Electric, manual, single, double… With so many breast pump options, it can be hard to know which to choose.
To start, find out if your healthcare plan offer coverage for breast pumps. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get a pump at a discounted rate (or even free). Recent legislation in the U.S. requires health insurance companies to provide coverage for renting or purchasing a pump. The rules vary though, so contact your insurance provider to check your benefits.
Let’s take a look at the different types of breast pumps, and which options might be a good fit for you.
Types of Breast Pumps
There are 3 main types of pumps:
- Personal electric pump. These pumps automatically remove milk from your breasts, and many also run on batteries. We should note here that pumps that only run on batteries can be tricky; if the battery is low, they may run slow, And if the battery dies you’re out of luck.Personal pumps can be single (one breast at a time) or double (both breasts at the same time). Power, weight, portability, and cost vary widely.Due to cross-contamination risks, personal electric pumps are considered a single-user item by the FDA. You can use a lot of your sister’s hand-me-down baby items, but her breast pump isn’t one of them.
- Hospital-grade electric pump. When it comes to efficiency, these pumps are the gold standard. They have strong motors and suction, which help you pump as much milk as you can, as quickly as possible. They can be rented, which in the long run may be less expensive than purchasing a personal pump. The main drawback is that these pumps tend to be bulkier and heavier – in other words less portable than their personal pump counterparts. Unlike personal pumps, hospital-grade pumps are designed to be used by multiple users. The FDA stresses that if you go this route, rent from a reputable company to ensure you get a high-quality pump that’s clean and in excellent condition.
- Manual pump. This is an inexpensive, straightforward, lightweight, and easy-to-clean option. Once you get the hang of manual pumping it can be pretty efficient, but it does require you to continually squeeze a lever to express your milk, so hand-fatigue is something to consider.
So which pump is right for you?
If you’re going back to work
Working moms need to pump at least 2 -3 times during a typical 8-hour work day, so you may consider a lightweight, electric pump with a good motor and compact carrying case (some carrying cases even include an insulated section for storing pumped milk). A double pump will allow you to pump both breasts at the same time. Also look into how quiet a pump is (some are pretty noisy!). Look for a pump with a battery option, just in case you don’t have access to an outlet.
Some working moms swear by wearable, quiet pumps that allow you to work and, say, be on a conference call at the same time. These models are new to the pumping scene, though (and they’re expensive), so be sure to research carefully before purchasing one.
If you need to pump exclusively
If you can’t nurse your baby due to medical, developmental, or another issue, a hospital-grade electric pump may be the way to go. Not only will it help you establish your milk supply, it maximizes efficiency for multiple daily pumping sessions.
If you need to pump once or twice a day
Maybe you want your partner to be able to give your baby a daily bottle, or a babysitter stays with the baby one afternoon a week. A personal electric pump or manual pump may work well for you. To save money, consider a single pump. You’ll only be able to pump one breast at a time, but try this trick: If your baby fills up on one breast, you can pump the other side while she’s nursing.
If you need to pump occasionally
If you only need to pump every once in a while, a manual pump is a wallet-friendly way to go.
Still confused about which pump to go with? Consider enlisting a certified lactation consultant to help you determine the best pump for your needs. Talk to other pumping moms and ask what’s worked well for them. Lastly, reputable online reviews may be helpful in determining pros and cons.