Bringing a baby into this world and caring for them can truly feel like the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do. As soon as that tiny baby is placed into your arms, one of the biggest new skills you need to grasp (and quick) is feeding. No big deal, right?
If you choose and are able to breastfeed, then something you may want to consider is expressing milk with a breast pump. Thankfully, technology has come a long way when it comes to breast pumps, and gone are the days when you are trapped under a big bulky machine with that infamous, shall we call it, hum (IYKYK).
But we know that no two people’s feeding journey will look exactly the same, which can make it a little tricky to know which products are right for you.
We’ve partnered with Medela to break down the different types of breast pumps and features to look out for to help you make the right choice.
Why do women need to use a breast pump?
Typically the main reasons mothers may choose to use a breast pump, are to initiate, build and maintain their milk supply. It may also simply be a personal choice to exclusively pump.
You may also require the use of a breast pump if your baby is premature or needs special care, or if you are separated from your baby due to medical reasons. In this case you may be recommended a hospital-grade pump such as the Medela Symphony pump.
Other factors beyond this that might influence your decision to pump, may include:
- Include your partner in the feeding process for when you are not available to breastfeed
- Returning to work
- Your baby has problems feeding at the breast due for a number of reasons that might include difficulty latching or sucking, inverted nipples, tongue tie or oversupply
Pumping gives mothers the choice to be able to still provide their baby with the benefits of breastmilk when they aren’t available to breastfeed.
What are the different types of breast pumps?
There are three main options when it comes to choosing your breast pump.
Manual pumps are cheaper than electric models and quieter, so they can be used anywhere (and discreetly) on the go. They can be handy to take with you to ease engorgement or to use occasionally, but are not typically recommended if you plan to be pumping a lot of milk.
Manual pumps can also be helpful to capture the letdown during breastfeeding that often goes unused.
2. Electric (single or double)
Electric breast pumps are great if you are planning to pump milk often and can be valuable in increasing and maintaining your milk supply. A single pump like the Medela Solo – Single Electric Breast Pump [Link to: https://www.medela.com.au/breastfeeding/products/breast-pumps/solo-single-electric-breast-pump] is perfect if you plan to express from time to time or feed and pump simultaneously
However, a double pump like the Medela Swing Maxi – Double Electric Breast Pump can be a convenient option (which draws from both breasts at the same time). On average, a double breast pump delivers 18% more milk in less time 1 than pumping from each breast in turn, which is what you want if you are an exclusive pumper (hello time saving) or are returning to work.
Hospital-grade breast pumps are primarily used, as the name suggests, in a hospital setting, often for mums with premature babies or babies who are in special care or who cannot breastfeed but want to establish or maintain their supply. These pumps have been designed to be used by multiple mums on a maternity ward. Mums can continue using the hospital-grade pump, generally on a hire basis, they used in the maternity unit and decide later which personal pump to buy (electric or manual). A hospital-grade pump such as the Medela Symphony pump is often used in hospital and available to hire.
Features to look out for in a breast pump?
- The size of the shield or flange
Most breast pumps will come with a medium (24mm) flange, some of Medela’s electric breast pumps also come with an additional small (21 mm) flange. However, as we know all women’s breasts are different, you might need to find a different size to fit you. It’s important to find the right size for you to ensure both comfort and efficiency to get the best results.
Expressing should never hurt; if the shield is too small or large it can cause pain or soreness and can affect how much milk you are able to express.
For maximum comfort and pumping efficiency, Medela offers four breast shield sizes and a helpful guide to determine your optimal size according to your nipple diameter.
If you’re having trouble selecting the right size, or are unsure, you can also ask your midwife or a lactation consultant.
- Battery-powered or electric
This will come down to how often you intend to use your pump and how you intend to use it. If you are planning to express a lot or on the go, you’re going to be looking for convenience. So one that is battery operated or rechargeable means you can take it with you and express anywhere without being restricted by cords and power outlets.
The Medela Swing Maxi – Double Electric Breast Pump comes with a built-in rechargeable battery for up to 6 sessions from one full charge. It can easily be recharged with the USB type C port. It’s also nice and quiet with a 45 dB at the maximum vacuum level so you can discreetly pump no matter where you are.
Tip: According to research, the milk you obtain when double pumping has a higher fat and calorie content too2
- Single or double pump
Again this will come down to how you intend to use your breast pump. Single pumps are best for occasional expressing, however, if you plan to express larger amounts of milk, a double is the best option.
The quieter the better – trust us! We know they’re working hard to express that wonderful milk but when you’re trying to feed discreetly on the go or in the office, you’re going to want something that is as quiet as possible.
- Overflow protection
Many pumps will often be classified as either open or closed systems. This generally refers to whether or not there’s a barrier or separation between the breast pump and your expressed breast milk.
A breast pump with a milk barrier is known as a ‘closed system’, and it prevents the milk from overflowing and leaking into the pump mechanism, helping to ensure your expressed milk remains clean. However, no system can be considered completely ‘closed’ because all pumps require airflow to work.
When to buy a breast pump?
There’s no need to rush out to buy a pump – or to start expressing straight away. Being prepared is great, but it’s important to wait and see what your feeding journey looks like before investing in a certain type of pump. It’s not until your baby arrives and you embark on breastfeeding that you’ll really know what your expressing requirements are.
Experts recommend that in the first four to six weeks, if you and your baby are healthy and feeding well, you should spend time simply establishing feeding and building your supply. Once you have found your rhythm, you can decide if you would like to express, or whether you will need to be away from your baby and can then incorporate expressing into your routine as you need.
However, if your baby is unable to breastfeed, then expressing is an amazing way to ensure they can still get the benefits of your breastmilk and establish your supply. They’re very easy to get, you can send your partner or a friend out to grab one for you, or order one online. You’ve got this, mama!
This is a paid partnership between Kiindred x Medela.
- Prime DK et al. Simultaneous breast expression in breastfeeding women is more efficacious than sequential breast expression. Breastfeed Med. 2012; 7(6):442–447