Whether you’re looking for a manual breast pump, or an electric breast pump, there are certain features that will determine whether or not the breast pump in question is worthy. There are so many different brands on the market, some with low dollar price tags, some with high dollar price tags, and some with price tags that make you go “Oh My….”. Let’s face it, a breast pump is an investment, especially if you’re planning on pumping frequently. And, if you’re only planning on purchasing a manual breast pump to have on hand in case of emergencies, you might as well make sure it’s a decent one.
For an electric breast pump to be considered top of the line, or worthy of its price tag, there are a few things that you need to consider. Number one, how effective is the breast pump? Effectiveness is measured by cycling rates, strength, and vacuum range. For a breast pump to be effective, it needs to mimic your baby’s natural sucking rhythm. A nursing baby will suck approximately 45 to 55 times a minute. A full cycle basically consists of the suck and release, so a breast pump that cycles 45 to 55 times a minute is almost identical to what a nursing baby can do. So, look for a cycling rate that comes close to this range. Anything under 25 cycles per minute will most likely be ineffective at extracting milk.
In addition to the cycling rate, you also want to check the breast pumps suction strength or vacuum range. Typically a breast pump vacuum strength ranges from anywhere between 20 -650 mm HG. Anything over the 200 mark can cause severe pain, and anything under the 150 mark will most likely not be effective. A healthy nursing baby can create 200-230 mm HG, which kind of tells you the important extraction range. Don’t be alarmed if the minimum is under 150, mostly because the lower suction strengths are perfect for stimulating your breasts and preparing for the let down response.
The pumping action of the breast pump is also important when measuring the effectiveness. For instance, a double breast pump that pumps both breast simultaneously is the most effective, while double breast pumps that offer an alternating pumping action are not quite as effective, but are still better than a single pumping action.
Finding a breast pump that is comfortable to use is perhaps the next most important aspect of choosing the best breast pump. If it’s painful, or uncomfortable, you won’t want to use it. Now, life would be a whole lot easier if you were able to try each breast pump before you buy, but that’s just not possible, so here are a few things to look for that will tell you whether or not the breast pump will be a comfortable fit.
The breast shield size is extremely important whether you’re purchasing and electric breast pump or a manual breast. Some breast pumps only come with one size fits all breast shields, which in truth are really not one size fits all. Women with larger breasts, or larger nipples may find them extremely uncomfortable. If a breast shield is too small, the breast pump will not be effective at extracting milk. For a breast shield to work correctly, the cup of the breast shield should be situated over the breast, and the tunnel opening should form a seal around the areola (the darkened part of the breast). The breast pump will then create suction and draw the nipple into the tunnel, just like a baby would draw the nipple into his/her mouth. If the breast shield is too small, the nipple will rub the sides of the tunnel and most likely cause soreness and discomfort. High end breast pumps, like Medela and Ameda, offer several different sizes of breast shields, therefore making it possible for you to find your perfect fit. The size of the breast is not necessarily how you would measure the size of the breast shield needed. It depends more so on the size of the nipple.
If a manual breast pump is what you seek, look for one that offers an ergonomic handle of some sort. You’ll be spending a lot of time pumping with your hand, so it’s best if your hand is comfortable. Also, look for a manual breast pump that offers one-handed operation. This means that you only have to use one hand to pump, and you do not need to use the other hand to hold the pump or collection container steady. If the breast shield offers a good seal on the breast, you should not have to hold the pump while you operate it.
How durable is the breast pump? How often do you plan to use it? Say for instance you plan on pumping several times a day, like say 4 or 5 times. You will need to make sure you get a breast pump that is designed for frequent use, and therefore offers a durable motor. If you buy a single electric breast pump that is designed to be used only occasionally, and you pump 4 or 5 times a day on each breast, chances are you’ll wear down the motor quite quickly. Occasional use pumps are not designed to be used frequently. The worst part about this is that when the pump starts wearing down, you may not even notice, so you could end up with a decrease in your milk supply because the pump is not effectively emptying your breasts.
Portability & Power Sources:
Where do you plan on pumping? If you’re a working mom and you need to be able to pump at work, and let’s say you’re not sure if an outlet will be available, you may need a breast pump that offers a rechargeable battery, or battery pack. You may also want a breast pump that is smaller, and easier to carry, perhaps in a carrying tote of some sort. Some breast pumps come with carrying totes, and in some cases are even attached to the totes. While this can be a handy features, it can also sometimes be a pain. You should also consider purchasing one that comes with a cooler of some sort, that way you can keep your milk fresh while away from home. Some offices don’t have refrigerators readily available to breastfeeding moms, nor do some offices have a quiet place to pump. In that case you may want to consider a breast pump that comes with a vehicle lighter adapter so that you may be able to pump in your car. I know that doesn’t sound very pleasant, but sometimes it’s necessary.
Manual Breast Pumps: Is a Manual Breast Pump enough? – How do they work, who will benefit from them, and what features to look for.