woman holding breast pump
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Your guide to breast pumps

Whether you’re pumping because you’re separated from your baby, dealing with latching challenges, prefer pumping to directly breastfeeding, or are building a freezer supply, we could all use some additional information on breast pumps! 

Benefits of the breast pump

Juggling work and new parent status aren’t the only reasons to consider investing in a breast pump. It can also help to maintain your milk supply, relieve discomfort when the baby isn’t eating, and help them out if they can’t quite latch on yet. Using a breast pump on the opposite breast while feeding (parallel pumping) can also help collect milk for storage and promote an increase in supply.

Types of breast pumps

Even with these benefits, choosing a breast pump can be overwhelming because there are so many available options. When picking a breast pump, first decide what your main use for the pump will be.  

1. Double automatic breast pump

This is a good choice if you’re going back to work and you want to continue to breastfeed. or need to do all or most feedings with pumped milk. Typically covered by insurance, these are the backbone of many pumping routines, as they are often the most durable and efficient choice. Look for one with customizable settings and the ability to move around by using a battery pack. Some also have the capability to be even more discrete and flexible, with smaller motor housing and less visible flanges.

2. Manual pump

If you only plan to pump occasionally, a manual pump might best suit your needs. They are inexpensive (around $20 to $40) and can work just as well as an electric one. Manual pumps require require a bit more energy to pump what you need, but often have fewer parts to clean. Everyone who is pumping a significant amount should have a manual pump as back-up during times like electrical outages or forgetting parts at work.

3. Wearable pumps

New breast pump technology has allowed several companies to offer pumps that sit in your bra with no wires or tubing. They offer another level of convenience for many people and often have very few parts to wash. They do limit the possibilities for breast massage while pumping, may have a less powerful motor, and are more expensive ($200 to $500).

4. Multi-user or “Hospital Grade” pumps

Multi-user pumps are pumps that can safely be used by different people because the suction system and tubing are a closed circuit. These are commonly seen in hospitals, and thus have acquired the nickname “Hospital Grade.” They tend to be very large and expensive. Some have motors that may feel like they offer more powerful (or painful) suction. 

Every feeding journey is different, and choosing a pump depends on your goals and needs. Remember that you can always work with a professional if you’re worried your pump isn’t sized or working properly. 

Pumping accessories 

Pumps will include basic parts with purchase, but there are quite a few accessories to go along with pumping! If you’re pumping at work, a spare manual pump is a great idea in case you have an electrical malfunction. A hands-free pumping bra is also essential to maximize your time and milk output by using breast massage. 

Many people find they are more comfortable while using pumping cream or spray in their flanges before each session. Does your pump come with an optional battery pack for mobility? Milk storage bags, a permanent marker, and a reminder of when to replace certain parts (some as frequently as every month for everyday pumpers) are all essential in any pumping bag. 

How to get a breast pump

It varies depending on your insurance coverage, but in general, you can follow these steps to get your pump.

1. Find out the details

Call your insurance company to learn more about your breast pump benefits. Find out if you’re covered to rent or purchase a pump, if you need to provide a prescription or pre-authorization for the pump, and when you can get the pump (before or after giving birth).

2. Start looking for a pump

Once you have the info, you’re ready to start looking for a pump that works for you. Many breast pump manufacturers have a website where you can check to see if your insurance covers their pump. Your insurance might also direct you to a website where you can browse pumps that are covered under your plan, or your lactation or pumping professional might be able to help you find one.

3. Order your pump

When you find one that your insurance covers has features that work for you, you can take the (well-informed) leap and order a pump by phone or online from a durable medical equipment provider.

The bottom line

If you’re experiencing trouble pumping, here’s where to start:

  • Be sure the flanges are the right size. 
  • Make sure your parts (like duckbills) have been replaced on schedule, and that the battery is still working (it tends to wear out after a year). 
  • Use your hands while pumping! Your body may just need some human touch. 

If you’re still having trouble, call a lactation consultant who has expertise in pumping. Pumping is breastfeeding, and they are there to support you!

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team

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