Honestly, it’s life changing is a regular series where we talk about the weird and wonderful possessions we can’t imagine life without. Think of it as an ode to the mundane, bizarre and, sometimes, wholly unnecessary products in our lives.
If you’ve breastfed, chances are you’ve suffered the discomfort of feeling engorged. It happens when your breasts are too full with milk: sometimes as a result of those early days, when your body hasn’t quite settled into the rhythm of supply and demand; or if your baby’s feeding patterns change; or if they can’t latch on properly. At times like this, you need the Medela Swing Flex 2-Phase electric breast pump. For me, it was a life-saver.
If you’ve used one, then you’ll recognise that unique sound immediately – like something you might hear on a farm. Yet the steady bovine sound is comforting, too, because it only means one thing: that you’re working as hard as you can to produce liquid gold. The Medela Swing pump was the fastest, most effective way I found to do it, but it’s not cheap (£139.99 at the moment from Boots).
Still, it worked. Whenever I felt like my breasts had turned to footballs, I turned to my trusty friend - the Medela Swing. And so did all of my friends. It was like a cult buy we’d recommend to each other whenever one of us was pregnant and wondering which essentials we would need.
It also became vital when my best friend was getting married. My daughter was only six months old, and I was in the thick of breastfeeding. I couldn’t foresee how I would be able to go to the hen party without doing something to relieve the feeling you get when a few hours pass without expressing milk - that unmistakable feeling of pressure inside your breasts; which swell up and become hard and lumpy (that’s the milk ducts filling up). I was also worried that if I didn’t express some milk to take the edge off, I might be at risk of contracting mastitis.
And so, while we were out for the night, I took my handy Medela Swing with me. I pumped just before we went out, at the cottage the girls had hired, and I pumped when we got back in, at midnight (as an aside, some of my more party-hearty pals refer to the late-night pump as “pump and dump” because you have to throw away the milk if you’ve been drinking, rather than keeping it for your baby). I say, if a couple of glasses of wine on a night out will make you happy, then do what you need to do. Happy mother, happy child.
Whether or not your baby will take it or not is another story (both of my children refused to take a bottle, meaning I couldn’t stay away from them for long) - but at least you’ll know that you’ve tried. Some women find it hard to get much out, even from an electric pump - which does the squeezing motion for you - but if it works, you can buy special freezer bags that store freshly-expressed milk for up to 12 months.
Simply make sure it’s fully defrosted (in the fridge, as recommended by experts), then it may be kept at room temperature for two hours, or in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
For me, the Medela Swing worked like a charm. I would attach it and within 20 minutes or so I’d have half a bottle (75ml). Leave it for longer and I could fill a 150ml bottle to the top, fuss-free - but you need to remember to switch sides to do the other breast too, or risk sending your milk production into uneven overdrive.
No wonder it gets these rave reviews on Made for Mums. I’m not planning to have any more babies, but I almost miss it. Almost.