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Hygeia Q pump and Medela bottle compatibility circus

My health insurance covered a Hygeia Q double electric pump, which the hospital gave me on my daughter’s 2nd day of life (technically, after a 10 minute first day) due to latch issues.  It has been over 5 months since K was born, so my memory of the timeline is a little fuzzy.  It was clear to me after 1-2 days of being home that K was more yellow than she should be and wasn’t feeding well.  I went to a lactation consultant who gave me some help and also asked me to see K’s doctor.  We got a bili blanket for her, and continued breastfeeding help for both of us.  I learned compressions, manual expression, and the suggestion was made that I get different flanges for my pump.  K was losing weight, weigh-ins confirmed that she wasn’t breastfeeding efficiently, and it seemed like my milk wasn’t coming in when it should.  It was a Friday.  No one in town sold parts compatible with Hygeia pumps, and ordering them would have taken at least two days, which is not acceptable with a starving baby.  The lactation consultant recommended buying Medela parts, which were available locally.  The unfortunate part of this solution is that it required replacing everything but the pump itself and the tubing.  The breast shields, the connector to the bottle, the bottles and their valvle and membrane were all different.  This was expensive, but whatever… starving baby.  After 5 months, I have purchased every known size of flange, and maybe this information will help someone else.

To work with the Hygeia Q, I had to purchase:

PersonalFit Connectors
PersonalFit Breastshields: This link is for the 36mm (largest). I went through every size available trying to find something that worked for me.
Extra Valves and Membranes
Breastmilk bottles with nipples

Buying these parts locally was about 2x as expensive as buying them online, but there was no choice. The local shop was nice enough to hook my pump body up to some test parts that they had to test suction, and confirmed that it would work. Supposedly there are adapters available to go between large mouth and narrow mouth bottles that may have been helpful in this case, but I have never seen them or tried them.

Other helpful parts:
Breastmilk storage bottles without nipples
Extra long tubing: This tubing says it is for Pump in Style and Pump in Style Advanced, but it also fits the Hygeia Q. Take a look at the closeups of the connectors. You want bare tubing on one end and a simple looking connector on the other. Extra long tubing is nice to have if you pump at a desk. I found the tubing that came with the pump was just a little too short.
Hands Free Bra: I bought the Signature Hands Free Pumping Bra, and it really is nice to have. The manufacturer’s site explains the sizing.
Pumpin’ Pal Super Shields: these eliminate the sharp angle between the conical flange and the nipple tube on the usual breast shields. They also angle downward so it’s not necessary to lean forward to clear the nipple tube as often (which also meant I was less likely to get milk in the tubing).

Tips: I had a heck of a time getting the yellow valves off of the breastshield connectors for cleaning until I read a tip that you should rock them back and forth rather than twisting to try to remove them. It works! Also, if milk gets in the tubing you can rinse with water and some rubbing alcohol and whip the tubes around like a lasso to dry them. It looks and feels kind of nutty, but it works.

My thoughts on the Hygeia Q itself: I’m grateful that my insurance covered a double electric pump, and I’m also grateful that this should be one I can resell because it’s a “closed system”. It’s loud. It’s not any louder or quieter than the hospital grade Medelas that my friends rented. I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but mine didn’t come with a carrying bag or even nipples for the bottles. I got the pump, “standard” size flanges with attached connectors (they do NOT detach, despite looking like they might), duckbill valves, bottles, and orange collars with a white disk insert. The writing rubbed off the bottles after a couple of months, so it was impossible to use them for measuring anything. The duckbill valves seemed ok, but I didn’t use them for very long. The manufacturer does sell some additional flanges/breast shield sizes on their website, but I don’t recall a great deal of variety, maybe 3 sizes. Occasionally I found that the membrane disk where the tubing connects to the pump had come slightly loose, and had to be twisted back on. The local shop tested the sucking power of the pump and told me that it would be way too harsh on full strength, but I found that I needed to turn it all the way up on both the speed and strength dials, so I wonder if faster might have been helpful. The pump is definitely not as fast as my baby, although strength seems similar on full strength. However, pumping has not been entirely successful for me and it’s a very individual thing, so experiment to find what works for you.

Since I had invested all of this money into Medela parts, I continued to use their bottles for feeding. Recently, daycare requested fast flow nipples, and I discovered that Medela doesn’t sell fast flow nipples! What? Argh! So…. what bottle parts are compatible with Medela bottles? To start with, I took one of my Medela nipple collars and nipples to Target and held it up against the displays (glued together, go figure) and the products in their boxes to discover that NOTHING looked similar. We had discovered early on that our glass Evenflo bottles were sort of compatible with Medela parts. I say sort of, because the Medela caps that came with the bottles with nipples didn’t work well with the Evenflo bottles, and the Medela nipple collars didn’t work well with the Evenflo bottles, but the Medela milk storage bottle caps did work with the Medela bottles, and it turns out that the Evenflo nipple collars work ok with the Medela bottles. Someone handed down a bunch of random bottle parts to me, and I just discovered that older style narrow-mouth Playtex Ventaire nipple collars will work with the Medela bottles. But Target doesn’t sell narrow-mouth Playtex products anymore. They do sell narrow mouth Dr. Brown’s, and finally I hit on a working solution:

Slow and Medium flow:
Medela bottles with Medela nipple collars and Medela nipples will work fine. Evenflo nipple collars and Medela milk STORAGE caps will also work fine with Medela bottles and Evenflo bottles. We had leaking issues with Medela nipple collars on Evenflo bottles and with a different style Medela cap on Evenflo bottles.

Fast flow:
Medela bottles with Evenflo nipple collars and Dr. Brown’s NARROW nipples. Medela bottles with NARROW Playtex Ventaire collars and NARROW Dr. Brown’s nipples is also a working solution. And of course, if you can find them I think the NARROW Playtex Ventaire nipples would work fine with either Evenflo collars or NARROW Playtex collars on Medela bottles. And maybe the Dr. Brown’s NARROW collars would work on Medela and Evenflo bottles, but I haven’t had the opportunity to test it, because it seems like it’s only possible to order the collars online.

What a pain this was to figure out. Of course the manufacturers want your brand loyalty, so they’re not going to work together to create a standard.

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