After breastfeeding two kids in two years, I have tried several breast pumps – one of each style we talked about in our breast pump buying guide: an electric, hospital grade and manual. Naturally, I have lots of thoughts to share so here goes.
Not to get TMI on you, first a little background on my breastfeeding. With Eloise, I started pumping when she was about two weeks old. In a nutshell, I had severe breast infections, she wasn’t latching well and mentally and physically, pumping became the best way to get Eloise the nutrition she needed. I went on to pump exclusively for 6 months. My experience with Margaux has been completely opposite, no infections, no pain, she is a great latcher and we’ve enjoyed a much easier time of nursing with some pumping mixed in.
Also worth noting is the emergence of the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act requires almost all insurance companies provide one to new moms – see our article about it, here. One piece of advice I was given was to ask for the pump you want i.e., a Medela Freestyle, Pump in Style or whichever pump you decide on. This by no means suggests your request will be granted but it is worth asking for. Note, that in our experience of talking to new moms who have been through this process, insurance companies provide the pump not the tote or other accessories that may come with the aforementioned pumps.
First up, the personal double electric breast pump. Common examples, the Medela Pump in Style, Medela Freestyle, Ameda Purely Yours, Dr. Brown’s, etc. These pumps are efficient and portable which make them great for working moms or any mom on the go. Retail is anywhere from $200 – $300+.
I used the Medela Pump in Style with Eloise. I used in multiple times a day for over six months. I was pleased with this pump and had very few issues with it. The real bonus of this pump is the portability. It travels great and I pumped many times on road trips via the battery pack. Most come in a discreet tote that don’t scream “breast pump”. The tote provides a handy place to store expressed milk, extra parts and cleaning supplies. The double electric pump is efficient in that you can pump both breasts at once. For me, it took about 4o minutes to effectively pump so by the time I got set up, milk stored and parts cleaned I was looking at over an hour to pump. However, I have known other moms who have been able to pump 4+oz per side in less than 10 minutes with this pump. Of course, this varies lady to lady but is worth something worthy of a mention. Bottom line though, the Pump in Style / double electric pump is a great option that makes pumping as convenient as it can be.
Now lets chat about the hospital grade double electric pump. Common examples, the Medela Symphony or Amedea. These pumps are less portable, heavier but very, very efficient. These pumps can be rented from most hospital’s lactation departments and rental ranges anywhere from $50 – $75 / month. Retail price of these pumps is $1,000+. If you are interested in this option, ask your OBGYN or call your hospital’s lactation department for more information. Before the Affordable Care Act, some insurance companies would cover the cost of rental – you may want to check but we haven’t heard that this is still happening very often.
I rented the Medela Symphony from my hospital’s lactation department. The pump and case is noticeable larger than the double electric pump. Basically, there is nothing discreet about carrying this pump around. When I used the Symphony for the first time I was amazed at how quiet and efficiently it worked. I was able to effectively pump in 15 minutes or less! I love, love, loved this pump (as much as it is possible to love a breast pump). By the way, the Symphony comes with a hand pump attachment.
Last but not least, the manual hand pump. Common examples, Medela Harmony, Lansinoh and Phillips Avent.
I have to admit I thought that a manual pump was a completely silly idea. Why would I ever want to use one of these when I had electric pumps? But I found myself in a bind, engorged, away from Margaux for the next couple hours and running into Buy Buy Baby to purchase a Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump. I had very low expectations but hoped that if nothing else, they could relieve my immediate pain. I was BEYOND impressed at the speed at which milk was expressed. Seriously, ten minutes later I had an empty breast (is that TMI?!?). Granted, I had another side to do but 20 minutes of pumping? Sold. I am a total manual hand pump convert. Now, I wouldn’t suggest this for all the time but this could be paired with the Symphony for quite the pumping duo. The Harmony is great for travel because it is super small and can easily be thrown in your purse (maybe put the parts in a Ziploc for sterilization purposes) but bottom line, wow. I am impressed and really appreciate the utility of a manual pump.
So where does all this info leave us? For me and any subsequent Wise Baby’s, I will go the hospital grade + manual pump route. From an efficiency perspective you can’t beat the Symphony. And as all of us mama’s know time is about as golden as breast milk.
I surveyed a couple of other mama’s who have also used both the double electric and hopistal grade and they were in agreement with me that the Symphony wins when it comes to efficiency both time wise and in terms of overall milk expressed. In fact, one mama was told by her lactation consultant to use the Symphony to help build her milk supply as her little one wasn’t fully emptying her breast.
One last thing I want to mention… double electric breast pumps and hospital grade breast pumps run on different systems. A double electric pump is an open system pump meaning that milk can get into the motor. But more importantly meaning, you should not share your breast pump with anyone or purchase a used one. Because milk can get into the mechanism of the pump so can bacteria. You do not want someone else’s bacteria/milk effecting your milk for the obvious reasons. So while you can continue to use your pump for subsequent children we don’t suggest buying used ones or even using a family members. Hospital grade pumps run on closed systems where the milk does not come into contact with the pump at all. Each user buys their own sterile kit of tubing, membranes, etc and can “hook up” to any hospital grade pump. This may be the “more than you ever wanted to know” stuff but hey, it’s a fun fact , right?!?
So what questions do you have? Any thoughts/experiences to share and/or add?