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Breast-Feeding: Choosing a Breast Pump - Topic Overview

If you plan to breast-feed and use a breast pump at times, research your equipment options while you are pregnant. When evaluating the different types of breast pumps, think about how often you will need to use the pump. Think about:

  • How often you will need other caregivers to feed your baby.
  • Whether you will return to work while continuing to breast-feed.
  • How long you plan to breast-feed.

Whichever pump you choose, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to use the pump safely and how to clean the pump parts. Always wash your hands before pumping and before handling milk that will be stored.

Types of pumps

Expressing breast milk by hand (manual expression camera.gif) is one collection method. But it takes a long time to completely empty a breast, and it is rarely practical if you plan to return to work. Pumps can be operated manually, with batteries, or with electricity.

  • Manual pumps are those that you operate by hand. These are most appropriate for relief of engorgement or for women who only rarely need to pump breast milk to be fed to their baby by another caregiver. They are easy to carry with you, but they are generally not practical for regular pumping several times a day.
  • Electric pumps are designed for frequent or regular use. They generally are faster and more comfortable than manual pumps. Some versions closely imitate the action of a breast-feeding infant and will help you maintain your milk production if you bottle-feed breast milk often. Electric pumps are larger and heavier than manual pumps but are also the fastest and most effective way to express milk. Some of the newer models are very lightweight.
  • Battery-operated pumps are also for occasional use but are easier to use than a hand pump.

Before your baby is born, talk to other moms or your health care provider about the pros and cons of different brands and types of pumps. Pick up different styles of pumps and feel how heavy they are. Evaluate each pump for practicality, ease of use, and how it will meet your needs.

Some electric models pump both breasts at once (double electric pumps). These often are preferred by working mothers because they are efficient and fast. These may also be recommended for preterm infants to stimulate your milk supply.

For more information about selecting and using a breast pump, talk to a lactation consultant. Most hospitals can refer you to someone who can discuss the options with you.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 03, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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