Which pump is right for me?

You have a choice of many good pumps on the market today. But before investing in a pump, it pays to know what to look for and what to avoid.

Hospital-grade pumps
A hospital-grade pump is recommended when a baby is not yet breastfeeding and a pump needs to be effective enough to establish full milk production. These pumps—most often rented, but sometimes loaned by public health departments—are used when babies are born preterm, sick, or are not breastfeeding for other reasons. Although hospital-grade pumps can be shared, each mother attaches her own milk collection kit to the pump, which keeps her milk separate. A double kit can be used so the mother can pump both breasts at once. This type of pump may be more than a mother needs if she just wants to pump an occasional bottle.

Personal automatic pumps
These pumps are designed to be used by one mother (not shared) and are the best choice for mothers who have full milk production. These pumps can vary widely in quality. The most important thing to consider is how many cycles per minute (cpm) the pump provides. For example:

  • A pump with a speed of fewer than 30 cpm can be ineffective and painful, due to the length of time the nipple is drawn into the nipple tunnel before release.
  • A pump that offers one speed of 30-35 cpm may not keep up milk production for women pumping more than once a day, so it is recommended only for occasional use.
  • A pump with a range of 30-60 cpm, like the Ameda Purely Yours pumps, works well for moms working full-time or for those who pump more often than once a day.

Double pumps are a plus because pumping both breasts at once cuts pumping time in half. And a pump with two controls (suction and speed) is ideal, because it gives you more setting choices. This helps you find the settings that work best for you.

Manual Pumps
These can be a good choice for a mother who pumps occasionally, but it takes practice to find the pumping rhythm that triggers the let-down or milk release. Because it takes muscle power to operate, a mother who pumps every day may find a manual pump requires too much effort.

Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, Lactation Consultant, Ameda Breastfeeding Products
Coauthor of Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers