I’m thrilled to welcome new guest contributor Carole Arsenault! Carole, a certified childbirth educator and lactation consultant, is the founder of locally based Newborn Nurses. Carole will provide content on pregnancy and postpartum issues, and her first "pump primer" contribution today demystifies the various options available for expressing breast milk:
“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 do not tire hand and arm muscles. Battery pumps 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 pump, however, they can usually be rented on a month-to-month basis. If the baby is not able to breastfeed and the mother is pumping constantly around the clock then the best choice in pumps is a hospital grade with a double collection kit. These pumps have a rapid suck and release cycle (cycling time) that draws milk from the breast at almost the same rate as a nursing baby (60 times per minute). The hospital grade pumps are very big, bulky, and heavy (up to 18 lbs.). Check with the doctor or a lactation consultant to determine whether the top quality electric pump or a hospital grade pump is recommended.
What Brands Do You Recommend?
Ameda and Medela are still the current leaders in the breast pump industry, using bottles that are Bisphenol-A (BPA) free and made from polyproylene plastic. Before you buy a breast pump make sure it looks comfortable to use, easy to clean, and simple to take apart. Keep in mind for health reasons that most stores will not allow breast pump returns.
Note: Many competitors are starting to jump in on the bandwagon but have yet to establish themselves.
Manual Breast Pumps
For occasional pumping, my favorite manual pumps are the Avent Isis and Medela Harmony styles (costing approximately $35-45 each). These pumps can be used discreetly in places that don’t have much privacy because of their small size. They are also very quiet and easy to use.
Battery Powered Pumps
Budget choice is the Medela Mini Electric battery powered pump (also called the Medela Single Deluxe). This occasional use pump costs approximately $75.
If you are a working mom and pumping is a large part of your day, then a fully automatic, double electric pump is your best bet. This is not a place to be penny wise and pound-foolish. The best professional pumps for working moms are the Medela Pump In Style (costing $250 and up) and the Ameda Purely Yours (approximately $200).
Hospital Grade Pumps
If your doctor or lactation consultant recommends a hospital grade pump, renting is the best option. These pumps are very costly, starting at approximately $1000 or more. Pump rentals are approx $75 - $100 per month. These pumps are big, heavy, and not portable at all.”