Figuring out how to choose a breast pump can be confusing, especially when there are many options available. From manual to electric, to closed versus open, to hands-free. Having to choose which breast pump is right for you can be overwhelming. As a second-time breastfeeding mom, I get it. Heck, breast pumps have come a long way since my first romp with breastfeeding 9 years ago. My experience with breast pumps combined with research has allowed me to put together this informative post to help you decide on the best breast pump option(s) for your breastfeeding needs.
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When Should a Woman Choose to Use a Breast Pump
Women choose to use a breast pump for different reasons. For me, it was because I had to return to work and I needed to have a stash of breast milk available to keep my baby fed while I was away. I also use my pump to relieve engorgement. There are many reasons women choose to pump their breast milk, and all of them are personal and valid. Below are just a few reasons why some women choose this route in their breastfeeding journey.
- The baby is having difficulty with latching
- Mom wants to initiate building her breast milk supply
- Mom will be away from baby for long periods of time for work, errands, or vacation
- Mom prefers to bottle feed
How to Choose a Breast Pump
Choosing a breast pump comes down to a few things like your pumping needs and lifestyle. Are you going to pump only to store milk to prepare a stash for work? Or are you exclusively pumping to bottle feed your breastmilk to your baby? Is the cost of the pump a factor for you? These are just some of the things you should consider when choosing the right pump. You’ll also want to think about the pumps’
- suction strength and variability
- sound – does it make a lot of noise when in use?
- ease of finding replacement pump parts
Three Different Types of Pumps to Choose From
Breast pumps fall into three (3) categories:
1. Manual pumps
These require some labor-intensive work. You’re for sure to develop strong hand muscles from using a manual pump. I always keep a manual pump on hand just in case I forget the battery pack or charger for my electric pump. I like that manual pumps are lightweight and can fit in my bag without weighing it down.
Beauty and the Bump NYC Pick – Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump – It’s not an actual pump, but a milk catcher. It’s great for exclusively breastfeeding moms. You simply place it on the breast that’s to being used to catch the milk being let down. You don’t have to use your hands to pump. It’s super easy to clean!
2. Battery-powered pumps
These battery-operated pumps make them more appealing because they’re portable and take the manual labor out of pumping milk. They’re perfect for when you’re on the go and do not have access to an outlet. Just don’t forget to bring the pumps’ battery pack.
Beauty and the Bump NYC Pick – Spectra S1 is a double-electric, closed-system pump with a built-in battery pack. It’s great for exclusively pumping moms and moms who will be pumping on the go like while at work.
Willow Pump is the best battery-powered hands-free option. Because of its breast-shaped cups that insert into your bra without the need for tubes, no wires, and no hanging bottles. allows you to discreetly pump. It also has a spill-proof design that allows you to pump in any position. This pump is perfect for using during commutes to work and or pumping in your office.
3. Electric pumps
These pumps are the most powerful of the three and are the more expensive option. They tend to have the best output when pumping.
Beauty and the Bump NYC Pick – Spectra S2 is a closed system electric breast pump that has a powerful suction allowing you to express milk quickly. Since it uses a power cord unlike the S1, it’s restrictive. You have to sit in one place to use it.
Single or Double
These pumps can be available in a single or double option. The single pump allows you to express milk from one breast at a time, while the double allows you to express milk from both breasts simultaneously. Both options have their conveniences, such as being able to pump one side while your baby is nursing on the other.
Open or Closed Pump System?
As if breastfeeding isn’t already stressful you have to now think about the type of system you need your pump to be. Breast pumps are available in two systems: open or closed.
An open system is just what it sounds like – there’s no barrier between the pump and the milk. This type of system is less hygienic because the milk comes into contact with so many different parts. The many tubes and smaller parts of this type of pump make it harder to clean and sterilize too.
A closed system is the most hygienic pump option since there is a barrier “overflow protection” between the milk and the pump. The barrier of this type of pump prevents milk from getting into the machine. These types of pumps are usually the more expensive option.
Health Insurance Covers Breast Pumps
Breast pumps come in various price ranges. Manual pumps are usually cheaper while electric and hands-free pumps are more expensive. Thankfully, due to the Affordable Care Act, private health insurers in the United States are required to cover breast pumps. I was able to get my current pump, the Spectra S2 as well as the hands-free Freemie pump through my and my husband’s health insurance. Some insurances will allow you to upgrade to a “better” pump for an additional fee, so if there is one you like just inquire.
If you find that your health insurance doesn’t have the breast pump you like and prefer, pumps are a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) eligible purchase.
Try Before You Buy
Breast pumps are considered medical devices; therefore, trying out a breast pump before you actually buy one isn’t as easy as going to the store testing it out, and then returning it. But there are cost-effective ways to test out the various types before purchasing it for yourself. Check out your local hospital for pump rentals or ask a local lactation consultant where to rent one.
Choosing the best breast pump is dependent on your personal needs. As for me, I have three different pumps. I have a manual to use as a backup to my hands-free and double electric pumps. My hands-free pump is perfect for me when I return to work and need to pump and work at the same time. If you’ll be commuting while pumping, your pump should be lightweight. Once you add your pumped milk to the equation, your breast pump bag can get heavy, which can take a toll on your back