If You Need A Breast Pump, Here's How The Hospital Can Help

by Cat Bowen

There's so much to think about when you're preparing to bring your baby home. Everything from diapers and wipes, to strollers and car seats, to the perfect "coming home" outfit that will last through all of one diaper change. And that's not even considering what you'll need for yourself. (One billion maxi pads and steal all the mesh underwear. Your grubbiest sweats are fine, trust me.) One thing you might be thinking about or even registering for, is a breast pump. However, you heard you might not need to. Is it true? Will the hospital give you a breast pump? The answer isn't so straight forward.

In short, no. Hospitals will not give you a breast pump. They will, however, have a pump available for your use while you're in their care if you need to pump — especially if your baby is in the NICU. Also, many hospitals have breast pumps that you're able to rent and take home with you.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, put in place a set of laws that required insurances to provide copay-free breast pumps and breast pump supplies for the duration of breastfeeding. However, there are some caveats. For instance, North Carolina medicaid was exempt from this mandate, and if your insurance plan is grandfathered in, they might also be exempt from the plan.

In either case, does the hospital give you a breast pump for your insurance, or is there a different process? Most of the insurances I found, as well as manufacturers like Medela and Aeroflow, noted that this is a mail-order deal. When you're in your last trimester of pregnancy, you have to find out the medical equipment supplier your insurance or your state's medicaid uses. You will then call them, insurance card handy, and they will guide you to what's offered. For instance, my insurance allows me to either rent a hospital-grade pump or they'll give me a standard double electric pump (with a decent selection) at no cost to me. The only difference is that I will only be able to keep the rented pump for one year and it must be returned, otherwise I'll pay a penalty depending on the model I leased.

When I'm in the hospital, if my child is transferred to NICU, or if my stay exceeds 48 hours, I will be offered the use of a hospital breast pump and bags for storage. Although, even after speaking to a few hospitals, not a single hospital could give me a straight answer as to if they charge for this or how much it costs. Ostensibly, even though it's supposed to be copay-free, in a hospital environment, it's probably going to cost something. They just couldn't or wouldn't tell me how much.

I had my first child pre-Obamacare, and therefore had to shell out close to $400 for a premium breast pump, and let me tell you, that sucker (pun intended) still works like a dream. However, because I put it through its paces, it required a decent amount of upkeep. I had to change the membranes and tubes a few times over the life of the pump. Under Obamacare, these parts are covered, and the breast pump is also covered under a warranty in the event of a mechanical failure.

Breast pumps are expensive, and the costs of using and maintaining them can add up quickly. Speak with your insurance representative at your place of employment and find out how to order your pump as early in your pregnancy as possible. Do your research and choose the best model for your needs. The hospital might not be giving you one, but that doesn't mean you should have to go without.

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.