How to Choose the Best Breast Pump
If you’ve made the choice to breast feed, good for you! Breastfeeding offers many benefits, both to babies and moms. It’s perfectly formulated to help infants grow and develop immunities, while helping new mothers get back in shape faster. And it promotes early bonding.
But modern life isn’t always conducive to breastfeeding. How do you make it work when you’re not together? That’s where your breast pump comes in. Pumping will allow you to feed baby breast milk even when you’re apart.
The #1 key to choosing a breast pump: know how, and how often, you’ll be using it. A mom who works full-time, for example, will pump more frequently than a full-time mom. She’ll benefit most from a faster, more powerful pump. Learn about the three types of breast pumps, so you can determine which will best fit your lifestyle.
For Infrequent Pumping: Manual Breast Pumps
Manual pumps are inexpensive, quiet, and portable. They need no electricity; you produce the suction by squeezing a handgrip or pumping a cylinder. But they’re not as efficient as electric breast pumps, so pumping takes longer and requires more effort. There’s only one attachment, so each breast must be pumped separately.
If you only plan to pump only once in a while, a manual pump may be just the thing. But if you’ll be pumping more frequently, you might find it too time consuming.
Tip: when shopping for manual pumps, look for those with adjustable pressure settings to make pumping more comfortable. And because your milk must be properly stored, look for pumps that include coordinating milk storage bottles or bags.
For Occasional Pumping: Small Electric Pumps
Small electric breast pumps are a good choice for occasional pumping, or perhaps even a part-time job.
These compact, portable pumps generally run on either electricity or batteries, or both. They’re more powerful than manual pumps, but not nearly as powerful as double, mid-size electric pumps.
Like manual pumps, most small electric pumps have a single attachment, so you can only empty one breast at a time. This means they take longer to use than a double electric pump, but are faster and less work than a manual pump. As you’d expect, they’re priced between the two.
Tip: Look for a pump that mimics babies’ natural, two-step nursing pattern, like more powerful electric pumps do. Choose one with an AC adaptor and a battery-backup, so you’re never caught without a power source.
For Daily Pumping: Mid-Size Electric Pumps
If you plan to return to work full time, you’ll be pumping multiple times a day, at least five days a week. An electric breast pump is your fastest, most efficient choice. Most pumps also have double pumping capacity, a real time-saver, since you can pump both breasts at once.
Mid-size pumps are designed to imitate babies’ two-part feeding pattern: fast, shallow, nursing followed by slower, deeper feeding. This not only makes pumping more efficient, but may increase your milk supply, a major plus.
Mid-size pumps feature the most powerful motors available in personal pumps, secondary only to the heavy, expensive breast pumps found in hospitals. But these are more portable and affordable than hospital pumps. They typically include an discreet carry bag, backpack, or tote so you can bring it back and forth to work.
Tip: When shopping for a mid-size electric pump, look for:
- Double pumping capabilities
- Adjustable strength and speed settings for comfort
- Easy-to-clean parts
- A back-up power system, such as a battery pack or vehicle adapter. (Some electric breast pumps also include a manual back-up pump, so you’re never stuck without.)
Additional Breastfeeding Tips
Milk Storage - Every drop of milk is precious. You’ll want to collect it efficiently, chill it or freeze it ASAP, and note when it’s pumped so you can track its freshness. Essential milk storage supplies include milk bags, collection bottles, fridge and freezer organizers, and insulated coolers.
Breast Care - Nursing does demand a great deal of your breasts. A great nursing bra is a necessity, along with breast care accessories designed for health and comfort.
Logistics - Breastfeeding can present unique challenges, from handling leaks to nursing comfortably in public. But there are many clever breastfeeding supplies for just these situations. (Going back to work? Read our companion article, "How to Balance Breastfeeding and Work".)
In summary, breastfeeding is a wonderfully rewarding experience. And having the right breast pump and supplies will make it even more so.
American Academy of Pediatrics—Breastfeeding Initiatives Website