You want only the best for your baby. That is one of the reasons you’ve chosen to breastfeed her. As part of your goals for keeping her healthy and happy, a breast pump can ensure she gets the benefits of your milk even if you can’t be there to feed her. To choose a breast pump adequate for your needs consider your lifestyle, expected level of use and budget.
Three types of breast pumps are available for nursing moms. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks:
- Manually Operated Pumps—manual pumps require you to squeeze a lever or piston to operate (a few foot pedal models are available). Most models require two hands to operate and only empty one breast at a time. They are quiet and can easily be used on one breast while baby feeds on the other. Manual pumps are said to more closely mimic the suction of a feeding baby, but can also be slow and may not always completely empty the breast of milk. Manually operated breast pumps are ideal for situations where mom can breastfeed regularly and needs to pump an occasional supplement.
- Battery Operated Pumps—While touted as an alternative to the more expensive electric pumps, battery operated pumps seem to have several drawbacks. Like manual pumps, they are made to pump one breast at a time, but suction is often too strong or too weak and some women report pain when using these models. Battery life can be a problem, so purchase of a charger and rechargeable batteries is recommended. These pumps are good for women who have a well-established milk flow and who want to pump a small quantity of milk once or twice a day.
- Electric Pumps—If you are a working mom, travel away from home frequently or are starting a prescription medicine, electric breast pumps are an efficient means of maintaining milk supply. The upside of electric pumps includes speed of operation, ability to pump both breasts at once and ease of use. The downside includes expense and noise. A good quality electric breast pump can cost between $200 and $400. Hospital quality machines can be rented and are ideally suited to initiating milk flow or pumping milk for a hospitalized preemie. Insurance may pay for the cost of an electric breast pump and some workplaces have lactation programs that provide the pump while you provide a breast shield, tubing and receptacle for your milk.
Whatever style of breast pump you purchase or lease, look for a pump that is easy to use, can be cleaned with little effort and doesn’t require complex assembly/disassembly. If you are shopping for an electric model and want the ultimate in efficiency, pay special attention to cycling time. This is the number of times the unit sucks per minute. The higher the cycling time, the sooner you will be finished pumping.