Are you feeling a little overwhelmed trying to choose the right breast pump?
You’re not alone. And that’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide for you to get all the facts and choose the best pump for you.
Whether this is your first time breastfeeding or you’re a total pro, every breastfeeding journey with a new baby is different from the last. Read on to learn more.
Do I Need a Breast Pump to Breastfeed?
You don’t necessarily need a breast pump if you’re planning to breastfeed, however, they do come in handy for many different reasons. You may choose to express milk from the beginning or further down the line, whatever your choice, there is a breast pump designed for you.
Expressing can be a great way for your partner to be involved with feeds and take the pressure off you a little. From one mother to another, having expressed milk during cluster feeding weeks is a lifesaver! If you’re returning to work, expressed milk will make this transition easier for both you and your baby.
What Type of Breast Pump is For You?
Traditionally, you can purchase single or double breast pumps and/or electric, manual, or hospital-grade breast pumps. Breast pumps that are entering the market more recently have newer features such as a ‘wearable’ pump or enhanced portability.
“I only want to pump occasionally”
If you’re not going to be pumping every day, you may want to look into using a single electric breast pump and/or a manual breast pump. In the early days when you are establishing your milk supply, pumping on the odd occasion won’t change this drastically. It just means that you can create a small milk stash that you can use whilst you are away from your baby. It’s helpful too if you’re only using a single breast pump, to have a cup for the other breast so you can collect the milk from both if you wanted.
This option is particularly popular for Mums who choose to breastfeed their babies exclusively with occasional bottle feeds using expressed breast milk.
“I want to express milk often or exclusively”
For Mums who are going to be expressing milk several times a day, an electric pump is more suited to this need. Electric pumps have more functionality in terms of suction strength. Manual pumps in this circumstance would require a lot more work from you and you would need both your hands to pump correctly.
When you’re expressing multiple times a day, your first priority is going to be convenience. How can I spend as little time as possible pumping and doing bottle prep? Some breast pumps you can pump directly into the bottle (or storage bag) and others you will need to pump and pour out.
Shop milk storage bags: "By using a single pouch to express, store, warm and feed, there’s no need to transfer milk at any stage, so you’ll never lose a precious drop! Love the fact that these bags come sterilised - no more wasting time sterilising bottles to feed."
“I’m returning to work and need something discreet and easy to transport”
If you are still planning to breastfeed throughout your return to work, you need to choose a pump that is convenient and portable, whilst not compromising its efficiency to express milk.
A wearable or wireless breast pump is a popular choice for Mums in the workplace due to its discreet nature and compact design. With a breast pump like this, you might also want to consider the noise level and which pump is best for a leak-proof pumping session.
There is more information about breastfeeding in the work place, and what you’re entitled to, on the NHS website. (Please check guidelines and legal information for your country and/or state of residence.)
“I have an excessive breast milk supply”
If you pump or lactate more milk than your baby drinks over a 24-hour period, then you have an oversupply. In most cases, if you have a strong letdown or an excess supply, it will settle down within the first few months of feeding. You can’t put a number on it as it will differ from one woman to another.
Especially if you are exclusively pumping, using a breast pump to gradually pump less milk will reduce the risk of mastitis and blocked milk ducts. One lady said, “This pump saved us in the early days! I had mastitis so breastfeeding was uncomfortable whereas expressing using Lola&Lykke’s Smart Breastpump was not uncomfortable at all.”
“I’m struggling with a low milk supply and need to use a pump to increase it”
Don’t worry if your supply is low! Babies are extremely efficient at bringing on your breast milk and helping your body establish a supply. Sometimes, your supply can be affected by your baby latching poorly, premature birth or medical/health reasons.
Hospital-grade pumps would be an ideal choice in this scenario to help you establish or increase your milk supply. They are designed to be used multiple times per day and are usually more powerful than personal use electric pumps. However, the downside is that hospital-grade pumps can be bulky and very expensive, with the average monthly rental fee ranging from 75$ - 100$.
What Features Should You Look for in a Breast Pump?
Choosing a breast pump is a personal decision and there are lots of features to consider when weighing up the pros and cons of which pump is the right one for you.
As breast pump technology has developed, there are far more positives to a closed system on a breast pump than those with an open system. The biggest one is that a closed system prevents milk from ‘backing up’ into the tubes and motor because it has a barrier to stop the milk from reaching those parts. It also stops any leakages whilst you’re pumping and provides a sanitary route for the milk to flow.
With an open system breast pump, the tubing needs to be cleaned often and sterilised. Failure to do so could lead to mould or bacteria growing inside the motor of the pump, which cannot be cleaned, and therefore your expressed milk may be compromised.
Most electric breast pumps have varying degrees of suction for both stimulating and expressing modes. The Lola&Lykke Smart Electric Breast Pump, for example, has 6 stimulation settings and 9 for expression. Having this feature is really beneficial to Mums so they can pump comfortably and efficiently.
It’s important to find a setting that is right for you. In the past, some Mums have assumed that pumping on a higher suction level means you can express more milk, but this is more likely to have the opposite effect! Using a suction level that is too high can damage the skin around your breast and nipples. If you experience any discomfort, try lowering the suction.
Breast flange sizes
The flange is the soft silicone part that cups around your breast. As you start to express, you will feel the flange massage your breast and mimic a baby’s feeding motion to bring on your milk flow. The standard size is approx. 24mm, however, some breast pumps offer flanges in a variety of sizes to accommodate women who have smaller or larger breasts.
After using the Lola&Lykke breast pump, Inka says “The shape of the breast shield and the number of expression levels makes it a really comfortable pump for daily use.”
When choosing a breast pump, the easiest way to find high-quality and tested products is to look out for pumps that have been nominated for and won awards, such as “Made For Mums” Gold, Silver and Bronze awards or other peer-reviewed studies. It gives you, the buyer, peace of mind that what you’re purchasing has been used by people that are looking for the same product as you and can recommend it due to its features and design.
Traditionally, breast pumps plug in at the wall and the flanges/bottles are connected to the pump with tubes meaning you’re sat down in one spot for your pumping session. Some pumps are battery-powered but still have the tubes connecting to the rest of the equipment which makes moving around equally challenging. This can feel quite limiting when you’re expressing daily being stuck in one place for a majority of the day!
As Mums, I’m sure you can agree, that we are constantly on the go and need something easy and convenient to pump with. We recommend a breast pump that has a rechargeable battery that is lightweight and easily transportable. Keeping this in mind will make it much simpler to express milk whether you’re in your own home or out and about.
One tester of the Lola&Lykke Breast Pump said, “I could hold this while I walked around, instead of being tethered to a wall socket or attached by a tube to a larger pump.”
We have a whole team of experts in the wings awaiting any questions you may have regarding breastfeeding, along with a whole host of other support topics. Every breastfeeding journey is different and it doesn’t always work out for everyone. No matter how long you have breastfed your baby for, be proud of your accomplishments and cherish the special bond you built because of it.
If you are struggling to breastfeed, investing in a good pump can still help you to establish your milk supply and/or relieve engorgement.