Friday, March 26, 2010

Milkies Milk Saver

by Danelle Frisbie © 2010

Milkies Milk Saver
available here

If you've been breastfeeding this past year, you have likely heard of the Milkies Milk Saver. Created a couple years ago, it came onto the mainstream market about a year ago and has been advertised on a variety of mothering sites, as well as local news stations around the country. The Milk Saver is currently for sale in numerous locations around the world, and (while still a bit pricey for our taste) is cheapest with free shipping through Amazon.

Milkies Milk Saver has been touted by some to be a new 'breakthrough' in breastfeeding that will change how moms nurse. While the product can certainly be beneficial, it isn't anything groundbreaking. In fact, many of our mothers were using a similar product in the 1960s-1980s -- a milk saver cup that was placed over the nipple of the breast that mother was not nursing on to collect the milk during let-down on that side. Women would wear shields in their bras during the day and collect the milk that leaked. My mother and her friends tell me that during this time, before all our fancy breastpumps, you either expressed extra milk by hand (if you needed to leave baby in another person's care) or you used the milk that you had collected in a breast shield. I recall (at the age of 9 years) watching my mother gracefully pour the milk from these cups into a container to save for later use. I was fascinated. Interested. But had no real concept of the value of that liquid gold at the time.

The cups used by moms in the previous generation were very similar to those currently sold by Avent or Medella. The design has been updated with fancy inscriptions and ventilation (a good thing to keep the nipples dry in free air to prevent yeast) but the concept is the same, and they work just as well as when our mothers used them.

Medela Soft Shells for Sore Nipples
available here
*Note: if you use the Medela Soft Shells for milk collection, do not use the foam inserts


Avent Comfort Breast Shield
available here

Although I've been discussing the Milk Saver with other lactation consultants and mothers over the past year, I have yet to meet a mother who actually used Milkies Milk Saver. So if you have, please, let me know your thoughts. For now, these are mine...


1) It seems that Milkies Milk Saver may be more slim-line than the Medela or Avent shields - less bulky. However, because of this, the Milk Saver touches right around the nipple/areola and does not allow the nipple to 'breathe' as vented shields do. This can be a problem if a woman is going to try to wear the Milk Saver for more than exclusively during the time of nursing because it can increase the environment for yeast to grow. Yeast is one of the biggest culprits for breastfeeding pain, problems, and eventual infection if not taken care of. Yeast can also be passed back and forth to baby (also called 'thrush'). The best way to prevent yeast is to let the breasts breathe. Keep the nipples and breasts clean and dry. Don't cover the nipples or keep them wet or in milk. Go braless as much as possible. This brings me to point two...


2) The Milk Saver (and breast shields by Medela/Avent or the like) must be worn with a bra. I realize that bra wearing is fairly standard in modern day Western culture, but it hasn't always been, and I am not entirely convinced that it is a good thing for women - especially breastfeeding women - to be wearing bras on a daily basis. Bras are notorious for causing lymph node constriction which prevents the lymphatic system from doing its job properly - draining toxins from the body. Research suggests this is one factor in the development of cancerous cells in areas of the body where we experience constant lymph node constriction - around the bra line, for example. This gets into another article topic for another day... but long story short, it is beneficial for breastfeeding moms to go bra-free as much as possible. Yeast overgrowth is eliminated and milk ducts are not being compressed by a bra (both of which can lead to mastitis - infection in the breast). This said, I would not encourage women to use the Milk Saver on an all-day or all-night basis. Your breasts need to breathe!

So ditch the bra whenever possible. Wear a comfortable cotton shirt and change them often if they get wet. One of the best things I've known breastfeeding moms to have on hand during the early months of leaking is a set of men's Hanes (or other brand) 100% cotton tshirts. They are comfy, durable, clean easily in the wash, and allow the breasts to breath. You don't have to worry about them getting spit-on, milked-on, peed-on, because you can quickly toss one in the laundry and another on your body.

3) The Milk Saver is made specifically for holding milk. This is an advantage it has over the Avent or Medela shields. So while the shields let your nipples breathe and keep them comfortable (when you are wearing a bra) they will not allow you to collect as much leaking milk as the Milk Saver will. Medela or Avent can collect about 1 ounce per breast before they become too full and you must dump them. Milkies' Milk Saver holds 2 oz before needing to be emptied. The Milk Saver can also be connected up to a milk storage bag for easy freezing or refrigeration.

4) One disadvantage is the price. ONE Milkies Milk Saver is $26-30 (current sale price). If you want one for both breasts, you are looking at almost $60 for the set. The Avent and Medela shields (while not specifically made for collecting/storing milk) sell for $12-$16 for the PAIR. That's about a $45 difference which is a lot for some nursing moms.

However, that said - breastmilk is worth FAR more than $60 and if getting the Milkies Milk Savor eliminates the need to ever worry about having enough milk on hand for your baby, by all means, I think it is worth every penny. As a mom who would do ANYTHING to provide my human babies with human milk, I know how valuable every drop of breastmilk is. I would spend the $60 four times over if it prevented a baby from ever being artificially fed or supplemented.

5) One other technique that does not involve shields or the Milk Savor, but still collects and saves your milk is to pump on one breast while baby nurses on the other. With today's fabulous modern electric pumps, you can easily nurse your child AND pump at the same time. I've met with countless moms who did this -- those who used a manual hand pump, or a standard store-bought electric pump, or a hospital grade pump (recommended for mothers who must return to work or increase milk supply). If you plan to pump and save anyway, it may just be easier (and more efficient) to put baby on one breast and pump on the other. Pumping the 2nd breast does not need to be done each time you nurse, but even doing so 3-4 times a day can build up more than enough milk for use later. By doing this, both breasts are drained completely, causing them to refill faster and fuller. Milk production is in full swing, and you eliminate any concern about milk supply. (More suggestions for mothers who must return to work can be found here.)

Of course, none of these things are needed. Mothers have been nursing their young just fine for all of human history without nipple shields and collection cups and Milk Savers and pumps. The beautiful thing about breastfeeding is that it works anytime, anywhere that baby needs to nurse - for food, drink, or comfort. Rarely is there a mammal who gives birth to live young that cannot also nourish them with her milk after birth if she has the proper environment, skills, and support (1). To produce the milk to feed our own species is one of the qualifications that makes humans mammalian!

So the best thing to 'stock up on' before venturing out into the breastfeeding world is an ample supply of accurate information, helpful support, empowering friends who have been-there/done-that, and a skilled, qualified, knowledgeable lactation consultant who can help you trouble shoot should concerns arise OR proactively prevent them from becoming issues in the first place.

If the Milkies Milk Savers seem to be something that will benefit your breastfeeding relationship you may be interested in checking out the videos below, and giving the Milk Saver a try. The company appears to have great intentions in their support of breastfeeding mothers, and for this, I applaud them.

I'll be interested to hear how the Milk Saver worked for you -- and comparing your stories with those my mother and her friends tell from their 'milk saver' days in the 70s.


~~~~


Side Note: I cannot in good faith post these Milk Saver videos without pointing out a couple comments from the videos that we at peaceful parenting do not endorse. Please note that these responses are solely pertaining to the video advertisements and the manner in which the Milk Saver is being presented - they are not a critique of the actual product.

Comments on this first video below:

1. Regarding the rice cereal comment - There is absolutely no need for a breastfeeding baby to consume anything other than breastmilk until s/he is ready to start self-feeding regular solid foods. Feeding rice cereal (especially before 6-8 months of age) is detrimental to a baby's immediate health, their long-term health, the breastfeeding relationship, and mother's milk supply. The AAP, WHO, and AAFP all suggest nothing but human milk for human babies for a minimum of the first 6 months of life. However, our latest research demonstrates that the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding (i.e. nothing fed to baby but breastmilk) vs. partial breastfeeding (when other non-breastmilk items are also fed) only begins to diminish between 8-12 months of age. We now know that the gut does not close until the 7th month of life in a baby born at full term (i.e. not induced or born early). Babies born prematurely (or induced) will not have a gut that 'closes' until after the 7th month. The longer a baby is exclusively breastfed, the healthier s/he is. Do not be fooled by pop parenting culture to believe that your baby will benefit in any way from consuming rice cereal (or any other non-breastmilk item) if s/he is breastfeeding and under the age of 1 year old. I'd suggest checking out The Baby Bond, Baby-Led Weaning, Take Charge of Your Child's Health, and Natural Family Living for further information.

2. Regarding the supplementing with formula comment - There is never a need to supplement with formula due to lack of breastmilk. There are many methods that can be implemented to increase milk supply, and supplementing with anything other than your milk will not only pose health concerns to your baby, but will also cause a decrease in milk production and the milk supply issue will then become a real concern. Instead, check out these books: Making More Milk and Breastfeeding Made Simple, and get to know a skilled, certified, lactation consultant in your area.

If you absolutely need additional milk on top of your own for your baby, seek out donor milk in your area. No matter who it comes from, human milk is always better for human babies than any artificial substitutes. This is a resource list of milk share programs. You can also talk with local lactation consultants, La Leche League leaders and members, other breastfeeding mothers, midwives and doulas to get connected with mothers who will donate. There are ALWAYS mothers with plenty of extra milk who would love to give it to another mother/baby to help them out. Your child deserves no less than what was designed for him/her.



Comments on the second video [Update: Embedding Disabled: View Here on YouTube.]

1. You do not need a crib. What you do need is a safe place for your baby to share sleep (i.e. sleep within an arm's reach of you) while s/he is breastfeeding. Milk supply and hormones are dramatically impacted by night nursing and it is during these hours that baby's brain and muscles are in full throttle advancement mode. More than ever, it is during the night that babies need to nurse. For this reason, being able to sleep share will provide you with the rest you need, provide baby with the regulation of your body by his (to decrease SIDS risk and other infant ills), and ensure your milk supply gets to where it is designed to be. Mothers who exclusively breastfeed and sleep share rarely have issues continuing the breastfeeding relationship for the optimal time that a child needs human milk. If you already have a crib, see How to Turn Your Crib into a CoSleeper for ideas on using it to benefit (instead of hamper) the breastfeeding relationship. More on infant sleep at these sources.

2. The mother says she is concerned about not having enough milk. The Milk Saver is NOT going to eliminate this worry (in most cases) nor is it going to be a life-saver if other techniques for mother/baby-friendly care are not implemented. Mothers cannot be separated from their babies (for example) all night long, and all day at work, and still continue to have the natural, normal, milk-producing hormones needed for successful breastfeeding.

Many full-term breastfeeding moms do survive being apart from their little ones - but they are busy pumping during the day (or traveling home to nurse, taking baby with them to work - optimal situation! - or having someone bring baby to them) and they are wearing their baby any chance they can (to influence natural hormones) and they are typically sharing sleep and night nursing to regulate milk production and hormones in this manner. If a mother is going to return to work and be separated from her baby all day, every day, there are things she should consider implementing now for breastfeeding to be successful.

3. A mother of new baby is already doing lots of laundry (especially if you cloth diaper)... the Milk Saver is not going to save you from doing oodles of laundry, as is suggested. And cloth diapering (with the laundry it entails) is much healthier for the environment than plastic disposables (something Milkies stands for - being environmentally friendly).

4. The mother states she is going to breastfeed at least a year, and maybe longer. I realize this comes from the AAP recommendation (which needs to be revised/updated) to breastfeed for a minimum of 12 months, and then beyond as long as mother/baby wish. But why not use the WHO and AAFP recommendation that breastfeeding continue to a bare minimum of 24 months? Anything less than this, and we know from countless research, that children suffer consequences. Let's not cut moms and their children short by propagating misinformation.

5. The mother in middle of this video discusses the Milk Saver and using her excess milk for cereal while her infant is on her lap. Why suggest or encourage feeding processed baby-glop to an infant this young when it does absolutely NO good (and a lot of harm) to the child? Again, see comment #1 above the first video. Let's not bolster any more cultural myths about infant feeding. Breastfed babies need nothing but their mother's milk for the first year (and some experts would argue 2 years) of life (2). Anything else during this time should be for 'experimentation' only (not forced or spoon-fed) and should not start until after the 8th month of life, or when baby can feed himself. The sooner you start non-breastmilk items in your baby's diet, the sooner your milk supply will decrease because baby is filling up on alternative food sources.

Milkies Milk Saver Video Clip:


For further information:

Breastfeeding Resources (Books, Websites, Articles) Here


Milkies Milk Saver Sold Here

Milkies Milk Saver Homepage Here




Notes:

1) Dr. Gabrielle Palmer (2009) The Politics of Breastfeeding

2) Dr. George Wootan (2000) Take Charge of Your Child's Health

13 comments:

  1. I wish these were available in more stores. I'm still unsure if I want a pump but I would absolutely love to have a milksaver on my baby registry. Double letdown is prevalent on both sides of my family, I was even told my grandma could squirt across the room with the non-feeding breast! My husband also wants to be able to take the baby out and I'm nervous about him/her getting hungry away from me. The milksaver might be enough for me to get a couple ounces to send him out with, just in case, without having to pump and risk getting a blocked duct when I stop pumping.

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  2. First of all-thanks for your wonderful blog and educating parents about the benefits of breastfeeding. Another thanks is owed for reviewing our videos and comments so thoroughly.

    When we first started Milkies we had a lot to learn (I cringe when I watch our 2007 demo video, yikes!) We do have a responsibility to disseminate evidence-based information to families and will certainly be careful to make comments supported by research, AAP and WHO recommendations.

    We are passionate about lowering barriers some moms face and making breastfeeding a cultural norm.

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  3. I have one and am waiting to use it when baby comes. However I could not imagine using it at any other time than when I am nursing because they are HUGE! not discreet at all. It is more for letdown than anything. I'll let you know how it works!

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  4. I have a Milkies and I've only used it to collect milk on the other side while I'm nursing. I had no idea how much milk leaked while I was nursing. I like it.

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  5. I am concerned about the lack of any mention that especially in the early weeks and months of breastfeeding, the pressure exerted by shells (I think this article referred to shields, which are actually a different product altogether) can CAUSE breasts to leak, and can actually reduce supply. A "slow leak" -- expressing enough milk to reduce pressure without stimulating or emptying the breast sends the body a signal that less milk is needed.

    For those who are constantly leaking from oversupply, this might be a nice way to collect that milk and yes, reduce supply slightly, rather than throw it away in breastpads. But anyone doing this should be careful because supply can adjust quickly and may reduce more than desired.

    In any case, I think it's worth knowing that this sort of constant pressure and leaking can lead to a reduced supply, whether it is desired or not.

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  6. I have a Milkies- I really like it and am glad that I purchased it. I donate my excess milk to my SIL for my niece, and this is one really easy way to collect milk for her without having to pump all the time, which for me seems to bring in so much extra milk that I'm uncomfortable. I have a 1-2 oz let down on one side, and I have to use something- either this or a breast pad. This cloth breast pads I've found aren't sufficient, they end up leaking anyway, and I don't like the disposables because of the expense and the extra trash they create. So the Milkies was really the perfect solution. It's definitely not something I feel like I can use when I'm NIP, however, it's a bit difficult to handle when it's full of milk and you're holding a squirmy infant, and not nearly as discreet as how it's shown in the advert. I generally keep it by my couch so I can just tuck it in when I'm settling down to nurse. And it is AMAZING how much milk you leak, and I think if more women collected their milk it would dispel the myth that so many mothers "don't produce enough milk". Anyway- this is just one of those products that makes my life easier, although it's not a necessity for me it is something very nice to have. Although I think it's great to remind women they don't NEED anything other than a boob and a baby to breastfeed, we shouldn't feel bad about using products that make it easier for us- it seems like there is a bit of mommy competition among some breastfeeders...the women out there that don't own special nursing bras, tops, pumps, bottles, covers, milk savers, etc seem to think that's the only way to do things and if you buy special products you're foolish. Even if you bought EVERY SINGLE breastfeeding support product on the market, you still wouldn't spend nearly as much as you would on formula, and assuming you bf more than one child it's not really a bad investment. And if it helps make breastfeeding easier and more comfortable for you, you're more likely to breastfeed well past the 6 month mark which should be the goal.

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  7. I just put the pump up to the other breast when I was nursing as the only time I really leaked was when I was bfing. Both breasts letdown at the same time.

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  8. I have one.... and didnt really like it... I dont know if its because I have larger breasts or what... But it didnt work for me the way I thought it would... But good to see the positive stories on it!!!

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  9. Question - how long is the drip-milk that is collected good for? If you are checking and emptying often, is the drip milk subject to the same expiry times/dates as pumped/expressed milk?

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  10. I have one, and it is not nearly as discreet as it is advertised. We use it at home on the non-nursing side to collect the let down. My question: for let down, I'm collecting a good 2oz per session, however, does it contain any hindmilk at all? I've been adding it to my pumped milk at the end of the day in the hopes of getting it mixed in with the hindmilk that is produced during those sessions. Thanks in advance...

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  11. Can Milkies be worn while sleeping? The breast shields have holes in the top and would leak out when lying down. My let-down is triggered very easily (maybe I dream about baby?) and I frequently wake up soaked, through nursing pads. I understand the yeast issue, I'm wondering if these would leak while lying down.

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  12. No, they can't be worn while sleeping because they are completely open at the top. They should also be removed before laying baby down lest you want to wake her up by dumping milk on her head ;-)

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  13. This was very helpful to me! Thank you for the comparison and details. Appreciated!

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