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Which Pump When?

I have been asked this question many times over the years.  There are different breast pumps for different needs for different moms.

Are you sure you need a pump at all?  Are you a stay at home mom or will you be working?

Are you having difficulty breastfeeding or struggling with low milk supply or is your baby unable to breastfeed at this time?

Are you able to express milk manually with comfort and ease?

All pumps work by suction used to draw milk from the breast into a container, so what is the difference between one pump and another?

  • The power source
  • How much suction is produced
  • How the suction and release cycle is controlled
  • How many suction and release cycles the pump produces each minute.

How good a pump do you need? Some moms can pump easily and get several ounces at a session, no matter what they use, but most get more milk with higher quality pumps. So, choosing a pump depends upon what your needs are.

Typically, I encourage using a pump made by the two major producers, Ameda and Medela.  It is not that I have any sort of connection to these companies, but rather that they provide an excellent product and the parts are easy to replace, as I carry every piece. My experience with folks purchasing inexpensive pumps has been poor with increased pain, discomfort and poor milk removal.

For an occasional night out, a simple, single manual or electric pump may be just fine.  With a hand pump, mother provides the power and regulates the suction.

With electric pumps, the suction is generated by a motor. Better pumps allow for adjusting suction and speed. In general, pumps that allow for more cycles per minute are more effective. Cheaper electric pumps or those with small motors only generate five suction/release cycles per minute and the slower rate can be uncomfortable subjecting your nipples to longer periods of unrelieved suction. Better quality pumps, particularly medical grade rental pups cycle up to 60 times per minute and are far more comfortable and effective.

Working moms prefer a lightweight but efficient electric pump that is portable like the Ameda Purely Yours or Medela Pump in Style. (I am not a fan of Freestyle as it is ineffective). You want to purchase one that will keep you pumping precious milk for your baby for as long as possible, so choose the highest quality pump you can. The Medela PinS, however is a SINGLE user pump because it is an open system and should NOT be used by more than one user.

For difficulties with milk supply, post c-section, baby in NICU, low milk supply, multiples, baby struggling with poor latch or suck, etc, renting a medical grade pump is the best choice. Using a lesser version is not worth the risk to your milk supply.  The Medela Symphony is a computer driven pump with multiple settings and a gentle, very effective system for milk removal. It is often used in Rex, Duke, UNC Hospitals.  The Ameda Platinum Is also an electronic pump often used in the NICU at Wakemed Hospitals.  The Medela Lactina and Ameda Elite are also medical grade pumps They are not electronic, less expensive but still good choices and are typically used in Wakemed and Rex.

Medical grade pumps are rented and designed for multiple users. The kit for them (all the parts) are sold separately and cost about $50. If you pump in hospital, be sure and bring ALL of the pump parts home so that you do not have to buy them again. .

As you consider your pump choices, consider the following:

  • Why are you pumping? Trying to establish and maintain a supply for a baby who cannot nurse yet? Best quality pump – medical grade rental.
  • How old is your baby? Will you be pumping for many, many months? This may influence whether you rent or buy.
  • Will you be having another baby, so that you’ll use the pump again?
  • Do you need the convenience and speed of double-pumping (i.e., pumping both breasts at the same time)? Remember, double pumping cuts pumping time in half and typically produces more milk.
  • Compare the cost of the pump to the cost of the alternative: formula-feeding. Even the more expensive pumps may come out looking economical by this standard.
  • Do you need a pump that’s lightweight and portable? Will you be carrying your pump back and forth to work every day, or will it stay in one place?
  • Pumping hands free so you can eat lunch, type, etc – Consider purchasing “Easy Expression Pumping Bra” ($34 life changer!)