Breast pumps

November 12, 2012

Breast pumps

Having the option to express milk is very useful for busy mothers.

It is well known that breastfeeding your baby will give it the best possible start in life. The latest recommendations from the World Health Organisation are to breast feed exclusively for the first six months and to continue nursing, once the baby has weaned, until the age of two. Many women use a breast pump in order to help them achieve this level of breast feeding as well as to help resolve any difficulties they may have such as a weak supply of milk or a baby who does not respond well to the breast.

Why use a breast pump?

A nursing mother who uses a breast pump will be able to express her milk and safely store it for use at a later time. Clearly for working mothers, or mothers who wish to continue with activities away from their baby, this is an excellent method of continuing to provide their new baby with the best possible form of nutrition.

Manual breast pumps

A manual pump is probably the least expensive choice and also the most basic. For nursing mothers who only wish to express their milk on an occasional basis this type of pump is probably sufficient. Manual pumps are easy to carry around although slow to use – working as they do by squeezing of the integrated handle by hand.

Electric or battery operated pumps

For nursing mothers who need to be away from their baby for a several hours at a time on a regular basis an electric or battery operated breast pump is an excellent choice. An electric pump mimics the suckling motion of the baby and will help to maintain milk levels even during periods of separation. Top of the range electric pumps generally come with their own carrying case, an adaptor for in car use and tend to be fairly lightweight.

Hospital grade pumps

A hospital grade pump may be fairly elaborate with a number of extras (such as pumping both breasts as the same time) or may be just the basic pump. Hospital grade pumps are often available to rent and are useful for occasions when the baby is experiencing health challenges or just having trouble latching on. These pumps work very quickly and closely mimic the suckling action. Commercial grade pumps, however, are often quite heavy, making carrying them around cumbersome. They are generally more suited to short term use – for example, women use them at home with the newborn until they have overcome any breastfeeding challenges and, once established, change to a manual or electric pump of their own.

Consider this

There are a number of considerations when buying a breast pump depending on your requirements -

  • Weight of the pump

  • Electric or manual

  • Does it pump one or both breasts

  • Does it have a battery back-up and/or car adaptor

  • How strong is the suckling motion and does it closely replicate that of a baby

  • How noisy is the machine

  • If it is a manual pump can it be operated singlehandedly

Buy or rent or borrow?

If you choose a manual or regular battery/electric breast pump then you will, no doubt, buy your own and it should come fully equipped to enable immediate use.

Women who, for whatever reason, want to use a hospital grade breast pump will find renting a better option since they are so expensive. However, renting a pump will also mean the added expense of buying all the extras required – such as breast shields, storage bags or bottles, transfer tubes.

If a friend has a breast pump they are no longer using it is not necessarily wise to borrow it. Research suggests that breast milk can lodge inside domestic units and transmit viruses and diseases; units designed for commercial use are designed to eliminate this problem and are suitable for multiple users.

Finding a breast pump

Breast pumps are widely available in most stores which supply baby equipment; most places will have a wide range for you to choose from.

Hospital grade pumps may be rented from your maternity unit or local breast feeding consultant.


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