Choosing the right type of breast pump is very important, but it's often confusing to know which one to buy. Every mother's needs are different. This guide will introduce you to world of breast pumps and help you make a more informed decision about the best breast pump that suits your needs.
Although breastfeeding is the optimal way to remove breastmilk, there are times when this may not be possible, problems arise which interfere with breastfeeding or for other reasons. Common reasons for using a breast pump include:
Increasing milk supply
Frequent use of a breast pump, in addition to breastfeeding where possible, can be used to stimulate milk production and increase milk supply. Breast pumps can also help in re-establishing milk supply, particularly if used within several weeks of weaning. Because pumping is designed to closely simulate a baby's suckling, they have even been used to induce milk supply for adoptive mothers. Aren't our bodies amazing!
Maintaining milk supply when unable to exclusively breastfeed
Sometime breastfeeding may not be possible for you, or only partially possible, for a variety of reasons such as illness, medication, suckling difficulties, nipple pain, mastitis etc. Using a breast pump enables you to maintain an adequate milk supply and provide breastmilk for baby until nursing can be properly re-established. If you’ve been advised not to breastfeed due to contra-breastfeeding medications or breastmilk transmitted diseases, using a breast pump helps keep your milk supply adequate (by ‘pumping and dumping’) until you can safely nurse again.
Providing breastmilk when away at feeding time
Whether you’re working, enjoying a night out or catching up on sleep, using a breast pump means you can still provide important breastmilk for your baby even when you're not around. Expressed milk can be stored in the fridge and freezer, allowing you to prepare in advance for other caregivers to feed baby. Be sure to use products specifically designed to retain breastmilk nutritional properties (particularly if freezing) and that made with safe materials for storing breastmilk (Bispenol-A, or BPA, is a chemical used in many plastics including bottles: long term risks are still unknown). Many mothers also like to freeze breastmilk for emergency situations or stockpile before returning to work. Some pumps are designed for working mums in mind: fast double pumping, battery operation, discreet carry bags and insulated storage cases.
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Oversupply or weaning
If your milk supply outpaces demand, painful engorgement can occur. This is common after birth, after 'growth spurts' and when weaning. Discomfort can be relieved a number of way including by removing a small amount of breastmilk with a breast pump. This also helps prevent blocked / plugged ducts and mastitis.
Flat / inverted nipples or to help with let-down
A breast pump can help draw out flat or inverted nipples prior to breastfeeding. Using a pump immediately before or during breastfeeding can also help with stimulating the let-down reflex.
Uncertain about continuing breastfeeding
If you’ve encountered challenges with breastfeeding and plan to stop, please seek the advice of your healthcare professional before making your final decision. Many problems can be overcome with the right advice and support. If you have made the decision to stop breastfeeding, consider using a breast pump before weaning altogether. This ensures your baby will still receive your all-important ‘liquid gold’ for as long as possible. It also gives you options: a surprising number of mothers stop breastfeeding and start weaning, only to have a sudden change of heart (perhaps those sore nipples have healed!) Using a breast pump keeps your body producing milk so re-starting breastfeeding is much easier compared to re-establishing a milk supply after weaning.
For a variety of reasons, some mums choose to combine breastfeeding and bottle feeding, or decide not to breastfeed at all. Despite what formula manufacturers want us to believe, nothing is as good for your baby as breastmilk. Using a breast pump means baby can still receive all the unique benefits of breastmilk regardless of your decision. Nature has given you the ultimate food source for baby so why not use it? If you are planning to combine breastfeeding and bottle feeding, it is recommend that breastfeeding is well established before introducing a teat. Nipple confusion in young babies is a common problem and can interfere with breastfeeding.
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There are three types of breast pumps available - manual, electric retail (designed for single mum use only) and electric hospital grade (designed for use by more than one user).
Manual breast pumps:
Manual breast pumps are operated by hand and require no power source (just a good grip!) The pump is operated by manually pressing or moving the handle in a continuous motion. Manual pumps are designed for single pumping only (one hand is used to hold the pump to the breast while the other hand manually operates it). Manual pumping is usually slower and takes longer than when using an electric pump. Suitable for occasional use. Designed for single mum use only.
Electric breast pumps (retail models):
Electric breast pumps that can be purchased at a store are designed for single mum use only. Electric pumps do the work for you: you hold the breastshield to the breast and the pump motor provides the suction. They're plugged into a power outlet and in most cases can also be used with battery power for mobility and convenience. Electric pumps are a popular choice with mothers and are available for single or double pumping.
Electric breast pumps (hospital grade models):
Hospital grade breast pumps are the ultimate breast pump. These large pumps are the type used in hospitals or are available for hire, and are often used after recommendation by a lactation consultant or healthcare professional. Designed for safe use by more than one user (provided each mum uses her own sterile 'pump kit'), they are double or single pumping depending on the type of pump kit used. Mothers are required to purchase a sterile compatible pump kit when hiring a hospital grade pump.
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Here are some useful things to consider before purchasing a breast pump:
Why do you need a breast pump?
Please see your healthcare professional, such as a lactation consultant, to determine the reasons why you may need to use a breast pump (and if in fact you do) and the best type of pump for your individual situation. She will also be able to assist you with using the pump, give instructions for the best pumping routine for your needs and follow up to check it is working as desired.
Manual vs electric
Is speed important to you? Breast pumps are available in manual (hand operated) or electric (mains and/or battery powered). Manual pumps are cheaper and suitable for occasional use but are slower to use and harder on the hand as they require continual pressing. Electric pumps cost more but are faster and more efficient when pumping more often.
How many hours a week do you think you'll be pumping? It quickly adds up! Electric pumps are faster to use than manual pumps. Double electric pumps let you pump both breasts at a time, cutting your pumping time in half when compared with a single electric pump.
Frequency of use
Will you be pumping occasionally or regularly, short-term or long-term? Different pumps are designed for different usage demands and needs. Purchasing the wrong type of breast pump can make pumping more difficult and less effective. For example, using a manual pump regularly is time consuming and places undue stress on nipples and wrists. Likewise with using a standard electric pump when a high performance one is more suited to your needs: standard electric pump motors and parts are not designed for regular use over long periods of time. All the electric pumps available for purchase at Nursing Angel are considered high performance and are suitable for frequent and long term use.
Suction and speed control
Some electric pumps come with limited control settings or ranges. Other brands, such as ARDO, Ameda and Medela, offer a greater flexibility to adjust controls so you can find the best level for maximum milk expression. Using a pump with limited or fixed settings may mean pumping takes longer and less milk is expressed.
Quality versus price
Like most things, you get what you pay for - whether it's quality or service! Buying a cheap brand pump generally means it has a less effective design and motor quality. Pumping can be slow, uncomfortable and even painful, with lower milk expressed. If effective and comfortable breast pumping is important to you, look for a high quality pump that does the job well.
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Product support & warranties
The last thing you need when an issue arises with your breast pump is a headache. In fact, what you need is help so you can fix the problem fast and get back to pumping. As many breast pump companies require the point of purchase (ie the store you bought it from) to provide after sale product support and warranty assistance, it is important to purchase from a retailer that can give you the knowledgable support you need. Nursing Angel specialises in breast pumps so you can be assured we able to provide you with this support - and in a timely manner too. We also provide after hours and weekend email support for our customers. Nursing Angel's experienced staff handle warranty claims on behalf of our customers to ensure they are processed as quickly as possible.
BPA (Bisphenol A) is a hormone-disrupting chemical found in polycarbonate plastic that may have the potential to cause health problems. The long-term effects of BPA exposure are not known. Thankfully many baby feeding products are now starting to be manufactured without BPA. However some pump brands still do include BPA components. If BPA Free is important to you, make sure you check exactly what parts are BPA Free: it should be all parts that come into breastmilk - not just the bottle. The pumps we stock are BPA Free for all parts that come into contact with breastmilk.
This is probably something you have not considered! It is important that you use the correct sized breast shield (also known as the breast flange or pump body) for your nipple size. The breast shield needs to stimulate the correct area for efficient milk expression and comfort. If it is too large or too small (even by a few millimetres), pumping can be painful, less effective and with slower or lower milk expression. Most pumps come with a standard sized breast shield that is designed to fit the 'average' nipple size. However not all nipples are the 'average' size. Since it's difficult to know if your nipple size will fit the breast shield correctly before purchasing a pump, check to see if the brand offers custom sized breast shields in case you do need to buy a smaller or larger shield. ARDO, Ameda and Medela do have these available.
Most pumps are relatively easy to take apart for cleaning and to re-assemble. Washing in hot soapy water followed by hot water rinsing and air drying is generally considered sufficient if you have a full term healthy baby. However, pumps can also be cleaned in a variety of other ways such as boiling, using a plug-in steriliser, microwave steam sterilising or dishwasher. Check if the brand you are considering buying allows for the cleaning method(s) you wish to use. Incorrect cleaning can cause damage to pump parts so it's important to follow manufacturer cleaning instructions carefully.
Availability of spare parts
Are spare parts readily available? If one of your pump parts is lost or damaged and the brand does not offer spare parts, your pump is essentially useless. Check if the brand you are considering purchasing does have spare parts that are easily available if needed.
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Nursing Angel has recommended stockist of ARDO, Ameda and Medela breast pumps. These brands are known for their high quality and are considered the world leaders in breast pump research and technology.
Below is a quick summary of the breast pump models available from ARDO, Ameda and Medela (note we have not included discontinued models that may still be available elsewhere):
Suitable for occasional use (eg missed feeding, evening out, stimulating let-down, engorgement, weaning, flat or inverted nipples). Single pumping only. Manual hand operated.
Electric Breast Pumps (for retail purchase):
All the pumps below are suitable for frequent and long term use: note that a hospital grade pump should be used for premature/sick babies or hospitalised mums unless advised otherwise by a lactation consultant or health care professional.
Electric breast pumps (hospital grade / hire models):
Are you considering buying a second hand breast pump or borrowing one from a friend? It is important to know that all breast pumps (aside from hospital grade models) are designed for single mum use only. Use by more than one person voids the warranty and may expose mother and baby to health risks (even if all pump parts are thoroughly sterilised or replaced).
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This page is for general information only and is not intended to substitute or replace the advice of your healthcare professional. Please see your healthcare professional for specific advice about your unique circumstances and needs.