How to Find the Perfect Breast Pump for You
Single-sided, double-sided, manual and electric -- oh my! Here are tips on how to identify and choose the best breast pump for you.
If you're breastfeeding your baby, you've no doubt thought about a buying a breast pump. Whether you're going back to work or will be away from your baby occasionally (hello, date night!), a pump can make life a little easier. You can leave bottles of breast milk for your babysitter or partner to feed the baby when you're not there.
The good news is that you may be eligible for a free pump through your health insurance company, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. "One of the first things to do is call your insurance and find out what's covered and where you can get a breast pump," says Olivia Leon, the director of marketing for Yummy Mummy, a New York City store dedicated to all things breastfeeding.
But since most insurance plans cover a limited number of pumps, you may still need to shop around. Need help narrowing down your choices? Here are some tips to find the right breast pump for you.
What Are Your Pumping Needs?
Before you buy, consider your pumping needs. "How much will you need to pump? Will you pump for every feed or occasionally? Do you have multiple children? These questions will help determine what kind of pump you may want," says Jada Shapiro, certified lactation counselor and founder of Birth Day Presence, a childbirth education center.
If you plan to pump occasionally, a manual pump may be a good option. "It's faster and easier to use. You can use it on the go and you don't have to hook it up to anything," says Shapiro. If you'll be separated from your baby on a regular basis and need to pump multiple times a day, consider a double-sided electric pump, which pumps both breasts at once and removes milk quickly and efficiently.
"For regular pumping, it's especially important to buy the best quality pump that you can afford in order to effectively remove milk and keep up your milk supply," says Diana West, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and the director of media relations for La Leche League International.
There may be times when you need a high-quality pump to stimulate and maintain your milk supply, such as a significant breastfeeding problem or separation between mother and baby at birth. "When milk removal is crucial, look for a rental-grade pump that is piston-driven with metal interior parts," says West.
What Are the Most Important Features?
Once you've determined the kind of breast pump you need, it's time to consider the features most important to you.
- Will You have Access to an Electrical Outlet?
If not (or if the power fails), you'll need a battery pack or rechargeable batteries.
- Do the Breast Shields Fit?
To create the proper suction required for pumping, you need breast shields that fit you. "Most pumps come with only one standard size, but most women need a size larger than the 'standard' size," says West. "Look for a brand that has larger sizes available for purchase. Or use a shield with many size options that'll work with any pump," she says.
- Can You Adjust the Suction Power?
Everyone has different preferences, and that goes for suction too. Shapiro suggests looking for an electric pump with adjustable suction speed so it'll be comfortable for you.
- Is it Portable?
If you're returning to work or school, you'll want a bag to carry your pump. If you're a frequent traveler, look for a lightweight, compact pump. Leon also suggests considering a brand that's widely available. That way, if you lose a part, you can pick up a replacement on the road.
- Is it Loud?
If you're pumping at work or in the middle of the night, pay attention to the pump's noise level. Some can be quite noisy. Speaking of pumping at night, some pumps even come with a nightlight!
- Can it Be Recycled?
There are some companies that are committed to keeping pumps out of landfills. If you're concerned about the environment, you may want to explore these options.
If you're having trouble deciding which breast pump is right for you, contact a certified lactation consultant or talk to other moms. Already found the pump you want? Learn how to store your milk by reading 7 Tips for Breast Milk Storage.
Christine Yu is a freelance writer and mom to two boys. You can find Christine on her blog Love, Life, Surf