How to Choose a Breast Pump

Let’s be honest, sometimes breastfeeding sucks. It can be uncomfortable and tricky, and there’s no rulebook on how to do it since every baby is different! Although it can be difficult, having the right tools in your belt can make it much easier. Once you get the right breast pump, it will be your new best friend. You will spend so much time using it, it’s important to choose the right one! There are so many choices. We want to break down the different styles and parts of the breast pump so you can make the best choice for you!

Breast pumps are a great tool to help you with your feeding goals. They work by creating a vacuum seal around the nipple and extracting breast milk to be stored for later. There are three main components to a breast pump, the shield, the pump, and the container. When it comes down to it, there are three main types of breast pumps. The broad categories are manual, battery powered, and electric. 

Graphic by Ariel Christie
  • The manual pump uses a hand held lever to extract milk from the breast. This choice is the cheapest option, as well as the most eco-friendly. They are also regarded as easier to clean and a great portable option. However, the hand mechanism can get tiring and may be difficult to maintain multiple times a day. 
    • In addition to manual options, a subcategory is the passive pump. This allows the container to catch from one breast while you are pumping or feeding your baby with the other breast. This is often used in addition to another pump as an easy on the go device.
  • Battery powered and electric pumps both use motorized pumping mechanisms. They have control panels which determine how much suction you experience. Using a powered pump is quicker and there is no extra work involved. However, they can be bulky and require a constant power source, so it is important to plan for potential emergencies. 
    • Using a battery powered or wireless electric pump allows for an easy portable device that can efficiently pump! Wireless pumps can be connected to your smartphone so you can control it with an app, and even track your pumping habits and milk output. 

Each pumping style has pros and cons, but all of them are effective and safe for collecting your milk! Once you choose the type of pump, the next step is to properly fit your flange.  

The breast shield, also known as the flange, is the plastic part of the pump that fits over the nipple to create the vacuum. Getting the right fit for a flange is very important for a comfortable pumping experience. In addition, a flange that isn’t the right size can impact the quantity of milk you produce. Don’t be afraid to ask for help fitting a breast shield, it can be hard to get it right, and even change as you move through your breastfeeding journey. 

  • To find the right fit at home, measure the diameter of your nipple in millimeters, excluding the areola, and refer to this guide on which size is right for you. Once you’ve found the right size, test it out and don’t be afraid to readjust if there is any pain or discomfort. A properly fitting flange will have the nipple going right down the middle of the flange tunnel. 
Graphic by Ariel Christie

If you are experiencing redness, numbness, or still feeling full after pumping, the size may not be correct.

Now that you know the basics of pump products, it’s time to get looking for which option is the right choice for you! It may also be helpful to check out our blog on What to Buy to Prepare to Breastfeed for more information on products to help you with a successful feeding journey. If you are struggling with these choices or finding the proper fit, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our certified lactation consultants for one on one support.  

Resources

  1. https://www.medela.us/breastfeeding/articles/breast-shield-sizing-how-to-get-the-best-fit
  2. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/breast-pumps/types-breast-pumps

Claire Dowell