- Feb 26, 2024
A breast pump is an essential item for any nursing mum’s breastfeeding journey. An electric breast pump has so many benefits for mums who want to breastfeed, that you almost wouldn’t be able to imagine life without one once you get started! We’ve answered everything, and we mean everything, you need and want to know about electric breast pumps and how to use it effectively.
What is an electric breast pump?
An electrical breast pump is a device that nursing mothers use to express milk for their babies. You might also hear people call it a “breast milking machine” or “milk pump” but each name means the same. Electric breast pumps are a popular choice for mums because they require less manual effort to express and they are super-efficient at building a milk stash, using breast milk storage bags. Most breast pumps have a battery charging feature so you can use it as a wireless breast pump.
What are the benefits of using an electric breast pump?
Using an electric breast pump comes with several advantages that many breastfeeding mothers appreciate. Here are some of the key benefits of using a breast pump:
Increase or maintain your milk supply
Some electric breast pumps are designed to have hospital-grade suction which means they are powerful and efficient at expressing milk from the breast. It will mimic your baby’s feeding rhythm, and this stimulates the breast to produce more milk.
Electrical breast pumps often come with features to change the speed at which your pump stimulates and expresses milk. This means you can find a setting that suits you and pumps milk to a speed that’s comfortable. Compared to a manual breast pump, electric breast pumps save mums a lot of time so you’re not pumping all day!
Easy to assemble
Putting an electric breast pump together is simple, quick, and convenient for busy mums. They typically have a few pieces that fit together and simply attach the bottle (or breast milk storage bag) and go!
With a manual breast pump, all the hard work is on you to hold it and pump but with an electrical breast pump, it’s expressing for you so you can pump and have your hands free. Wireless breast pumps are a popular hands-free option. Some breast pumps can be used with wearable accessories to give you a hands-free option.
Shared feeding sessions
Expressing breast milk allows the other parent or caregivers to take on shared responsibility for feeding your baby. In some circumstances, the non-birthing parent can find it hard to build a bond with their new baby because their birth mother is all they have known for 9 months. Sharing feeding times with the other parent can be a special way to build that bond, have skin to skin time, and also give nursing mums a rest!
How does an electric breast pump work?
The breast shield is placed against your breast and connects to the valve. The motor attaches directly to the top of the connector/valve (or connects using tubes) and the bottle or breast milk storage bag is attached underneath to collect the milk. When you’re not using the breast pump there is a cap to put over the silicone breast shield to avoid contamination.
The electrical breast pump will always start in stimulation mode. This mirrors what your baby would do to bring on the breast milk and encourage the let down to start. It will feel like short, continuous vibrations and when your let down begins, you can then swap to the expression mode. Depending on the model, you can sometimes customise the suction and speed levels to suit your comfort. When you’ve swapped to the expression mode, you will notice that the vibrations are longer, to encourage your milk flow.
What are the different types of electric breast pumps?
As electric breast pumps have evolved over the years, they now come in many variations to suit a nursing mum’s needs. To help you decide on the best electric breast pump, think about how often you will be using it, what features are important to you, and how much are you willing to invest in a breast pump.
On the market today, you can choose from a single or a double electric breast pump. You can buy or rent a hospital-grade breast pump from the hospital or local breastfeeding support networks. Although most electric breast pumps are handheld and can be made hands-free with complimentary accessories, there are wearable breast pump options to consider if discretion is a factor that’s important to you.
How do I choose the right electric breast pump?
Choosing the right breast pump depends on your personal needs and preferences. Here are some factors to consider:
Having the flexibility to pump on the go is a huge factor to consider when choosing the best breast pump for you. An electric breast pump that is lightweight and compact to pop into your handbag will make travelling, running errands, and returning to work much easier.
Suction strength and adjustability
With manual pumps, you use your hands to control how much suction the pump uses. Electric breast pumps do this for you and some wireless breast pumps also have a touch screen display to adjust the levels accordingly for stimulation and expression modes.
Comfort and Fit
The silicone breast shield part on the breast pump, depending on the model, can come in different sizes so you get the best fit. The right breast shield size may change over the course of your pumping and nursing journey, or your breasts may need different size shields, so it’s a good idea to check occasionally you are still using the right size.
Ease of Cleaning and Maintenance
The two words every mum wants to hear – “dishwasher-friendly”! A pump that is easy and quick to clean will save you so much time maintaining your breast pump. Washing and sanitising the breast pump daily or after use will ensure it works well and it’s sanitised.
Some electrical breast pumps can be quite noisy and if you don’t want to feel like you’re hooked up to a piece of machinery, finding a quieter motor is the way forward. Quiet yet powerful motors do exist - and they’re perfect for when you’re pumping at nighttime or at work so you can be discreet.
Cost and Affordability
Whether your budget is big or small, there is an electric breast pump for everyone. The more expensive models, compared to a cheap one, may come with more bells and whistles but it’s also important to look at the other features you want to prioritise in your electric breast pump. A breast pump is an investment and something you’re going to be getting a lot of use out of, so bear this in mind when you buy an electric breast pump.
Customer Reviews and Ratings
Want to know what the best electric breast pump is? Read reviews from mums who have already used the product and see what their feedback is. Reviews and ratings are a fantastic way to get an overview of the pros and cons of each breast pump and give you peace of mind that you’re making an informed choice.
Frequency of use and durability
Are you going to going to be exclusively pumping? For that, you’re going to need an electric breast pump that’s going to keep up with your exclusive pumping schedule! Or perhaps you’re only going to pump occasionally and breastfeed exclusively instead. How often do they recommend you replace the parts? Do they have spare parts to buy? Answers to these questions will give you a better idea of what you’re looking for in a pump that’s stress-free to use.
Understanding the features and specifications
When it comes to electrical breast pumps, the first thing to note in the specification is the amount of power the motor has. Most breast pumps use between 250-300mmHg, so anything less than this would be better suited to occasional pumping.
Another feature to consider is if it has a light-up display. If you’re going to be pumping at nighttime, you’re going to need to see where the buttons are! It’s also useful if the breast pump has adjustable levels of suction and speed so you can customise it for your comfort.
When you’re looking to buy an electric breast pump, another feature to consider is its portability. If you’re going to be expressing milk when you return to work, you want a milk pump that’s lightweight, small, and perhaps comes with its own carry case for storing breast milk safely too.
If you’re not sure whether to buy a single or a double electric breast pump, consider how you’re planning to feed your baby. With a double breast pump, you can pump on both sides which cuts down your pumping time by half. However, with a single electric breast pump, you can feed your baby on one breast and pump on the other, and alternate when your baby is ready for the next breast. This saves your precious breast milk from being soaked up into reusable breast pads and saved for another feeding time instead!
Popular electric breast pump brands and models
Brand names that you will hear and see a lot in the world of breast pumps are Medela and Spectra, who are best known for their hospital-grade breast pumps. Medela also offers a service to rent a hospital-grade breast pump. The double electric breast pumps from these brands come with a separate motor which attaches to the bottle/breast flanges with tubing.
Whereas brands such as Willow and Elvie are best known for their wearable breast pump options. The breast pump sits inside your bra, and you can pump with ease. Mums who need to express milk discreetly on the go find these models a popular choice, despite having a bigger price tag.
Lola&Lykke’s Smart Electric Breast Pump has won the Mother&Baby Gold Award for “Best Electric/Battery Breast Pump” 6 times in a row. Breastfeeding mums love the stylish design, powerfully quiet motor, and that they can express straight into a breast milk storage bag. The pump can also come with a cooler bag making it even easier to transport and store milk for hours.
Lansinoh and Philips Avent are other brands that offer high-quality electric breast pumps, as well as other complimentary breastfeeding accessories to support a mum’s nursing journey. Minbie bottle teats have a bespoke design for breastfed babies to help them transition from the breast to a bottle.
Using an Electric Breast Pump Effectively
Preparing for pumping sessions
Before you start a pumping session, make sure that your milk pump is clean, sanitised, and ready for use. You also want to be comfortable and relaxed to boost those happy, milk-making hormones! As well as having your breast pump on hand, it’s useful to have muslin cloths or breast pads to minimise any leaks or spills. And if you’re going for full relax mode, grab a drink to stay hydrated, healthy snacks, music or even the TV remote! The length of pumping sessions can vary but at least you’ve got everything you need within reaching distance.
Proper techniques for pumping breast milk
Breastfeeding mums can seek support from a lactation consultant or another healthcare professional for improving their baby’s feeding technique and positioning on the breast. Similar support is also there for learning how to use a breast pump.
When feeding your baby directly, you want to guide them to the breast so that their mouth closes around the areola. This creates a tight seal around the nipple, and they can feed more efficiently as well as minimise the risk of blocked milk ducts or causing any discomfort to mum if their latch is off-centre. You might have heard the phrase “nose to nipple” which helps mum to help baby latch correctly. If their nose falls short of the nipple, you might feel some discomfort, a bit like a pinch, and this is a sign that you need to re-position them.
Although there are many different breastfeeding positions to try, when you’re pumping breast milk, you need to be sat up comfortably so your milk can be expressed. Any other position would result in leakages and soggy clothes!
Establishing a pumping routine
Exclusive pumping schedules are essential if you are only going to feed your baby expressed breast milk. It’s recommended that when your baby is born, you breastfeed them directly first and then slowly combine the two until you’re both ready to just pump exclusively. This will help you in the long run because your body needs to establish the milk supply and how much milk your baby needs to thrive. A breastfeeding and pumping schedule can help you in the interim until you’re ready to switch.
Amanda, a Certified Lactation Counsellor and mum of three shares her personal experience and exclusive pumping schedule to help mums new to pumping create a pumping schedule that works for them.
Tips for maximizing milk supply with an electric breast pump
Using a single electric breast pump, like Lola&Lykke’s Smart Electric Breast Pump, is one way to increase your milk supply for your baby. In the first few days after your milk has come in and you need to increase your supply, try pumping either straight after a feed or an hour after you’ve fed. Even though you may not express much milk in the beginning, your body will respond and start to meet the demand the more you try to express.
Having a calm, relaxing environment can help to soothe any anxiety that could be affecting your supply and boost your oxytocin levels to promote milk production. There are certain foods, drinks, and herbs that can hinder breast milk production and it’s best to avoid or limit these to get the best results.
Tip: to increase breast milk supply, aim to pump and/or breastfeed 8-12 times per day. The more milk that is removed from the breast, the more milk your body will supply.
But how long should you pump each breast for? We recommend expressing for 15 to 20 minutes every couple of hours for the first few days to establish an increase in your milk supply.
Maintaining and Cleaning Your Breast Pump
Importance of proper maintenance and cleaning
Breast pumps need to be washed and sterilised before and after use. Cleaning and sterilising a silicone breast pump are essential so that all parts that come into contact with your breast milk are clean and bear no risk of contaminating the milk you express. Regular maintenance of an electric breast pump will ensure that it continues to function at its best and is safe and hygienic to use.
Step-by-step guide for cleaning and sterilizing
There are a few ways you can sterilise and clean the parts of an electrical breast pump. The parts that come into contact with your skin and the breast milk will need to be sterilised as well as washed.
- The motor should never be submerged or have water poured over it. This part of the breast pump can only be cleaned by wiping it over with a damp cloth.
- Check the manual for the wireless breast pump to see if the other parts are dishwasher friendly – this can save you some time. If not, hand wash in hot soapy water.
- Sterilise using either a microwave steriliser, countertop steriliser, cold water steriliser, or even microwavable sterilising bags.
Troubleshooting common issues with electric breast pumps
Before using your electric breast pump for the first time, it’s useful to read the instruction manual so you can be aware of any faults or troubleshooting errors that may occur. Most of the time it will be highlighting general maintenance notifications but in the unlikely event it’s not safe to use, it will flag a warning as per the manual’s instructions.
Common issues that crop up from time to time with electrical breast pumps are:
- Low battery – remember to charge or have a cable with you!
- Liquid inside the tubing – leave to air dry after cleaning, run the breast pump for a few minutes by itself until it’s dry, or replace the tubing.
- Flange has low suction – the breast shield either needs to be re-positioned for a better seal, the part needs to be replaced due to wear and tear or a different sizing is required.
Learn more: Lola&Lykke Smart Electric Breast Pump FAQs
Tips and Strategies for Pumping Breast Milk
Storing and handling expressed breast milk
Once you have expressed your breast milk it needs to be stored safely and hygienically. If your baby isn’t going to drink it straight after you’ve pumped, it needs to be stored in a sealed, sanitised breast milk storage bag or breast pump bottle and kept refrigerated. You can also freeze breast milk so that it can last longer and be used at a later date.
The NHS recommends that breast milk is stored as such:
- In the fridge for up to 8 days at 4C or lower – if you're not sure of the temperature of your fridge, or it is higher than 4C, use it within 3 days.
- For 2 weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge.
- For up to 6 months in a freezer if it's -18C or lower.
- Breast milk that's been cooled in the fridge can be carried in a cool bag with ice packs for up to 24 hours.
To safely thaw breast milk from the freezer, place it in the fridge so it can thaw gradually. If it’s needed sooner, you can run the bag or container under warm water or sit it in a jug of warm water. Breast milk that has been thawed from frozen cannot be re-frozen.
Combining breastfeeding and pumping
A combination of breastfeeding and pumping will help you to maintain or increase your milk supply. By feeding on demand and adding pumping sessions in between, this will prompt your milk production to increase or maintain to keep up with what your baby’s needs are. We suggest pumping an hour after a feed so that it leaves enough of a window between your baby’s next feed and you can empty both breasts. By staying hydrated and looking after your own wellbeing, your body will have everything it needs to produce enough breast milk.
Pumping at work or on-the-go
By law, your employer must allow you breaks to pump breast milk when you return to work. In settings where you want to pump more discreetly, you can use nursing covers or try a wearable breast pump. If you need to pump whilst travelling, a rechargeable breast pump that’s compact to carry would be the best option.
Tip: Speak with your employer to agree on a quiet, private space to carry out pumping sessions and find a safe place where you can store your breast milk away from communal refrigerators. Before returning to work, read about your rights to breastfeed and what your employer should provide.
Exclusive pumping: Pros and cons
A mother’s choice to exclusively pump can be for a number of reasons. Their baby may not be able to latch at the breast due to medical issues or was born prematurely. Some mums don’t like how breastfeeding feels but want their babies to get the benefits of their breast milk.
Exclusively pumping is a rewarding and challenging journey that doesn’t come without its pros and cons. On one hand, mums want their babies to reap the rewards of their breast milk but exclusively pumping means you’re not only spending time pumping, but you’re also feeding baby afterwards too which can feel like twice as long for each feed. However, having expressed milk means another caregiver can feed baby and give mum a much needed break!
Hospital-Grade Electric Breast Pumps
What is a hospital-grade electric breast pump?
A hospital-grade breast pump has a more powerful motor than other electric breast pumps and it expresses milk more efficiently with a stronger suction. They are used by breastfeeding mums who are trying to increase or establish their milk supply.
Hospital-grade breast pumps are available on hospital wards for new mothers to rent or you can purchase an electric breast pump for your personal use which has this feature.
When and why are they recommended?
For some mothers, breastfeeding their newborn can be a challenge when your milk supply is low or your baby is unable to latch. For example, newborns with special needs or premature babies may struggle to latch because they have tongue-tie or were born too early to have developed the skills necessary to breastfeed yet. A hospital-grade breast pump can support these mums in establishing a milk supply so that they can provide their baby with nourishing breast milk.
Rental options and considerations
As some hospital-grade breast pumps can be expensive, you may be able to rent a breast pump from the hospital or through other local breastfeeding services near you. For more information, contact your local hospital, midwife, or healthcare professional for services available in your area and online.
If you only want to use the hospital-grade breast pump short-term, renting a breast pump could be a cheaper option than buying one outright. However, if you want to pump for longer than a few weeks, purchasing your own might work out to be more cost-effective, especially with new innovative technology designing more powerful motors for electrical breast pumps, such as the Lola&Lykke Smart Electric Breast Pump.
To recap, an electric breast pump can make your pumping and breastfeeding journey far less complicated than it has to be. Something so natural like breastfeeding can also be given a helping hand and an electric breast pump does just that. Hopefully now you’ve got a good idea of what features you’re looking for in an electric breast pump and the different options available to you to get one. Throughout it all, we’re here to be your compass, support network, and phone a friend throughout your breastfeeding and pumping journey.
Learn more: Breastfeeding Tips, Benefits and Problems
by Lola&Lykke Team
All PostsView All
- Feb 7, 2024
The European Union is partly financing the development project supporting Lola&Lykke's internationalization
- Diet & Nutrition
- Jan 2, 2024