Between finalizing the nursery color and theme, baby shower preparations, stroller/car seat duo, you’ve probably made more decisions in the past few weeks than you’ve made ever. But it’s not time to relax yet, you have to decide how you want to feed your baby and what you need to help you in that journey. If you plan to breastfeed or pump and bottle feed, it is important that you select the right breast pump.
There are many breast pumps with different features plus some are hands-free, sync with your smartphone, or covered by insurance. That is right, another important decision to make!
Selecting the Right Breast Pump
The very first thing you must know is that you can get a FREE breast pump through most, if not all, insurance companies. Either call your insurance company or go online for maternal benefits. Your insurance company will give you a list of companies they cover. From that list, you choose a pump and/or accessories and it arrives at your doorstep. Just be aware, there are many upgrade options for a fee, for example, extra bottles or a bag. Many pump warranties expire after 1 year, order the pump during the last few weeks of your pregnancy.
My biggest advice to selecting the right breast pump is to understand the various kinds, ask your friends about their experiences, and do your research; AKA you-tube for several hours and ask your healthcare providers. Here are a few important things to know prior to selecting the right breast pump:
1 – Electric or Manual Breast Pump Selection
All breast pumps can be categorized into 2 categories: electric or manual. This depends on your lifestyle. If you are always on the go and access to an outlet may be limited, then a manual or chargeable electric breast pump is the way to go. Manual breast pumps are significantly cheaper and usually have a smaller profile, meaning it is easier to carry and clean (fewer parts). For my first pregnancy, I upgraded my breast pump package and it included a manual pump along with my electric pump. I used the manual pump for working at the office and left the electric pump at home.
Nowadays, many electric breast pumps also can use batteries or they are chargeable for the mamas on the go. I opted for a chargeable electric breast pump with a small profile for my other pregnancies. When I traveled, I simply packed it plus needed accessories. The benefit of an electric versus a manual pump is the multiple settings that encourage better milk production.
2 – Single or Double Breast Pump Selection
A single breast pump only allows you to express milk from one boob at a time, while a double breast pump allows you to express milk from both. Many double breast pumps, also have a conversion option to a single pump mode. The double breast pump can be quicker but also increase discomfort. Again, this decision depends on your lifestyle and preference.
Expressing milk one side at a time can lead to wasted precious milk from the other side. When you stimulate one breast, the other also is stimulated and will let down milk. Nowadays, there are several options to prevent wasting milk during pumping and breastfeeding such as a silicone manual breast pump.
3 – Closed System verses and Open System
A closed system does not allow back-flow of milk or other fluids to get into the pump or tubing which can lead to contamination. Whereas an open system does not have such a barrier. Both systems need to be cleaned regularly, however, the open system will have more parts to clean. Again which is best depends on your lifestyle, as a working mama, I preferred the closed system which was easier to clean, especially at work.
4 – Hands Free Breast Pump
Several newer breast pumps are hands-free, meaning they fit directly into your bra and express milk. These typically are more expensive and not covered by your insurance. They also operate discretely and are either battery-powered or rechargeable. Nowadays, some bras can support non-hands-free breast pumps increasing freedom, but they are not discrete.
5 – Suction Strength
Suction or the strength of milk pull measured in mmHg which is millimeters of mercury. It ranges from 220 to 350mmHg, most pumps have a suction of 250mmHg. This is a preference question, higher strength means higher efficiency. If you need to pump within a certain short time frame, a work-break for example, you may decide to select a breast pump with a higher suction.
6 – Modes
When a baby breastfeeds, they use vigorous sucking at first to stimulate oxytocin production and milk duct contraction, better known as the let-down phase. Followed by the suck-pause-suck or the expression phase where the sucking slows down. You want to make sure that the breast pump has at least 2 modes, let down and expression, that you can switch between seamlessly.
What Do I Do When my Breast Pump Arrives
After your mini dance party, I would suggest that you read carefully all the instructions. It is important to understand how to clean the pump properly, the different expression modes, compatible accessories, how to operate the pump, troubleshooting, where to get spare parts, and the warranty. In addition, watch you-tube videos.
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