Family Matters

Pumping Sucks. New Breast Pump Aims to Make Expressing Milk Comfy

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No doubt, using a breast pump to express breast milk doesn’t rank very highly on any woman’s list of Fun Things To Do. The manual pumps can be downright painful; their motorized brethren tug at tender nipples, sucking them into hard plastic breast shields, releasing, then repeating the cycle over and over. Picture milking a cow, then subsitute a mom for the bovine.

When moms go back to work but want to maintain the same pace of breastfeeding, the pump is pretty much their only option. For years, the word-of-mouth leader in the field has been Medela’s Pump In Style. Although it’s far from the only one — Ameda and Avent, among others, sell pumps, too — the Pump In Style is like the Cadillac of breast pumps. Ask your girlfriend which pump to buy, and she’ll inevitably steer you toward Medela. (More on Study: Breast-Feeding Moms Get Just as Much (or Little) Rest as Formula-Feeders)

But now Simplisse, a new and as yet little-known company based in St. Louis, is claiming a “major advance” in the field of breast milk expression.

“if nursing is going well, babies do not hurt moms,” says Simplisse clinical director Jimi Francis. “But one complaint we hear often from moms is pumping does not feel good. We figured there had to be a better way.”

Simplisse gathered together a team of lactation consultants, engineers and moms to brainstorm how to make pumping less onerous. The clunkily named Double Electric Breastfeeding Companion is what they came up with.

The Companion relies on what Francis says is new technology that gently coaxes milk forth. Mothers who tested the pump for Simplisse raved about how comfortable it is. (More on Study: Breast-Feeding Improves Academic Performance, Especially for Boys)

When babies nurse, explains Francis, they latch on to the breast and compress the areola with their mouth, jaw and tongue to release milk. The Companion pump mimics that compression, using two breast “cups” that lay against the breast to elicit milk; other pumps rely on a suck-and-release mechanism that tugs the nipple into a hard, plastic breast shield.

“Medela has done a lot of research on how a pump cycles, and I’m sure they would say suck and release is what the baby does,” says Francis, who is a lactation consultant. “But we say it’s based on compression and elicitation of milk ejection.”

That’s all physiological mumbo-jumbo to moms, who really care only about two things when it comes to a pump: does it hurt and does it do a good job of yielding a decent amount of milk. (More on Breast-Feeding Will Become Easier Under the Affordable Care Act)

Jennifer Meyer, mom to an almost 2-year-old, test-drove the Companion for 10 months while it was being developed. “It doesn’t suck you into those cones to try to extract the milk,” says Meyer, 28, of Reno. “It feels like a nuzzle, like a wave across your breast.”

She was able to collect just as much milk as she did with the pump she was using previously, but she deemed the Companion much more comfortable. “It worked and it didn’t hurt,” she says. “That’s all I really cared about frankly.”

Meyer liked it so much that she bought one for her pregnant sister-in-law, which means she really likes not just the pump but also her sister-in-law; at $299, the Companion’s not exactly a cheap baby shower gift.