How to choose a breast pump

How to choose a breast pump

New mothers often find that a breast pump is beneficial for a variety of reasons: to alleviate nipple soreness, allow the baby’s father to help with a middle-of-the-night feeding, or continue breastfeeding while returning to work, just to name a few.

But with the price of breast pumps ranging from under $20 to several hundred dollars, which pump should you choose? Is it really necessary to pay more? It helps to know the features of some of the basic kinds of pumps and who should use them.

A manual pump, the cheapest kind, is not designed for heavy usage. These pumps are handheld and hand-powered, as opposed to the more expensive pumps powered by batteries or electricity, and are primarily useful for expressing a little milk to relieve engorgement or draw out inverted nipples to make it easier for the baby to latch on to the breast.

A manual pump can also be used to express a bottle of milk for a babysitter to give the baby while the parents are out. However, pumping by hand can be tiring, so for more frequent use, it pays to consider an electric or battery-powered model.

Battery-powered pumps cost only a little more than manual pumps and are good for daily use. Like manual pumps, battery-powered pumps help moms to relieve engorgement or nipple soreness, or to pump the occasional bottle for the babysitter or the baby’s father to give to the baby but they are much easier to use.

They are portable, and many of these pumps come with an AC adapter so that you can save your batteries. However, battery-powered pumps may be loud, making it difficult to use them without being conspicuous. And since they only pump one breast at a time, a battery-powered pump may take a very long time to empty both breasts. They are also not as gentle on the breasts as more expensive models.

Working moms should consider one of the more expensive double-pumping models. These take only half the time that a single pump takes, and possibly less, as many of the more expensive models simulate the way a baby actually nurses in order to stimulate the letdown of the milk. In addition, pumps made for working moms come in carrying cases that look like briefcases and have a cooling compartment so the milk doesn’t have to be stored in the breakroom fridge!

It is better not to buy a used model if at all possible. However, if you do buy or borrow a used pump, be sure to sterilize the plastic parts and tubing either according to the manufacturer’s instructions or by using the following method: Place all the plastic parts in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a full boil, cover and boil for 15-20 minutes.

Then turn off the stove, remove the lid of the pot, pour out the water, and allow the parts to begin air drying. When they have cooled enough to touch them, you may place all the parts on a clean towel to finish air-drying. If your pump uses plastic tubing that still contains water droplets after it is sterilized, you may dry it out by connecting only the tubes to the pump and letting it run for a few minutes.

If you just need a pump for a short time, you might consider renting a hospital-grade pump from either your hospital or a lactation consultant. These pumps are not very portable and are prohibitively expensive to buy, but are excellent for short-term situations in which the mother wishes to breastfeed but is unable to do so.

For instance, if the baby is premature and has to remain in the hospital for an extended period of time, delaying the start of breastfeeding, the mother might pump bottles for the baby to use and thus also build up her milk supply.

Knowing the pros and cons of different pumps should help you to decide which kind is right for your situation. In addition, be sure to research which brands have the best reputation (Medela and Avent, for example, are among the best-known and most recommended pump manufacturers).

Learning to breastfeed properly takes a lot of patience, but having the right pump can make the process much easier.


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