How to Find the Best Breast Pump For Every Type of Situation
Finding the best breast pump can leave you feeling like Goldilocks, constantly searching for the perfect fit. Some pumps just aren’t right for you, even if they are right for someone else. What one mom might find comfortable can feel abrasive to another mom.
But if you want to reach your goal of breastfeeding your baby, at some point you’ll likely need a breast pump. This guide will help you figure out what’s important when you select a pump and will give you a closer look at many popular models on the market right now.
Things To Consider When Selecting a Breast Pump
Before you randomly pick a breast pump based on a friend’s experience, you need to realize that you both might be looking for very different things in a breast pump. What works for one woman may not work for another. We’re all on different paths in life and we all have our own set of obstacles and challenges.
When Should I Use My Breast Pump?
Can’t I Get by Without a Breast Pump?
Some women who have exclusively breastfed have gotten by without a pump, but, I swear, I have no idea how they did it.
When my baby was 10 weeks old, I went back to work. I would have loved nothing more than to be a stay-at-home mom, but since my student loans were hanging over my head, there was no way around it – I had to go back to work.
Sometimes I was lucky and I was back home after a 6-hour workday, but there were days where things were super busy and I put in 12-hour days. I hated every minute of it and I would have rather spent that time with my baby, but it was something I had to do.
The only way I was going to make breastfeeding a doable option was by pumping while I was at work. If I had any hope of breastfeeding, I had to express milk with a pump so my baby could eat while I wasn’t with her.
Even if you aren’t returning to work, you’ll still likely encounter situations when you’ll need refrigerated or frozen milk on hand for your baby to eat. Whether it’s a family emergency, a medical situation or simply a night out with friends, you can’t be attached to your baby 24/7.
Sometimes you don’t get to decide if you are going to nurse – your baby does that for you. In some cases, babies aren’t able to latch properly onto the breast, but they are able to feed from bottles. If you want to breastfeed in those situations, you’ll have no choice but to pump so your baby still gets the benefits of breast milk.
New or Used?
Whether it’s safe to buy used breast pumps has been a controversy for years. But what many women who claim it is safe to buy used pumps don’t understand is that there are two different types of pumps – there are purchase pumps and there are rental pumps. They can also be called closed systems or open systems.
Pumps women purchase for their own home usage are generally open systems. It simply means that it is possible that a woman’s milk particles could reach the motor of the pump, which would make it unsanitary for another woman to use that pump. Purchase pumps are not safe to buy used (source) because they could contaminate your baby’s milk.
Rental pumps are different – they are what is known as a closed system, which means that a woman’s milk particles can’t reach the parts of the pump. That’s what makes it okay from a health viewpoint to share a rental pump.
Pay Attention to Breast Shields
Breast shields are one of the most important breast pump features. Proper fitting breast shields, also called flanges, are crucial to your success while pumping breast milk. Breast shields are the cups that you put on your breasts.
You choose your size of breast shield on the size of your nipples, not the size of your breasts. And if you’ve used a different pump in the past, don’t depend on the size of breast shield you once used. Sizes of flanges aren’t uniform from brand to brand, and your pre-birth nipples may not stay that size after you have your baby.
This is why size matters: If you get a breast shield that is too tight, you can scrape and hurt your already sore nipples. It can be so painful that it might even cause you to reconsider whether you want to breastfeed at all.
You don’t want to purchase a breast shield that is too big either. Because your breast, not just the nipple, will be sucked in. That can mess with the flow of your breastmilk. Breastfeeding can be difficult enough without your milk supply dwindling.
If you begin breastfeeding and the process is painful rather than just uncomfortable, you should reevaluate the size of breast shields you are using in case they are the wrong size.
How to Use a Breast Pump
You can either choose a manual or electric breast pump.
Manual pumps are cheap, small, portable and easy to operate. Because you are the one supplying the manpower to express your milk, you’ll only be able to do one breast at a time so it might be best for moms who are only going to pump occasionally.
Moms who are going to be pumping a lot will want to consider a double electric pump that will allow them to pump both breasts at once. It’s a time saver being able to pump both at once, and you won’t have to do any work. They are much more expensive however than manual pumps.
To operate a manual breast pump:
- You need to encourage what is known as letdown, which is milk moving from the back of the breast to the front. You can gently massage your breasts or place a warm washcloth on your breasts (source) to encourage letdown.
- Cover your nipple with the breast shield and make sure it forms a tight shield.
- Use one hand to hold the shield in the correct place, and start squeezing the handle of the pump with the other hand.
- If milk isn’t wanting to flow, lean forward and put gravity to work.
- Keep pumping until your flow starts to slow.
For an electric pump:
- Cover your nipple with the breast shield. Do the other side as well if you are using a double pump.
- Then you turn the machine on.
- Pay attention to your comfort level. If the suction level hurts, turn it down. If your milk is coming out too slowly, turn up the suction.
- Once your milk starts to slow, turn off the machine and break the suction of the pump with your finger.
Here are some other important tips to remember:
- No matter which pump you use, you need to make sure your hands and pumping equipment are clean before you begin.
- Your milk won’t come out immediately – it’s not like turning on a faucet.
- Don’t pull off the breast shields while your electrical pump is still on unless you love pain. Instead turn off your pump. The suction will be gone, but the shields will still be suctioned onto your breasts. Use your finger to break the seal, then gently remove the breast shields.
How to Clean Your Breast Pump
Some pumps may have separate instructions for cleaning, and some will be easier to clean than others.
But, in general, you’ll want to rinse every individual piece that comes in contact with breast milk with hot water, or wash them with soapy water before rinsing them well. Some pieces can be put in the top rack of the dishwater as well (source).
Let the pieces air dry. Some breast pump pieces for certain brands can be sanitized in a baby bottle sanitizer or in a bag in the microwave.
What Breast Pump Accessories Will I Need?
You may want to buy extra breast shields and valves to have on hand for when you don’t feel like washing the parts right away after pumping. It can be difficult to find the time immediately, especially if you are pumping multiple times a day.
If you’re not feeling well or if you are enjoying a lazy day with your baby, it will really pay off to have extra parts.
You’ll need storage bottles so you can keep that breast milk safe in the refrigerator or freezer. If you plan to pump at work you should also consider purchasing breast milk storage bags or a mini cooler bag with ice packs so you can keep your breast milk cold until you can get home. If you have a work refrigerator, you can use that instead, but if your commute is a long one, you’ll still need a way to safely get those bottles home.
Some accessories aren’t necessities, but they can make your life easier – like a bottle drying rack.
A good manual breast pump should do a great job of expressing milk, but it shouldn’t be painful for your breast or your arm. The repetitive motion of manually pumping requires a pump that has an easy-to squeeze handle.
Read the full Manual Breast Pump Buyers Guide
Manual pumps are ideal for moms who don’t have to pump multiple times a day, or for those who are traveling and don’t want to drag along a bulky machine.
Electric pumps can cost a lot – I’ve had car payments that weren’t as much as some electric pumps. But, for some women, they are worth the money spent on them.
Read the full Electric Breast Pump Buyers Guide
They are cheaper than formula feeding. They can express milk in mere minutes from your breasts, which is a huge time saver for moms.
Going back to work after having a baby is a challenge. Not only are you strapped for time and doubting whether returning to work is the right choice, you also have to find a way to comfortably pump breast milk while at work to keep your milk supply flowing steadily.
That’s when finding a good breast pump for moms in the workplace can be your greatest ally.
When you’re going on vacation, you can’t beat the convenience of a portable pump. If you are going on an all-day adventure with your family, you can’t guarantee you’ll have access to an outlet and battery packs can die at the most inconvenient times.
Portable pumps that are manual, however, can go anywhere you do and will always work as long as you are able to squeeze the handle.
Breast pumping can be a time-consuming task for moms. We already have so much to cram into our days, that pumping 8 to 10 times a day can seriously affect how much we get done off our to-do lists.
Considering you might be spending multiple hours a day pumping, finding a good hands-free breast pump option can help you fit a lot more into your day.
Sometimes you might be able to get by with a cheap breast pump. If you are primarily nursing your baby, you may be able to just have a cheap unit on hand to do some light pumping duty with. It will save you the expense of buying one of the more expensive heavy-duty pumps on the market.
Large breasts don’t always mean you’ll have a hard time finding a pump that will work for you. Determining which size of breast shield you need is based on the size of your nipples, not your overall breast. It’s possible that you can have bigger breasts and still have normal sized-nipples.
But if you’re worried your size will prevent you from breastfeeding, this is a pump that may help you with your desire to breastfeed.
If you have twins, you need to find a pump that will drain your breasts as fast as possible. You have two babies to feed and you need to make sure you have an adequate supply for them. Your best bet is to use this following machine which can make quick work of breast pumping.
When you are exclusively pumping, you’re going to want a pump that gets down to business immediately, sucks out as much milk as possible and doesn’t hurt your breasts. Because you’re going to be pumping 8 to 10 times a day, you need a machine that won’t quit so you won’t be tempted to give up on breastfeeding.
Some pumps, like the winner in these two categories, can even drain both breasts at once, which will halve the time moms spend pumping.
My Favorite Breast Pump
When you factor in both affordability and function, the Spectra Baby USA S1 is my clear favorite. No matter what you are looking for in a breast pump, the S1 delivers. Here are some of the features that make it stand out from the crowd:
- It’s lightweight, which makes it portable.
- You can use it with a battery or power cord for great mobility.
- It pumps quickly.
- It’s comfortable and it has a variety of settings to help moms find a mode that works for them.
- It’s quiet, unlike some pumps which can be almost deafening at times.
- The price is better than many other higher-quality pumps.
- If you need to pump exclusively, you can pump both breasts at once.
Whether you are pumping occasionally or multiple times a day, the S1 will help you reach your goal of breastfeeding your baby. In no time, your baby will be thriving from the benefits of the freshly pumped breast milk you’ll be giving her. The time you spent searching for the best breast pump will be time well spent.
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