Choosing a Pump
By: Abrie McCoy, CLC and Claire Dowell
Whether you are a first time parent or you’ve been through the parenting journey before, researching and selecting a breast pump can be an overwhelming process. Especially when you’ve spent countless hours on mommy blogs, Facebook groups, and Google trying to figure out which pump might work best for you. It can be hard to keep up with all of the features when it seems like new pumps are coming on the market every few months or so! If you are finding yourself overwhelmed with the process and trying to find unbiased, evidence-based information on pumping and breast pumps, you have come to the right place!
We interviewed/spoke with Mrika Harrigan, a CLC and breast pump educator, who suggested considering the following factors when selecting a pump
Things to consider:
Breast pumps are a great tool to help you with your feeding goals but they are not necessary for every infant feeding journey. They work by attempting to mimic how the baby feeds at the breast/chest by creating a vacuum seal around the nipple, eliciting a letdown (when milk begins to flow more rapidly!), and extracting breast milk to be stored for later. When it comes down to it, there are three main types of breast pumps. The broad categories are manual, battery powered, and electric.
- Manual Pump- uses a hand held lever to extract milk from the breast. This choice is the cheapest option, as well as the most eco-friendly. They are also regarded as easier to clean and a great portable option. However, the hand mechanism can get tiring and may be difficult to maintain multiple times a day. Therefore, a manual pump is typically not recommended for exclusive pumping.
- Passive Pump- works using vacuum and suction only. There is no further stimulation. What makes this pump so appealing is the ability to collect milk from one breast, while nursing on the other. This pump should not be used as the sole pump, as it will not stimulate or sustain continued milk production alone.
- Battery/Electric Powered Pumps- use motorized pumping mechanisms. They have control panels which determine the level of suction as well as the speed cycles. Using an electric pump is typically quicker. However, they can be bulky and may require a constant power source or charging capabilities. So, it is important to plan for potential emergencies and consider how much portability you will need. These can be available in either single or double pump options.
- Wireless Pumps- Using a wireless and wearable pump allows for an easy portable device that can efficiently pump! Wireless pumps can be connected to your smartphone so you can control it with an app, and even track your pumping habits and milk output. There is no tubing or cords to get wrapped up in! Just the hub that suctions to your breast.
Which power source would you prefer with the pump you choose? Does it have to be plugged into the wall? Can it be recharged with a power cord? Can it be charged via USB? Does it take batteries in case you live in an area that is prone to storms or power outages? If it is rechargeable/takes batteries, how long does the battery life last?
Open or Closed System
Um… what? How will milk get through if it is a closed system? Well, what a closed system means is that there is protection from milk back flowing into the tubes and motor. Keeping the pumping mechanism dry and clean. If the pump is an open system, there is no barrier. Milk overflowing into the tubing and into the motor could happen! Which could create an unhygienic environment.
How portable is the pump? Is it heavy or bulky? Does it fit easily into a bag or purse? Is it so small that you are liable to accidentally crush it in your bag or during your commute?
Pumps come with at least one set of breast shields (also referred to as flanges). These are typically an “average size”. However, it is best to measure to see what size would best suit you. Sizing can be a bit challenging, just because you measure a certain size, does not necessarily mean that you can only use that size. Sizing is based on comfort, efficiency, and effectiveness. Regardless of the pump chosen, making sure the flanges fit properly throughout your pumping journey is key. If the flanges do not fit well, this can cause pain and abrasion to the nipple as well as the potential for reduced output.
Pump technology has continued to evolve over the years. There are many buttons controlling many options. That being said, are these features easily learned and used? Does it have the capability to connect to an app on your phone that is also easy to use? There are also cycles and modes- which can be intimidating to use and figure out. Lastly, is the pump extremely loud? Pump “talking” can get annoying! Especially if you are pumping away from home!
Under the Affordable Care Act, Insurance companies MUST cover breastfeeding support, counseling, and equipment for breastfeeding. Type of coverage can vary across insurance plans. You can check your health plan’s website for information on pump coverage, types available, how to order, purchase and/or get reimbursed. Or You can contact a representative for your insurance company to get details about what specific pumps are covered. Make sure to have a pen and paper handy! It would be helpful to ask about number of lactation support appointments, available providers, telehealth options, cost sharing for out-of-network providers, reimbursement options
You also have access to insurance covered breast pumps via our partners at Byram Helathcare!
Division (DCD), D. C. (14 C.E., February 11). Are breast pumps covered by the Affordable Care Act? Retrieved August 16, 2022, from HHS.gov website: https://www.hhs.gov/answers/health-insurance-reform/are-breast-pumps-covered-by-the-affordable-care-act/index.html
Health, C. for D. and R. (2019). Types of Breast Pumps. FDA. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/breast-pumps/types-breast-pumps
M.Harrigan, personal communication, May 13, 2022)
Smith, G. (2019). Choosing and Using a Breastpump (pp. 1–3). Mom2Mom Global. Retrieved from Mom2Mom Global website: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/60db40e928297d2e5f0c6c40/t/60edf50177fc8e778b59befc/1626207490116/Choosing-and-Using-Breastpump.pdf