Breast pumps fall into two main categories: electric and manual. These two options can be expanded into a more comprehensive breakdown – but your preference will largely depend on your lifestyle and breastfeeding goals.
These breast pumps are fairly bulky, weighing in at 5-10 pounds. Designed for users in the hospital, the pump has very sensitive controls that regulate suction rhythm, intensity and pressure. The dual hospital-grade pump empties both breasts at once, shortening a normal pumping session to just about 15 minutes. Hospital-grade pumps are some of the most expensive options out there, but are available for rent at your local hospital and are great options for moms who have difficulty breastfeeding. These pumps are efficient and have started to become available in more lightweight styles.
The single electric breast pump is a popular option due to its relatively small size and powerful motor. The single electric pump offers a strong suction that adjusts during each session to mimic the natural suction patterns of infants. This allows for faster milk flow and more milk production. The single electric pump is a great option for moms who don't pump throughout the day but still want the efficiency and portability of a manual pump.
Double electric pumps are highly efficient for moms who need to pump several times over the course of the day. These pumps draw milk from both breasts simultaneously to make the pumping process much faster. The ability to express milk from both breasts at the same time allows you to increase milk supply and reduce the amount of time you spend pumping during each session. Most electric breast pumps come with a carrying bag, an AC or DC adaptor and a battery pack for when you are away from a power outlet. The electric pump is a great portable option for moms that plan to be on-the go, as they can be easily toted around and used when needed.
Small enough to fit in your handbag, the battery-powered pump can go the distance and is there for a pumping session when you need it. The pump is relatively quiet, but can be sluggish. When the vacuum runs constantly, there might be some level of discomfort that can arise during pumping. The battery pump is usually very affordable and is a great option for moms who need to pump while they are on the go, as the pump can be carried in a bag or briefcase easily. This is a pump that is recommended for occasional use only, as the pumping sessions usually take longer than they do with an electric style pump.
Breast pumps operated by hand allow users to pump milk themselves by squeezing a bulb or lever that connects to a syringe-style cylinder that expresses milk. The manual pump is a great option for moms who experience discomfort while breastfeeding, as the speed and suction can be regulated. This is a good option for moms who only plan to express milk occasionally, as manually pumping over long sessions can cause hand cramps.
The hands-free breast pump attaches to a bra or kit, allowing you to perform other tasks while extracting milk. This is ideal for busy moms or for moms who work from home. The bras or kits hold the flanges of the breast pump in place so you don’t have to, extracting milk without the need for stabilization. Most hands-free pumps feature a rechargeable battery and a digital backlit display for ease of use. Also, many standard breast pumps can be made into a hands-free style with a special pumping bra.