Choosing a Breast Pump and Its Parts
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Sweet Peas, Pods & Papas: All About Birth, B@@bs & Babies

Choosing a Breast Pump and Its Parts

Breastfeeding 101 Series

Welcome to this month’s post from Debbie Gillespie, IBCLC, RLC.  You can find her at Modern Mommy Boutique on Monday mornings at 10:00 am for a FREE Breastfeeding Support Group, and she will also be featured here on the fourth Friday of every month.  Please see the end of the post for Debbie's contact information if you are interested in reaching her for more information, or to find registration information for her Breastfeeding 101 Class offered on the 2nd Saturday of the month (October 8, 2011).
To read Debbie’s previous posts, please click on the “Breastfeeding 101” link on the left side of the page.

Baby is coming soon and you find yourself standing in the breastfeeding products section of the giant baby store.  Should you buy a pump now or wait?  Which pump should you put on your registry?  What’s the difference between the $60 pump from one company and the $350 pump from another company?  What should you look for in a pump anyway?

Buying a substandard pump or using the wrong pump for the job can jeopardize mom's milk supply or even damage mom's breast tissue, and don’t expect the pimply-faced clerk to steer you in the right direction on this decision.  What’s worse, if you do happen to pick the wrong pump but don’t realize it until you already opened the package, you aren’t able to return it like you could a pair of shoes.  Following are some guidelines to picking the right pump for the job.

"Do I need a breast pump if I’m going to breastfeed?" 
Some women would say that a pump is absolutely essential to breastfeeding success.  Other women point out that mothers have been breastfeeding their babies for centuries without ever using a breast pump.  The United States has the highest number of pumping moms in the world because our maternity leave policies require mothers to return to work so quickly, compared with other countries.  Fortunately breast pump design has come a very long way in the past 30 years, and pumping is now more comfortable and efficient than ever before.  If you need to express milk from your breasts for any reason – separation, baby won’t latch, problems breastfeeding – a breast pump can be your best friend, especially if you will need more than the occasional bottle.

"When should I buy a breast pump?" 
Some women want to have a pump ready to go before baby is born, in case they want to pump to relieve engorgement in the early days, express milk for separation or “emergency milk” for the freezer, or because they plan to return to work soon after baby is born.  Other moms prefer waiting until baby is born to be sure they choose the right pump for the job, or even to be sure that they are going to breastfeed long enough to need a pump in the first place.  If you do get a pump before baby is born, remember that pumping prior to baby’s birth can induce labor, so set aside your new toy until baby is safely on the outside.

All brands are not created equally. 
Cheaper pumps may look appealing, especially if you are concerned about all the other expenses that come with a baby.  The problem with the cheaper pumps is that they tend to break down unexpectedly, may not even be effective, can even cause tissue damage, and don’t offer a variety of sizes of parts to fit each mother’s anatomy.  Any money saved by purchasing one of these pumps is going to be wasted on buying another pump after that one breaks, or – even worse – the many expenses of formula after your milk supply has crashed.  The only two brands that are reliable, efficient, and versatile are Ameda and Medela; steer clear of other brands.

"I’m staying home full-time with my baby." 
If you’re only planning to need one or two bottles a week, a manual pump like the Ameda One Hand pump or Medela’s Harmony will fit the bill.  Any fancier pump is a nice luxury but not essential.

"I’m going to be working part-time, a few days a week." 
A manual pump may work if separation is only going to be for just a few feedings per week.  A safer option might be an electric pump that only pumps one breast at a time, like Medela’s Swing pump.  This handy little pump, about the size of a donut, can even clip onto mom’s belt for portable use.  It would be nice for this mom to have a pump that expresses both breasts at the same time, but not absolutely required in most cases.

"I’m going to be working full-time, plus commute." 
A pump that will allow you to pump both breasts at the same time is essential with this level of separation, to make pumping fast and efficient, and to maintain milk supply while away from baby.  Medela’s Pump in Style Advanced or Freestyle, or Ameda’s Purely Yours Ultra will do well.  These pumps are designed for use once breastfeeding is going well, mom's milk supply is well established, and baby is nursing well at least half the time (four+ times a day).  If a mom finds that she is pumping more than breastfeeding, I would recommend upgrading to the hospital-grade pump to protect her supply.  FYI both the Ameda and Medela pumps offer an A/C adapter so mom can pump during her commutes to save time and boost milk supply.

"My baby was born early and is now in the NICU."
If baby is not latching at all (in the NICU, for example) or is not breastfeeding strongly immediately after birth, it's important to rent a hospital grade pump to do baby's job of establishing milk supply.  Other pumps do remove milk, but they also leave milk behind and can’t stimulate mom’s milk supply in place of baby.  A good double electric breast pump can run $200-$350 to purchase; a hospital grade breast pump costs about $1,500-$2,000 to purchase.  The first few weeks after baby is born are most critical to a good milk supply for the whole time you’re breastfeeding, so don’t gamble your milk supply on trying to use your store-bought pump to establish milk supply.  It’s like trying to ride a scooter from Phoenix to New York: it’s not impossible to be successful, but it’s not very likely.

Which brand of pump should I rent? 
Hospital grade pumps come in Medela and Ameda brands.  Moms tend to rent whatever they used in the hospital since they already have the parts and are comfortable with the pump itself.  All of the East Valley hospitals but Mercy Gilbert and Chandler use the Medela Symphony in the hospital; Mercy Gilbert and Chandler use the Ameda Elite pump.

Where can I rent a pump? 
Chandler and Mercy Gilbert hospitals do not rent any pumps.  Modern Mommy Boutique (, conveniently located in front of Chandler Mall, rents both Medela and Ameda pumps for excellent prices.  Banner hospitals rent pumps, making it convenient to come home with the same kind of pump used in the hospital.  Hospitals tend to run out of pumps to rent, so have a back-up source lined up if this happens.  Two local companies offer free pick-up and delivery: Anything for Baby ( and Serenity Feeding (

Does one size fit all? 
Pump parts come in different sizes because mommies’ nipples come in different sizes.  The part that goes against the breast is called the flange and looks like a funnel.  Flange fittings are important to mom's pumping success and comfort, but I see many poorly fitted flanges.  Unfortunately you can't just "eyeball" the mom's nipple size and choose a flange, because many women's nipples usually swell during pumping.  A fitting should include pumping for at least five minutes before deciding on a flange size; flange size has everything to do with the nipple and nothing to do with the areola or breast size, and rarely changes between babies.  Also, a woman could very easily use one size on one breast and one size on the other.  I often do flange fittings at my consultations, and urge moms to bring their pumps when we meet for consultations to be sure that they are using the right size parts.

Is there anything that can make pumping easier? 
Yes!  A dab of olive oil on the inside of the flange helps eliminate any friction before milk flows.  Fully adjustable pumping bands can hold the parts in place so that mom can pump hands-free.  She can use her computer, read a book, talk on the phone, eat lunch...and allow her body to let the milk flow.  The pumping band holds the flanges in place comfortably and securely, so mom doesn’t have to worry about using too much pressure on the flanges.  The pumping band also provides some coverage for modest pumping.  Some moms even pump their milk while commuting to and from work using the pumping band, using the A/C adapter available on some models.  A nursing shawl can provide an added layer of privacy.  Other things that can improve pumping include photos or audio files of your baby, massaging the breasts before and during pumping, and smelling something your baby has worn.

"I found this pump on Ebay…" 
A good quality breast pump is going to cost a few hundred dollars so it’s very tempting to borrow a used pump from a neighbor, or pick one up at a garage sale or off of Ebay.  You may think you only need to buy new tubing and pieces to the pump, but there is no way to sterilize the pump’s motor and it may be growing a jungle.  Also, even high quality breast pumps are going to eventually die, and you don’t know how many hours a second-hand pump has worked, or how long it will continue to work before it leaves you stranded.  Ask for one at your baby shower, put together gift cards, return baby shower gifts you really didn’t need…a new pump just for you is a wise investment.

Parenthood is a whole new world, and breastfeeding is just one neighborhood of that new world.  If you have any questions about anything before, during or after baby is born, contact an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).  It’s better to ask than to worry and wonder.  The best thing you can do is enjoy your baby.

To read Debbie’s previous posts, please click on the “Breastfeeding 101” link on the left side of the page.
With questions about this post, or to contact Debbie for a consultation:
Debbie Gillespie, IBCLC, RLC
Registered with the International Board of
Lactation Consultant Examiners
(480) 786-0431
Breastfeeding 101 Class
Join Debbie for a 90-minute comprehensive breastfeeding class once a month (2nd Saturday - 11:00 am) at Modern Mommy Boutique for only $10/couple.
Call Modern Mommy Boutique for registration: 480-857-7187
3355 W. Chandler Blvd #3, Chandler, AZ 85226 
The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.

New class starting
December 5, 2011
for families with due dates around or after
February 20, 2012

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