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Choosing a Breast Pump continued...

      If your breasts are making milk, "and you're going back to work and will be separated from your baby and pumping several times a day, this is the kind of pump you need," West says.

  • Smaller electric or battery-powered breast pumps. These smaller pumps run either on electricity or battery power and usually cost less than $50. But, West says, you get what you pay for. "They're really awful for removing milk. If you try using them regularly as a working mother, you'll take a real hit on milk production. But if you're breastfeeding all the time and you just need something to pump once in a blue moon when you go out to dinner, they're fine."
  • Manual breast pumps. Costing about $30, these breast pumps work just as well as electric or battery-powered pumps for many women, West says. "You just use your own hand to work a pump like this, and some of them remove milk really well." Even if you have a consumer-grade pump to take to work, some women like using a manual breast pump at home, simply because there are fewer parts to juggle. And if you can't afford to spend $200 to $300 for a consumer-grade electric breast pump, West says you might be able to do just fine with a high-quality manual version. "Get the best you can afford and make do."

Many of the consumer-grade pumps offer various bells and whistles, West says. Some, for example, can pump both breasts at once or have fewer pieces to clean. Any of these perks can be convenient for a working mom who doesn't get many pumping breaks. But these features are all a matter of personal preference. Most basic pumps will do the job.  

Breast Pump Flanges: Size Matters

To pump most effectively, West says, first make sure the flanges fit properly. Some women don't realize that these horn-shaped pieces of plastic come in different sizes.

"The default size is often too small," West says. "I once worked with a woman who had been using a flange that was too small, and she had cuts on her areola and her nipples."

You can't tell what size flange you need by looking at your nipples, because the suction of pumping makes nipples larger. West's trick: "I usually recommend that women go one size up from the standard flange as a starting point," she says. "Your areola should move freely within the flange and behind it. And you should see the nipple moving freely forward and back in the whole tunnel, not just the tip. If it's too tight, the nipples aren't moving and you're not getting full stimulation."