There is no one right way to do most things in life, and there is no #1 best breast pump for everyone. We are individual and unique, and we respond to something so personal as a pump differently.
The right pump for you depends on the research of brands and features, yes, but more importantly on what you need for your unique situation. Here’s a checklist to consider as you pick the pump that will help you reach your goals.
Remember: We do not all wear the same underwear, bras or shoes, and a breast pump is even more intimate in some ways. What works fantastic for your friend or sister might not work for you – and vice versa.
1. Determine your breastfeeding goals
How do you feel, in the deep true place in your heart, about nursing at the breast and/or pumping? Consider your own health and situation and goals as the #1 priority. Talk to your partner and support team about how you want to handle different scenarios and make a plan – just like a birth plan. There is no doubt that breast milk is the best food for human babies but there are also thousands of real-world scenarios that impact the right choices for your family. Empower yourself to reach your goals and educate yourself on what is between now and then, and know you are always your baby’s #1 best parent!
2. Know your insurance coverage for breast pumps
Start by talking to your insurance and then do your own research on suppliers and brands. You can use any equipment supplier that accepts your coverage, and in most cases, you will have several options of fulfillment companies and pump brands. Shop around for the best solution for you.
Pumps are manufactured with very different expected life spans and warranties so check with the manufacturer on both expected motor life, motor specs and warranty.
3. Talk to your healthcare provider about underlying conditions
Do you have medical conditions that might impact your breast milk supply? Prior surgeries, insulin resistance or diabetes, hormonal issues such as PCOS? Are you a cancer survivor or do you have immune issues?
Find out early in your pregnancy what you can do to give yourself the best health platform for a successful feeding journey. Remember there are sometimes multiple options for feeding human milk – such as donation.
4. Consider therapy to address any unresolved trauma or stress
If you have experienced abuse or some other trauma, stressful events like childbirth and breastfeeding can reopen old wounds. Have a support plan in place before you need it. Check the pump manufacturer’s warranty offerings for IBCLC support and free access to 24-hour support.
4. Know your rights and accommodations for breast pumping at work
What are your rights as a breastfeeding parent in your state? What does your employer offer? Where will you pump and what resources do you have at work for storage and cleaning of pump parts? Pumps can vary quite a bit in size, weight and how loud they are. Try to see the pump options in person to judge these for yourself.
6. Know your daycare provider requirements regarding breast milk
Any special requirements about storage, bottles, etc? Research paced feeding and other breastfed baby techniques and go over them prior to finalizing your choice, if possible.
7. Measure your nipples
Nipples come in oh, so very many sizes!!! Measure them and get a basic idea of where you are on the spectrum. Use a ruler and measure across the diameter of your nipple in millimeters. Pump flanges/breast shields come in various sizes and just like shoes each brand is slightly different. The mechanics of the pump also change how the nipple is pulled into the tunnel of the flange. If the pump you are thinking about does not fit your nipples it will be unable to remove milk efficiently and comfortably. There are experts who can help!
8. Understand that breast pumps are NOT all about suction strength
The method is important too. Pumps are kind of like swinging on a swing set. You can go fast or slow, higher or lower, and each thing feels very different. Like a merry-go-round or a roller coaster. What YOU like and what removes the most milk is important and not necessarily at all about the maximum suction.
How much sensation your brain prefers is something you can’t change. Nipple sensation ranges are a lot more personal than many of us consider before pumping.
How easy is it for you to learn new things and be gentle on yourself? Do you stress a lot when trying something new or is it easy for you? Your physical and emotional response to the pump is very important.
9. Know that breasts are not the same
It would seem obvious in terms of size but when it comes to pumps, the firmness of the underlying tissue, the depth of the ducts and many other factors influence what type of pumping bra and overall setup you’ll need to successfully pump.
Your nipple needs to move in the tunnel without rubbing and the pump kit needs to stay in place while that happens. Wearable pumps can be especially sensitive to breast movement while wearing them or proper placement/alignment, for example.
10. Utilize support breastfeeding and pumping support groups
Talk to other moms using the pumps you are considering and ask about questions gleaned from your research above. Concentrate on other parents who have similar situations and are using the pump with the same size inserts, etc.
Remember that just like cars and trucks, high heels or sneakers, coffee or tea, pants or dresses, no one option is perfect for all situations. You might love an inexpensive pump for the weekends and something heavy-duty for work. Or wearables so you can move around during the week and only breastfeed from the breast when you are home. Many brands are actually different branding of the same manufacturer so look at all your options for insurance-covered pumps and consider purchasing a second pump in some situations.
You are going to be spending a lot of quality time with your pump, so spending the time now to find the perfect pump for your journey will pay off many times over in the months to come. Here’s to meeting all your feeding goals!
Measure the girls!!! Nipples are not one-size-fits-all so know your size. CLICK HERE to learn more about sizing.
Best Tip: Get a hand/manual pump! There are so many times you’ll need it in an emergency. This is the perfect opportunity to involve your partner and support team – they can help remove milk in those early days or in an emergency. Learn how to hand express milk too – it can save the day when nothing else is available.