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Breast Pump Information Guide

There are a lot of reasons that you may want a breast pump as a new mom: it can be a lifesaver when it comes to engorgement, exhaustion, and providing you with some freedom. A breast pump expresses milk and allows you to store the milk or transfer it to a bottle to feed your baby. It can help you keep your breasts from becoming too full between feedings, and allow you to skip a feeding session if necessary. So what kinds of breast pumps are out there and which one is best for you?

DIFFERENT TYPES OF BREAST PUMPS

Manual Breast Pumps

There are two types of pumps: manual and electric. Manual pumps do not require batteries and you operate it by pumping with your hand. Manual pumps tend to be very compact and affordable, with most starting at about $35. Be advised, however, that because you are manually pumping the milk, a pump session can take 30+ minutes as opposed to 10-15 minutes with an electric pump. This will definitely give your hand a workout!

A few reasons you may want a manual pump:

  • It is simple and perfect to use occasionally if you need relief while still getting the hang of breast feeding. 

  • They are affordable! A manual pump will generally cost under $40 while you can plan to spend much more on an electric one.

  • They are compact and easy to store, which makes them perfect for date nights, family gatherings, and days out. 

  • They're a must if you don't have easy access to electricity--if you're traveling or camping. (Although it should be noted that there are some electric breast pumps that can be battery operated.)

Manual breast pumps are perfect for those mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding but need a discreet way to get relief while on the go or throughout the day! There will be times when you're not able to breastfeed or baby isn't ready to eat, but you need the relief to avoid engorgement, and a simple, manual breast pump is great for quickly expressing excess milk.

Electric Breast Pumps

Electric pumps use electricity or batteries to power the pumping motion required to express milk. There are single or double pump options, which means that you can either pump a single breast at one time or both breasts at once. Being able to pump both sides at the same time is definitely a major time saver. This is because an electric pump session typically only takes 10-15 minutes, whereas a manual pump can take 30+ minutes. Some models of electric pumps have a hands-free option, so you don't have to hold the attachments in place the whole time. There are even wearable electric pumps, which can sit inside your bra without any cords--this is a great option for working moms or women who want a more discreet solution.

Reasons you may want an electric pump:

  • Electric pumps come in single or double options so that you can pump both sides at the same time--saving you tons of time!  

  • For working moms, these pumps are fast and effective, whether you pump while getting ready in the morning or in between meetings at work. They also usually come in convenient, compact carrying cases.

  • They are a must if you have limited time to pump and/or are pumping often.

  • If you are exclusively pumping--a manual pump could be impractical with the amount of pumping to be done.

  • If you want to stockpile breast milk when your baby is first born, an electric pump helps you do it quickly and efficiently.

  • If you are the proud mama of multiple babies, an electric pump is a must!

  • They can provide you with a hands-free option for multitasking. (This can be done with the addition of a breast pump bra or a special wearable pump.) 

  • A double-breast pump helps stimulate milk production while reducing pumping time by half. This can be crucial if you need to increase your milk supply.

Electric and double-electric breast pumps are perfect for mothers who will be pumping a fair amount of the time or more (working, special needs, building a stockpile, etc.). They usually come with convenient carrying/storage cases so they travel well. Depending on the type you purchase, they can range from very quiet to somewhat loud, so if noise is an issue, be sure to check reviews on the pumps you're considering.

Hospital-Grade Pumps

Hospital grade pumps are the most powerful, state-of-the-art pumps available, so they can be quite expensive; however you can also rent these types of pumps from the hospital and save yourself the big price tag. These pumps have special barriers and filters to prohibit milk from entering the pump motor, which prevent cross-contamination. In addition, each renter uses her own personal set of breast shields, containers, and tubing to ensure they are safe and hygienic.

Reasons you may want a hospital grade breast pump: 

  • You have a special needs child.

  • You have a child in the NICU for an extended period of time. 

  • You would rather rent a high-quality pump than purchase one.

  • You want the highest quality pump available and price isn't a concern.  

Hospital grade pumps are powerful and effective. They are specially built to simulate a child suckling even more than a regular double electric breast pump, which is why they are so ideal for mamas of babies who need a little extra help before they can start breast feeding. 

CAN I BORROW A BREAST PUMP?

Borrowing a breast pump is not recommended due to the health risks for mom and baby. Some breast pumps have an internal diaphragm that cannot be removed, replaced, or fully sterilized. This poses a risk of cross-contamination when you re-use a previously owned pump, even when using a new kit or tubing. Also important to consider when deciding to borrow or even lend a previously owned electric pump is the pump’s motor life. A high quality electric double pump might last through the breastfeeding of your second child, or even several children, but it can wear out over time with each use. Starting out with a used pump is not only risky health-wise but also financially, as the motor may not last very long and you'll have to buy a new one.

Some health insurance plans cover the cost of breast pumps under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was signed into law in 2010. Many health plans began implementing this coverage on or after August 1, 2012. If you have a private insurance carrier or commercial insurer, this law applies to you. The breastfeeding provisions of the ACA do not apply to Medicaid or WIC. However, breast pumps are available through WIC and many state Medicaid programs. For information on how to obtain a breast pump through WIC or Medicaid, contact your state WIC agency.  

BREASTFEEDING ACCESSORIES

Besides the pump itself, there are a number of accessories that go along with pumping and breastfeeding:

  • Breast Milk Storage Bags: These are used to hold excess milk you've expressed. They are especially helpful if you're planning on storing milk in a deep freezer for a long period of time. When ready to use the milk, you can easily thaw it by placing the bag in warm tap water. Then simple pour the milk into a bottle and you're ready. You can also use plastic storage bottles to store your milk. These can be convenient and easy to transport.

  • Breast Pads: Breast pads sit in your bra to catch any excess milk leakage. There are both reusable and disposable breast pads available. The reusable pads tend to be less itchy and are very breathable. (We love the Bamboobies reusable breast pads which are thin and discreet but hold a ton!)

  • Nursing Covers: In case you're wanting a little privacy during a pumping or feeding session, a nursing cover is the perfect solution.

  • Bottles and Nipples: There are TONS of different options of what kind of container you use to hold your pumped milk (a bag vs. a bottle). And there are just as many options for which kind of nipples you use on your bottles. For instance, some bottles have special wide nipples for mamas who are bottle and breastfeeding to ensure that baby will not get any nipple confusion! Make sure that if you are switching between breast and bottle that you always use a slow-flow nipple until you decide to change baby over to the bottle full time. 

  • Breast Shields: A breast shield is the portion of the breast pump that you place over your nipple and breast to create the "suction chamber." Be aware that one size does not fit all! It is important to get a breast shield that fits you. Most pumps will come with a standard size, but if you have more or less to work with, definitely consider getting a more fitted breast shield. Remember that pumping shouldn't feel painful. If your breast shield doesn't fit well, it could lead to engorgement or mastitis. 

    EVERY MAMA IS DIFFERENT!

    Every mama and baby out there are different, and you will need to assess what needs you each have in order to choose the right pump and accessories for the two of you. Some moms will only need to pump for date night, while others will need to pump all day or during a conference call. Think about your budget, time constraints, and where you'll be doing most of your pumping as you consider which pump to buy. Make it work for you, mama! You've got this.