Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Finding the right breast pump for you

Pregnant women and new mothers face a host of choices when it comes to their new baby. Cloth or disposable diapers? Work or stay at home? And if you choose breastfeeding then even more questions arise. How do you choose the best one for you? Many times moms planning a return to work, even before their baby is born, call the Breastfeeding Support Center asking for information on breast pumps. What’s the best one?  Which do I need?  Is it worth it for the expensive ones?  Can I borrow my friend’s breastpump?  What do they mean by reusable? 

Let me just share the basics on breastpumps. But first a little background. I’m an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and a nursing supervisor in Women’s Services at Texas Heatlh Harris Methodist Hospital Hurst-Euless-Bedford. One of my duties is overseeing the Breastfeeding Support Center and working with our lactation consultants who help new moms establish breastfeeding.

Breastpumps basically come in three different types:  manual, personal/professional, hospital grade. OK, but, what is the difference? 

Manual breastpumps are usually single expression (meaning you would express one breast at a time) and they are manually operated.  They do not require batteries, nor do they plug in.  In most cases they are considered for occasional use only, and are usually the least expensive option.  I typically recommend a manual pump to the stay-at-home Mom who needs to express very occasionally, a few times a week, up to perhaps as much as once a day.  They are designed for milk removal - period!  These pumps are not for establishing or maintaining a milk supply.  There are some great manual breastpumps out there, but ask around, because there are some that are not very good at all.  For the Mom who manual expression fits your needs, hand expression can be an excellent (FREE) option as well.  And there are some great websites on how to do hand expression.

Personal/professional breastpumps are those that are considered to be good alternatives for the more frequent pumping, such as returning to work or school.  They can be single or double and price can range from about $100 and up.  They are usually battery /electric and there will be many choices when you begin shopping.  My best advice is to talk to friends and family about what they chose, and also consult a Lactation Consultant.  Most of us have breastpumps that we would recommend.  One great tip I always share, is to choose a breastpump from a manufacturer that only makes breastpumps!  They have staked their reputation on this, and always provide a good product.

Finally, what is hospital grade?  For the Mom who is separated from her baby, hospital grade pump is the ideal breastpump.  The hospital grade pump is designed for not only establishing a milk supply, but maintaining a milk supply.  I like to tell Moms it is the Cadillac, luxury model.  It is usually only available as a rental, and requires the Mom to purchase her accessory kit (collection containers, etc.) This option would likely cost you around $75 a month.

Another factor to consider is whether you want a Multi User or Single User Breastpumps. What is the difference?  The breastpump manufacturer get approvals through the FDA for their pump design, and a determination is made based on design whether the breastpump is single-user or multi-user.  When the breastpump design does not provide a closed collection system, there is potential for milk contamination of the breastpump. The breastpumps is then labeled for single use.  One of the most popular breastpumps on the market, the Medela Pump in Style, is single use.  Other companies have created their collections systems which are closed and do not contribute to any concern of contamination, so they are multi-user and may be traded and even sold from Mom to Mom. All hospital grade breastpumps are designed as multi-user. 

So, what would I recommend? A breastpump can be a big investment, but overall it is about 30% of the cost of formula for one year.  That’s a big savings!  Not to mention that studies show babies fed expressed breastmilk are healthier, which reduces doctor’s visits, and saves Mom from the time away from work. I would always suggest individuals purchase your own breastpump.  A good breastpump is a great investment, and will usually work well for more than one child.  I have had patients delivering their third baby and still using their original breastpump.  In the end the trick is finding the right one that fits your needs.

For more resources on breastfeeding, visit here.

Laura Burnett, RN, BSN, is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and nursing supervisor in Women's Services at Texas Health HEB.

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