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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for their first six months of life. After that, the AAP recommends that babies continue supplemental breastfeeding until they reach one year of age — or until mom and baby decide to stop.
The strong benefits of breastfeeding are many, and they include the following:
Big boosts to the baby’s immune system.
Potential reduction in diseases later in life, including diabetes, cancer, and asthma.
Quicker return to pre-baby weight for mom.
Bonding time for mother and baby.
Savings in time and money: no bottles or formula to buy, no waiting while formula warms.
For some women, however, breastfeeding is not an option.
Certain medical conditions or medicines rule out breastfeeding. Some moms simply don’t have the time, support, or encouragement to keep breastfeeding. Some moms adopt their babies. For these moms and their little ones, formula is a fine alternative.
But even moms who do breastfeed sometimes want or need to give their baby a bottle. This is especially likely if the mother works outside the home, but other common reasons include needing to get some rest, wanting to include the father in the feeding process, traveling, and simply needing a break.
But just because baby is getting a bottle doesn’t mean it can’t be breastmilk. And the easiest way to get that breastmilk is through the use of a breast pump.
Says Aimee Ketchum, pediatric occupational therapist and BestReviews’ expert consultant, “People use pumps because they are either away from their baby or their baby is not able to breastfeed at the breast.”
Aimee is a pediatric occupational therapist practicing in the neonatal intensive care unit and pediatric out-patient at Central Pennsylvania Rehab Services at the Heart of Lancaster Hospital. She has been working in pediatrics for 18 years and is also the owner/operator of Aimee’s Babies LLC, a child development company. Aimee has published 3 DVDs and 9 apps which have been featured on the Rachael Ray Show and iPhone Essentials Magazine. Also certified in newborn massage and instructing yoga to children with special needs, Aimee Ketchum lives in Lititz, PA with her husband and two daughters.
Here at BestReviews, we want to help you find the best breast pump for your needs!
We never accept free products or manufacturer perks in exchange for a good review. We do our own research, talk to professionals in the field, and listen to actual product owners. That allows us to present you with unbiased, accurate information and recommendations.
So if you’re ready to buy a breast pump, check out the five models in the matrix above.
If you’d like to learn more about these helpful devices, please read on. We’ll explain what you need to know when choosing the right breast pump for you and your baby.
Don’t get discouraged; it’s common to take days or even weeks to become fully comfortable with breastfeeding and pumping. The more you practice, the better you’ll get.
There are four main types of breast pumps. Several factors determine which type of pump is right for you and your baby, including how often you plan to use the pump, the age of your baby, medical issues faced by you or your baby, and how much time you have to devote to pumping.
If you use your breast pump infrequently or want a small pump to use while traveling, a battery-powered pump could well be all you need. These pumps are lightweight, fairly inexpensive, and quite portable. But they are slow, and they don’t usually mimic a baby’s natural sucking cycle. Furthermore, this type of pump tends to burn through batteries quickly.
Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water each day while you’re nursing or pumping; the extra fluid will help with milk production and keep you from getting dehydrated.
These are the large, powerful pumps used in hospitals and lactation centers and rented out by many medical supply shops.
Most have several controls that allow you to tailor the pressure, intensity, and rhythm to your needs, making pumping a fairly speedy process.
Consider this type of pump if you are in the very early weeks of nursing and still trying to establish a milk supply, if your baby is struggling to latch onto your nipple, if you have a medical issue that makes it difficult to produce enough milk, or if your baby is a preemie or has a medical issue that makes nursing a challenge.
Expect to pump for 15 to 25 minutes per session.
Personal-use electric pumps are not as large or as powerful as a hospital-grade pumps, but they’re lighter in weight and generally equipped with variable controls for suction levels and cycles.
This type of pump is an excellent choice for a working mother or any mom who needs to be away from her baby on a regular basis. Most come with a carrying case and a set of accessories, including milk containers and lids.
Personal-use electric pumps are the most popular type of breast pumps for women who plan on nursing long-term while working.
Personal-use electric breast pumps are just that: personal. Don’t share your pump, as there is a slight risk of germ transfer.
These pumps have a bulb or lever that you work manually to create suction.
They are small, lightweight, inexpensive, and quiet, but they make pumping a lengthy and potentially cumbersome process.
You might appreciate this type of pump if you rarely pump, if you only need a pump for travel, or if you anticipate being without electricity for a short time.
Try pumping on one breast while nursing your baby on the other. This might not work with an older baby, but if you can manage it, you’ll have some extra milk to store in the refrigerator.
There are several features that can make pumping your milk easier and faster.
This simulates a baby’s natural sucking pattern: rapid and shallow at first, then slow and deep.
The more you are able to tailor your pump’s settings to your own comfort level, the happier you are likely to be.
Prolactin – the hormone that regulates milk production – is highest very early in the morning. If possible, pump at this time to take advantage of your extra milk.
Some pumps let you store your preferred settings in the pump’s memory so you don’t need to waste time resetting each time you use it.
Many electric pumps have attachments that allow you to pump both breasts simultaneously. This cuts your pumping time in half – a major consideration if you pump at work or in another situation where time is limited.
Says Aimee, “Choosing a pump that takes too long to express the milk is one of the most common mistakes.”
Double-pumping also helps increase the level of prolactin, the hormone that regulates your milk supply.
Always begin a pumping session with the suction on a low setting, then gradually increase it as you feel comfortable.
These handy adapters plug into your car’s power outlet so you can pump on the go.
If you’re going to tote your breast pump back and forth to work each day, you’ll want a pump that is reasonably lightweight, easy to carry, and discreet.
Consider a hands-free pump if you want to keep on working while you pump.
Most electric breast pumps come with a range of accessories, including tubing, milk containers, and a carrying case.
Some pumps include a backpack for easy portability of your pump and accessories.
Keep a small cooler filled with ice packs in your car or office to store expressed milk.
BPA is a chemical found in plastic that can be harmful to your baby. Choose a breast pump that is BPA-free in all areas that contact the breast milk.
Some pumps have a battery backup in case you find yourself without electricity.
Set up your pumping area with everything you need before getting started: pump, collection bottles, cold storage for expressed milk, water or other beverage, a snack, book or other relaxation aids, comfortable chair, and a picture or reminder of your baby.
Just as it generally takes practice for you and your baby to become fully comfortable and skilled at breastfeeding, there is usually a bit of a learning curve when it comes to expressing milk with a breast pump. The following tips will help make things easier.
Do your best to pump on a regular schedule. This keeps your milk supply steady and decreases discomfort and the risk of leaks.
You might need to try a few different flange sizes before finding the one that fits you best.
Massaging your breasts before pumping will help increase your milk flow.
While breast milk will stay fresh at room temperature for a few hours, it’s best to refrigerate it as soon as possible — unless you’ll be feeding your baby right away.
Find a private, quiet place to pump. It’s hard to relax with frequent interruptions.
Reading, listening to music, crafting, checking email, or watching a movie are all potential ways to relax enough to let your milk come down.
If you are using a single pump, switch breasts periodically during the pumping session.
Look at a picture of your baby while you pump, or even keep one of his blankets or tee shirts nearby. This helps your milk flow.
While a manual pump is quite inexpensive – typically $30 or less – a personal-use electric breast pump is a far pricier purchase. Expect to spend $100 to $150 for a fairly basic single-pump model and $150 to $300 for a double-pump model with many desirable features.
Keep a clean cloth diaper or towel with your pump to dry your breasts when you’re finished.
Drink plenty of water and other healthy fluids while nursing and pumping. You need the hydration, and it will help with your milk production.
Wear clothing that makes it easy to access your breasts, and lean forward slightly while pumping to keep milk from dripping onto your shirt or pants.
Rinse your pump’s tubing, flanges, and collection bottles after every use, and then wash them with warm, soapy water.
Q. How long can breast milk be stored?
A. In a properly sealed container, your breast milk should stay safe in the refrigerator for three to five days. You can freeze it for up to six months.
Q. What should I do if pumping hurts?
A. While you might have a bit of discomfort in the beginning, pumping shouldn’t hurt. If it does, check that the pump flange is not rubbing against your nipple, and lower the pump suction. Applying a breast moisturizer may also help with chapped or sore nipples. If the pain is severe, however, or interferes with breastfeeding or pumping, check with your doctor or lactation consultant.
Q. Are there any techniques to increase milk production when pumping?
A. Yes, there are. First, be sure you’re comfortable and relaxed and that your pump is set appropriately. Next, try a few “power pumping” sessions. These are multiple short pumping sessions carried out in one hour. A typical schedule might be:
20 minutes pumping
10 minutes pumping
10 minutes pumping
Do two power-pumping sessions each day.
You can also try pumping more frequently throughout the day, or adding in a few extra pumping sessions between your baby’s nursing sessions.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.