Breast Pumps 101: Getting a Free Breast Pump, and Tips for Choosing the Right One
When I had my first baby I was not prepared for the nursing or pumping journey. In fact, I didn't learn the best pumping strategies until after I was done breastfeeding my baby. It was a rough journey the entire time, and I wish so badly I had known the amazing information in this video and post! I am excited to have the chance to do it again in the future so that I can give it a properly educated shot! I promise you it is worth your time to watch and refer back to this post as often as you need!
Why You Might Want a Pump
Breast Shape: Not all breasts are created equal. Different shapes and sizes of breasts and nipples can make it more difficult to nurse. Pumps can help stretch the stubborn skin around inverted and flat nipples making it easier to nurse. The use of a pump is sometimes a life saver if nursing just isn't working out how you thought it would.
Premature Babies: Most premature babies are too small and frail to nurse. However, because of the wonderful nutrients and antibodies in breastmilk medical professionals do suggest that mothers should pump and then breast milk can be fed to the baby in the way they can handle.
Working or Student Moms: Many women have to go back to work or school soon after having their baby. If you are in that situation and won't be with your child 24/7, but also want them to be breastfed, the pump is going to be your best friend. You can pump and store milk for baby to drink while you are gone. It is also very important that you pump while you are away from baby to keep your milk production up. Skipping pumping or nursing sessions can result in losing your milk supply.
Engorgement Relief: Engorgement is when your body is producing more milk than is being removed from the breast in a certain time period. When this happens, your breasts can get so full and tight that they can be very painful, and even make it hard or almost impossible for your baby to latch. You can experience this when your milk comes in, when your baby begins to nurse less in a day, or wean completely. Using a pump is a very quick and effective way to get just enough milk out to alleviate those problems.
Ways to Get a Free Pump
Under current healthcare laws, most insurance companies are required to provide a free breast pump to mothers! The only downside to that is the fact that the pumps can range greatly depending on your insurance company. Some may only cover a small one-sided manual hand pump, and others may provide a super nice hospital-grade double electric pump. You need to contact your insurance company to find out what you are eligible for.
So, what if you have your eye on a very specific pump? Or know that you want a better pump than your insurance said they will provide for you? That is exactly what I am here to tell you today!
First, you want to talk to your doctor about your pump desires or needs. Explain to them what your insurance provides, but that you would like to get a better pump for the efficiency. Ask them to write you a prescription for the exact pump that you would like to get. For example, if you want a Medela Pump In Style Advanced On The Go Tote, then that is exactly what your doctor should write on the prescription.
Now, the next steps vary depending on if you do or do not have an HSA or Flex-Pay account. If you do have either of those accounts, you can use the funds in there to get your breast pump! You will want to contact your provider and make sure to do everything as they tell you to, but it should be similar to the following process: You get your prescription from your doctor, send a copy to your insurance provider and HSA or Flex-pay company (if they are different), get approval, go purchase whichever pump you want, then submit your receipt. Your HSA or Flex-Pay account should then be reimbursed for the amount that your insurance company has agreed to put towards a breast pump.
If you do not have either of those supplemental accounts, you can still follow the same process, but you will be paying some out of your pocket. So, you use reimbursed insurance money to put towards your dream pump (money they would have put towards the pump they provide), and then you just pay the remainder. Free is obviously much more enticing BUT if you can get half of your really nice hospital- grade pump paid for by your insurance company that is amazing! A free pump is not worth it if it doesn't fill the role you need it to in your breastfeeding world.
Types of Pumps
Manual: These will be the least expensive pumps, usually less than $100. But, they are a single pump that you pump with your hand. So, these are really only useful for moms who want a pump to relieve engorgement, or might be using a pump occasionally on a long road trip.
Single Electric: Similar to the manual pump, but now you have a small electric pump that does the work. More efficient than the manual pump, but can still be time consuming because you can only pump one breast at a time.
Double Electric: These pumps are ideal for a mother that is wanting or needing to pump more than once a day. Being able to pump both breasts at once cuts down on the time spent pumping. Pumping both breasts at once actually stimulates your mammary glands more than when you pump just one breast at a time, so your milk supply has a better chance of keeping up with production!
Features to Look for in a Pump
Let-Down Sequence: When your baby nurses, they start with very quick and short sucks, and then moves to longer and stronger ones. This stimulates the let-down in your breasts. Some breast pumps, like Medela, are designed with a 2-phase expression technology that mimics your infants let-down sequence. The sign to your body to make more milk is an empty breast. So, if you are not completely emptying your breasts each time you pump when you are away from your baby, your body could begin to make less milk and your production can be negatively affected. For this reason, a let-down sequence is very important.
Breast Shield Fit: This is SO important! If your shield does not fit correctly, your pumping can be much more uncomfortable and much less effective than it should be. How do you know if your shield is the right size? If your nipple flows freely within the tube of the breast shield (refer to video for a diagram.) Your nipple should not touch the side of the shield, and your nipple should be the only thing extending into the shield tube, not any of your actual breast. If you suspect your shield is not the correct size, meet with a lactation consultant and they can help you!
Basics to Pumping
- You need to be pumping as often as your baby is eating, if they are not feeding directly from the breast. Whether that means you are just away from them for a few feedings or that you are exclusively pumping. Skipping feeding time will lead to milk drying up. Your first two months are crucial to establishing a good lasting supply, so you should never go more than 5-6 hours between pumping/feeding sessions in those months.
- The best practice in your first few days is to hand express your colostrum, and then pump for 10-15 minutes after that to stimulate your milk production.
- To increase supply after your milk comes in, you should pump for an additional 2-5 minutes after your milk stops coming out into the pump bottle.
- As a general guideline, pumping sessions should be 20-30 minutes long, and you should aim to have multiple letdowns in one pumping session. You can achieve this by turning your pump back to the 1st phase of expression so the short and quick pumps happen again. When you see the let-down, turn it back to regular expression strength.
- If you are exclusively pumping, you still need to pump a few times a night until your baby sleeps through the night.
- Milk supply is typically greater at night and early in the morning, so pumping at these times will bring you good milk yields.
- If you can pump when you wake up naturally, (to go to the bathroom, or when your baby, or other children, stir) your body will let down better. If you aren't waking up naturally a few times a night, then you should set an alarm so you don't miss a session.