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How To Choose The Right Breast Pump For You

By Tamera L. Young, RN, MSN

How To Choose The Right Breast Pump For You

Congratulations on your decision to breastfeed your baby! You have made a thoughtful, healthy choice that research shows is the best way to feed your baby – both for you and for him. Now that you have decided to breastfeed, you’re also likely thinking of those times when you won’t be able to nurse your baby, like after you’ve returned to work, if you have to spend more than two to three hours away from your baby, or if you develop a healthcare condition that requires you to stop nursing for a period of time.

When these types of situations arise, having a pump to express your breast milk will keep both you and baby happy. There are several types of breast pumps available, and the best type for you will depend on how often you need to pump milk for your baby and how easy it is to use and clean your pump.

Manual versus powered pumps

If you only need to occasionally pump breast milk, a manual pump may be your best option. They’re portable and very affordable. These pumps work on only one breast at a time, and do require “hand power.” Prices range from $35 to $55 at most retailers.

If you need more frequent pumping, but are still home most of the time, then a mid-range battery-powered or electric pump could be your best bet. These pumps are usually very lightweight and portable, but have the advantage of using another power source besides you! You can find pumps that will express milk from one or both breasts at the same time. Pumping can be time consuming, so pay attention to how long it takes to express the desired ounces of milk you want to express. These pumps may not have adjustable suction or cycle length like their more expensive counterparts. Durability if also a concern if you’re using these pumps more frequently. They may not hold up to the use designed for hospital-grade breast pumps. But they’re more economical, and typically range in price from $60 to $150.

If you’re returning to work full-time or need to frequently pump and store milk for your baby, high-end electric pumps are best. While being the most expensive pumps available, they’re also the most durable and customizable. They typically provide the fastest way to express your milk through variable cycle lengths, and typically the suction is also adjustable, providing maximum comfort.

Most models have battery backup available, as well as cigarette lighter adapters for use in cars. And they typically have attractive carrying cases for portability. Being the most expensive pumps on the market, prices usually start at $300.

If you’re not ready to buy, hospital-grade electric pumps are often available for rent and are great for full-time pumping needs. Check with your hospital’s lactation consultant for more details.

Just one word of caution: don’t purchase or use a previously owned personal-use breast pump. These pumps are not designed to be used by more than one mother and they can harbor bacteria or viruses transmitted through breast milk. Hospital-grade pumps are manufactured differently and are approved by the FDA to be used by multiple mothers.

Tamera L. Young, RN, MSN, is an obstetric clinical instructor at Central Ohio Technical College in Newark, OH, and an expert advisor to Health4Mom.org and Healthy Mom & Baby magazine.

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