What is a silicone breastmilk collector?
Silicone breastmilk collectors - also known as a "Haakaa" after the company that pioneered them - are a type of manual pump that can suction itself to one breast while you are nursing on the opposite breast. It goes beyond passive milk collection by actively removing milk using a vacuum suction to the breast. This gentle form of milk removal works best during a let down which occurs in both breasts simultaneously while baby is breastfeeding. Mothers can change how strong the vacuum suction is by how much they squeeze the bulb when attaching the pump and by whether or not they invert the flange when applying. See the video above for a demonstration.
When to Use a Silicone Breastmilk Collector - First Breast or Second?
Mothers with high milk production can use the collector on the opposite breast while still nursing on the first breast. Many women with high milk production can collect 2-3oz this way during a feed. After baby finishes the first breast, remove the collector (or switch it to the opposite side) and offer baby the second breast. A word of caution: if used several times a day this can stimulate oversupply. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend limiting "freezer stash" milk expression to 3 oz per day to avoid unpleasant oversupply symptoms. If you wish to collect drip milk passively without stimulating oversupply you can gently rest the milk collector against the breast with no added suction or use milk saver shells.
Mothers with average or low milk production should wait to apply the silicone breastmilk collector until after baby finishes nursing on the first breast. When baby finishes the first breast and switches sides, mothers with low-average production can then apply the collector to the breast baby already finished to catch the "leftover" milk. The reason it is not recommended to apply it to the second breast before baby nurses is that baby may need first dibs on all the available milk if mother has low-average milk production or small breast storage capacity. We have seen babies that are underfed when the silicone collector removes too much milk prior to baby being given access. As long as you wait to apply it to your breast until baby finishes the first side and you are ready to switch sides, then mothers with average production can use it as many times a day as they want. Most women with low-average milk production can collect around 1 oz per feed when using it this way.
This mother is using a silicone breastmilk collector on opposite breast while nursing.
Our Favorite Situations for Using the Silicone Breastmilk Collector
Infants born between 36-39 weeks or in the 5-6 lb range tend to take much smaller amounts of milk from the breast during the first month compared to babies born at 40+ weeks and over 7 lbs. Because of this, many mothers find that they start off with way more milk than their little baby can handle. If mothers have confirmed baby is gaining appropriately (at least 1 oz per day) and they are experiencing breast fullness even after nursing, then using the breastmilk collector several times a day is great way to protect their full milk supply. It allows mothers to preserve the "extra" breastmilk so their milk supply is maintained at a healthy level until baby can grow into bigger feeds. This a great solution if your small baby is nursing well but has a small appetite. Once baby grows into bigger feeds or nears 8 lbs, decrease frequency of use. Note: if baby is not nursing well, an electric breast pump is a more appropriate solution.
Our other favorite occasion for using the silicone breastmilk collector is at baby's early a.m. feed for women preparing to return to work and wanting to build a small freezer stash. Almost all breastfeeding mothers have "extra" milk during the early a.m. hours of the day thanks to a surge of prolactin that happens around 1-3am. If you use the silicone breastmilk collector at an early morning breastfeed you are likely to collect 1-3 extra ounces to freeze for your return to work. No need to drag out the electric breast pump until you are ready to introduce a bottle!
Our Favorite Brand of Silicone Breastmilk Collector
There are a lot of brands on the market selling similar variations of the silicone breastmilk collector. The original brand, Haakaa, is still a popular option. However, some of the newer versions on the market have additional features added without a higher price tag. Lansinoh's version boasts a suction cup on the base and cap for the shield that keeps it secure on your nightstand or end table after use. It also has an optional lanyard necklace that hooks to it and keeps it from falling if baby kicks it off during the nursing session. For that reason, and its reasonable retail price of $14.99, we think its a great option. You can find it on Amazon or its available for pick-up from our office or delivery with lactation consults.