Choosing a breast pump

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Baby drinking from bottle
Making an informed decision when choosing a breast pump will keep you and your baby happy
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Find a breast pump that suits your lifestyle.

There are so many choices we have to make as mothers. Home birth or hospital birth? Epidural or natural birth? The decisions can seem endless, and one more can be one too many. If you are breastfeeding your baby and want to be able to give your baby a bottle occasionally (or every day, if you're returning to work), then choosing a breast pump to purchase is one item on the list of decisions that have to be made. It doesn't have to be a difficult decision, though, if you are properly informed of the available options.

Electric or Battery-Powered Pumps

If you are planning to pump your milk every day, then you will want to go with an electric or battery-powered pump.

Hospital-Grade Electric Pumps

If you pump milk while you are in the hospital, you will use a hospital-grade electric pump. They are the most efficient and heavy duty of the electric pumps. These pumps have the benefit of pumping both breasts simultaneously and are much faster than less expensive models. The suck-and-release cycle of the hospital-grade pumps most closely resembles the natural sucking rhythms of a nursing baby.

On the other hand, hospital-grade pumps are heavy and bulky, and therefore not ideal for carrying to work every day. They are also the most expensive, with new models costing more than $1,000. But if your baby is a preemie or has other health issues, your doctor or lactation consultant may recommend this option then your insurance may cover the cost to purchase or rent one. Rental rates are usually around $2 a day.

Personal use electric pumps

This is probably your best option for an electric pump if you are planning to pump every day. The higher priced models run about $200 to $350 and come with a carrying case and all of the accessories you will need. Many models even come with a car adapter and a storage pouch with freezer packs. The higher-end models will pump both breasts at the same time, which means pumping time is cut in half. This is especially helpful if you are pumping on your breaks at work.

Lower-end personal electric pumps run anywhere from $50 to $150. They will only pump one breast at a time and pump more slowly. These are good if you're only planning to pump occasionally.

Manual pumps

With a manual pump, you do not need to worry about plugging it in or keeping batteries at hand. They are very small and easily carried. To work a hand pump, you squeeze a lever to create suction. They are very affordable, with even the best models costing less than $70. Hand pumps are also very quiet, which may be important to you if you are concerned about being discreet. However, some women have trouble using hand pumps because they can be tiring and slow to use.

Choosing the Breast Pump for You

As you can see, there are many options available when it comes to choosing a breast pump. How frequently are you planning to pump? That is the most important factor when it comes to deciding which type to purchase. If you will be pumping every day at work, you will definitely want an electric-powered pump that pumps both breasts at the same time. On the other hand, if you are only planning to pump occasionally, a lower end electric pump or a manual pump may be sufficient for your needs.

For further information on pumping and breastfeeding in general, check out La Leche League.

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