Pros: Free for my use at the hospital
Cons: Vacuum not strong enough for me to pump efficiently
I had planned on nursing my son immediately after his birth, just as I had done with his two older sisters. Unfortunately, he had other ideas. He was born 6 weeks early and nursing was not an option. That was when the hospitals lactation consultant introduced me to my first electric pump, the Medela Classic.
The Medela Classic Breast Pump is an electric hospital grade breast pump. It measures about 6 X 12 and is about 9 high and weighs in at a hefty 16 lbs. The pump and motor are encased in a clear plastic box so no moving parts are exposed. On the front of the pump case are an on/off switch and a lever to adjust the strength of the vacuum. The pump is designed to be safely used by multiple people without worrying about cross contamination. To use the pump you must obtain either a single or double pumping kit. This kit should only be used by one person.
The kit is very easy to hook up to the pump. The pump connector from the kit simply plugs into the vacuum tube of the pump and you are ready to go. The vacuum setting should be set to minimum before starting. You then center your breasts in the breast shields that come with the pumping kit and turn on the pump. Once pumping starts you can adjust the vacuum to a comfortable level for you.
I have to admit that I was not looking forward to pumping and my first experiences with the Medela Classic did nothing to endear me to the process. I was given a Medela Universal Pumping Kit at the hospital to use with the pump. This double pumping kit came sterilized and configured for use with the Classic pump, although the same kit also works with the Medela Lactina pumps as well. During my first pumping session it took me 15 minutes of double pumping to collect an entire teaspoon of milk. I pumped another 8 times using a total of 3 different Classic pumps before I was able to leave the hospital and I never got more than a few drops at any other session. I left the hospital fearing that I would never be able to pump enough to establish a good milk supply.
I also found pumping to be a little awkward while using the double pumping kit. I felt like I needed three hands to properly operate the pump. I needed to have one hand on each of the breast shields but then there was no way to turn the pump on or adjust the strength of the vacuum. Eventually I figured out how to balance the collection bottles on my lap so that I could use one hand to operate the pump. I also found that once the pump was up to its maximum vacuum strength so long as I did not move too much the shields pretty much stuck to my breasts so that I did not need to hold them. While not exactly a relaxing way to spend an unproductive 15 minutes I found the pump to be very gentle and comfortable.
On my way home from the hospital we stopped at our local medical supply store and rented a Medela Lactina Plus. The first time I used the Lactina I collected a total of 1 ounce while double pumping in about 15 minutes. I thought perhaps my body was just adjusting to pumping since I had similar results for 2 more pumping sessions. I then headed back to the hospital and while visiting my son used one of the Classic pumps again. Once again I was down to just being able to pump about 2 teaspoons of milk. It became obvious that the Medela Classic and I were not getting along.
For the next 5 days or so I opted to drag my Lactina Pump with me to the hospital instead of trying to use one of the Classic pumps available at the hospital. By this time I was easily pumping a total of 4-6 ounces in a little over 5 minutes so one day I decide to try the Classic again. I was able to pump almost 4 ounces with the Classic but it take over 15 minutes to do it. For me I found that the limited range of suction was just not strong enough to efficiently pump milk, despite using 7 different pumps at one time or another. The seemingly large and stronger vacuum range on the Lactina Plus worked far better for me.
Clean up is simple. There is nothing to clean with the pump itself, just parts of the pumping kit. The kit is reasonably easy to clean either with hot soapy water or the parts are dishwasher safe. There is a filter that forms a barrier between the pumping kit and the pump. If milk should get into the pumping kit tubes and down toward the pump this filter will become clogged and prevent milk from entering the pump. If the filter becomes clogged it can be gently cleaned with just water, no soap.
Because of its weight the Medela Classic is not really portable. This is a pump you should plan on leaving in one place. At the hospital these pumps are attached to IV poles so they can be easily wheeled around. The case does have a handle so that you can move it around if your choose to.
The price of this pump is about $1000 so most women choose to rent the Classic Pump. I was able to use this for free at the hospital but it is available for rent in my area for about $50 a month.
After 2 ? weeks of regular pumping at home with my Medela Lactina my milk supply is well established. I can now pump at the hospital with the Classic and get about the same amount of milk although it takes twice as long. I personally prefer the Lactina over the Classic.