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Kelly Emery of Gold Coast Doulas holding a boob mug

Breastfeeding Gadgets with Kelly Emery, IBCLC: Podcast Episode #231

Kelly shares the pros and cons of top breastfeeding gadgets with Kristin in the latest episode of Ask the Doulas.  Check out her free gadget videos here and subscribe to her YouTube Channel and her Breast Friends Forever Club for more videos as Kelly comes across more gadgets and the latest lactation research.

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with our resident breastfeeding expert, Kelly Emery.  Kelly teaching breastfeeding classes with Gold Coast Doulas, and she owns Baby Beloved.  She is a registered nurse and international board certified lactation consultant.  Hello, Kelly!

Hey, Kristin.  How are you today?

Doing well!  So our topic of the day is breastfeeding gadgets.  I know that you encounter – there are so many new gadgets that I can’t even keep up with everything on the market.  I would love to hear your thoughts on what you and your clients are loving, what you feel neutral, and what is a negative in your book.

Sure.  It is hard to keep up sometimes.  I’ve been doing this since 1994, and these gadgets have exploded.  I think it’s the internet.  There’s a market for all these things.  It spreads like wildfire.  If somebody says, oh, I used this product and it helped me a lot, it’s going to spread like wildfire.

Exactly.  Whether it’s TikTok, a moms’ group, influencers.  There’s just so many more ways to communicate new products on the market than there used to be.

Yeah.  And more moms are breastfeeding, too, and there’s inventive people out there trying to get some solutions for some nursing problems, so I get it.  I understand it.  I try to, with my clients that I see, go over the pros and the cons, and is this really helping or is it making things worse?  Just like with any product, there’s going to be a little bit of detective work to see if this is really working or not.

Definitely.  So what is your first product?

I have ten little gadgets that I gathered together that I think are some of the biggest ones that I see in my practice.  The first one is the Silverette.  They’re these silver cups, and they look like little rounded hats.  You put them on your nipples, in between your bra and your nipples.  It has a cooling effect.  It has silver in there, which has some antibacterial properties.  And it stops your nipples from rubbing against the bra if that’s something that irritates you.  Pros and cons: they can be very soothing.  One of the cons is they’re very expensive.  They’re in the $60-70 range.  There are some that I’ve seen that knockoffs, probably less silver in them these days, so there are some out there in maybe the $30-40 range.  But typically the really good silver ones are $60-70.  They come in two different sizes, so if you have a smaller nipple or a larger nipple, you can get those.  It’s hard to tell when you’re ordering it on the website.  I don’t know what their return policy is, but hopefully they would take it back if you got the wrong size.  Typically, they would both work.

One of the cons that I see and other lactation consultants that I see is when moms are using them too long.  We even have a word for it, called the Silverette sign.  If moms are eight weeks in and still using the Silverettes, something might be going on here.  Do you still really need those?  Why are you still in pain six to eight weeks in?  The Silverette sign is something that we look for if moms are still using them on a daily basis for pain.

The other thing is they kind of collect if moms leak.  Not every mom leaks, of course, but if you do leak and your Silverettes kind of are wet all the time and your nipple skin is bathed in wetness 24/7, that can irritate the skin.  Think of wearing a bathing suit all the time; you’re going to irritate the skin.  So if you’re leaking a lot into them, I would definitely give them some dry time in between, or else it’s always wet.  It’s going to damage the skin.  That’s my two cents on Silverettes; the pros and cons.  If you do use it, I would use it for a short amount of time, and if you’re not getting better with them, I would reach out for help.

Excellent advice.  What’s next?

The next one  is the massagers.  There’s many on the market.  One is called LaVie.  They can heat up; they can vibrate, and it’s a little thing that you can put on if you have some tenderness or some hardness on your breasts; you can put it over that area.  A lot of moms swear by them.  I think you can turn the heat on or off, so you can do just vibration or just heat or both.  That’s kind of nice.  And sometimes it feels really good to maybe unclog some stuff or if you feel like you have some hardness in your breasts, you can pop it into your bra and it just sits in there.  It’s kind of thinnish.  It’s not that big, so you can kind of pop it in there and just go about your day.  But one of the things with the massagers – I would be careful of them not getting too rough because some of the things that we find with mastitis, which is basically inflammation of the breasts, any kind of hardness that you may feel, you don’t want to be too rough with the breast tissue.  You don’t want to push really hard on the breasts.  It’s kind of like petting a cat.  You want to do gentle breast manipulation.

Similar to what you do in the shower when you have some clogged ducts, yes.

Yes, just something kind of gentle.  Just don’t try to bruise yourself.  We’re finding that with too much pressure on our breasts, it just inflames the tissue even more, which makes total sense.  And then all the tissue around that area is even more inflamed, so that’s no good.  With the massagers, I would use cold instead of heat.  There’s a new protocol out this year about breast pain, and it’s a lot caused by inflammation.  And what do we do when we’re inflamed, like when we twist our ankle and it swells up?  We put ice on it.  We don’t put heat on it.  So if you did want to use one of these massagers, I would be hesitant to use too much power, but also, I would focus more on cold if you did like the sound of this massager.  That’s about all I have to say about that one.

Excellent advice.  What’s number three on your list?

Number three is the hydrogel pads.  I actually used these.  They’re for moist wound healing, and in my days when I would work in the hospital, like with elderly patients – I’ve worked in nursing homes with elderly patients and stuff like that a long, long time ago – during nursing school, we would use these pads that would be kind of like loose dressings that would go over the skin, and it kind of helps the skin prevent a scab from forming.  It helps kind of heal from the inside out, sort of.  So sometimes moms who have almost like a rugburn on the face of their nipples – these can be very soothing.  Soothing for moms.  And you just wear them for 24 hours, maybe 48 hours, and it should heal you enough.  Again, if you’re using the hydrogel pads for weeks and weeks and weeks, that’s another reason to reach out to a lactation consultant, too.  These should be temporary things.  They’re cooling, and they feel wonderful.  They’re cheap.  You can get four of them for, like, $5 at Target.  They’re easy to use.  You don’t have to really scrub your nipples or anything; they’re safe for baby.  Sometimes I tell moms to have some before you have a baby.  Put them in the fridge, and then if you do happen to get sore nipples, they’re there, and they’re cold and nice and soothing.  If you’re super cracked and bleeding and stuff like that, you may want to reach out to your lactation consultant or your doctor about another kind of healing method.  But those are nice for a little bit of minor pain on the tips of the nipples.

Right, and since it’s inexpensive, it’s good to have on hand.

Yeah.  If you don’t need them, you can always regift them to a friend.  Or use them on any other cut on your body, actually.  Like if you cut your knee or something like that.  They’re good for moist wound healing for any purpose.

So what’s next, Kelly?

The next one is a very popular one.  Milk collectors, so things like the Ladybug or the Hakka.  There are tons of brands.  It’s just exploded.  They’re sometimes circular or oval, and you can pop them right into your bra.  Sometimes you can have suction on them and sometimes not; they just hold them there.  But if you leak, say you start nursing on one side and you’re leaking on the other side, you can collect some milk.  You can get milk passively, because when you let down on one side, you also let down on the other side.  Sometimes, some women who leak can put that little collector in, and then they have a little bit of milk to put in their freezer or whatever they want to do with it.

I could have used those for sure when I was breastfeeding.

I know.  I would just put a cloth diaper into my bra because otherwise my whole bra would get soaked on the other side.  So there’s good and bad.  It’s nice and convenient, a way to get a little milk, and everything kind of passive.  The downside that I see of this is that, number one, it’s something you have to carry around all the time.  It can become another thing I have to wash, another thing I have to carry around, all that stuff.  The other downside that I see is if you start getting too much milk in this thing.  If you’re using it eight to ten times a day and you’re getting two ounces each time, that’s 20 ounces a day.  That’s another baby.  You’re telling your body that you’ve got twins, basically.  And this perpetuates an oversupply, which can be – sounds like a good thing, but then it’s a job.  It’s a job if you’re having to do both.  Now you have to take the collector with you to take out this milk, otherwise you’re going to be uncomfortable on the other side.  So pros and cons of it, I would say just use it sparingly and judiciously.  And also, I’ve seen this too, Kristin, where a mom nurses – say she starts on the right side.  She puts that collector on the left side, and it takes out two ounces.  Now when she moves baby over to the left side, they’re frustrated because somebody – the Hakka – just took out all my milk.  Like, what are you doing here?  Not that your breasts won’t regenerate more milk, but it’s going to be a little harder for the baby to get the milk out because we just basically pumped out or removed two ounces from the left side.  So I always tell moms to give baby first dibs on both sides.  So if you start on the right and then you go to the left, then you can put the Hakka on the right side that baby is already done with.  Does that make sense?  Let the baby have the first dibs at the milk, and then whatever’s left over – half an ounce, a little quarter ounce, anything like that on the other side, you can squirrel that away for a nice little stash for going back to work or whatever.  But it’s not like removing so much milk that it’s going to make the baby upset.

Good point.  Okay. 

The next one is alcohol strips.  You may see them – well, all over Target and on the internet.  So if moms want to have some alcohol and they’re kind of wondering if it’s going to be safe for me to give my baby this milk –

It’s one of the most common mom Facebook group questions.  I have to go this event, like a wedding, for example.  Can I have a drink?  I’m still breastfeeding.  The whole bit.  It’s still a very common question.

Interesting.  That’s probably why this product has come along and is still on the market because there’s that question about this education.  And I will tell you that just from a physiological standpoint, your blood alcohol level and your milk alcohol level are the same.  So if you start drinking and your blood alcohol level goes up, at that same time, your milk alcohol level is going to go up as well because alcohol crosses over so well.  However, as you sober up – say it’s been a couple hours since your last drink.  As your blood alcohol level goes down, your milk alcohol level is also going to come down.  So you don’t have to pump and dump.  Your liver – your whole system, your body is going to filter it back out, into your liver, out of your body, out of your milk.  So it’s not something that you have to really worry about if you give it some time.  Time is what’s going to make your alcohol level go down in your milk.  I usually tell moms, feed your baby, and right after that, then you can start drinking.  Or say you’re at a wedding and you don’t have your baby.  Pump, and then you can start drinking, and then, say, three hours later, if you didn’t drink a lot, that alcohol should be out of your system, and you can just pump that milk and keep it.  If for some reason you’re drunk when you’re pumping, then that’s a different story, because if you’re drunk and you’re not even safe enough to drive, then I know your alcohol level is high in your bloodstream, so I know it’s high in your milk, as well.  So for those instances where you’re like, okay, overdid it here; I’ve got to pump, though, because my breasts are going to explode – for that milk, I would still keep it, but I would label it high alcohol milk, and then what you can do when you go home, you can dilute it with your other stash.  You can dilute it with 20% of the high alcohol milk and 80% fresh milk without alcohol.  Does that make sense?

It does.

A little bit of alcohol is fine.  If you’re safe enough to hold your baby, you’re safe enough to breastfeed your baby.  We’ll put it that way.  If you don’t feel safe walking around holding your baby or driving or anything like that, yeah, then I would pump and either dump it or label it and save it, like dilute it with other milk if you want to go to that trouble.

The alcohol strips, they will work, but sometimes they’ve gotten some false positives.  I’ve seen this in a lot of literature that we look at; it’s not 100%.  Those alcohol strips are not 100%.  I think moms mainly can just trust their body.  If they have an alcohol problem, this is a different conversation to have with their doctor and lactation, everything like that.  But if they have someone around them, if they have a friend, if they have someone else who – definitely if they’re sober and they can kind of tell, oh, I think you shouldn’t be driving – then hopefully that person would kind of step in and say something, too.  Like, you should probably dump this milk if you’re going to pump it, or we can save it.  We can do a milk bath with it, for heaven’s sakes.  You don’t have to totally throw it away.  The strips are okay, but I just wouldn’t make that the only definitive thing.  I would say, what was my state of mind?  What was my alcohol level at that time when I was actually pumping?  Does that make sense?

It does. 

Typically, we process alcohol about a drink per hour.  So that’s, like, a beer, a glass of wine, all of those.  We process it out of our body about a drink per hour, if that makes sense.  So if you had one drink, definitely by two or three hours, that’s going to be out of your system.

Right.  So meeting a friend for happy hour, going to a wedding, that would be fine with one drink.

That would be completely fine.  If you have four drinks within two hours, then that’s a different story.

Thank you for clarifying.

No problem.  The next one is cooling packs.  Number six is cooling packs, and those are – you can’t not see them on the internet.  You can put them in your freezer; you can put them in your refrigerator.  Sometimes you can put them in your microwave to heat them up.  They’re nice.  Some of them are very – like, there’s booby tubes that are nice and soft and you can just kind of wrap them around and put them inside your bra.  So especially with cooling packs, for anything with inflammation, when we get a hard area in our breast or red on our breast or if we get engorged for day three, four, five when our milk is coming in and we’re engorged, or say we’re ready to wean and getting engorged – cold is the way to go.  It’s going to help inflammation go away.  It’s going to constrict your blood vessels.  Lots of good things about being cool.  So the cold packs – especially the softer ones fit really nicely.  If you don’t have the money for that or if you’re in a pickle, I also have moms take just diapers, like baby diapers, and fill them with water and put them in the freezer.  They have a nice shape around them that they fit around the breast really well.  When they leak, they usually just go into the diaper again.  They’re not going to leak all over your bra.  The other one is just some frozen peas wrapped in a towel, if that’s all you’ve got and you have, like, one little area that’s kind of hard or painful to touch, you can get some frozen peas.  Right next to your skin is probably going to be a little too cold, so wrap it in a thin towel and then just put it on that area.  You can go all the way from those fancy things all the way down to just some frozen corn in your freezer for that.

Excellent. 

And then the next one is pillows.  There are so many pillows on the market.  We don’t have Babies R Us around here anymore, but on the internet, it’s a ton of options nowadays.

Yeah, it’s not just Boppy and My Breast Friend.  There are so many on the market.

So many.  And whenever moms come to my office to help with lactation, I always broach it as this is going to be a personal thing.  When moms are first starting, especially if they have a C-section, and they don’t want baby even potentially bumping into their C-section scar, their incision – they like the thought of a pillow.  So, cool.  You can use pillows.  And a lot of moms do in the beginning when they’re first getting – it’s kind of like training wheels.  You start with all this stuff that helps you focus and helps you feel your confidence when you first start this.  But over time, moms usually will ditch the pillow because it’s in the other room and I’ve just got to feed, or I’m out and I don’t want to have to carry this big pillow with me.

Exactly.  Or with baby two or three, it’s like, all right, I’ve got this.

Yeah.  Sometimes just using your arm and sometimes if you’re out, you can put your diaper bag underneath your elbow for support or find a chair that has an armrest with it.  When they’re in my office, I usually take that opportunity to say, would you like to try without a pillow, just old school?  Like it’s 1624.  It’s not 2024.  And they don’t even have nursing pillows.  Do you want to try it old school mammalian way?  And they usually do, and it’s so cool to be able to show them how they can do this without any devices.  That gives them flexibility for going out, or if I forgot my pillow or I’m in the back of my car and the baby’s screaming and I have to feed in the car.  Then you can just do it old school, and it’s nice to have a pillow, but it’s also nice to know that you can do it without it, too.

So what’s next?

The next one is breast shells.  One is for inverted nipples or nipples that kind of fold in.  So there are shells that you can use that are kind of smaller.  They fit at the base of your nipple and they kind of help draw it out.  There’s no crazy good research saying that using them prenatally will actually make your nipples stick out postnatally, but sometimes it helps to – what I find it helpful with is if moms are engorged.  It’s kind of like reverse pressure softening, which means you’re putting a little pressure at the base of the nipple, pushing fluid back into the areola.  So sometimes if we’ve had a lot of IV fluids in labor and delivery, sometimes we can get some edema around our nipples or areola area, and the nipple kind of flattens out.  You can either use reverse pressure softening with your fingers, or you can wear those little shells inside your bra.  Another one is for – the wider opening of the breast shells is for sore nipples.  You can put those inside your bra, just like the Silverettes, so your nipple is not rubbing against fabric if you’re tender.  I will tell you with both of those things, breast shells too, make sure your bra is not too tight.  Because I’ve had it where moms put it in, but the bra is really tight, and then you take it off and there’s a big ring, like it’s been pushing into your skin.  That’s not good, either.  If you did want to use a tank top or something that’s not so tight against your breast, that’s better.  If you’re using these for too long, past the first week or two, then I would reach out for help to see what’s going on about why you’re still sore and needing those.

Then number nine is nipple everters.  It’s Lansinoh brand.  That’s the only one I know of, Lansinoh brand.  It’s purple.  It looks like a little bicycle horn, like you’d have on your bicycle.  You put it over your nipples, and – well, you squeeze and then put it over your nipples, and then you let go.  It suctions your nipple in there and pulls it out.  That’s something if moms have flatter nipples or their nipples kind of dimple in or they’re inverted, sometimes that helps bring it out long enough for the baby to latch.  Sometimes in the hospital, they even have them in the hospital and the nurses will give it to you right after delivery.

Pros and cons of that – pros is that it can work well to pull out your nipple, for some women, not everybody.  The cons are, I’ve seen some moms use it and it’s too much pressure and it leaves a hickey.  So if you are going to use those, be really careful about your suction level and don’t bruise yourself or leave yourself a hickey around your nipple, because that can make you sore.  That’s no good, either.

Again, going back to old school, if you didn’t have your everter – it fell on the ground, you can’t find it – you can just take your pointer finger and your thumb and just roll the base of your nipple.  Not the areola, but just right at the base.  You can roll it gently between your fingers, and often it pops out enough for baby to find it and to latch, as well.  So that’s another idea.

Excellent tip.  One more?

Yes, we made it.  The last one is going to be about lubrications and ointments.  With lubrications, there’s a lot of things out there.  A ton; again, a ton of ointments on the market out there, and some are very helpful.  There’s some with lanolin, there’s non-lanolin, there’s coconut oil.  Calendula oil.  There’s tons of little things out there.

So many organic ones.  Earth Mama.

Yeah.  So many to choose from.  Earth Mama, Angel Baby, Mother Love.  There’s just a lot on the market, and they’re all going to be probably pretty soothing to you.  Usually hypoallergenic, and they’re not going to cause any problems.  You’re always going to want to look.  If it’s got some weird things in there, you’re going to want to test it on the inside of your wrist a little bit to make sure you’re not allergic to it.  I have had some moms who, even though it’s supposed to be hypoallergenic, lanolin is irritating to them.  If they use it on other parts of their skin, they’re like oh, I had a reaction.  No wonder.  I’ve been using this ointment for four weeks.  No wonder I’m sore.  So just kind of test it just to make sure that you’re not allergic to some component of it.  Again, some babies, you put on ointment and the baby doesn’t like the taste of it, so you’d want to dab it off.  Some are like, oh, what is this?  This does not taste like you, Mom, and it’s too slippery; it’s too oily.  I’m not going to do it.  So you can just gently dab it off before you nurse.  Then there are lubrications, like for pumping.  There are pump sprays out there.  Sometimes it can make a really big difference.  You’re going to want to get the right size of brush shield flanges, and a lactation consultant can help you with that.  But also, especially if you’re a little tender, a dab of that stuff around the base can really help with comfort, too.  You can use coconut oil.  Anything food grade, like coconut oil or olive oil if your skin isn’t sensitive to that, or any of those pumping sprays on the market.  You can go all the way up to buying a pumping spray all the way down to just grabbing some coconut oil from the your kitchen from wherever you keep it.  And just a tiny dab will do you.  With any of these ointments, you don’t have to overdo it because it can get too slippery, and that can make you increase your suction on your pump too much, and then we cause damage.  Just a little dab will do you.  Everything in moderation.  And some moms don’t have time or money for any of that and will just use their own milk.  You can hand express some of your own milk and rub it into your nipple or rub it onto the breast shield while you’re pumping.  That might be the old school way to do it, as well.

Thank you for sharing all of your gear tips!  I appreciate your expertise!

You know, and Kristin, I’m not someone to take away a gadget that’s working for someone.  I know that sometimes you find something – if you’re desperate and you’re looking for hope and you find something and it works, you’re going to say, I don’t care.  This works for me.  I’m not going to give this up.  This one thing really works for me; I’m not giving it up.  So, cool.  If it’s working for you, beautiful.  If it’s something that is going long term –

It’s like a crutch in a way.

Yeah.  Say with the massager, you’ve got a lump, and you get rid of it.  But then it comes back again.  If you’re needing this massager, like if you keep getting lumps and you need the massager, yes, it gets rid of the lump, but then why are we still getting lumps?  I would recommend doing some true detective work about figuring out why we keep getting this issue.  Why are we still sore a month later?  What’s going on?  And that’s where it would be good – if you find you’re using too much of these gadgets all the time, it might be a good point in your lactation journey to reach out to a consultant to figure out why we’re needing these going forward and how we can maybe get rid of some of these training wheels so maybe we don’t need it anymore.

Exactly.  Any final tips for our listeners, Kelly?

No.  I mean, I went through these quickly, but I have a YouTube channel, and on my website, I’ve got videos where I go through all of these ten things and more, just about old school breastfeeding stuff and – there’s lots of stuff on there on my free resources page.  That’s where I have all the videos, and I go more in depth about these ten things that we just talked about.

Excellent.  And I wanted to give you a shout out.  You are an amazing contributor in our upcoming book, Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby, in the feeding section of the book.  That will be out on Mother’s Day, actually.  So very soon!  Thank you for sharing your wisdom with our readers and our Ask the Doulas podcast listeners.

Yeah, you’re welcome!  And congratulations on this book!  It’s no easy thing to write a book, so congratulations to you.  I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy!

Can’t wait for you to see it in person!  And I would love for you – you shared your website, Kelly, but for you to share your other social media channels.  You mentioned your YouTube channel.  You’re on Instagram, Facebook, and so on?

Yeah.  All of the things.  You can find me – usually, it’s going to be “inc.”  Somebody else had Baby Beloved, so I had to do Baby Beloved Inc.  So @babybelovedinc.  That would be my handle for Instagram, Facebook, and my website, too.

Thank you so much, and we’ll have to chat about pumps next time.

Absolutely.  There’s a lot on the market for those, too.

Definitely.  Thank you!

 

IMPORTANT LINKS

Baby Beloved

Kelly’s free resources

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother class

Kelly’s lactation class at Gold Coast

 

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