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So many breast pumps, so little time. Discover which type will suit you best. Your tatas will thank you later.
You’d think there are only so many ways to drain milk from a breast or chest, but no — there are seemingly limitless ways to get it done.
Maybe you’re new to the mystical milking world and don’t know where to start, or maybe you’re here for an upgrade.
Either way, here’s the scoop on how to find the unicorn breast pump of your dreams!
Here are some factors to keep in mind before you buy a breast pump:
- Ease of use
- If you’re going to be exclusively pumping
- If you’re going to do a combination of pumping and breastfeeding at the breast/chest
- If you’ll use the pump occasionally — just for extra milk here and there
- If you plan on utilizing the pump intermittently for when you have an overflow or are full
Dr. Sethi also adds that you’ll need to consider how much time you have for pumping.
- On-the-go-pumping. If you don’t have time to stop and pump, Dr. Sethi recommends a pump with more customizable and portable features.
- All-the-time-in-the-world-pumping. If time isn’t a factor, you can consider more standard options that require you to plug in to use it.
Though the specifics vary depending on your insurance plan, the tea here is that because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), your health insurance plan must cover the breast pump cost. However, you may not get much say on if it’s electric or manual, a rental or yours to own, etc.
Call your health insurance company and find the details before digging into your wallet.
Check this out! People with UnitedHealth Care insurance can shop the following breast pumps that are on-benefit and fully covered:
- Manual. This budget-friendly option is hand-operated and may require some elbow grease.
- Electric. Frequent pumpers may appreciate the help this type offers. It does the heavy lifting for you via a motor and can be plugged in or battery-operated.
- Single pump. This type gets the job done just one side at a time.
- Double pump. As its name suggests, this pump operates on both sides at the same time.
- Wearable. Plop it in your bra and return to your hands-free day — no wires with this pump.
- Hospital grade. This highly effective pump is ideal for those who want to highest levels of pumping on the reg.
- Open system. This type keeps operation rather open — no barrier stands between the machine’s motor and parts, so it’s best for only one user.
- Closed system. A barrier keeps the motor and parts away from each other, which is a more sanitary method.
According to Dr. Sethi, manual breast pumps are generally more cost-effective than electric ones. They also tend to be quiet and good for occasional use.
Hand expression quite literally means milking your own breast with only your hand and some simple technique, by the way. This is a very useful skill to have for anyone who’s lactating!
“For example, if you’re done feeding your baby, and you’re not too full but have some extra milk that you would like to store, you can use a manual pump to get the last remaining portion the baby didn’t consume,” Dr. Sethi says.
She also points out that manual pumps are also easy to clean and store. The drawback, though, as we mentioned, is that manual pumps require more effort than their electrical counterparts.
“The entire process can be very tiring,” Dr. Sethi points out.
Dr. Sethi says that you must keep pumping your breast repeatedly to get a vacuum suction over your breast, which is what makes the milk flow. For some people, this sounds like too much work. Other people love and prefer the simplicity of a manual pump over an electric one and actually find them faster and more efficient to use.
Best manual breast pump
If you think a manual breast pump sounds like a good fit for you, the Ameda Portable One Hand Manual Breast Pump is highly rated and clocks in under $30.
Dr. Sethi explains that electric pumps are generally considered easier and more convenient to use because the pumping is created by the motor on the pump. But, she says there are several different kinds of pumps. Most electric pumps have something called a 2-phase technology that mimics the baby’s natural sucking behavior.
“In the beginning, babies use these short bursts and fast sucks to stimulate let-down,” she says.
BTW, let-down in the world of breast pumping means a reflex produced by the body that gets your milk a-flowin’.
“Once the milk starts flowing more regularly, they have a stronger sucking that’s a bit slower and are swallowing more heavily,” Dr. Sethi says.
3. Single pump
If you like to do just one thing at a time (and who can blame you), a single breast pump may be a good fit for you.
Dr. Sethi says single pumps are about convenience when you’re not pumping both breasts.
“They also come in handy when you’re either feeding the baby and feel like they didn’t empty both sides, or you feed the baby on one side and need to pump the other side to store the remaining milk,” she says.
She points out that it’s generally not ideal for people in a time crunch as they would have to spend around 15–20 minutes pumping on each side. Sheesh!
Best single breast pump
The Spectra S2 Plus Single / Double Electric Breast Pump is a fab single breast pump… but it also doubles as a double!
4. Double pump
By now, you can guess this means both breasts get pumped at once, saving you time if that’s a big factor in your life. Dr. Sethi says these also allow for ease of transfer. The total duration is usually 15–20 minutes. Dr. Sehti adds that this is the most commonly used type she sees with her patients.
Best double breast pump
The Lansinoh Signature Pro Double Electric Breast Pump is a great choice if you want to pump both breasts simultaneously.
This type of breast pump is technology at its finest. It’s electric and goes right inside your bra. You wear it when and wherever you want, no worries about plugging yourself into a wall, and you don’t need to do manual labor yourself either. As you can imagine, this option can get pricey, but you may find it worth the convenience factor.
The best wearable breast pump
The Willow Go™ Wearable Hands-Free, Cord-Free Double Electric Breast Pump includes reusable containers and is easy to clean.
6. Hospital grade
If high-sucking power is at the top of your wish list, nothing gets it done like hospital-grade options. Though, nothing else is quite as expensive either. We’re talking in the $1,000 range… woof. But if you don’t mind the price tag, these pumps are dope AF. They’re massively efficient and durable.
7. Open system
We’ll give it to you straight here — this option is not the most sanitary way to pump. You won’t find any barrier method in place that keeps the parts separate from the motor. This means if someone is using an electric pump, milk may get caught in the engine, leaving you with a big risk of contamination.
FYI: If you rent a breast pump through your insurance, this likely means the machine was used before you got your hands on it. You may want to check if the machine is an open system because, again, you’re looking to avoid contamination here.
8. Closed system
This type of pumping system gives you a barrier between the pieces and the motor, so you can avoid getting milk where it doesn’t belong. This is a healthier operation in general; it may also help keep out possible moisture from your body heat.
Breast pump options can be dizzying.
You’ll want to consult with your insurance company about full or partial coverage (because it exists).
You should also consider your schedule (because some of these pumps are time-consuming).
Next, looking over the different types will help you narrow things down. For example, you may not mind cranking away on a manual breast pump, or you may decide electric is the only way to go. Of course, you’ll also have to decide if you want to be able to pump both breasts at once or if you are cool with just one boob at a time.
The choices are endless, but they are yours!