Choosing the right breast pump is a pivotal decision for mothers embarking on their breast pumping journey.
It’s a choice that can greatly impact both your comfort and the effectiveness of your pumping session.
Yet, with so many different breast pumps available, it can be overwhelming to know which breast pump to buy or even how to choose a breast pump to suit your needs. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
From the different types of breast pumps to consider, to the features you should look for, I’ll break it all down for you so you can confidently choose a breast pump to meet your unique needs and preferences.
Whether you’re a first-time mom looking for breastfeeding tips or expanding your family, this guide on how to choose the right breast pump will empower you to make an informed choice that aligns with your breast pumping goals and lifestyle.
So, let’s dive in and find the breast pump type that will make your breastfeeding journey a breeze!
Types of Breast Pumps
When it comes to choosing a breast pump, understanding the different types available is crucial.
Choosing the right breast pump can be overwhelming, but understanding the different types available will help you find the perfect fit for your breastfeeding journey. Especially as each type has its own set of features, advantages, limitations, and ideal use cases.
There are two main types of breast pumps to consider: manual breast pump and electric breast pump.
Manual Breast Pumps
Manual breast pumps are handheld devices designed for extracting breast milk by manually operating a lever or squeeze mechanism. These pumps do not require electricity or batteries to function, making them a portable and cost-effective option for mothers who occasionally need to pump breast milk or prefer a more hands-on approach to expressing milk.
Benefits of Manual Breast Pumps
Portability: Manual breast pumps are lightweight and compact, making them easy to transport and use on the go. They are ideal for travel or situations where access to an electric pump may be limited.
Silent Operation: Manual pumps operate silently, ensuring privacy and discretion while pumping. This can be particularly useful in shared spaces or quiet environments.
Simple Design: Manual pumps typically have fewer parts than electric pumps, making them easy to assemble, disassemble, and clean. They are user-friendly, even for first-time mothers.
Affordability: Manual breast pumps are generally more affordable than electric models. This affordability makes them an attractive option for mothers on a budget.
Limitations of Manual Breast Pumps
Whilst there are some great advantages of manual breast pumps, they do have their limitations. These include:
Efficiency: Manual pumping can be slower and require more effort compared to electric pumping, which may not be suitable for mothers who need to pump large volumes of milk regularly.
Hand Fatigue: Extended use of a manual breast pump can lead to hand fatigue, especially if you need to pump frequently.
Limited Adjustability: Manual pumps may have limited options for adjusting suction strength and speed compared to electric pumps, which can affect comfort during pumping.
Overall, manual breast pumps are a valuable tool for mothers who need to pump breast milk occasionally, prefer the simplicity and portability of a manual device, or are looking for a cost-effective option.
Electric Breast Pumps
Electric breast pumps are devices designed to facilitate the extraction of breast milk through the use of an electric motor. Unlike manual breast pumps that require manual hand pumping, electric breast pumps automate the pumping process, making it more efficient and convenient for many mothers.
There are more options available when it comes to electrical breast pumps. Electric pumps can be:
- Single user or multiple users
- Single-sided or double-sided use
- Powered by a battery or plugged into an electrical outlet
- Portable or wearable
- Open or closed system
- And even smart operated or not
Here is a brief overview of each type of electric pump.
Multiple User Electric Breast Pumps:
- Multiple user also known as hospital-grade electric pumps are designed for heavy-duty use and are often recommended for mothers with specific breastfeeding challenges or those who need to establish or maintain a robust milk supply.
- A hospital grade pump is known for their durability, adjustable settings, and powerful suction strength.
- They are often available for rental and are used in hospital settings.
Single User Electric Breast Pumps:
- Personal electric breast pumps are designed for home use and are typically smaller and more portable than hospital-grade pumps.
- They offer efficient milk expression and are suitable for mothers who need to pump regularly but do not require the power of a hospital-grade pump.
Single Electric Breast Pumps:
- These pumps are designed to express milk from one breast at a time.
- Ideal for mothers who occasionally need to pump or those who want the flexibility of pumping one breast while nursing on the other.
- Generally, more affordable than double electric pumps.
Double Electric Breast Pumps:
- Double electric breast pumps are equipped to express milk from both breasts simultaneously.
- A double breast pump is recommended for mothers who need to pump frequently, save time, and maximize milk production.
- Efficient for working mothers who need to maintain milk supply while away from their baby.
- Battery powered breast pumps come with a built-in rechargeable battery or have the option to use standard batteries (such as AA or AAA batteries).
- Battery-powered pumps provide flexibility and allow you to pump without being tethered to an electrical outlet.
- This feature is particularly useful when you’re on the go, traveling, or in situations where access to electricity is limited.
Plugged into an Electrical Outlet:
- Electric pumps can also be operated by plugging them into an electrical outlet.
- When plugged in, they are powered directly from the electrical grid.
- This mode of operation is convenient when you have access to a power source and want to ensure a consistent and reliable power supply for extended pumping sessions.
Portable Breast Pumps:
- Portable electric breast pumps are typically compact, lightweight and designed for easy transport and travel.
- They are battery operated and have tubing that connects the pump to the motor.
Wearable Electric Breast Pumps:
- Wearable electric breast pumps are compact and discreet, designed to be worn inside a bra, allowing for hands-free pumping.
- They are a battery-operated pump and highly portable.
- Wearable pumps are ideal for mothers who want to pump while on the move or during daily activities.
Closed-System Electric Breast Pumps:
- Closed-system electric breast pumps have a barrier that prevents breastmilk from entering the pump’s tubing and motor.
- This design helps maintain hygiene and reduces the risk of mold growth in the pump.
Open-System Electric Breast Pumps:
- Open-system electric breast pumps do not have a barrier to prevent breastmilk from reaching the tubing and motor.
- They may require more thorough cleaning and maintenance to ensure hygiene.
Smart Electric Breast Pumps:
- Smart electric breast pumps are equipped with advanced technology and often have digital displays and connectivity features.
- Some models can track and record pumping data, offer mobile app integration, and provide insights into milk supply and pumping sessions.
Benefits of Electric Breast Pumps
Efficiency: Electric breast pumps are generally more efficient at extracting breast milk compared to manual pumps. They use an electric motor to create a consistent and adjustable suction pattern, allowing for faster and more effective milk expression.
Double Pumping: Many electric breast pumps are equipped with dual pumping capabilities, which means they can express milk from both breasts simultaneously. This double pump feature not only saves time but can also stimulate milk production more effectively.
Adjustable Settings: Electric breast pumps often offer a range of adjustable settings, including suction strength and speed. This customization allows mothers to find the settings that are most comfortable and effective for them.
Hands-Free Options: Some electric breast pumps come with accessories like pumping bras or attachments that allow for hands-free pumping. This feature is particularly useful for multitasking or working mothers who need to pump while completing other tasks.
Hospital-Grade Options: Electric breast pumps come in both personal and hospital-grade models. Hospital-grade pumps are designed for heavy-duty use and may be recommended for mothers with specific breastfeeding challenges or those who need to establish or maintain a robust milk supply.
Battery and Electric Operation: Many electric breast pumps are designed to be used with an electrical outlet, but they often have the option to operate using batteries. This flexibility allows for use in various settings, including workplaces, homes, and when traveling.
Digital Displays: Some electric breast pumps come with digital displays that provide information on pumping duration, suction level, and other relevant data, enhancing user convenience and control.
Effortless Pumping: Electric breast pumps require minimal physical effort, reducing the risk of hand fatigue associated with manual pumping.
Limitations of Electric Breast Pumps
Despite their numerous advantages, electric breast pumps may have some limitations. These include:
Cost: Electric breast pumps are typically more expensive than manual pumps, which may not fit everyone’s budget.
Noise: While some electric pumps are designed to be quiet, others can be relatively noisy during operation, potentially affecting privacy and discretion in certain situations.
Maintenance: Electric pumps often have more parts to clean and maintain than manual pumps, which can be time-consuming.
Portability: While many electric pumps are portable, they may be bulkier than manual pumps, making them slightly less convenient for on-the-go pumping.
Overall, electric breast pumps are a popular choice for mothers who need to pump milk regularly, such as working mothers or those with specific pumping goals.
How To Choose A Breast Pump
Selecting the right breast pump is a decision that should be made carefully, taking into account a variety of factors that can greatly influence your breastfeeding experience.
So, let’s delve deeper into how to select a breast pump and the key factors you should keep in mind when choosing a breast pump that is perfect for your needs.
Frequency of Use
The first question you need to ask yourself is how often do you plan to pump? Occasional pumping vs regular pumping.
Your pumping frequency plays a crucial role in determining the type of breast pump that’s most suitable for you. Consider the following:
If you plan to pump only occasionally, perhaps to build a small stash of milk or for the occasional night out, a manual pump or a single electric pump may suffice. These options are cost-effective and efficient for infrequent use.
If you’re planning to pump regularly, such as working moms or those who exclusively pump, a double electric pump is often the best choice. It allows you to express milk from both breasts simultaneously, saving you valuable time and ensuring consistent milk production.
Depending on where you’ll be pumping, you may want a breast pump that offers convenience, discretion, and portability.
Portability ensures that you can maintain your breastfeeding and pumping routine when you’re on the move, whether that be at home, at work, or on the go. This flexibility is crucial for working mothers, frequent travelers, and those with active lifestyles.
A portable breast pump allows you to pump discreetly and comfortably in various settings, whether it’s in the workplace, while running errands, at home, or during your daily commute.
The ability to pump hands-free, wear a pump inside your bra, or use a compact, battery-operated pump increases your convenience and productivity, as you can multitask while pumping.
Portability enables you to have more control over your breastfeeding journey, making it easier to manage your milk supply and continue providing your baby with breast milk even when you’re not physically with them.
That said, portability is more than just the size and weight of a pump.
You will need to also consider the battery life of your pump as how many pumping sessions you get from a single charge will greatly vary. This is also true for how long each pump takes to recharge.
When choosing a breast pump, consider your lifestyle and daily activities, so you can choose a breast pump that suits your pumping needs.
Suction strength is a critical factor to consider when choosing a breast pump because it directly affects the efficiency, comfort, and effectiveness of milk expression.
The ability to customize suction strength and access different suction modes ensures that you can adapt your pumping experience to your specific preferences and needs.
It can help prevent discomfort, nipple pain, and issues like engorgement, clogged ducts, or reduced milk supply.
When choosing a breast pump, I think it is vital to consider your personal comfort and milk flow patterns, as well as any potential challenges you may face during breastfeeding.
Suction strength refers to the force with which the breast pump draws milk from the breast. It’s typically measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) or similar units.
The right suction strength is essential for effective milk expression. If the suction is too weak, it may not effectively remove milk, resulting in incomplete emptying and decreased milk supply over time.
On the other hand, excessive suction strength can lead to discomfort, pain, and potential nipple damage.
Different mothers have different comfort thresholds, so it’s important to choose a breast pump that allows you to adjust the suction strength to your preference.
Many breast pumps offer multiple suction levels or settings that allow you to increase or decrease the suction strength as needed.
Suction levels typically range from gentle or low to strong or high. This customization is crucial because it accommodates variations in nipple sensitivity and milk flow among mothers.
When selecting a breast pump, look for one that provides a wide range of suction levels, ensuring that you can find the most comfortable and effective setting for your specific needs.
Suction modes refer to the patterns or rhythms of suction that the breast pump uses during a pumping session.
Some breast pumps offer various suction modes, such as stimulation mode and expression mode.
Stimulation mode is designed to mimic a baby’s initial rapid, shallow sucks, which helps trigger let-down and initiate milk flow. It typically has a faster rhythm and lower suction strength.
Expression mode, on the other hand, simulates the slower, deeper sucks of a baby during active milk feeding. It usually has a slower rhythm and higher suction strength to efficiently remove milk.
Having both stimulation and expression modes can be beneficial because they replicate the natural breastfeeding process and optimize milk expression.
Comfort matters when it comes to pumping!
From pain prevention to optimal milk flow, you’re going to want to choose a breast pump that optimized your pumping experience.
A comfortable breast pump helps prevent pain, discomfort, and nipple soreness that can result from improper fit or excessive suction. Furthermore, comfortable breast pumps encourage optimal milk flow. When you’re at ease, your body is more likely to respond positively to pumping, leading to better milk expression and maintaining a healthy milk supply.
Being comfortable can also make you more likely to stick to a regular pumping schedule.
But what makes a comfortable breast pump?
Factors contributing to comfort include:
- Flange size options, which allow you to find the right fit for your nipple size and shape, minimizing discomfort and preventing friction-related issues.
- The slope design of the flange affects how well it aligns with your breast, optimizing comfort and milk flow.
- A secure flange seal prevents air leakage and ensures an airtight connection between the breast and pump, maintaining suction efficiency without causing discomfort.
- The ability to customize suction strength is key to comfort. A comfortable breast pump allows you to adjust the suction level to your preference, ensuring that it’s neither too weak nor too strong, preventing nipple pain or discomfort.
- Gentle suction initiation and soothing cycle that mimics a baby’s initial sucking pattern. This helps trigger let-down and milk flow.
- Some breast pumps also come with a cushioned breast shield or silicone inserts that provide extra comfort by reducing friction and enhancing the overall pumping experience.
Ultimately, a comfortable breast pump promotes a positive pumping experience, encouraging mothers to continue breastfeeding and providing the best care for their babies.
Noise can be a concern, especially if you plan to pump in a shared workspace or a quiet environment. Thankfully, many electric breast pumps now come with quieter motor designs, but I do highly recommend reading breast pump reviews and consider noise levels when making your choice.
Ease of Cleaning
Proper cleaning and maintenance of your breast pump parts are essential to ensure the safety of the expressed breast milk and to prevent contamination that could lead to health issues for your baby.
A clean breast pump operates more efficiently and maintains its performance over time, prolonging its lifespan.
When choosing a breast pump, consider the cleaning requirements associated with the pump’s design (open or closed system) and whether its components are dishwasher safe. Opting for a closed-system pump with dishwasher-safe parts can simplify your pumping routine and help you maintain a high standard of hygiene, ensuring the safety of the milk you provide to your baby.
Breast pumps can come equipped with a variety of additional features and technological advancements to enhance the overall pumping experience. Here are some of the additional features that you may want to consider:
Inbuilt Timer: An inbuilt timer allows you to track the duration of each pumping session. This feature can be helpful for monitoring your pumping routine, ensuring you meet your desired duration or frequency goals, and tracking milk supply changes over time.
Digital Display: A digital display provides real-time information about the pumping session, including suction level, cycle speed, and session duration. It allows for easy adjustment of settings and provides valuable feedback on your pumping progress.
Memory Function: Some breast pumps have a memory function that stores your preferred settings, making it convenient to start each pumping session with your preferred suction strength and cycle speed.
Bluetooth Connectivity: Breast pumps with Bluetooth connectivity can sync with smartphone apps, enabling you to track and record your pumping sessions, milk production, and other relevant data. This data can be valuable for monitoring your breastfeeding journey and sharing information with healthcare professionals if needed.
Mobile Apps: Many breast pump manufacturers offer companion mobile apps that sync with the pump via Bluetooth. These apps often provide pumping reminders, maintain a history of your pumping sessions, offer tips and guidance, and even provide troubleshooting assistance.
Once you’ve narrowed down your pumping requirements, then next step you may want to consider is the brand of your pump.
The brand of a breast pump can be important for several reasons.
Established and reputable pump brands often have a history of producing high-quality and reliable breast pumps, instilling confidence in the durability and performance of the product.
Moreover, recognized brands are more likely to adhere to safety standards and regulations, ensuring the pump’s safety for both mothers and babies.
Additionally, these brands typically offer better customer support and warranty services, making it easier to address any issues or obtain replacement parts if needed. Their wide range of compatible accessories, comprehensive user manuals, and online resources can also simplify the pumping experience.
It’s also important to mention that if you’re looking to purchase your breast pump through insurance, that some insurance plans may have preferred breast pump brands that they cover or offer at a reduced cost. Checking with your insurance provider can help you determine which brands are available to you.
Please keep in mind though, that while brand reputation is significant, it’s essential to consider other factors such as the specific model, features, and compatibility with your individual needs when choosing a breast pump.
Breast pumps come in a wide price range, so it’s important to establish your budget early in the decision-making process.
Keep in mind that your budget should cover not only the pump itself but also any necessary accessories, such as breast shields, storage bags, and bottles.
I recommend considering the long-term cost as well, including replacement parts and maintenance.
Compatibility with Pumping Goals
Finally, ensure that the breast pump you choose aligns with your pumping goals. Whether you plan to exclusively pump, provide occasional bottles, or build a freezer stash, your pump should support your overall pumping journey seamlessly.
By carefully considering these factors, you can confidently select a breast pump that meets your unique needs, making your breastfeeding experience more comfortable and successful.
What should I look for in a breast pump?
When buying a breast pump, first determine what type of breast pump you need. From there prioritize features like adjustable suction strength, comfort, portability, and budget.
How do I know if I’m using the right breast pump?
To know if you’re using the right breast pump, consider your comfort during pumping sessions, the efficiency of milk expression, and whether it aligns with your lifestyle. If you experience pain, discomfort, or low milk output, it may be a sign that the pump is not the right fit.
When should you buy breast pump?
You should consider purchasing a breast pump around week 30 of your pregnancy, but you can order one at any time during your pregnancy. It’s advisable to begin the process before your third trimester, allowing ample time to have everything in order before your baby arrives. This timeline ensures that you are well-prepared for any potential breastfeeding challenges or situations and that you have the necessary equipment when you need it.
Related Feeding Guides
Choosing the right breast pump is a significant decision on your breastfeeding journey.
There is no one size fits all, instead, your choice should align with your specific needs, lifestyle, and comfort preferences.
Start with determining if you want a manual or electric breast pump.
Then if choosing an electric breast pump, I highly recommend you consider factors like adjustable suction strength, flange options, discretion, and portability. As well as any additional features that can enhance your pumping experience, such as dishwasher-safe parts, in-built timers, or tracking apps.
Remember that breast pump technology continues to evolve, offering more options and convenience for breastfeeding mothers. Take the time to research, read reviews, and seek recommendations to make an informed decision. Consulting with a lactation consultant can also provide valuable insights into choosing the best breast pump for your individual circumstances.
Ultimately, a comfortable and efficient breast pump can make a significant difference in your breast pumping journey, ensuring that you can provide the best care for your baby while prioritizing your own comfort and well-being.