Types of Breast Pumps
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.
Open System Breast Pumps
An open system breast pump keeps the end of the pump tubing exposed to milk collection, so there is a chance that expressed milk will get into the tubing. This can unfortunately cause mold to grow in the tubing, as small amounts of milk can build up in the tubing without being noticed. The open system pump requires very frequent washing and sterilization after each use. It is advised to let the motor run a bit longer after pumping is complete to let any milk that was left in the system clear out of the tubing.
Closed System Breast Pumps
Closed system breast pumps have a diaphragm between the collection bottle and the tubing, creating a barrier which prevents milk from leaking into the tubing. The barrier also prevents outside air from contaminating the milk. Closed system pumps have more suction power and are more hygienic due to the controlled environment of the tubing. The expressed milk is not exposed to the air, tubing or motor at anytime. The closed off system prevents any backflow of breast milk from entering the tubing or reaching the motor, which will save you time cleaning the pump in comparison to an open system. Additionally, the pump tubing does not require sanitation because there are no contaminants entering the system.
Suction Settings — Many electric pumps are designed to align with the natural sucking patterns of your baby. The pump mimics baby’s nursing rhythm by switching between a rapid suction to begin milk flow and then a slower suction to produce a steady flow. Together the two settings provide a more natural pumping experience and offer the most expressed milk. Some breast pump models even allow you to regulate the pumping rhythm based on individual preferences or needs.
Double-Pumping — The double electric pump is a fantastic option for moms who want to pump several times during the day. Expressing milk from both breasts simultaneously will save time and provide you with a sufficient supply of breast milk that can be used immediately or stored. Double pumps are also much faster than standard manual pumps and can significantly lessen the number of times that you spend pumping throughout the day.
Pump Weight — Hospital-grade pumps are generally much heavier than other options. If you are going to be traveling a lot during the day or bringing your pump to work, it is best to find a breast pump that is as lightweight as possible. This will save you a lot of strain and hassle when you are carrying it back and forth from work, school or bringing your pump along on your daily errands.
LCD Display & Memory Indicator — Some models of breast pumps will feature an LCD panel with programmable memory that allows you to record your preferred settings. This way you don’t have to reset settings for each pump session. Look for this feature if you desire a responsive, highly efficient pump with technical assets.
Warranty — Most breast pump manufacturers provide a warranty with their product. It is wise to find a breast pump that offers at least a one-year warranty so you can be assured your pump will be covered if there is ever a problem. A generous warranty is often a good indicator that a product is of high quality and can be trusted.
Breast Pump Accessories
Breast Shields/ Flanges — The breast shields protect the nipple during feeding to make pumping more comfortable. Lactation consultants say that the breast shield is necessary for proper, comfortable milk expression. The shields that are included with your pump might not be the right fit for you. It is important to monitor this during your first few pumping sessions so you can adjust the sizing for comfort.
If pumping becomes painful, your skin rubs against the side of the tube, or any part of your skin gets sucked into the pump, you might want to consider a better fitting shield. Women often need to go up a size from the breast shield they receive with their pump. There are many options available online or in stores that will provide a more tailored fit for your needs. A properly fitting set of breast shields can make the pumping experience much more enjoyable, and the breast shields are generally affordable: between $7 and $15, respectively.
Storage Bottles/Bags — It is important to store breast milk in a bag or bottle that is BPA-free and specifically designed for breast milk. This ensures that no dangerous chemicals or bacteria come in contact with the milk. There are plastic bags that are specifically designed to attach directly to your breast pump for easy extraction. If you are skeptical of using plastic bottles, there are glass bottles available in several sizes that can attach to your pump for easy extraction. The only downside to a glass bottle is its heaviness in comparison to a plastic container.
Carrying Bag — Most models other than hospital-grade pumps will come with a carrying bag. The standard carrying bag is usually simple and black, with a shoulder strap and microfiber exterior. Some models will feature a cooling compartment and pump motor so you can have everything you need while you’re on the go. There are many styles of breast pump bags offered online that are equipped with many different features like exterior slip pockets for your phone or a sleek tufted compartment for your laptop.
Insulated Storage — An insulated storage compartment in the carrying case is a great addition for moms who need to store milk while they are out and about. The compartment can be filled with ice to keep your milk supply sanitary and fresh until you can deliver it to your fridge.
Adapters & Batteries — A breast pump that includes batteries is a good option for traveling or working moms. This usually includes an adapter that can plug into your car’s cigarette lighter.
Since the breast pump is a personal-use device, many manufacturers will not accept a returned product. For this reason, it is extremely important to find the pump that works for you and meets all of your requirements.
Get your Breast Pump through Insurance
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act signed into law in 2010, many moms are able to get their breast pump for free through their insurance provider. ACA is compatible with most private or commercial insurance providers who will cover costs up to 100%. Some insurance companies even cover all of the cost of select breast pumps — check with a local medical equipment provider or your insurance company to see if this is an option. Currently, ACA has different policies in place for Medicaid and WIC plans.
You can purchase a new breast pump online through several different websites. Often, you can find a good deal on a new breast pump depending on brand and manufacturer. You can also consult a certified lactation consultant who can help you find an affordable breast pump for purchase.
Many hospitals and birthing centers will offer competitive prices on a variety of different breast pumps. Some hospitals have a breastfeeding boutique, with everything from nursing bras to breast pumps available for purchase. Lactation consultants are also available to teach new moms how to use a breast pump properly and how to address issues such as latch-on difficulties and engorgement.
Breast Pump Safety
Maintaining your breast pump is very important for your safety and the safety of your baby. It is important to know which parts of your breast pump to clean and when to clean them to ensure that there is no dangerous bacteria buildup accumulating. Keep in mind that you should not use or try out your breast pump prior to birth, as doing so can induce labor.
It is very important to keep your breast pump sanitized to prevent any bacteria buildup in any part of the pump. After each use, you should wash the pump and all of the parts with warm, soapy water. Then rinse with hot water for 15 seconds to ensure the pump and parts are washed clean. Let the pump air dry on a clean towel until your next session. If milk ever gets into the tubing of your breast pump, you should clean the tube as instructed in your manufacturer’s user manual to ensure proper detachment and cleaning is achieved.
It is recommended that you take apart and wash all parts that come in contact with your breast and breast milk immediately after you have finished pumping. This prevents any buildup from accumulating and ensures that your pump remains in the best condition. You should also sanitize breast pump kit parts once per day. There are micro-steam bags available from many breast pump manufacturers that can sanitize your breast pump parts for you.
Breast Pump Parts & Replacement
When you receive your breast pump, it should come with everything you need to start pumping. This includes the initial set of tubing, valves, membranes and standard size breast shields. Over time, these parts will begin to look worn. If your parts are damaged or just worn down, you can order replacement supplies to keep your breast pump in top shape. To purchase replacement supplies, you can make an order online through a retailer or directly from the manufacturer.
Used breast pumps are not a safe option, as breast pumps are a personal-use item that is generally not shared between users. Breast milk can carry bacteria or viruses that might not always be removed through sanitation processes. These germs could travel through the tubing to your milk supply. The FDA and breastfeeding experts generally advise against purchasing or renting a used pump, as the dangers outweigh the benefits.
Used Breast pumps might also lose their strength when they are passed on to another user, which is a disadvantage when you are in need of a working pump producing a steady supply of milk. The motor on the breast pump loses its strength over continuous use and the seals generally deteriorate over time, so this leaves you with a weakened pump with a loss of suction.
If you decide to use a pre-owned pump, it is best to completely sanitize all parts of the pump with soap and water. You should also replace the tubing to ensure there is no remaining buildup.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
There are countless benefits to breastfeeding your baby. Many reputable medical sources claim that breastfeeding provides your infant with crucial nutrients that provide lifetime benefits. The cells, hormones and antibodies in breast milk protect, nourish, and strengthen the infant immune system. Research suggests that breastfed babies have a lower risk of developing conditions such as childhood leukemia, type 2 diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome and asthma. Breast milk also contains the vital nutrient colostrum that is packed with nutrients and antibodies. Colostrum helps your infant’s digestive system grow and it contains all the nutrients and proteins a growing baby needs.
For mothers, breastfeeding promotes natural healing and restoration after childbirth. Breastfeeding leads to a lower risk of illness including type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Beyond nourishing mom and baby, breastfeeding may help new moms lose weight. This is yet to be scientifically proven, but many mothers support the fact that actively breastfeeding their children helped them shed weight that was gained during pregnancy.
A breast pump comes in handy in countless situations. You will need a pump whether you are going back to work or if you are running errands and wish to feed your baby. In situations where you can’t stop to breastfeed, a backup supply of milk can be crucial for your baby’s wellbeing.
Most doctors recommend that infants receive breast milk until they reach 6 months. From there they suggest feeding babies breast milk for as long as it is comfortable and desired between mother and child.
What’s on the Market
When you first start looking for a breast pump, you will find that there are a ton of different breast pumps to choose from. Hospital-grade pumps, electric pumps and manual pumps are all options that new moms enjoy. There are also hands-free pumps that strap around the waist for pumping while working on other tasks.
Generally, the more suction a pump provides, the more efficient your pumping session will be. A baby’s natural sucking rhythm is around 40-60 cycles per minute which is about one pull every second. The closer a pump is to this range, the more effective it will be at expressing milk. Hospital-grade pumps operate at 30-50 cycles per minute, which is an ideal range for moms who desire quick, efficient pumping sessions.
Finding the right pump requires planning and awareness of what your life will be like with a new baby. If you plan to go back to work soon after giving birth, you will want a pump with a strong motor that operates at 40-50 cycles per minute. If you plan to stay home with your baby, the speed of the pump and suction power might not be as important.
Once you get your breast pump, you should adjust the pump suction and position for the best results. It is very important to maintain the cleanliness of the pump and ensure that every part is in working order during your sessions. Cleaning your pump right after use will also increase efficiency. This will allow you to spend more time with your new baby and less time disassembling your pump!
Increasing Breast Milk Supply
There are a lot of ways that you can naturally increase your breast milk supply. This is beneficial because you can store a supply of milk for when you are away from baby. One important thing to note is that supply responds to demand, so if your baby is feeding more, your body will (in most cases) respond to this by producing more milk.
There are many recipes and recommended foods to increase your breast milk supply naturally. It is recommended to eat around 2,500 calories per day and eat foods that are high in protein. Eat a lot of fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates like brown rice and whole grains. Supplements like fenugreek are also beneficial for milk production.
Drinking enough water is extremely important as well: if you are dehydrated, your body will have a hard time producing milk. Getting plenty of rest and spending a lot of time nurturing your newborn will also have a positive impact on milk supply. The more often your baby latches on, the more likely your body will naturally respond to this and produce more milk. The best advice is to breastfeed as often as you can.
It is also important to note that your newborn will be going through growth spurts during the first six months. Babies grow a lot during their first few months of life, so it’s never a bad idea to allow them to feed as much as possible. Breastfed babies tend to nurse more often compared to formula fed babies because the mother’s milk is easier to digest as it is full of natural nutrients. This might mean that you spend more time feeding, but in the long run your baby will be incredibly healthy from all the benefits that breast milk provides.
Some women have difficulty producing breast milk, which can be influenced by many different factors and is best addressed by consulting with a lactation consultant who can get to the bottom of the issue.
Refrigerating Breast Milk
Breast milk can be safely stored in the refrigerator for 24 hours. It can be frozen for 3-6 months, depending on your storage container and temperature of the freezer. It is always best to use your expressed milk as soon as possible. When freezing breast milk, you should always use a proper container that is designed to keep your milk preserved.
When you are traveling or away from home, store contained breast milk in an insulated bag filled with ice to avoid any thawing while you are away. Milk should immediately be refrigerated and labeled with the date to ensure it remains fresh. Milk should be stored in a glass or BPA-free plastic bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Many manufacturers offer storage bottles and bags for safe storage.
If you are planning to return to work, consider getting a high-quality electric pump that is lightweight enough to travel with you during your commute. An electric pump will help you get a significant volume of milk in a short pumping session.
If you are unsure about how long you plan to breast pump or if you only plan to pump occasionally, it is best to get a smaller pump like a manual or battery operated pump. These lightweight options give you the freedom to take your breast pump wherever you go and use it when needed.
Most manufacturers will provide a detailed instruction manual with the breast pump to help you get started. If you have any problems with your breast pump, you can call the breast pump manufacturer’s customer service line to speak with someone about troubleshooting any issues. There is also a large community of moms online who support and encourage other breastfeeding moms. Breastfeeding focused blogs and forums are a great source when you are looking for advice or need help solving a problem with your breast pump.
BPA and Bottles
When shopping for bottles to store your breast milk, make sure that the labeling on the bottles states that it is “BPA free.” Bispenol A is a chemical that has been associated with adverse health issues in children. It is best to make sure that no products coming in contact with your newborn contain BPA.
Workplace and On-The-Go Tips
Pump at work and at home: Many working moms enjoy having two pumps: one for work and one for home. This allows for easier pumping throughout the day and prevents moms from carrying their manual or electric pump with them back and forth to work each day.
Take breaks to breast pump: The Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed into law in 2010, requires employers to provide moms of babies younger than 12 months a reasonable break in a private location to pump. Employers with fewer than 50 employees don’t have to comply if the break period results in hardship for the company. Look into your company’s rules to find out when and where you can breast pump during the work day.
Follow a routine: Following a well planned breast pumping routine during the weeks leading up to going back to work can have a positive impact on your pumping sessions while away from home. Start pumping in a quiet environment with soft lighting where you feel relaxed, whether this is a quiet room in your workplace or a space that accommodates moms at a local shop. Follow a strict pumping schedule during work hours to get in a routine: pump for no less than 15 minutes to get the best results.Many cities have public breastfeeding locations that give moms a private space to pump. There are also several mobile apps on the market that locate a private pumping location close to you that has been recommended by moms in the area. Focus on scents that remind you of your newborn and breathe slowly to stay relaxed.