My newsfeed has been flooded today with a video about “Anabella”, a new kind of breast pump. The video comes from Indiegogo, which is a crowd-funding website that help people raise money to kick start their projects. In this case, Senia Waldberg from Tel Aviv, Israel, wanted to return to work, but it would appear she couldn’t find a breast pump that worked well for her.
Her pump, Anabella, appears to be a rechargeable, single-breast pump that has a patent-pending design that tries to mimic the perstaltic movement of an infant’s tongue during breastfeeding, rather than creating suction using a diaphragm.
Please let me preface this post by saying I think this is a marvellous idea in theory. The way breast pumps operate is very different to the way babies breastfeed, and this will always be a barrier for many women to express. I have a lot of respect for anyone who tries to fund their own product. I have written before about working with Pumpables, promoting their Milk Genie breast pump. I have seen what the competition is like among breast pump brands, and I sincerely wish Senia Waldberg the very best when it comes to meeting her goals of mass producing her pump and getting it global.
The pitch video makes some big claims that seems to have excited the breastfeeding community, but I have some concerns.
- At the start of the video, it is claimed that most breast pumps only remove up to 60% of breastmilk from a breast. Besides the fact that I have never seen this figure before, I know from personal experience that all pumps operate differently, and that different women respond to different pumps, differently. I don’t know where that 60% figure came from, but if anyone can send me links to reputable info supporting this, I’d love to see them.
- The video claims that this problem is entirely down to the shape of the suction cup (or breast shield, or flange, or whatever you know that part to be). I really struggled with this claim. There are so many factors that can impact how effectively someone can drain their breast while pumping – personal comfort, mental state, the physical environment around you, whether you have a double or single breast pump are a few – blaming poor drainage solely on the design of a pump oversimplifies a complex issue.
- My biggest worry is that the pump can supposedly remove 100% or “close to 100%” (depending on where you look) of the milk stored in a breast. Many breastfeeding experts, including Kellymom, tell us that “milk is being produced at all times, so the breast is never empty”. The claim that this pump can remove 100% or so of the milk from a breast isn’t in line with my understanding of the way breastmilk production works.
- The video alludes to the claim that pumping will decrease your supply, because 40% of your breastmilk is left remaining in your breast, making your body think that it’s making more milk than necessary, and therefore telling it to make less milk. While some breast pumps may contribute to a decrease in milk supply due to an inability to extract breastmilk appropriately, factors such as pumping technique, frequency, duration and what kind of pump you’re using are all important factors. In my own experience, once I knew what I was doing, pumping increased my supply. Given that many breastfeeders are advised to embark on a pumping routine to increase their supply, it would appear I’m not alone in my experience.
- Additionally, Senia tugs at our heartstrings when she tells us her daughter was “hungry and mad” because 40% of her mother’s milk was left in her mother’s breasts and Senia felt frustrated because there was nothing she could do. As a mum who has had to express while working fulltime, I disagree that there was nothing she could do. Pumping more frequently, breastfeeding more frequently or breastfeeding instead of pumping are three options that can be explored when pump output is low.
- The idea for Anabella was apparently borne from “hours” of research. I don’t know if there has been a language barrier, but a few hours of googling doesn’t do the conundrum of how to make the best breast pump anywhere near enough justice.
I don’t want to completely tear down what appears to be an innovative start-up, but all of the hype surrounding the video has made me want to put my hand up and gently suggest that we need to calm down and look at this critically. If I were to invest my money in the best breast pump ever, I would want to know that the people making it had a lot of experience in other breast pumps, a high degree of knowledge about how breastfeeding and expressing work, and the ability to produce it well enough to deliver on it’s promises. For now at least, I think I’ll keep my money in my pocket.
Have you seen the hype over Anabella? What are your thoughts?