The Letdown Catcher: An Easy Way to Collect Breast Milk!
Updated: Apr 18, 2022
While I recently ended my breastfeeding journey with my second baby, I haven't lost my passion for it. When I had my first son, I never used a letdown catcher (also known as a milk catcher and some companies refer to them as hand pumps even though they do not function the same as a traditional hand pump). After giving birth to my second, Ryland, I was excited to try it. I am so glad that I did. I did not use my double electric pump once during my breastfeeding journey with Ryland! I used this amazing, affordable device to collect breast milk for the first 6 months of his life (and then started using my hand pump as well).
The conceptual design is simple and I wish that I had thought of it myself. While feeding the baby on one side, simply place the letdown catcher on the other side (with or without suction) and it will collect leaking/letdown milk from the breast that the baby is not feeding on. When I used it with Ryland I would typically get 5 - 6 ounces in the morning. It was great because when he was a month or so I would collect enough in the morning to freeze for two feedings.
So... how does it work? Easy! You simply invert the top (see photo below) and center the device around your nipple and areola. Flip the top back (to it's original state) while it is centered around your nipple and areola and then compress the collection container at the bottom so that it creates suction. Some are able to skip the invert step by simply centering it around their nipple and areola and squeezing the collection container into proper position. Others are able to apply it by squeezing the collection container first, then centering it around the nipple and areola and releasing the container to apply suction as the final step. Every person's anatomy is different so if one of these techniques doesn't work I suggested trying another. If you are using a cradle or cross cradle position it is possible that the baby may kick it off. You can try using the football hold while using the device for this reason. I have also placed it in between the baby's legs while they are still and had success using it this way. You could also utilize a pillow to help stabilize it. You can also use this device as a passive collection container if you leak a lot and do not want to apply suction or if you have an oversupply and want to avoid overstimulating your milk supply, for example (see below for more information).
What is great about this is it takes the pressure off from feeling like you have to feed the baby on both sides when baby is satisfied from feeding on one side, especially in the early days and when experiencing engorgement shortly after birth. It can help provide relief by removing milk from the opposite breast (that baby is not feeding from and won't be feeding from since baby is achieving satiation on the first side). Some will need to take caution when doing so as removing too much milk can signal to the body to produce more and cause discomfort. Removing just enough so that the breast softens and feels comfortable and then removing it may be appropriate for some in this particular scenario. Keep in mind that the device has the ability to work both passively (no suction) and actively (suction). Applying suction provides the active aspect (this will remove more milk than what is leaking/letting down and/or can stimulate milk supply for some) while applying it without suction to catch letdown/leaking milk into the collection container serves as the passive. You can squeeze it and "pump" it, but you don't have to. You can simply leave it in place and the milk will drain from the opposite breast.
Milk must be removed to signal to the body to produce more! Some need to use caution when using this device. In the case of engorgement, for example, you can use the letdown catcher until the breast is supple and no longer engorged and then remove it. Leaving it on, especially with suction, for longer could exacerbate engorgement. If you have concerns about milk supply, this device may or may not be helpful for you. I have seen it help stimulate supply for some and not be helpful for others. Each person's lactation journey is different. What may stimulate milk supply for one person may not for the next.
If you have any questions about the device or concerns about how it may or may not affect your supply, engorgement, etc. feel free to reach out.
Lisa Grossman, RN, BSN, PHN, OCN, CLC
South Bay Baby Care, Inc.
**This is an opinion post and was written based on personal and anecdotal experiences. This blog post is not meant to serve as personal medical advice. The device mentioned works differently for each person. Please consult with your licensed medical professional with any personal questions or concerns.
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