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What you need to know about the haakaa silicone breast pump

Updated: Jun 13

Understanding the haakaa


The haakaa, a one-piece silicone breast pump, has become quite popular in recent years. The internet declares it is a "must-have" for all breastfeeding parents! I rarely meet a new mom who doesn't have one.


And what is it? The haakaa is a simple, one-piece silicone breast pump that suctions to the breast, creating negative pressure that pulls and collects breastmilk quietly and quickly. It is often used on one breast while a mom breastfeeds from the other. Sounds efficient!


While I do believe the haakaa has a place in the breastfeeding tool bag, I'm also aware that many parents don't know about the potential dangers associated with haakaa use. In this post, I explore a few significant issues I've been seeing: oversupply, slow weight gain, and breast damage. All parents need to know about these risks when considering using a haakaa.


haakaa silicone breast pump
haakaa silicone breast pump: the risks

What you need to know about the haakaa silicone breast pump: the risks


Oversupply


The most common issue I see with haakaa use is the development of an oversupply of breast milk. Many parents think of the haakaa as a passive "milk collector" that catches the extra milk that would have otherwise spilled onto a shirt or cloth. In fact, the haakaa is a breast pump. It can catch let-down milk, but it is usually suctioned to the breast, which creates a negative pressure, drawing milk from the breast and stimulating milk production.


The Problem:

  • Too much milk: The more milk you remove from your body, the more milk your body will make. Regular haakaa use can signal your body to produce more milk than your baby needs, which can lead to engorgement, discomfort, and frequent leaking.

  • Mastitis risk: Oversupply increases the risk of inflammation in the breast, blocked ducts, and mastitis. Mastitis is a medical condition that can be painful, require antibiotics, and interrupt breastfeeding.


Solution:

  • Moderation: Use the haakaa sparingly and only when necessary. Instead of using it every time you breastfeed, limit its use to specific times and with a goal in mind, like collecting just enough milk for one bottle.

  • Observe: Pay attention to your body’s response and slowly reduce unnecessary haakaa use to avoid or reduce an oversupply. You may wish to work with a lactation professional who can help you safely reduce an oversupply.


Slow Weight Gain


One really unfortunate issue associated with excessive haakaa use is babies with slow weight gain. This happens when babies gain weight more slowly than expected or begin dropping from their established growth curve. This can lead to supplementing with bottle feeds, adding formula, more pumping, triple feeding, and a lot of stress.


The Problem:

  • Milk thief: I sometimes see a mother feeding her baby on the first breast with her Haakaa suctioned onto the second breast. What happens then, is the haakaa pulls and collects milk from the second breast while the baby feeds from the first breast. When the baby switches sides and begins feeding on the second breast, most of the milk in that breast is already gone, having been collected by the Haakaa.

  • Fewer calories: Some easy-going babies are content to suck on the second breast and seem satisfied without much milk coming. Unfortunately, these babies end their feed with fewer calories than expected and are at risk of slower weight gain.

  • Vicious cycle: Babies with slow weight gain are at greater risk of "faltering growth" or "failure to thrive." In these cases, health practitioners often encourage supplementing additional calories by bottle. Parents may increase haakaa use to collect more milk for their baby's bottle top-ups. Some babies, frustrated with the slow or inadequate milk flow at the breast, may develop a flow preference and prefer bottle feeds. This can lead to breast refusal, more pumping, decreased milk supply, and lots of stress.


Solution:

  • Baby first: Offer both breasts to your baby first before using the haakaa. Use the haakaa only after your baby has finished feeding on that side. It will collect any remaining milk without interrupting the natural feeding process.

  • Monitor weight: Monitor your baby’s weight gain closely. Consult with a lactation consultant if you have any concerns.


Breast damage


Using a haakaa can sometimes lead to breast pain, nipple pain, or tissue damage. The suction mechanism, while gentle, is constant and can cause discomfort if used excessively or incorrectly.


The Problem:

  • Overuse: Frequent and prolonged suction can lead to sore nipples, bruising, or even tissue damage.

  • Poor positioning: Improper positioning of the haakaa can strain breast tissue, leading to pain and potential damage.

  • Milk bleb "hack": Although this solution has been shared all over social media, using a Haakaa to clear a bleb is not recommended. The strong suction can exacerbate pain and damage delicate breast tissue.


Solution:

  • Limit use: Avoid frequent and prolonged suction. Monitor for signs of discomfort and damage.

  • Careful placement: Position your nipple in the middle of the flange opening, then release the squeeze to create a vacuum seal, ensuring your nipple is comfortably centered and not pressed against the sides. Ensure correct placement every time.

  • Gentle methods: Use gentle methods to treat and heal breasts and nipples. Methods like cool compresses, gentle massage, and consulting a healthcare professional are safer and more effective.

In summary


While the haakaa silicone breast pump can be helpful for breastfeeding and milk supply, it’s essential to be aware of the potential pitfalls. Oversupply, slow weight gain, and breast damage are serious issues that can happen with improper, prolonged, and/or excessive use. It's important to understand these risks and take steps to mitigate them. If you need help, reach out to a lactation consultant for personalized advice and support.


 

Do you have questions? Need help getting breastfeeding off to a good start? Book a support session with me today!






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