Breast Pump reviews for noobs

In Momlife, Thoughts by Sara Ann K1 Comment

Breastfeeding is tough. 
 

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It robs you of your life as you spend your days living in three hour blocks. But at the same time, the precious moments bonding with the baby. The times baby latches on well, and gives you a sweet smile, and you realise that whatever your body is producing is nourishing this sweet, innocent, beautiful being. Priceless.
But there are practical issues to work around as well. Like. Fatigue. Expressing milk is a godsend of sorts, because then other people can help chip in and feed the baby too. (*cough* especially dads.)
 
Some mom’s express to increase their supply. Others do it with the intention to build a “warchest” of milk for when they go back to work. Be aware though that the nutritional benefits in milk change monthly, so the nutrition in the milk for a month-old baby, would be different from the requirements of a six-month-old baby. 
 
I generally prefer the double electric pumps, so all those I reviewed are this type. When you are expressing BM for storage, you don’t want to finish 20 mins on one side, and then start again on another side. You want it over, fast!
 
This also works best when you are doing your power pump! (Those long one hour pumps in intervals to increase your breastmilk supply. Read about it here*)
 
The only rule you need to know about breastfeeding and expressing is this. Your baby. Your body. Your choice. Breastmilk is great for the baby. It is recommended by doctors to breastfeed the baby for at least 6 mths for the baby to reap it’s full nutritional benefits as well as immunity. But a lot of us grew up on formula too. Don’t stress. You do you. Or what you need to do. Because YOU are the best mom your baby can get.
 

SO, that brings me to this fact:
 
Different women will have different requirements. Cos we all have different boobs! DUH! 
 
Do your research, figure out what you think might work for you. The price point and the brand are not your only considerations. Look at your daily life and your needs, whether you need something portable or not. See how many parts there are to sterilize etc. And how easy it is to buy replacement parts for example. Check around with different friends, and ask to see how their pumps are used and cleaned too. Some are a lot more tedious than others. In fact if friends are willing to loan you theirs before you commit to buying one, even better.
 

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DISCLAIMER: I am a big fan of the Hegen bottle system
 
Full disclosure: I must also state that I am a BIG FAN of Hegen bottles. So I have to admit that a pumps compatability with these bottles was a major plus point for me. I have bought so many bottles myself on pupsik –  simply because of how well-designed their bottles and products are. #NOTSPONSORED. #ipaidforallmyhegenbottlesandilovethem
 
It all started with the gift of just one bottle, from my friend Simone, and now our collection has grown to 9 x 150ml bottles, 2 x 240 ml bottles, 2 x 330ml bottles, and a variety of lids and collars and teats.
 
Yes, they are more expensive. BUT, they also can be used beyond the lifespan of milk feeds. Which to me, made so much sense. I was getting guilt on using so many plastic milk-storage bags, which are all a one-time use thing. SO MUCH PLASTIC WASTED. And, the worst was after 3-4 months, my son refused any kind of frozen milk. He just hated the taste of it and rejected all frozen milk thereafter. So much milk in storage bags, then wasted. 
 
That’s when I started pumping direct into the Hegen bottles, and storing them in the bottles – Fresh. And finishing the stored milk within 2 days.
 
Also, never underestimate the convenience of what seems like a simple design change – the PCTO lid. Just yesterday, the baby was chugging down and almost finishing his usual 150ml feed, and looking like he needed more. So while feeding him with my right hand, I managed to twist the lid open with my left, hold the teat and lid with my chin, “kiapped” the bottle between my knees as I filled it up with warm water from the thermos, then clicked the lid back on, and gave the formula a lil shake.. and VOILA! Transitioned seamlessly from one finished bottle to the new one. ALL IN A MOVING CAR!
 

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I doubt you can do that with any other bottle system. Or even if you could, it requires a great amount of dexterity.
 
We are also currently using the baby’s Hegen bottles to store his solid food purees in the fridge, and as snack containers when we go out – they have storage dividers, so two snacks in one bottle. And I snap on the water spout and use that even for myself as a small water bottle.
 
OH. And because I’ve legit bought at least 18 starter sets as gifts for friend$$$$$$$ who are having babies…. I’ve now qualified to have my own discount code.
 
So for you momma’s out there, for 10% off Hegen products, use the code SARA10 at https://www.hegen.com/ – their online store. This only works on the official Hegen online store.
 
Most importantly, use what suits your baby, and what your baby seems to take to, regardless of my bias.
 
ALSO…
 
TO ALL MOM’S.
 
YOU WILL. REGARDLESS OF WHO YOU ARE. HOW CAREFUL YOU THINK YOU ARE…… ACCIDENTS HAPPEN.
 
YOU WILL CRY OVER SPILLED MILK. ( At least once.)
 

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So don’t blame yourself. Just… pick yourself up and move on.
 
 
 

Back to regular pump programming
 
But, I digress. In bid to cover as many as possible, I’ve included some tried and tested manual pumps too.
 

MANUAL PUMPS

 
Let’s get the manual stuff out of the way first.
 
 
I own two manuals, the Hegen and the Spectra, which worked great when I just needed a quick pump when I was out and about, and didn’t want to bring too many things out. I have to say, that while both were equally effective, something about the pump system on the Hegen makes the pumping a lot less painful on my nipple.
 
Please also note that while manual pumps are marginally quieter than using an electric pump (ie: if you are hiding out in a toilet to pump, it won’t sound like you are having a good time with a vibrator inside.) it will give you a bit of a “carpal tunnel” type hand cramp. Your thumbs will ache after.
 
{Also btw- why do we have to hide in toilets to pump??? Because I’m pretty sure we would consider food prep in a toilet for our own consumption pretty unsanitary. So….. Ya. I wouldn’t.}
 
FYI, I also own one haakaa, and a “haakaa inspired silicon collection device” (aka- prob a pirated China version that came in a gift hamper) that I used only to capture letdown when the baby was feeding on one side, and the other started leaking in unison. I also used it during hot showers when my boobs suddenly started leaking and I ran out with my hands under my boobs trying not to waste milk. Yes. That is a thing.
The haakaa breast pump
The haakaa works on a vacuum suction basis, so it occasionally was very painful for me if I attached it too tightly. Some friends swore by it as a travel pump option, because it is silent. For me though, I occasionally had to manually wring my boob out on this. But that said, I used them a lot in the first three months.
 
But I will warn you. I once had a haakaa filled to the brim. Probably about 150ml from one boob. And when trying to prevent my phone from smashing onto the floor, landed up swiping the haakaa to the ground. Ironically, it was the “haakaa” inspired silicone pump, that had a suction cup at the base to make it more stable when you set it down. Also, they do have cute suction flowers to put on your haakaa to cover it, but I hadn’t yet gotten mine so……. *sob* =(
 

Nonetheless, some friends really swore by the haakaa as there are no “parts” and it’s really light.

 
 

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Let me give you the names of my top favourite electric pumps – the pumps I actually use almost every day. With these pumps, my yield was more or less similar with an average of 120-150ml per boob at the very least.
 

My TOP THREE Electric Pumps

 
Hegen Electric Breast Pump.
The Freemie Liberty with closed system collection cups (2018 version). 

The Spectra S1

 
Also note, that all of these pumps have interchangeable components. I tried all three pumps with the spectra bottles, the Freemie collection cups, the Hegen bottles with the adaptors and Spectra flanges and pump body, and the Hegen bottles with the new PCTO pump body. And I’m happy to note that all of them could be easily interchanged.
 
Let me start with the newest kid on the block, as that was the one that I used most recently, and many fellow mommas are curious about.
 

The Hegen Electric Breast Pump

 
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Hi guys! Thanks for being patient during my #socialmediabreak – my first post of 2019 is for #breastfeeding mommas out there – an express #review of the @hegen.official Electric Pump. . . Many mom's were asking about its performance on my IG stories after I got it. I have to say I'm pretty impressed. For details on this, and the different #breastpumps I #triedandtested – read my blogpost http://saraannk.com/2018/12/breast-pump-reviews-for-noobs/ Do give it a read because I sacrificed my boobs to 5 different pumps to give you the lowdown, and check out the #YouTube video on my top 3 favorite pumps, and how to use them too! (And yes – this was one of the top 3 for me!) . . Also – it may come as no surprise for mommy friends who know me, as quite many of you received a starter kit box of #hegen bottles as a baby shower gift from moi…. #NOTSPONSORED – I love the bottles compared to all the others I tried. And #goodthingsmustshare – so new momma pals – thanks to the sheer amount of bottles I've purchased – #hegen has now given me a discount code of my own – SARA10 for 10% off on anything from the Official website https://www.hegen.com #dontsaybojio # discount #review #newmomlife #momlife #itsallaboutthemilk #thisisnotasponsoredpost #singaporebrand #madeinsingapore #supportlocal

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1) Hegen PCTO Electric Breast Pump – $395 on e-store. They also retail at TANGS, Takashimaya, and Motherworks Compass One and I12.
 
The package included:
  • 1 x Electric Breast Pump Device
    1 x PCTO™ Pump Body with Seal and Valve
    1 x Kneading Ring
    2 x ECap
    2 x E-Diaphragm
    2 x Silicone Tubing
    1 x Manual Diaphragm with Stem
    1 x Handle with Pivot
    1 x Power Adapter
PROS:
– pumps very well. Would effectively clear my milk out of my breasts in the 30 min cycle.
– Has up to 12 suction levels, with 3 adjustable speeds – slow, medium and fast
– very easy to use. I managed to pump 150ml on my right boob on my first use! Averaged 250-300ml per pump from both sides, on suction level 8 or 10 on a fast speed.
– every pump starts with an automatic 2 min massage cycle to stimulate letdown, before proceeding to your last preferred pump setting.
– less painful, especially during the suction phase. But still effectively drains the boob
– The flange shape was particularly comfortable and did not cut into my flesh
– the design of the PCTO pump body was so intelligent and fuss free, it was easy to tap accumulated milk out of it, saving as many precious drops as possible
– you can pump direct, and store in the Hegen bottles, with minimal wastage
– each battery cycle could last for 3 full pumps even after 2 months
– can be charged with a USB
– You can use the pump, and massage yourself. NOT JUST YOUR BOOBS. LIKE ACTUAL MASSAGE. *this is a patent pending feature of the pump.
I was skeptical at first but it really does work almost like a mini-tcm-cupping massage, just a lot less painful. This was really helpful as I could massage one breast while expressing the other. Though I mostly used this on my neck as you are constantly looking down when you breastfeed or pump.
– very easy to switch from manual to electric pump
– VERY light and portable
– PRETTY!
– very few pump parts to sterilize and wash (essentially, just the PCTO body, and the duckbill valve. The e-cap and diaphragm seldom if even touch the milk. So a quick rinse will suffice for that.)
– VERY easy to clean – the funnel in the PCTO body is very wide, so not only does it not trap excess milk, it also is a breeze to clean with the bottle cleaner, with no hard to reach/clean spots
– replacement pump parts are currently only available at the HQ in Singapore, but will soon be available online (I lost the e-diaphragm and the kneading ring while on a trip, and they quickly sent me a replacement when I called to order the parts, along with more bottles!)
 
Cons:
– you need to buy an additional manual pump to get the second pump body to pump both sides at the same time. The existing package only comes with one pump body set –  $395 buys you a set with one side of the pump body + seal and valve and kneading ring – this is a small miraculous circular plastic invention that for some reason, when clicked on to the e-diaphragm and e-cap, converts it into a massaging device.
– Also no bottles are included in the set
– only is compatible with Hegen bottles. (Though this was a plus for me!!)
– moderate noise
– requires a nursing bra or camisole for a handsfree pumping experience
 
Pro-tip: If you want this pump, they occasionally have offers where they gift you a free manual device (usual price S$69), along with the purchase of the electric pump. This way you are all set for dual side pumping, and just need the Hegen bottles.
 
Best for: Moms who are into the Hegen bottle system. Women who have sensitive breasts. Women who prefer a portable device. Great for travel.
Full 150ml yield from leftie. (My “emptier boob” after a full cycle.)
 
 

The Freemie Liberty with Closed Collection Cups, 2018

2) Freemie Liberty with closed system collection cups 2018 version – purchased on pupsik at $399 for the set. (The collection cups can also be bought at $179, and are compatible with all three of these systems). The cups came with two flange sizes – 25mm and 28mm. And you can read my review on pupsik here.
 
I fell in love with using my Freemie set when I bought it after 2 mths, thinking that my S1 was not portable at all. *facepalm* And it literally free-ed me! I loved that suddenly I had two hands for everything! I even pumped with this while friends were visiting.
 
Note though, that there are currently two systems available for sale online. The 2018 version is the most recent, and has fewer pump parts, and from user comments, I’ve gathered is more user friendly than the first version. Especially since the Liberty (newer) has a LED display screen that the older model (Independence) lacked. And the collection cups are now a closed cup system in the 2018 model, where the old one did not have the feature, and apparently would suffer some leaks apparently.
 
Pros:
– HANDSFREE (no external bottles, everything is in your bra)
– backlit led display, with adjustable suction and speed both topping out at level 10
– 40 min cycle that usually cleared me, if not, another 20 mins seemed to do it. I would use a 2 min on level 10 suction, 10 speed. 35 mins on 10 suction/8 speed. and the last 3 mins on 10/turbo. Largest yield I had was 200ml on one side. But averaged about 200-250ml per pump.
– you can save 3 preferred settings on the top of the liberty pump
– compact and portable pump
– quiet (it seems to be the quietest of all the pumps I tried). TIP: It is quiet enough to be used in a gold class cinema. Unfortunately, it was not quiet enough during very tense scenes between Eleanor and Rachel during Crazy Rich Asians.
– the most discreet pump and mode of collection – you can walk around with it and hide the device easily. Pump comes with a hook at the back which you can hook onto your belt/waistband and look like iron man! Cups fit into your bra and remains there till you take it out. Everything can be concealed, very convenient. I used this pump even when I had visitors at home. Some of them didn’t notice at all! (Till they saw my  Pamela Anderson side profile)
Beautiful woman shopping and supposedly using a freemie. O_O
– comes with patented turbo mode that was a very long suck
– collection cups only needs to be washed with warm, soapy water. (You only boil once to sterilize when you first purchase.)
– you get Madonna boobs (with what sounds like darth vader breathing at your chest)
– can be charged with USB
– great for travel
 
Cons:
– inconsistent. My yield went up and down with this pump, and sometimes it had to do with the positioning of the collection cups in the bra. I wasted many a 40 mins only to have milk in one cup, and completely empty on the other, so I always had to check and recheck the positioning
– this took me about 2 weeks before I could figure out how to use the pump and adjust speeds to get the best yield from myself, so it wasn’t the most user friendly initially
– battery life fades fast – I could do 4 pumps on a full charge in the first month. But by the forth month I was down to 2.5 pumps on a full charge.
– you have to be careful when you bend over, or you risk spilling milk from the spout
– parts are HARD TO BUY. For the newest 2018 closed system, we had to buy a new set of breast funnels as the hubby dropped mine on day 2 and it cracked!!!!!!!!! No websites in SG carried parts for the newest system, and a new set of collection cups would set me back an additional S$179.
– MANY PARTS – it has so many parts, that I was afraid to bring it overseas, in case I lost any of the parts and wouldn’t be able to use it thereafter. Also, after my first funnel cracked so easily, I was a lot more cautious and carried it assembled, which was rather bulky
– I needed to frequently pull my top open and shine a light in to see if it was pumping correctly because there were many times it felt like it was sucking, but it wasn’t positioned properly, so the cups would be empty after.
– you will ruin a few good bras with this. So I highly recommend you buy a few cheap nursing bras on Taobao, or use old sports bras to really strap them in
– your side profile will make you look like Pamela Anderson. With Rock hard boobs. So people might question whether or not you had your boobies upsized instead of delivering a baby.
– Spectra has now come up with a collection cup system at a fraction of the price, and compatible with any Spectra device.
 
Pro-tip: If you ever need to buy parts, you will need to order them in from the US site, and get Vpost to deliver it to Singapore.
 
Best for : Working moms who need a discreet way to pump at desk. Good for travel. Great for multi-taskers. Just don’t bend over!
 

The Spectra S1

The Spectra S1 – my “hospital grade” workhorse.
3) The Spectra S1 – purchased at the baby fair at S$379 for a bundle with free gifts (including the manual hand pump handle)

Package Includes

  • -2 x 28mm Breastshields
    -2 x White Valves
    -2 x Tubings
    -2 x Backflow Protectors
    -2 x 5oz Wide Neck Bottles

Freegifts Includes:

  • 1 Spectra Manual Kit
  • 1 Vcool Bag
  • 2 x Vcool Ice Blocks
  • 2 x Vcool Ice Packs
  • 2 x Bottle Adapters
  • 1 Nursing Bra
  • 1 Milk Saver

Pros:

– it pumps incredibly well in the 30 min cycle. Has up to 12 suction modes, and adjustable speeds/cycles, massage mode that can also be adjusted, and a night light. (The lcd display itself is not lit.)
– it usually cleared my boobs within 20 mins, yield was usually about 120-150ml left, 180-200ml, right. About 280 – 350ml per pump.
– it automatically memorises your last settings and goes back to that, both in massage and expression mode, on your next use
– long battery life for about 4-8 pumps when off the charging adaptor
– super easy to buy replacement parts on almost all baby sites from Agapebabies, to pupsik, and even Lazada.
– consistent pumping yield
– can be used with nipple shields
– currently also has a collection cup that retails at a fraction of the price at about $30 on Qoo10.
 
Cons:
–  Heavy. I dropped this once on our floor, and the floor cracked a little. So can you imagine what happened when it fell on my toe?
– semi-portable. You can unhook this from the charger and move it around, but you still will be chained to a kettle ball. I wouldn’t bring it out of the house. Though some friend brought it along for travel. Brave souls.
– moderate noise – you do get used to it after a while. But it can get noisy at night when you’re the only one sitting in the dark doing a power pump.
– can only be charged with the special charging adaptor
– neck of the pump is extremely narrow, you need to tap out the pump pretty well to get a few trapped drops of BM. Sometimes up to 10ml gets stuck in there.
– as the neck and funnel was very narrow, it was hard to wash. You really need to get a bottle cleaner up in there.
– many parts to wash, even my backflow protector and membrane (diaphragm) would get milk in it and required washing and sterilising
– requires a nursing bra or camisole for a handsfree pumping experience
 
Tips: New users, try to keep the cycles and suction low, and possibly, below number 4 for the suction level. Anything more might be painful.
At the end of 6 mths, I used 70 speed and level 3 on massage mode, and 50 speed and level 8 on expression mode to fully clear my breasts.
 
Pro-tip:  You can purchase the wide neck adaptors to use with the spectra flanges, if you would like to pump directly into the Hegen bottles.
 
Now Spectra also has a collection cup that retails at abt $30. But if you truly wanted a handsfree experience, you probably would go for a more portable pump.
 
Best for : Heavy duty users who don’t need to move around much when pumping.
 

 
Just in case, I also tried a few other pumps that unfortunately, did not work for me.
 
Other pumps you can consider
 

Medela Freestyle

Medela Freestyle – Baby fair price from $599 for a bundle. Current mommy’s market price $799 per bundle.
 
Package includes:
  • – 1x Medela Freestyle Breast Pump
    – 1x Cooler bag and ice pack
    – 1x Black microfiber tote bag
    – 2x Calma teat
    – 2 x PersonalFit 24 mm (medium) breastshields with connectors
    – 6x 150ml bottles with multi-lid
    – 12x disposable nursing pads
    – 1x Purelan100 7g cream
    – 1x Quick Clean microwave bag
    – 5x Pump & Save bags

TOP UP $1 to get:

  • – ISA UCHI Steam Steriliser
    – ISA UCHI Warmer
    – Medela Handsfree Kit
    – CLOSE PARENT Caboo DX+ (Merino Design Only)
I tried this one because so many friends raved about it, so I borrowed a pals to test it out. It. Was. Loud. Maybe because this particular machine had been used through a few kids, but this sounded like a bass-tone duck was quacking about my boobies like it was in heat. (The colour of the machine made it even more comical to me.)
 
I liked that this had a letdown function, and the display was lit up. This little pump is touted to be very strong for it’s size and that was true, this pump was a little more painful for my nipples, it seemed to pinch me a little, so my yield was not great. Also I found the price rather prohibitive, though the pump itself was very compact, and the battery life was pretty incredible. My friend reports she can use hers for a week without having to charge it.
 
 

Philips Avent Double Electric Pump

Philips Avent Double Electric pump – $599 at baby fair price, with LOTS of free gifts.
  • Philips Avent 3 in 1 Sterilizer ($159)
  • Philips Avent Electric Bottle and Food Warmer ($76)
  • Graco Literider Stroller ($279)
  • Bath Tub ($35.90)
  • Nursing Shawl ($25)
  • 125ml Natural bottles X 3pcs ($50.70)
  • VIA Cup 180ml x 4pcs ($8)
  • Natural Newborn Set ($69) – Includes Bottle Brush, 260ml bottle x 2, 125ml Bottle X 2, Pacifier
 
Sounds like a printer/copier fax machine, this machine looked like a sleek dehumidifier, but the expression was a little weak for me, and my yield was paltry in comparison to my usual. I really wanted to like this model because of all the free gifts usually offered in the mommy’s market baby fair. (I MEAN… A STROLLER!)  But, it just didn’t work for me. My friend loves hers though, as she found many other pumps too painful for her.
 

Spectra S9

Spectra S9S – $319 with freebies at mummy’s market (Or $100 – $112 on Qoo10 with no freebies)
 
Package at Mummy’s market includes
  • 1 x Spectra Manual Kit — Emergency manual pump in the event pump broke down.
  • 1 x V-Coool Cooler Bag — Keep expressed milk cool for at least 8 hours with the use of V-Coool Ice Block and Ice Packs; 2 compartments to fit Pump (M1 or 9+) & Accessories at the top and bottles at the bottom.
  • 1 x V-Coool Inner Bag — Contain condensation droplets to prevent wet bag.
  • 1 x V-Coool Milk Saver — Collect milk while latching baby single side.
  • 1 x V-Coool Nursing Shawl – Provide secure coverage during nursing or pumping.
  • 1 x V-Coool Ice Block — Keep milk cool for 8 hours.
  • 2 x V-Coool Ice Pack — Keep milk cool or use to bring down temperature during fever.
  • 1 x V-Coool Milk Storage Label — Special made sticker to label each milk storage bottles easily.
  • 2 x Bottle Adaptor — Pump directly into narrow neck bottles!
  • 2 x Honeysuckle Milk Bag Adaptor — Pump directly into breastmilk bags!
  • 3 X Bambino bottles – Erasable write on tab on the bottles allows mummies to record the details of their pump or even for their babies use in child care centres.

I had high expectations for this pump as an old friend swore by it, and only bought this. And she has twins. (And an older son who she already used the S9 with.) It is compact and looks a little like an aircon remote control/old mp3 player of sorts. And because I already have the S1, and am so pleased with it, I thought that the S9 will be up to task. Unfortunately for me, when I was engorged, I had to run it through 2 and half full cycles of the pump, and still felt hard lumps in my boobs, and yet, only had 60ml yield on my left, and 80ml on my right. It also pinched a little – which the lady at the baby fair warned me about when she spoke with me about my needs, and recommended the S1 instead.

Also, I found the difference between the S9S and the S9+ baffling, as both models looked incredibly similar.

What I deduced after much confusion, is the battery life, and the mode of charging being the biggest difference. The S9+ has 2hrs battery life, and the S9S 1.5 hrs. BUT, when you are out of the house, you can use a micro USB to charge the S9S when you have no adaptor, whereas the S9+ requires you to use a car cigar jack instead. The S9S sounded way more convenient to me. And was 5g lighter. So I’m not sure why the produce two different versions of a similar device.

Also – I read about this other affordable double electric pump – The Bellema Effective Pro Double Electric Breast Pump 

It retails from $189 – which sounds very reasonable. But, I didn’t get the chance to review this as I didn’t have any friends who owned it.

But if you are in the market for a double pump, and have budget constraints, this could be one of your options.

Read about it here:


I hope this review helps you with your purchase, and that I gave enough details on all the different pumps. And remember, what didn’t work for me, might work for you. So don’t get disheartened.

Also, I did have problems with my lactation supply, but I’ll talk about what helped me increase my supply in another post.

Meanwhile, as they all say – the nights are long but the days are short.

There will come a time where you miss the nights breastfeeding your baby, bonding with them. The one-on-one time. Or even the time pumping and watching Netflix..

I already do!

So treasure this time while you can. You can do it mommies!!

xx

Read: 13 Things I wish people told me about breastfeeding

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