Updated: Jun 11, 2020
Choosing the right breast pump is not as simple as it sounds. There are many factors to consider while shopping for the right fit, and it may even be necessary to use multiple different types of breast pumps along your breastfeeding journey.
First you will need to determine how often you will be pumping. If you plan to exclusively pump, you may want to rent a hospital grade electric double breast pump. Most websites that sell breast pumps will also list locations where you can rent one if purchasing is not an option, as the hospital grade pumps can be quite expensive. These pumps are comfortable, powerful and tend to be more quiet than the regular electric double pumps.
If you plan to pump several times a day, you may find that using a regular, electric double breast pump will work just fine. You may also qualify for a free breast pump through your health insurance. Contact your insurance company and your breast pump will arrive in the mail. There are also various options available for purchase in stores and online. Occasional pumping throughout the week may call for a single electric breast pump which is also available for purchase. Many double electric breast pumps also have the option to be used as a single pump (so you can pump one breast at a time).
Please note that these electric pumps are single user items and it is not recommended to share breast pumps or purchase used breast pumps.
If you plan to exclusively breastfeed but would like the option to pump and feed expressed breastmilk to your child, a manual breast pump may be ideal. These are portable and can be easily packed in a purse if you plan on spending several hours away from your baby and will need to pump. This type of breast pump may also be useful if you haven’t yet mastered hand expression and need to express milk to relieve engorgement or perhaps if you’d like to pump once in a while in order to start a backup supply in the freezer. A manual pump can also be used if you are trying to increase your supply by pumping in between feeds, but an electric pump is also an option in this situation.
Silicone manual breast pumps, also referred to as milk catchers, may be useful to a variety of breastfeeding families as well. These can be used easily during feeding as they attach to the breast and are essentially hands-free. This may work well if your baby has only been nursing from one breast at a time or is not getting enough milk directly from the breast. This type of pump can allow you to express milk from the opposite breast and feed it to your baby immediately after nursing. These breast pumps can also help if you have an oversupply or if you leak while breastfeeding as it will catch your milk and allow you to store it for later use.
Finally, a more modern invention available are wearable and wireless breast pumps. Some of these products are almost silent and can be worn while working or completing any task without making it known that you’re pumping. Although these can be more pricey, they might be ideal for a working mother or a mother who is caring for her other children while breastfeeding a newborn as it allows for multitasking and does not restrict movement. These can also be appealing for mothers who would rather not be “stuck” sitting in one place for 10-30 minutes at a time while using a traditional electric breast pump.
With any pump you decide on using, you can always feed the expressed breastmilk to your child any way you’d like. Bottle-feeding may be most convenient for some families and the mother can also continue to feed from the breast as well if she desires. If the goal is to eventually exclusively breastfeed at the breast, it may be best to use a supplemental nursing system, cup, syringe or spoon in order to avoid nipple preference (also known as nipple confusion) or breastfeeding refusal, which can happen with bottle-feeding.
The next choice to be made is selecting the appropriate flange size. Each brand will have various sizes along with a guide for measuring. Pumping should not be painful and your nipples should easily glide into the flanges while pumping. The areola should not be completely sucked in but it should not fit too tightly around your nipple. There should be just enough room for easy movement of the nipple inside the flange. Organic coconut oil may help as a lubricant if necessary and you might even find that you will have to change flange sizes as time goes on. A lactation specialist can help you find the correct fit to ensure you will get the most milk possible while staying comfortable.
There are many feeding supplies on the market, but it is wise to buy bottles that can attach to your flanges of the breast pump that you will be using. This way, if you plan on bottle-feeding, you will avoid the extra step of transferring the expressed breastmilk into another bottle prior to feeding. This is also problematic as the fat from refrigerated breastmilk gets stuck to the sides of the bottle and does not come off until the bottle or container is warmed.
Cleaning supplies for your pump parts and accessories are also available, but regular dish soap and hot water or a dishwasher work just as well. Pumping equipment, parts and accessories should be sterilized before the first use and then once a day thereafter. It is important to disconnect all parts prior to washing and then allowing them to air dry. As always, practicing good hygiene and frequent hand washing is another crucial step of pumping.
At the end of the day, it’s great to get recommendations from friends and family, but you need to evaluate your unique situation in order to determine which pumping strategies and supplies will work best for you and your family. Always reach out to a lactation specialist for more individualized help and support.