If you choose to nurse your baby, you’ll likely need a breast pump at some point in your baby’s first few months. For many nursing mothers, returning to work prompts the need for a breast pump. You’ll have to pump while at work – or anytime you’re away from your baby for more than a few hours – so your baby can have milk and so you’re breasts don’t become engorged.
For the most part, breast pumps fall into two categories – electric and manual. Electric models vary widely in price based on the grade of the machine. Before deciding what type of breast pump to purchase, you should think about how you’ll use the pump.
If you’re having trouble nursing or the baby can’t nurse because of a medical condition or hospitalization, you’ll need to pump several times a day with a pump that effectively empties your breasts of milk.
Heavy-duty, hospital-grade pumps mimic the sucking rate of a nursing baby, so they help establish and maintain your milk supply. These pumps come with dual collection kits so you can pump both breasts at the same time. Pumping both breasts simultaneously cuts pumping time in half and drains both breasts more efficiently than pumping one at a time. If your breasts aren’t completely emptied of milk on a regular basis, you run the risk of painful engorgement which can lead to mastitis, an infection that requires antibiotics or even surgery.
New hospital-grade pumps cost in the neighborhood of $1,000. Buying one second hand can save some money, but you’ll need to make sure you buy a new kit that includes the tubing, flanges and collection bottles. Additionally, you can rent a pump from a hospital or specialty supplier for around $50 per month.
Top-end electric pumps
A top-end electric pump is probably the best choice for mothers who return to work full time and need to pump more than twice a day. These breast pumps provide the efficiency of a hospital-grade pump, but are more portable and less expensive than hospital-grade pumps. However, they’re intended for mothers who have well-established milk supplies, so if you’re having trouble nursing, this is might not be the best pump for you.
Most electric pumps come with a dual pumping collection system and have adjustable suction controls so you can avoid nipple discomfort. Additionally, many come with attractive carrying cases and adapters so you can plug it into your vehicle’s power source and use it on the go.
These pumps can usually be purchased a retail store for $100-$350, and most come with a warranty. Some specialty suppliers also rent this type of breast pump.
Mothers who only need to pump a few times a week can probably get by with a manual pump. These breast pumps require you to squeeze a lever to express milk, and they only pump one breast at a time. While these pumps are lightweight and portable, your hand can quickly tire, and the process can be slow. Additionally, some mothers say manual pumps don’t empty their breast effectively, so you shouldn’t depend solely on this type of pump if your baby isn’t nursing well.
Manual pumps cost between $20 and $50 and can be purchased at retail stores and baby supply shops.