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March 26, 2016
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1 Introduction
Breast pump



A breast pump is a mechanical device that extracts milk from the breasts of a lactating woman. Breast pumps may be manual devices powered by hand or foot movements or electrical devices powered by mains electricity or batteries.

On June 20, 1854, the United States Patent Office issued Patent No. 11,135 to O.H. Needham for a breast pump. Scientific American (1863) credits L.O. Colbin as the inventor and patent applicant of a breast pump. In 1921-23, engineer Edward Lasker produced a mechanical breast pump that imitated an infant's sucking action and was regarded by physicians as a marked improvement on existing hand-operated breast pumps, which failed to remove all the milk from the breast. The U.S. Patent Office issued Patent No. 1,644,257 for Lasker's breast pump. In 1956 Einar Egnell published his groundbreaking work, "Viewpoints on what happens mechanically in the female breast during various methods of milk collection". This article provided insight to the technical aspects of milk extraction from the breast. The Egnell SMB breastpump designed through this research is quite robust and many pumps are still in operation today over 50 years after publication.

Mechanically, a breast pump is directly analogous to a milking machine used in commercial dairy production. A misconception is that the breast pump suctions milk out of the breast. A breast pump's job is to trigger the milk-ejection response or let-down. Most pumps achieve this goal by using suction to pull the nipple into the tunnel of the breast shield or flange then release, which counts as one cycle. Thirty to sixty cycles per minute can be expected with better quality electric breast pumps. It is important to note that in most cases the breast pump is not as efficient at removing milk from the breast as the nursing baby. Most manufacturers have multiple sizes of nipple tunnels available. These tunnels range in size from 24mm to 36mm.

There are four types of widely used pump mechanisms to generate suction or negative pressure in Breastpumps. Piston pumps draw a piston through a cylinder to create suction. These are generally considered top of the line units. They have characteristics of Low RPM's, high reliability, low noise, long life. Piston pumps can last for many years. Rotary Vane Pumps are use a high speed cam with retractable vanes to create suction. The vane extends at certain times during the suction cycle to allow suction to occur. These rotary vane pumps are not widely used anymore. Fast diaphragm pumps use a diaphragm that is acted on by a lever to create small bits of suction. Hundreds of these strokes per second then add up to sufficient suction. They operate at higher RPM's and are usually nosier. Slow diaphragm pumps are the fourth type. They use a large diaphragm operated by a cam or lever to generate suction with each stroke. The total amount of suction in one stroke is what is applied to the breast through an accessory kit. Pumps have also been designed that use venturi effects powered by a faucet or water stream, wall suction in hospitals, pumps powered by mothers oral suctioning.

The expressed breast milk (EBM) may be stored and later fed to a baby by bottle. Expressed milk may be kept at room temperature for up to six hours (at 66-72 degrees Fahrenheit , around 20 degrees Celsius ), refrigerated for up to 8 days, or frozen for six months in a deep freeze separate from a refrigerator maintained at a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit, ???18 degrees Celsius. Expressed milk may be donated to milk banks, which provide human breast milk to premature infants and other high-risk children whose mothers cannot provide for them.

Women use breast pumps for many reasons. Many women use breast pumps to continue breastfeeding after they return to work . They use the pump to express breast milk which is later bottle fed to their child by a caregiver. A breast pump may also be used to stimulate lactation for women with a low milk supply, or who have not just given birth. A breast pump may be used to relieve engorgement, a painful condition whereby the breasts are overfull, possibly preventing a proper latch by the infant. If an infant does not latch properly for direct breastfeeding, and the mother still desires the benefits of breast milk, she may choose to pump exclusively. If the mother needs to take medication that affects the breast milk and may be harmful to the infant, the mother may "pump and dump" the breast milk to keep up her milk supply during the time period that she is on the medication and may resume nursing after the course of medication is completed. Finally, pumping may be desirable to continue lactation and its associated hormones to aid in recovery from pregnancy even if the pumped milk is not used.

Manual breast pumps are operated by squeezing or pulling a handle in a repetitive fashion, allowing the user to directly control the pressure and frequency of milk expression. Though manual pumps are small and inexpensive, they can require significant effort and can be tiring because the user provides all the power. This style is recommended for infrequent usage such as when a woman is away from her baby for a single feeding. These pumps may not provide sufficient stimulation and emptying of the breast. It is recommended that "bicycle horn" style manual pumps not be used. Though cheap, they can damage breast tissue and harbor bacteria in the rubber suction bulb, which is difficult to clean.

Foot-powered breast pumps use the same collection tubing and breast horns as electric breast pumps, but are powered by a foot pedal. This eliminates the work of pumping by hand or the need for finding an electrical outlet with privacy.

There are two types of electric breast pumps, hospital grade and personal use pumps. Hospital grade pumps are larger and intended for multiple users. Personal use pumps are smaller and generally intended for one user. Electric breast pumps are powered by a motor which supplies suction through plastic tubing to a horn that fits over the nipple. The portions of the pump that come into direct contact with the expressed milk must be sterilized to prevent contamination. This style provides a lot more suction, making pumping significantly faster, and allows pumping of both breasts at the same time. Electric breast pumps are ideal for when a mother will be pumping daily. Electric breast pumps are larger than manual ones, but portable models are available (e.g. in a backpack or shoulder bag) that allow the mother to transport the pump. Some manufacturers have battery packs or built in batteries to allow portable operation of the pumps. Some electric pumps allow for multiuser operation. This means that more than one mom can use a breastpump. When you are finished with the pump the multiuser options allows you to sell or have someone borrow the pump and they only have to buy a new accessory kit. Most manufacturers do not have multiuser pumps and they must be discarded when you are finished with them according to the manufacturer.

Electric Breastpumps can also be rented particularly the high end hospital grade units. Rental of these expensive and efficient pumps can be done through many local lactation consultants or home health agencies at reasonable prices. Rental prices are usually low cost compared to purchase price. Rental pumps are many times recommended for mothers or babies with medical problems such as a premature infant or mother on medication that contraindicates breastfeeding. Rental pumps will generally sustain a mothers milk supply better than personal use pumps. Purchase or rental of Breastpumps can be daunting as there are many makes and models. Lactation Consultants may assist in insuring not only the correct model for you but also can provide advice and assistance if any problems occur.

Some breast pumps are designed to be part of a "feeding system" so that the milk storage portion of the pump is the baby bottle used to feed the infant. This allows the milk to be collected in the same bottle that will feed the baby eliminating the need to transfer breastmilk.

The plastic tubing and horn of an electric breast pump are commonly referred to as the collection system. When this style of breast pump was originally developed, the pump???s suction was supplied through the collection system tubing. This type of collection system design is now referred to as an open system.

Today most electric breast pumps sold/used feature an open collection systems. A closed collection system has a barrier or diaphragm that separates the pump tubing from the horn. In this design, the suction of the pump motor lifts the diaphragm to create a vacuum within the collection system to extract milk. An open system allows for the free passage of air/suction. Bacteria and viral filters may be present to prevent any contamination or overflow into pump motor. The pump mechanism motor's suction is directly passed to the mothers breast versus indirectly with closed diaphragm systems.

Open collection systems allow for more flow of air/suction and may be more effective for most women. These systems can compensate better for different tissue elasticities and sizes and shape of the breast. When an open collection system is used, the pump???s suction can cause milk to overflow it into the collection system tubing, which may lead to milk particles being drawn into the pump motor. If milk leaks into the pump???s tubing, the tubes should be washed, sterilized and air-dried prior to using the pump again. Failure to thoroughly clean collection tubing may lead to mold growth within the tubing. Some models of pumps have bacteria and overflow filters which prevent milk from entering the tubing.

A subtype of the open collection system is the single user suction source. These type of pumps have added hygienic benefit of all the parts that generate the suction or come in contact with breast milk stay with the mother. The parts that generate the suction are external to the pump, can be removed, providing outstanding protection against cross contamination. These pumps are rental or hospital grade breast pumps. Using a pump of this type virtually eliminates the chance of cross contamination of the pump from mother to mother.

The diaphragm in a closed system eliminates the possibility of milk being able to overflow into the pump tubing. Because milk is unable to be exposed to the pump motor, closed collection systems are marketed as more hygienic than open collection systems. It is important to clean the diaphragm as condensation or milk may reach this part causing bacterial contamination. If the diaphragm is contaminated this may defeat the purpose of the closed system. The barrier in a closed collection system breast pump is marketed as preventing outside air from contaminating the expressed breastmilk in the collection bottle, which preserves the milk???s purity. The diaphragm may limit the amount of air/suction that can be used to extract milk from the breast. It may also not be able to compensate for larger shield sizes as well. There are no studies comparing the open versus closed system design. Most information is marketing materials without studies to back them up.

  • In episode 7 of Fox Broadcasting Company's sitcom The Loop which was broadcast on 13 April 2006, a corporate executive was seen using a breast pump during a meeting. The insensitive boss (Russ) orders, "Next time don't pump your jugs at the table." Later in the episode, the woman replies to a query about a brief absence from another meeting with, "I brought my milk down to my husband so my baby won't starve to death."

  • In episode 65 of HBO's series Sex and the City, A Vogue Idea , a pregnant Miranda was given a breast pump during her baby shower by a colleague at her law firm.

  • In the 1992 film The Hand That Rocks the Cradle , a nanny hired by the Bartel family tries to sabotage the other mother's milk supply by feeding their infant at night so the infant is full and will not breastfeed from its mother. She uses a breast pump to increase her supply (Flanders had a miscarriage).

  • In a season 9 episode of the NBC series Friends, Joey says that his short-lived feelings for Rachel were somewhat ruined when he witnessed her using a breast pump, with Joey saying "Wow!" and Ross saying "That will do it!" in both disgusted manners. In an earlier episode of the same season, Rachel receives a breast pump during her baby shower and misinterprets it as a "beer bong for babies".

  • In the 2000 romantic comedy Meet the Parents, Greg pretends to have been reading about breast pumps when he is caught spying on his girlfriend's father.


  • Stewie Griffin is shown with a breast pump (apparently made by him) to extract some of his mother 's breast milk greedily.

  • At the 2007 Golden Globe Awards, breast pumps made their debut on the red carpet when actor Will Ferrell openly carried a breast pump for his wife, Viveca Paulson.

  • In season 3, Episode 8 of The Office titled The Merger , a new employee (Hannah) is shown using a breast pump in the office. Ryan inadvertently stares at Hannah while she uses a breast pump. Hannah says, "Take a picture, it???ll last longer."

  • Breastfeeding

  • Wet nurse, a woman who feeds a baby not her own

  • Philips AVENT, a manufacturer of breast pumps.

  • Evenflo Company, another manufacturer of breast pumps.

General breast pumping information

  • KellyMom.com - Twenty-seven original articles on how to feed pumped milk, how to pump and maintain supply, milk handling and storage, milk banking, and mother-child separation issues

  • Cerean Breastfeeding - unbiased reviews of pumps, general information about insurance coverage, and many other articles on breast pumping

  • La Leche League International breastfeeding/pumping support site

  • Express Yourself Mums - information on how to chose a breastpump and how to store breastmilk

  • Breast Pump Comparisons - user reviews and comparisons of a wide variety of manual, electric and hospital grade breast pumps

  • Breast Pump Reviews - unbiased breast pump reviews and product information

  • Mother's Breast Pump Reviews - real mothers talks about breast pumps and their experiences with it

  • Medela Breast Pump Review - A mom talks about the Medela range of breast pumps

Milk storage guidelines

  • Collecting and storing breastmilk - California Department of Health Services

  • Storing Breast Milk/Thawing Frozen Breast Milk - City of Toronto Health Department

  • Human Milk Storage Information - La Leche League International

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Breast pump".

Last Modified:   2010-12-07

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