Breast Pump 101: A Guide to Choosing the Right Breast Pump
If you are a woman who breastfeeds your child in any way, the chances are you will at some point use a breast pump. With so many types of breast pumps available, it can be overwhelming to find what is best for you. This guide will help you understand the types of pumps available, where you can get your breast pump, and what the difference is in leading brands.
When to Get Your Breastpump
Many women can get a free pump through insurance. Insurance providers are partnered with breast pump distributors, allowing you to visit a website, select the breast pump of your choice, and have it delivered. Many women choose to do this during the second or third trimester of pregnancy so that they have a pump accessible when the baby is born. Other women choose to wait until after delivery to evaluate what their breast pumping needs will be. If your insurance does not provide a free breast pump, or reduced-cost option, you can purchase a pump directly from the distributors.
Types of Breastpumps
If you walk down a breast pump aisle, you will notice there are many options that look and feel different. The best breast pump is different for every mom. You should consider many factors when purchasing your breast pump. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How frequently do I plan to use the breast pump?
- Do I plan to return to work and pump at the workplace?
- Do I need hands-free capability?
- Do I want to be plugged into the wall or use a battery?
- Will my partner be taking turns feeding the baby by the bottle?
You may or may not be able to predict these factors before your baby is born, but take as much into consideration as possible. Personally, an insurance-issued double electric pump was just what I needed as a first-time mom to a nursing baby. I only used the pump when I was away from my child for a trip, work, or date night. My second child had a medical complexity that prevented her from nursing and so I exclusively pumped and, in that situation, my breast pump needs were different because of the frequency and locations of use. You may find yourself with one breast pump forever or with different types for different needs.
Double Electric Breast Pump
These are the most commonly-used breast pumps and they come in many shapes, colors, and sizes. Most commonly, these pumps plug into the electrical outlet. They have two sets of parts, one for each breast. You might know of the Spectra S2 or the Medela breast pump, pump-in-style. There are a number of other options and you want to consider the weight, how easy they are to transfer to work or other places of travel, and the rating of the suction and comfort.
As someone who seldom pumped, with my first child, this was a great choice for me. I was not pumping every day or multiple times a day, so being plugged into one spot was not a hassle. Also, these pumps are small enough that you can put them into a pumping bag if you need to take it to work or even on a trip.
Portable Breast Pumps
Portable breast pumps are those that do not require you to be plugged into the wall. These breast pumps are battery-powered. There are some that contain the same part sets as your more traditional electric breast pump. They boast a smaller size unit that you can hold, put in a pocket or a bag, etc. Popular types include the Medela Freestyle and Baby Buddha.
Another type of portable breast pump is the wearable style. These pumps such as the Freemie, Willow, or Elvie can be worn inside a shirt or bra, making a hands-free experience for women. Because of their advanced technology, these pumps are typically more expensive. However, if you need to pump frequently and discreetly these options can give you a way to pump and multi-task.
As an exclusive pumper with my second child, I found the portable hands-free breast pump to be extremely beneficial. Because all of my breastfeeding was from the pump, I was pumping frequently. A portable breast pump allowed me to pump while I was making meals, while I was bottle-feeding my daughter, and even while I was working
Hospital-Grade Breast Pump
Known to be the most powerful pumps available, hospital-grade pumps are much larger units with a greater pumping capacity. For those who want to use this pump, it can often be rented from the hospital. If your baby is in the NICU or has any medical needs throughout your breastfeeding experience, this pump will also be available to you in the hospital.
Manual Breast Pumps
A manual breast pump has no electric or battery component. A manual breast pump goes on one breast and has a pumping mechanism you use to create the suction. Most manual breast pumps are a bottle with a pumping component on top. Another type of manual breast pump is the silicone breast pump, such as the Haaka, that suctions onto the breast to collect overflow and stimulate the breast for production. Women love to use the silicone pump when nursing a baby to collect dripping milk on the opposite side.
Finding the right breast pump for your breastfeeding needs means looking at your overall breastfeeding goals, any complexities you might face, your mobility needs, and your personal preferences. Take time to ask other moms about their experiences, check out the options you have, and find a good fit for you as you support your breastfeeding journey.
If you are unable to purchase a breast pump, you may find a local mother’s resource bank or non-profit that can assist you in obtaining a pump for your needs.