'Become a Pumping Pro' Blog Series: by Christsenio Dean, RN, CLEC
Hello everyone, it’s Christsenio! If we haven’t met yet, I’m a NICU Registered Nurse (RN), Certified Lactation Educator Counselor (CLEC), and one of the Allergy Experts here at Free to Feed. I’m incredibly passionate about helping families navigate infant food allergies, while continuing breastfeeding. Despite what you may have heard, your breastfeeding journey does NOT nee
d to end at the first sign of infant food allergies, and I’ve helped many families successfully continue breast/body feeding despite infant allergy challenges. I am a mother and a food allergy warrior supporter. You can learn more about my background here.
This article is for all my pumping mamas out there! With a plethora of pump brands and styles to choose from, which one should you use for maximum milk output?
Below you’ll learn:
How to choose the best pump for you?
What does a ‘hospital grade’ pump mean and do I really need one?
Are ‘hands-free’ pumps as good as traditional pumps?
My top breast pump recommendations (Hospital Grade, Electric, Manual, Hands-Free)
How do I get a breast pump for free through insurance?
6 Things to Consider to Select the Right Pump
Throughout our lives, we as mothers make many sacrifices for our babies. Whether it be sleep, limiting our diet to only allergy friendly foods, or hooking ourselves up to a machine to remove milk from our bodies in order to nourish them. Choosing the right pump is an important decision! And it shouldn’t suck. Well…I mean it should, but it shouldn’t (pun intended!)…
Choosing the right pump can be an overwhelming task. It can be just as overwhelming as starting an elimination diet. During an elimination diet, it is necessary to find the right combination of foods to avoid during your breastfeeding journey. Similarly, with a
breast pump, it is necessary to find the right combination of pump features and purposes that will fit best into your individual journey. The perfect pump for you, may not be the best pump for your best friend. Each person values the various pump features differently. I recommend my pumping mamas consider these 6 features when selecting the best breast pump for them:
Ease of use
Ease to clean
Your personal breastfeeding goals will help determine what features you value in a pump. And there are a variety of reasons why someone chooses to pump. It couId be to prepare for their return to work, or perhaps their baby has a poor latch, or simply personal preference. Generally, the more intense and longer the use of the breast pump, the more important it is to be effective, efficient, comfortable, and convenient.(5)
Important questions to ask yourself when choosing the right pump include:
Why are you pumping?
Where will you pump?
When would you like to pump?
Which pump is right for you?
Once you have clarity around your when, where, and wh
y, then it becomes much easier to choose the best breast pump for you. Let’s lay the foundations first. There are five breast pump types to choose from:
Battery Operated pump
Electric pump (often times electric pumps come with battery pack accessory to use on-the-go)
Hospital Grade pump
Hospital Grade pump: Top Tier, Best of the Best, The Most Powerful.
The ‘top of the line’ in terms of pump types. This pump style prevents backflow of milk into the pump, thus preventing contaminated tubes. It is the most hygienic. This allows it to be shared between patients in the hospital or outpatient settings. You can rent these from a lactation consultant, hospital, or breastfeeding center. Typically offering the strong
est suction power of all pumps, thus the most effective and efficient. (4) It mimics the natural infant suck pattern the most, which aids in production of more milk.(4) Usually, there are more options to customize things like suction patterns or breast shield sizes, so the ability to achieve comfort is greater. This pump type is very fitting for mothers that will be pumping long-term. If there is extensive separation from baby, like in the NICU, where the preterm baby will need great volumes on a consistent basis, a hospital grade pump is what I would recommend. Hospital grade pumps are also useful for mamas with babies that have decreased milk removal capabilities, like babies with a tongue-tie. Also, great for exclusive pumpers whose supply will be regulated solely by a pump. If you are needing to increase milk volume, this will be your best bet. Downside of Hospital grade pumps is that they tend to be larger in size, so not great for those looking for a compact option.
Electric pump: The standard, everyday pump.
The next best pump after hospital grade. Less strenuous than a manual pump, but much more effective, efficient, comfortable, and time saving. Most have the ability to customize suction patterns. The electric pump is beneficial if using a pump more frequently, say 2-4x daily, and if needing larger volumes for a longer length of time, e.g. 2 months+. This is the type of pump I recommend to most mothers returning back to work and looking to pump 2-4x per day. If volume is a concern, it is best to use a double pump because it increases the amount of milk produced, removes milk at a faster rate, and produces milk with higher energy content compared to a single pump.(2)
What is a double pump? A double pump is simply a pump that extracts milk from both breasts simultaneously. More efficient and faster for you!
Battery operated pump: Similar to the electric pump, but more convenient and portable.
For the occasional to often pumper. They aren’t made for sustaining long-term, frequent, intense pumping. If you desire the ability to pump in different locations, then this is a great option. Perhaps you will often pump at a location that has no electrical outlets available.
Hands-Free / Wearable pump: New. Popular for its ability to be discreet.
We are living in times of convenience. These hands-free pumps are lightweight, portable, easy to clean and assemble. These are the pumps you may have seen with milk collection cups you place inside your bra to collect milk while you are on the go. If you value convenience and maintaining productivity, this is a great option. If your goal is increasing volume, this is not the best option as suction will not be as strong as a hospital grade or electric pump. (1) A hands-free pump offers the convenience that many busy moms greatly value. You can literally pump at any time or place. No need to plug into a wall outlet. These are either charged beforehand, or run off batteries. But, convenience and quietness do not often equal efficient. The motors aren’t as strong and some moms and lactation professionals have noticed reduced milk output compared to the standard pump. (1) Sizing, alignment, and bra fit are important factors for your wearable pump to function optimally. (1) Best to have an alternate source of milk removal in conjunction. I would not recommend a hands-free pump to exclusive pumpers as their primary pump, but it’s fine to use in addition to another pump (i.e. hospital grade or electric) for a few pump sessions a week as needed. Very little research has been done on the effectiveness and efficiency of milk removal with a hands-free pump. If you do choose a hands-free pump, it is best to choose from well-known brands like Medela, Willow, Elvie, or Imani because of their warranties and better customer service. (1) Also, keep in mind that hands-free pumps may not be covered, or only partially covered by insurance.
Manual pump: The opposite of hands-free. You must manually pump, typically one side at a time.
If you are pumping seldomly to occasionally this is an appropriate option. Intended for brief or routine separations, where the baby is still the regulator of milk removal. (5) If you value a pump that is quick and quiet, lightweight, and portable and volume is not a concern this may be a great option. It’s efficient and there are fewer parts to maintain, but can be tiresome. Mamas that seldomly use the pump prefer quick relief and convenience over comfort and volume increasing abilities. (5) This is a great option to keep in your car for when you’re out and about and you unexpectedly become engorged or begin to leak.
My Top Breast Pump Recommendations
The BEST Hospital Grade Breast Pump: Medela’s Symphony Breast Pump
The BEST Electric & Battery Powered Breast Pumps:
The BEST Manual Pumps:
The BEST Hands-Free / Wearable Pump: Medela Freestyle Breast Pump
How do I get a breast pump for FREE through insurance?
Purchasing a pump during pregnancy definitely helps to check off one more box on the baby’s arrival list, but there is a benefit to waiting until the baby is born. You can actually know the extent to which you will need a pump. It’s possible that you will utilize several different pumps throughout your breastfeeding journey as certain pumps are more suitable for certain periods of lactation. The fact that most insurances offer a free pump, helps to alleviate costs should you need more than one. You can request a pump prescription from your OBGYN and
contact your insurance provider directly to request a pump, or you can utilize your favorite pregnancy/breastfeeding support website to submit your insurance information for you and then have your pump sent. I’ve included a few sites below that can help facilitate your free insurance covered pump.
It can feel overwhelming with all the pump types and options, but with the help of this article hopefully you have more clarity on how to choose the right pump for you. Remember, you may not need a pump immediately after delivery, and if you do, oftentimes you can rent from the hospital, so no need to rush into purchasing a pump (or two) before the baby arrives. I recommend my expecting mothers wait until after the baby arrives before deciding on the best pump for them so they have all the info to make an informed decision. If you are looking for guidance to navigate your little one's allergies or nursing/pumping challenges, book a 1:1 consultation with me; let's tackle this together!
That’s all for today! I look forward to continuing our ‘Become a Pumping Pro’ series, and will be back to share more pumping guidance and support soon!
Keep on pumping,
💙 Christsenio Dean
Registered Nurse, Certified Lactation Educator Counselor, & Allergy Expert at Free to Feed
Anderson, J. (2022, August 3). Wearable pumps and milk supply expectations. Genuine Lactation. https://www.genuinelactation.com/blog-for-breastfeeding-families/wearable-pumps-and-milk-supply-expectations
Auerbach, K. G. (1990). Sequential and simultaneous breast pumping: A comparison. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 27(3), 257–265. https://doi.org/10.1016/0020-7489(90)90040-p
McMillin, A., Behravesh, B., Byrne, P., & Unruh, G. K. (2021). A GME Wearable Breast Pump Program: An Innovative Method to Meet ACGME Requirements and Federal Law. Journal of graduate medical education, 13(3), 422–423. https://doi.org/10.4300/JGME-D-20-01275.1
Medela AG. (2022, October 13). How to choose a breast pump. Medela. https://www.medela.com/breastfeeding/mums-journey/how-to-choose-breast-pump
Meier, P. P., Patel, A. L., Hoban, R., & Engstrom, J. L. (2016). Which breast pump for which mother: an evidence-based approach to individualizing breast pump technology. Journal of perinatology : official journal of the California Perinatal Association, 36(7), 493–499. https://doi.org/10.1038/jp.2016.14