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Different breast pumps work for different moms and so it’s very important to find the right one to fit your needs and lifestyle. Just because one breast pump works like a dream for your friend, doesn’t mean you will have the same experience.
Here are a few things consider when picking the best breast pump for you:
Benefits of Breast Pumps
Because of moms busy schedule nowadays, there are times when we cannot be with our baby and we may need to pump a bottle of milk for them. Breast pumps allow you to be able to continue feeding your child breast milk even if your schedule won’t permit.
Having your breast milk on hand is also useful in emergency situations. Sometimes, your baby can’t latch on properly onto your breast but will do better in bottles so this is another instance where breastfeeding pumps are very useful. Pumping instead of breastfeeding has its advantages and sometimes, is the only options for moms.
When to pump if breastfeeding will depend on you and your lifestyle. You can actually start pumping as soon as you like, need to, or are comfortable with it. However, if you plan to nurse your baby you may want to wait until your baby is at least one month before you introduce them to the bottle. This is so that you can avoid “nipple confusion”.
Related: The Top 10 Nursing Essentials For Breastfeeding Moms
Factors to consider when choosing a breast pump:
It is good to stay within your budget or price range but there are times when buying a cheaper pump can just lead to wasted time and effort since you may end up just replacing it.
Many health insurance programs will provide a breast pump free of charge. You can use this website to see what your insurance plan provides.
How much you are planning to pump
Some pumps are good for heavy pumping while others are built for the occasional pump so depending on how much milk you are planning to express, you can choose your breastfeeding pump accordingly. This will also help you determine if you prefer a manual or electric pump.
Pumping both breasts at once
Sometimes you just want to get pumping over with and so having the option to pump both breasts at once can be beneficial and worth the investment. It also means you can save time and you won’t have to do anything.
Portability of the breast pump
If you go to an office for work, then portable breastfeeding pumps are a necessity so you will be able to get in those pumping sessions during breaks. If you are also always on the go, it is better to look into portability in order to make things easier for you.
Ease of cleaning
It is a good idea to buy a breastfeeding pump that is not only easy to clean, but easy to assemble back after because let’s face it, the less time you spend on cleaning, the better.
In case of power outages, having a pump that has an option for batteries can be useful. You can also get a car adapter that allows you to use your pump in the car.
Just in case the standard suction does not work for you, having an adjustable one is a good thing to look out for.
Breast shields or flanges
These cups are important features in order for you to be able to pump properly. They should fit the size of your nipple and not your breast. It shouldn’t be tight since it can irritate your nipples more and it also shouldn’t be too big.
Breast shields can be different depending on the brand or type of pump so always check it. If you experience a pain when using your pump, try checking the breast shields if they are the right size for you.
Kinds of breast pumps
Manual breast pumps
These kinds of breast pumps don’t require a power source so they are light, portable, and very convenient. It means that you have to use your hands and squeeze a handle to get it to function so you have to be prepared to do all the work.
Compared to an electric breast pump ones, you may get less milk because the suction isn’t as strong. If you are just using a pump to relieve engorgement, manual pumps can also work for you.
- EASY AND CONVENIENT PUMPING: The Medela Harmony Breast Pump is a manual pump that has been designed for occasional use. It's designed for the occasional time when you're away from your baby.
- ERGONOMIC SWIVEL HANDLE: Designed for ease of use, the Harmony Breast Pump features a soft-touch, ergonomic swivel handle for enhanced comfort.
- 2-PHASE EXPRESSION TECHNOLOGY: Unique to Medela breast pumps, this research-based and patented design allows mothers to pump more milk in less time. It resembles a baby's natural nursing rhythm for improved comfort and efficiency.
- 24 MM BREAST SHIELD INCLUDED: The Harmony Breast Pump includes (1) PersonalFit breast shield for comfortable and efficient breast pumping. Other sizes are sold separately.
- EASY TO CONTROL VACCUUM: This manual breast pump is simple to use. Manual controlled vacuum allows you to adjust the suction for the most optimal comfort level and efficient flow of breastmilk.Once milk starts to flow, you switch to the longer side of the handle which creates a slower sucking cycle to express the majority of your milk
This is the manual pump that I use. It is super convenient for on the go, pumping in the car, etc.
Electric breast pumps
These require an outside power source or cord. They have electronic features like timers, LCD screens, and multiple expression modes to name a few. They are very useful for moms out there who are at work and need to pump frequently.
- Medela is the #1 Physician Recommended Breast Pump Product in the U.S.*
- DISCOUNTED MONTH OF 24/7 LC Breastfeeding Support: Receive 30 days of discounted access with your purchase of Pump in Style Advanced and instantly connect to live lactation consultants anytime; look inside your pump box for a BONUS OFFER PROMO CODE, an $80 value for just $29.99
- DOUBLE ELECTRIC BREAST PUMP: Pump in Style is designed for daily use and moms who pump several times a day, thanks to its patented, research-based 2-Phase Expression technology which produces more milk in less time** for efficient expression and maximized flow
- EASY PORTABILITY: Conveniently built in to its discreet tote bag and equipped with a portable battery pack, Pump in Style is an electric breast pump that was made for convenient double pumping wherever and whenever needed - whether at home, on the go, at work, or while traveling
- CUSTOMIZABLE SETTINGS AND ACCESSORIES: Single knob adjustable speed and vacuum with one touch letdown button and 2 PersonalFit Breast Shield sizes allow each mom to enhance her pumping experience, based on what's most effective and comfortable for her unique body
Hospital grade pumps
The term “hospital grade” is actually not a medical term, but it is more of marketing one. It is usually high end, with double electric pumps and can express milk about at least 8 times a day. This kind is great if your baby has a problem with latching or you have issues with building a supply. They are usually an investment but they also last a long time.
Battery powered pumps
These are more portable and because batteries are used, you don’t have to rely on a plug point or power source.
How to use a breast pump
When using any kind of breast pump, always make sure it is well cleaned and don’t forget to wash or sanitize your hands before using your breast pump.
I didn’t realize this at first, but it is also important to remember that your milk won’t come out immediately so don’t worry if it takes a minute or two. It may take a minute for the milk to let down.
With your breast pump there will also be some helpful instructions or a manual so give it a read to learn more about it and how it works.
Remember that pumping might be uncomfortable but they shouldn’t be painful. If you have tried adjusting the cups and doing everything you can but it still hurts, try talking with a lactation consultant.
Here are some bonus tips on how to use your breast pump:
For manual pumps:
- In order to start a letdown, which means milk will start to flow from the back of the breast to the front, you can massage your breast gently or put a warm cloth over the breast.
- Put the breast shield over your nipple and make sure it fits snugly.
- You can use one hand to hold the shield in place and the other to pump.
- Lean forward if milk still doesn’t flow.
- Continue on pumping until milk starts to come out.
For electric pumps:
- Cover your nipple/s with the breast shield.
- Turn the breastfeeding pump on.
- If the milk is not coming out, turn up the suction, but if it is hurting, turn it down.
- When your milk is starting to slow down, turn off the pump and use your finger to break the suction. Make sure you always turn off the machine before removing the breast shields and also use your finger to break the seal/suction before gently taking off the breast shields.
Extra breast pumping tips to get the most milk when you pump:
- Don’t stress – sometimes the more you obsess and stress about getting that milk out, the more it won’t so its better to keep calm, relax, and just let everything go- before you know it, you will be breast pumping like a pro.
- Get a breast pumping bra – this type of hands-free bra is useful for when you want to do other things while pumping or feel more comfortable since you don’t have to keep on holding your pump. Try it out one like this and see what a big difference it makes!
- Keep hydrated – drinking lots of water is important especially when breastfeeding so always keep hydrated. Limit your coffee and soda intake as well.
- Look at your baby – sometimes by looking at your baby (even just a photo) can help in producing that letdown and get your milk production going.
Buying new pumps vs used pumps
If you are thinking about using a rental pump or purchasing a used breast pump, you need to make sure that it is a closed system. This means that another woman’s milk hasn’t reached parts of the pump that you cannot sanitize.
This is safer to use compared to open system pumps, which is what you would generally get if you buy one for your own use at home.
Cleaning your breast pump
Always follow the cleaning instructions that come with your breastfeeding pump. Generally, you want each individual part that comes in contact with the milk to be cleaned and rinsed with hot water. You can also use soapy water to wash them before rinsing well. Air dry the parts or check to see if you can use a baby bottle sanitizer to clean them or the microwave.
- Thoroughly disinfects in about 3 minutes.
- Steam cleaning eliminates 99.9% of most common bacteria and germs.
- Requires just a microwave and water.
- Each bag can be used up to 20 times.
- Ideal for storing pump parts between pumping sessions.
Breast pump accessories
Extra breast shields or extra valves can be beneficial and convenient to have especially if you are pumping a lot or you just don’t have the time to clean the parts right away.
A breast pump bag is good for storing and keeping all your pump parts. Insulated breast pump bags (or those with built-in coolers) are also useful to bring around your expressed milk.
Storage bottles are important for keeping your milk in freezer or refrigerator. If you are pumping at work, breast milk storage bags are vital to keep your milk in. Nursing covers are also helpful if you need to either pump in public or you are at work and want to feel more covered up.
Sample breastfeeding and pumping schedule
If you are only pumping and not actually breastfeeding, you should pump every 2 and a half to 3 hours. This empties out your breast, which encourages more milk production.
Sticking to a pumping schedule is also important to prevent any clogged ducts as well as encourage milk supply. If you are only pumping occasionally and mostly breastfeeding, it is best to pump in the morning since that is when you will be able to pump the most.
Sample pumping schedule if you are exclusively pumping:
7 am, 10 am, 12 pm, 3 pm, 6 pm, 9 pm, 12 am, 4 am
As your baby gets older and your milk supply is more established, you can lessen pumping sessions but increase amount of time that you pump in each session.
Storing your breast milk
Aside from getting milk storage bags or containers, you can also use a labeling system in order to keep everything organized and properly stored. Make sure to include the date on each bag so you know that are using up the oldest milk first.
Storing the amount that your baby will consume at one time is also easier so you will have the right size or portion and have it ready for your baby at any time (also to avoid any waste).
Breast milk should only be kept at room temperature for about six to eight hours but it is even better to refrigerate it as soon as you can.
Related: How To Safely Store Your Breast milk
In a fridge that is around 0 degrees to -3.9 degrees Celsius, your breast milk can last for about six to eight days. For breast milk inside a freezer, it can be good for up to six months.
For my tired mom brain I just remember six. Six hours on the counter, six days in the fridge, six months in the freezer.
Make sure you store your breast milk at the back and not on the doors to prevent it from going bad because of changing temperatures.
When it comes to thawing frozen breast milk, you can store it overnight in the fridge first, run it under warm water, or soak it in a jar of warm water. After you have defrosted, you can only store it again in the refrigerator for another 24 hours before you have to use it up.
Bottle warmers are also useful if you are often heating up bottles. Don’t microwave your breast milk.
Using a breast pump can have a lot of benefits and can be super convenient for new mommies. Don’t be overwhelmed by the many choices out there and pick the right breastfeeding pump for you.