Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: Philips Avent Pump

I must be one of few mothers who actually have two breast pumps. That’s right. I own breast pumps from Medela and Philips Avent. As a working mother who returned to her 9-to-6 job two months ago, I spent almost two weeks lugging the 4kg Medela double pump to and from work. And my back was killing me! As much as I wanted to save money, I surrendered. I had to give my back a break, and started looking for a portable pump that was lighter and more convenient.

The Philips Avent breast pump wasn’t the natural choice, and I did do a bit of shopping around and price comparisons. After all, breast pumps don’t come cheap. The deciding factor was when the pump was sold at a major discount at the Philips Carnival Sale in May. Like many parents and parents-to-be, I was there on a mission to stock up on baby items. Who could resist such great discounts?

I was initially uncertain about purchasing the Philips pump. Most nursing mothers swear by Medela pumps, but little has been heard about the Philips pump. Nonetheless, I gamely gave it a try. After all, Avent was a trustable baby brand even before it was bought over by Philips, so why should it be different now? The huge discount was also a great deciding factor.

One word describes my experience with the Philips Avent electric breast pump (single) - great! Here's how I tested it:

a) Portability 
Tipping the scales at less than half a kilogram, the Philips pump was a godsend. It comes with both an AC adapter and a battery pack, so I can be mobile and express on-the-go. Portability is not an issue and I am weighed down no longer. 

b) Effectiveness 
Philips calls it the 'Patented Let-down Massage Cushion'. Nice name for what's essentially a silicon diaphragm with raised humps all around to make it look like a flower. Philips calls these humps 'massage petals', which are there to gently flex around the areola to imitate a baby's suckling and reduces nipple trauma. Whatever the name, the key to a good breast pump is to provide an effective, yet comfortable pumping experience.

The Philips pump does this surprisingly well, even though the suction power felt like it was lower than that of the Medela pump. Philips says the suction pressure is variable and controllable from between 0-200mmHg, depending on the user. How that actually translates into layman terms, I’m not quite sure. When I first used it, I thought that the power was relatively weak, and doubted its effectiveness. The instruction manual stated that there are infinitely variable levels of suction, 'determined by the manual compressions of the handle', but somehow, that's not the case. No matter how hard or how fast I compressed the handle, I couldn't get the pump to go faster, or suck harder. Maybe I'm not strong enough to maximise the pump's full potential. 

I finally gave up trying to get a faster or more powerful suction and pressed the only control button to program my pumping rhythm. Yups, another good thing about the Philips pump is that you can program a pumping rhythm so that each time you pump, you just have to switch it on, and it will do the rest. The imbedded microprocessor leans the suction, speed and interval between each handle depression. 

So, the Philips pump has learnt my pumping rhythm, and as I sat there, letting the pump do its job, I realised that despite the seemingly soft suction power, it is quite effectively in stimulating my milk flow. Together with the silicone diaphragm, it provided a very pleasant and comfortable pumping experience, yet highly effectively at the same time. With practise, I was able to complete expressing both breasts in 20 minutes. I find that it is better than the Medela pump in this aspect. 

c) User friendliness & durability
The pump comes in five parts that are simple to assemble - the pump body, the silicon Let-down Massage Cushion, the silicon diaphragm that attaches the pump body to the control unit, the white silicon valve and a 125ml bottle container. It also comes with sterilisable Polypropylene covers for the pump funnel and stem, as well as bottle dome caps, so that the pump body and the bottle can be stored separately - especially useful when traveling. 

There's only one control button and handle, so the pump is designed for one-handed operation. Really, once you are satisfied with the suction level and rhythm that is programmed during the first use, you will only use the control button for switching the pump on and off.

d) My ultimate rave
A gentle suction does not translate to an ineffective pump.

e) My ultimate rant
The detachable silicon diaphragm that attaches the pump body to the control unit via a dumb bell-shaped latch. To detach, you will need to squeeze a finger in to push back the latch, pulling the silicon in the process. While I constantly worry that the silicon might tear as a result, the Philips pump has been very durable, and I do not foresee a need to replace any parts in the near future.

f) Overall value (4.5/5)
A buy that I was uncertain of at first, but turned out to be one of the most worthwhile investment as a breastfeeding mother.

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