How To Choose A Breast Pump, According To A Lactation Consultant

Let's be real: Pregnancy is awesome and the miracle of life is all that. But a large chunk of your excitement surrounding your changing form can really be chalked up to one thing — shopping for baby stuff. However, choosing things for you — both during and after pregnancy — can be kind of boring. It's all nipple cream, breastfeeding pads, antacids for nagging indigestion, and "Will this shirt fit me in a week?" Still, the best is required for any mama and that's why I talked to a lactation consultant about how to choose a breast pump — because you might need one of those, too.

Leigh Anne O’Connor, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and parenting coach, tells Romper there are a few questions you'll want to ask yourself when selecting a breast pump to suit your specific needs. They include:

  • What are your needs? (e.g. Do you simply need an every-now-and-then option?)
  • How often do you need to pump? (e.g. Will you be at home with your little one or returning to work?)
  • How old is your baby? (e.g. Are you pumping for a newborn or is your baby a few months old?)
  • Where will you be pumping? (e.g. Is there an electrical outlet?)

All of these questions are important in assessing what type of breast pump will work best for you — which is why we're here, right? For starters, there are three primary types of pumps: hospital-grade electric, personal double electric, and manual breast pumps.

Ashley Batz/Romper

Hospital-grade electric pumps are typically rented because they pack a hefty price tag, according to Babylist.com. "If your new baby is separated from you and/or non-latching, then using a hospital grade pump is best," O'Connor says.

It's true — these types of pumps are typically reserved for moms who are having some sort of initial issue with breastfeeding, according to Baby Center. "A heavy-duty, hospital-grade model has a rapid suck-and-release cycle that draws milk from your breasts at about the same rate as a nursing baby; they are stronger than electric pumps you can buy in a store," the website noted.

O'Connor says a personal double electric pump is a solid choice for moms who have established breastfeeding, especially if they are headed back to work and need the efficiency of a double pump that runs on battery power or can be plugged into an electrical outlet.

But a manual pump might be your best option if you don't plan on pumping a lot or simply need an easy, on-the-go option.

"If you work part time and just need a few bottles a week, then a hand pump or your hands is a good choice," O'Connor says, adding that some moms in this situation also just opt for a double electric pump.

She also reminds moms to keep their hands in mind as a pumping alternative. "Hand expressing is a great option," she says. "If you are with your baby most of the time, you can hand express or use a hand pump."

Speaking of time, Mayo Clinic noted that figuring how much time you can carve out for pumping might help you make your decision, too.

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"A typical pumping session lasts about 10 to 15 minutes a breast," the website explained. "If you'll be pumping at work or in other time-crunched situations, you might want to invest in an electric breast pump that allows you to pump both breasts at once."

O'Connor also cautions shoppers to beware of marketing for breast pumps. "Not all pumps are created equal, and not everyone responds the same to all pumps," she says.

Which is certainly a lesson you've learned with pregnancy, right? There really is not a one-size-fits-all prescription for how to establish what will work best for you before and after your little one arrives. But here's the good news: You'll figure out exactly what works for you.