Having a baby brings many new gadgets into the home and choosing them can be an overwhelming task with all the options out there. Choosing a breast pump is one of those difficult choices that most women go through. It’s a bit easier with insurance since many companies provide a breast pump, but there are still a lot of options.
Firstly, do you even need a breast pump?
A pump is useful, but it’s not the end all be all. If you’re going to be working outside of the home or away from your baby on a regular basis you will need a manual or electric pump. If you have a premature baby you will probably need a medical grade pump. If you won’t be away from your baby and don’t have a medical need then you can get away without a breast pump. If you don’t have a pump and need to express a small amount, hand expression is also an option.
How are breast pumps judged?
Effectiveness. This is how often the pump cycles and the vacuum strength. A baby sucks approximately 45 to 55 times a minute. The closer a pump can match this the more effective it will be at removing the milk from the mother’s breast. The vacuum strength can range in different pumps. A pump with a lower cycle or a stronger vacuum can cause nipple and/or breast pain. There are auto-cycling pumps and these tend to be more effective and match a baby’s natural rhythm better than when the user manually adjusts during a pumping session.
Durability. Some breast pumps are designed for frequent and daily use while others have a smaller motor that can only handle occasional pumping. When choosing a pump think about how often you plan to pump. If you pump more than the pump’s recommendation you can wear it out prematurely.
Types of pumps
Manual. This is the most basic kind of pump. It is also called a “hand pump” as it requires the user to pump the handle and manually create the suction needed to remove milk from the breast.
Single electric. These allow you to pump one breast at a time and are great for occasional (once a day or less) pumping. They are great for a stay at home mom or someone who works part time.
Double alternating. This pump will pump both breasts, but it requires the user to switch breasts and only pump one at a time. These offer more stimulation than a single pump, but it is not as efficient as a double electric.
Double simultaneous. These kind of pumps stimulate both breasts at the same time. These are great for moms who are away with a full time job. With these pumps moms can generally cut their pumping time in half and increase milk production.
Hospital grade. These pumps are the best if your baby is premature or has a medical condition. They are for optimal breast milk output and can be bought or generally rented from a medical supply company or hospital.
How to get one?
A manual pump can be purchased at nearly any store that sells a good selection of baby items. Walmart, Target, and Buy Buy Baby all carry manual pumps. They typically range from $15 – $45.
An electric pump will run anywhere from $40 – $400 or so. These are available at medical supply stores and places like Buy Buy Baby. I’ve also seen hospitals that have rental programs. Some of them come with a carrying case and pumping bottles and some don’t. The lower prices are occasional use single electric with the upper prices including all of the additions such as a bag and a car adapter plug. These pumps vary greatly in price because they also vary in capability. If you’re going to be pumping every day multiple times a single electric won’t work well.
A hospital grade pump can be rented at a hospital or found at a medical supply store typically. They can range from a couple hundred to a couple thousand! If you are expecting a premature baby or have a medical need for a hospital grade pump talk to your provider about how to best go about attaining one.
Most insurance companies are now providing a breast pump in some way (in 2017 when this post is written). This is an excellent benefit to take advantage of! Some insurance companies will just give you one with a doctor’s prescription and others will help pay for a rental for a period of time. If your insurance will not provide one and you have a need or desire for one, talk with your provider or a lactation consultant about how to attain one.