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Pumping: Which Pump Should I Use?

Electric, double, single, manual—how do you choose the breast pump that's right for you?

There are a few factors to consider before buying or renting a pump. For example, are you returning to work soon and plan to use the pump regularly? Are you thinking about having more children? Do you have a milk-supply problem? Or do you just want to pump when you leave the baby with a caregiver?

Below are the four main types of breast pumps. Based on your pumping plans, lifestyle and budget, you should be able to decide which is best for you.

Electric double-breast pump: This is the best and most efficient, since it can drain both breasts at the same time, which is called "double pumping." It's ideal if you're planning to return to work and will be pumping regularly, and for long-term use. Although it can be pricey, from $300 to $400, it's a good investment, since you can use it the entire time you're nursing and also with future children.

Electric single-breast pump: While electric pumps are a good choice, using a single-breast pump will take longer than a double-breast one. For that reason, this pump is a great if you only plan on pumping now and then to replace a breastfeeding session. Keep in mind that you might need to switch breasts during the pumping session to maximize milk yield.

Manual single-breast pump: Manual pumps are best for mothers who only pump occasionally. As with the electric single, this one might require a longer pumping session than with the double electric, so around 20 to 25 minutes for good results. Switching breasts throughout the session also helps maximize milk yield.

Hand pumps tend to work best in the early months of lactation, when your breasts are more full and taut. You might notice they don't yield as much milk when used later in lactation, but if you're only pumping occasionally, this style may be all you need.

Hospital-grade pump: Renting a breast pump from your local hospital is an option. These are usually double-electric pumps that yield an optimal milk supply. Renting a hospital-grade pump usually isn't necessary unless you have a real milk-supply problem caused by such things as breast-reduction surgery or a baby whose intake is very low for several weeks (a premature newborn, for example).

Tips for success:

  • You'll get the best milk yields with electric double-breast pumps. By pumping both breasts at the same time, you'll cause higher prolactin peaks.
  • A typical pumping session using a double pump should last around 15 minutes. With an electric single-breast or double-breast, you might need to extend the session to 20 to 25 minutes for best results.

This information is courtesy of Bravado Designs, the brand synonymous with women's breastfeeding success for 18 years.

Source: Heather Kelly is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)