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Review: Unimom Forte# Double Breast Pump

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Shortly after I completed the review of the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Electric Breast Pump, I was offered another opportunity to test out a breast pump by the latest entrant into the Singapore market, Unimom: the Forte# Double Breast Pump.

Hell yeah! Call me the “breast pump lady” man..(says the husband).

The Forte# is a hospital grade electric double breast pump and is made in Korea. Now, I do own a “modified” double breast pump (I’ll write about that one another day) so I had certain levels of expectations for double breast pumps. On the other hand, the one I owned is not of a hospital grade, so that definitely piqued my curiousity of what the term “hospital grade” meant.

Donald collected the kit on his way home from work since it was difficult for me to lug two kids along with me, not knowing how big/small the box was going to be. Thankfully both kids were asleep when he brought it home. I eagerly pounced on it and was surprised at the weight of the bigger of the two boxes. How heavy was this thing??

Unimom's Electric Double Breast Pump & Switch Kit

Unimom’s Electric Double Breast Pump & Switch Kit

So in the bag was two boxes, the Forte# Electric Double Breast Pump, and a Switch Kit. The Switch Kit allows you to convert the electric pump into a manual pump. Who in the world would want to use a manual pump when you have an electric one?? Okay..desperate times calls for desperate measures. We still put it to the test but more on that later.

Parts
To be honest, when I first opened the box for the breast pump, I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of pieces inside the box. This presentation was a little unlike my other two pumps where you would have a tray with pieces and parts lying nicely. The parts of the Forte# came individually packed in zipped storage bags. The more I unpacked the more overwhelmed I was, considering the manual came in a brochure/pamphlet liked format. Yikes!

The pieces involved in the the box.

The pieces involved in the the box.

Okay..calm down. One step at a time. I’m sure we can do this. So here goes to slowly figuring out the pieces. On first glance, I was a little worried that washing and sterilising the parts were going to be a little  tedious.

the pump set up.

Top to bottom: top cover, large membrane & bottom cover (in one piece), breast shield & silicone massager, white valve and bottle

Now, as the pump comes with a motor and does not allow for the use of batteries to make it more portable, there is an alternative option of buying the Switch Kit to convert it to a manual pump so that you still can bring it out should you need to pump on the go. The Switch Kit did not come with a manual; you pretty much have to depend on the picture on the box to figure out how to set it up. I have not used a manual pump before so it took this “mountain tortoise” a while to figure it out how the pieces fall together.

the Switch Kit to convert the pump to a manual one

the Switch Kit to convert the pump to a manual one

 the manual pump set-up

Top to bottom: Diaphragm cover, handle, silicone diaphragm & stem (in one piece), breast shield & silicone massager, valve.

You see the little hook-like extension on the breast shield? Now you make sure that you hear a click (may be a clack or thwack ..you get the drift) to secure the handle onto the breast shield. There is a little groove under the handle to lock it onto the breast shield. Otherwise the diaphragm cover and whatever that is sitting under it may go flying as I learnt *grumbles*.

After the initial pump, the assembly of the parts didn’t seem as daunting any more. Firstly, as the top cover, large membrane and bottom cover of the electric pump set-up did not come into contact with the expressed milk, there was no need to constantly detach it from the tubes to wash and sterilise them. You could pretty much leave it like this:

post pumping

post expressing

At the same time, unlike the other two pumps I have, the breast shield is one entire piece compared to the funnel & the connector on the Medela Swing, and the silicone cup & the hard valve on the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Electric Single Pump. This was a plus point as I did not constantly have to worry about the parts falling off / getting loose after moving about, nor did I have to wash an extra part!  The other plus point about the design of the breast shield was that due to the angle of the funnel-like area, it would not allow for any pooling of milk as it flows directly into the valve.

breast shield

breast shield

As much as there are pros to the design of the breast shield, there are the downsides to it too. The design meant that I had less one part to wash, but it also meant that it was harder for me to wash some parts of it, mainly the narrow area after the opening of the breast shield. You would probably need to invest in a tiny brush to wash that area.

Although having the breast shield in one piece meant no loosening of parts, it also meant that it was harder for me to use it together with my hands-free breast pump bra. Most people using a double pump would have probably invested in a hands-free breast pump bra for convenience and I am one of them. By having two parts to the breast shield meant that I could insert the funnel into the pump opening in the bra before attaching the connector with the bottle to the funnel. Having the breast shield in one piece meant that I had to put on the bra, and stretch the pump opening in the bra to fit the breast shield through. This could potentially mean more wear and tear on the bra in the long run.

Forte# vs Swing: handsfree breast pump bra

Forte# vs Swing: handsfree breast pump bra

I have tried attaching other brands of milk bottles to the breast shield to see if it would fit. Unfortunately Medela bottles do not fit with this breast shield. There is however a wide cap adaptor available for wide neck bottles like MAM and Avent ones.

Usage / Expressing
Electric option
Now, this pump does not have different settings for let-down reflex and speed/suction. It has just one dial, and you have to figure out what kinda works best for you to trigger the let-down reflex. The speed of the suction also remained constant through the various strength of suction as compared to the longer suction/tug at a higher strength for the Swing post let-down phase.

Let’s just say the Forte# and I had a rocky start, probably because I was new to this dial thing. Not having a let-down phase like the Medela Swing and Tommee Tippee pump kinda threw me off a little.

On my first attempt, I started by turning about 1/3 of the dial. I have to say this silicone massager is a step up from the Tommee Tippee silicone cup. Where the Tommee Tippee silicone cup massages the aerola to express the milk, the Unimom silicone massager actually massages the breast and the aerola to draw out the milk. I could feel it pulsing around my breast to help with the expressing. The expressing was really gentle at 1/3 in, so gentle that it did not seem to express anything at all.

So I turned another 1/3 of the dial. The suction was still very gentle. It could be that I was used to the stronger suction of the Swing, or even the Tommee Tippee pump. Physically, I felt almost as though there was no suction going on, however, visually, I could see the tug of the nipple getting longer. And again, there was still no milk being expressed despite having a full breast on one side. Hrm. I was getting a little disappointed. Still, there was room to move the dial, so I moved it to the maximum. This time round, I could feel the suction and finally it triggered the let-down reflex.

There we go. Phew! It took a while (about 10 minutes) but once you are on the go, it got better. For me, at maximum, the pump triggered my let-down reflex a couple of times, which meant a fairly good flow of milk being expressed. All this and without the pain of a strong suction. I was comfortable through the entire 20-minute session. I was able to see the milk being expressed and the milk dripping out of the valve into the bottle.

By my fifth attempt, I figured to go in straight at 2/3 of the dial to trigger the let-down of milk. It worked. Different people need different suction strength to trigger the let-down and for me, because I was used to the strong suction of the Swing, I had to start off with a fairly strong suction before I get the let-down. A friend who is a working mom had mentioned that for her, a pump that could trigger a let-down quickly is a major plus point for her because waiting for the let-down means being away from her workstation for a longer time. So I guess it really boils down to figuring out what works for you.

Expressing subsequently got smoother for me and hey, I think both the Forte# and I are pretty good friends now eh? I wouldn’t say best friends only because the design of the breast shield is being a little brutal to my handsfree breast pump bra.

Having the silicone massager around the breast also assisted in expressing more milk in my opinion. I usually express about 100ml for the first pump of the day, however the Forte# yielded 120ml. Hey, an extra 20ml is still an extra 20ml. We all know how precious breastmilk is!

One thing I didn’t like about the silicone massager was that, unlike the Tommee Tippee silicone cup which was sealed around both ends of the funnel, this was just cupped around the opening. Which meant that milk would seep between the silicone massager and the breast shield (see how short the silicone massager is). It would then leak out if the pressure between the shield and the breast was lessened. Also because of the design of the shield, removing it out of the handsfree breast pump bra was more difficult and I had to reach inside to wipe off milk that had pooled on the silicone massager so it wouldn’t leak onto the bra/top/pants.

The motor, whether a low strength or high strength, is ridiculously quiet. Almost like white noise. Even the husband was impressed at how quiet it was. The Swing at high strength does sound as though it is straining.

Manual option
Again, I have never used a manual pump before. I have a couple of friends who used one; one said she got nothing out of it, the other was using it all squeaky (I could hear the squeak of each pump!) and when she emerged from her room, the output looked miserable. Not a very good impression obviously.

So when I finally gave it a shot, I wasn’t expecting much. When I started depressing the handle, I could feel the suction. However, I lost the suction 5 depressions in. The top cover had loosened and was not making a tight seal. It wasn’t until a couple of uses later that I realised the diaphragm had to be “locked” around the edges of the breast shield in order to form a tight seal, kinda like how the silicone massager sits on the breast shield. Once the diaphragm sits snugly on the breast shield, I could pretty much pump with one hand, or if the breast has softened after it has almost emptied, I would use another hand to press the breast shield against the breast so as to ensure a tight seal around the breast.

the seal between the breast shield and the top cover

the seal between the breast shield and the top cover

Having said that, once I got that issue out of the way, manual pumping was actually a breeze. Because I could control how fast/slow I could depress the pump, it triggered milk let-down fairly quickly. I was able to express 100ml in about 15 minutes. Having to constantly depress the handle for 15 mins also didn’t tire my hand out as I thought it would.

how far I needed to depress the handle for expressing

how far I needed to depress the handle for expressing

Accessories
Bottles/teats/disk
The pump set comes with two bottles, bottle covers, teats, caps and disks. This makes is really convenient as it works as both a milk bottle and a breastmilk storage bottle. The teat is also designed to fit any standard neck size bottle. I tried the milk bottles on QT twice; once fed with by my mom and another by me. Both of us decided that we (including QT) didn’t like the bottle. For me, there wasn’t a valve that allowed air to escape whilst QT was drinking, which meant that he would just keep sucking and it would get to a point where he would have difficulties sucking because of the pressure inside the bottle when no air was going in. I would have to pull the bottle out, allow air to enter the bottle before resuming the feed.

And some of us moms know that when you interrupt the feed sometimes, it is hard to get the baby to resume the feed. Argh. So major negative point for me.

Bottle stand
The pump set comes with two bottle stands, which is a godsend. Sometimes the amount of milk I express is not enough to counter-balance the weight of the breast shield and the bottle tips over. Argh. I can manage with a single pump, but when it comes to two bottles, I am not taking any chances with spillage of milk. The bottle stands are fairly deep so it holds the bottles snugly and you don’t have to worry about it tipping over.

 

FAQs

Can I use a microwave steriliser to sterilise the parts?
Yes, the parts are microwave safe. The silicone massager may deform slightly when heated, however upon cooling, it will return to its original shape. 

Where can I find the Unimom Forte# Electric Double Breast Pump?
The Unimom Forte# can be found at the following retail outlets: Mothercare, Kiddy Palace, Pupsik Studio & Smart Little One

How much is the Unimom Forte#?
The Unimom Forte# is retailing for S$299, and the Switch Kit is retailing for S$19.90. Currently, there is an ongoing promotion where you can get a Unimom Forte# bundle at S$249 consisting of the following items: the Forte#, Switch Kit, Cooler Bag with 5 bottles & 2 ice packs included, and 25 pcs of breast milk storage bag

Are the parts to the Unimom Forte# replaceable and where can I find the parts?

You can replace the parts at Not Too Big, a retail outlet and service centre for Unimom products. Not Too Big is located at Forum Level 2 and is open from 9.30am -6pm.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary set of the Unimom Forte# from Mothercare to write this review. All opinions are solely mine and are written as objectively as possible.