Okay, we’re just going to put it out there: No matter how effective your pump is, you might feel a little bit like a cow at first. There’s just no way around it. Don’t let this turn you off the pump itself, though — you’ll (hopefully) work through your feelings and, even if you don’t, you’re providing a valuable service to your baby. Let that be your mantra as you sit there feeling like livestock.
Take advantage of your time at the hospital to talk with the staff lactation consultant — if you’re still not sure what type of pump to go for, she should be able to help guide you and even teach you how to start using it. When you do invest in a pump, whether it’s before or after you deliver, don’t open it until you’re sure you’re going to be using it — once the seal is broken, it can’t be returned.
There are three main types of pumps: hospital-grade, electric, and manual.
These are the most powerful pumps, and can be used to establish milk supply for mothers who are separated from their babies due to complications on either end. Hospital-grade pumps are also available to rent from both stores and hospitals. You might consider this option if you’re unsure about breastfeeding and want to try it for a few weeks before you invest in a pump of your own. Keep in mind: If you do rent a pump, you’ll need to buy your own flanges, tubes, and collection bottles.
These come in either double or single breast styles and are generally single-user only. This means they shouldn’t be shared with friends. Even if you’re using your own collection equipment, small drops of milk can still get inside the pump and pass viruses and bacteria.
If you’ll be working full-time and pumping daily, go for a double-breast model. Electric is the most efficient way to pump and most closely mimics baby’s natural sucking pattern. Remember, you’re pumping not just to provide milk for baby, but to keep up your milk supply. With a high-quality pump, expect to spend roughly 15 minutes per pumping session. They generally come with most of the necessary accessories, including a case, cooling carrier, collection containers, storage bags, and even bottles and nipples. When you’re buying a pump of this grade, invest wisely. With pumps, you really do get what you pay for, and it’s worth it — particularly if you plan on using it for future children. Just think of all the money you’re saving on formula!
Single-breast pumps are less efficient than double-breast pumps, but are also smaller and cheaper. These are good options for moms who are away from baby no more than several hours a week but want the speed and efficiency of an electric pump.