officials found the same bacteria in the mum’s breast pump parts, as well as in the drain of her kitchen sink.
If you are using a breast pump, just remember these golden hygiene rules:
- Wash your hands before handling pumps or pump kits.
- Immediately chill pumped milk after pumping.
- Carefully clean the kit as quickly as possible after pumping.
- Use a separate basin to wash your breast pump as kitchen sinks are easily contaminated and hard to clean thoroughly.
- Scrub well with soap and separate scrub brush.
- Air dry thoroughly rather than using kitchen towels that might harbour germs.
- Store carefully to avoid contamination.
3. Nipple and breast tissue damage
If your breast pump setting is too high or too slow, or the pump flanges are not the correct size, you could experience pain. You could even experience damage to your nipples or breast tissue if these issues are not rectified.
Avoid these problems by making sure you select the proper speed on your pump. Also, you’ll know your flange size is incorrect if:
- Your nipple rubs the sides of the flange with the suction.
- A big part of the areola is also pulled into the tunnel of the flange with suction.
- You notice unusual redness after pumping.
- Your nipple or areola turn white during and/or after pumping
- You still have unexpressed milk after a full pumping session.
4. May cause breast engorgement
Some mums pump breastmilk in order to create a big “store” to use later, or for when needed. But what this could do is make you produce an excess of breastmilk, which could possibly lead to breast engorgement.
If breast engorgement continues, it may lead to mastitis, which is a painful infection of the milk ducts.
In order to avoid this situation, it’s crucial that mums only pump milk on a regular basis if they absolutely need to create a store. For example, they are heading back to work. You could also try expressing only what you need for the day, the previous day.
5. It is time-consuming and labour-intensive
As mentioned earlier, it’s so important that ALL breast pump parts and bottles are cleaned thoroughly, dried and stored properly to avoid contamination. This is time-consuming and a lot of effort when compared to direct breastfeeding.
Also, some mums find carting the breast pump with them and pumping when out and about can be impractical. This is especially the case if working mums do not have breastfeeding-friendly offices with a dedicated space for pumping mums.
If your office does not support breastfeeding mums, maybe it’s time to speak to your management or HR to see how they can help you.
We’d like to emphasise that the purpose of this article is not to put you off expressing your milk. Breast pumps are wonderful devices that enable breastfeeding mums to still give the goodness of their milk to their babies even if they cannot direct-latch.
By knowing these side effects of using a breast pump, you are now better informed on what to keep in mind when using a breast pump. Keep pumping and breastfeeding, mummies!
Also read: Breastpump guide in Singapore
References: CDC, La Leche League International