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A Breast Pump Primer

A working mom's guide to demystifying the options

by Boston Mamas  |  9905 views  |  1 comment  |        Rate this now! 

Breastfeeding is the preferred method of feeding for virtually all infants, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for at least the first 12 months after birth.

Breast pumps are used to insure a continued milk supply if the infant is premature or ill and cannot nurse, or if the mother goes back to work, travels, takes prescription medication, or just needs to go out for a few hours without the baby. Pumped breast milk offers a flexible solution for mother and baby.

Milk can be expressed using the hand or by mechanical expression. Hand expression is the most economical since all that is needed is a clean container to capture the milk in. Although economical, hand expression is very time consuming and many mothers experience difficulty with this technique.

Mechanical expression, with a breast pump, is the most popular choice for milk removal. When choosing between pump styles a new mother must consider the circumstances, frequency, and cost of the pumps. Types of mechanical pumps include manual, battery powered, electric professional grade, and hospital grade.

How Do The Pump Types Differ?

Manual pumps are a good choice for occasional pumping or for the relief of engorgement. These pumps are the least expensive option, however, they can be very time consuming since mothers usually take a longer time to let down using this method. Also, hand and arm muscles can tire during pumping sessions.

Battery powered pumps are also designed for occasional pumping - once a day or less. These pumps are easier to use than manual ones, and are usually designed to pump one breast at a time.

Electric professional grade pumps plug into wall outlets and are much more efficient than manual or battery operated pumps, but they are also much more expensive. High-end electric pumps combine the convenience of portability with the efficiency of hospital grade models. Pumps that allow for more cycles per minute are generally more effective -- better quality electric pumps cycle up to 60 times per minute. These pumps are designed for frequent use and pumping of both breasts at the same time. These professional quality pumps are very effective for expressing breast milk and most often recommended to patients by lactation consultants. In some circumstances, pump costs may be covered through health insurance.

Hospital grade pumps are by far the priciest, but may sometimes be rented on a month-to-month basis. If the baby is not able to breastfeed and the mother is pumping constantly, then the best choice in pumps is a hospital grade with a double collection kit. These pumps have a rapid cycling time of about 60 times per minute that draws milk from the breast at almost the same rate as a nursing baby. Hospital grade pumps are very big, bulky, and heavy (up to 18 pounds). Check with the doctor or a lactation consultant to determine whether the top quality electric pump or a hospital grade pump is recommended.

About the Author

Christine Koh is a music and brain scientist turned publisher, designer, and freelance writer/editor. She is the editor of BostonMamas.com and the artist behind PoshPeacock.com.

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1 comment so far...

  • Good info! I had to pump for 6+ months while my twins were in the NICU and PICU. I have to say, the hospital grade pump was my friend.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Kat on 30th January 2008