How to decide if a breast pump is right for you

January 27, 2020
Breastfeeding questions | Texas Children's Hospital

Photo: Getty Images

We live in a high-tech world these days. This is obvious when pregnant women ask if they need to buy a pump when they breastfeed their baby. I usually respond with: your baby is the best pump you will have! He/she will stimulate your body to produce just the right amount of milk to meet his/her needs. By pumping in addition to breastfeeding soon after delivery you may create a much higher milk volume than your baby needs. Whereas that is a good idea if you plan on feeding the neighborhood, it's not a good idea when you need to produce enough for your own baby.

Having said that, there are times when you may need to express your milk. Here are some simple guidelines to use when making that decision:

  • Your infant is not able to breastfeed directly. When this happens, the pump can act as your mechanical baby to stimulate and maintain your milk volume until the baby can breastfeed directly.
  • Your baby is not breastfeeding well. If your baby is not breastfeeding long enough (in the first few weeks most feedings will take about 30 minutes) or effectively (suck or latch on problems) then the pump can act like your baby's twin — providing the stimulation that you need to make enough milk.
  • You are returning to work outside the home. If you are going back to work after your baby's birth the pump can act like your baby away from home.

If these situations apply to you, then you should consider purchasing or renting a pump.

The type of pump you choose depends on your circumstances and how long and often you will need to express your milk. Hospital-grade electric pumps are available for rental and are the best pumps for mothers who must pump long-term. Smaller electric and/or manual pumps will fit the bill for short-term or infrequent pumping.

Whatever type of pump you choose, just know that it will be a love/hate relationship. I haven't met a mother yet that loves to pump! But I have met thousands of committed, dedicated women that pump to ensure their baby gets the very best nutrition possible...their breast milk!

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Nancy M. Hurst, PhD, RN, IBCLC

My primary clinical focus for the last 30-plus years has been to provide the most effective and caring support to breastfeeding mothers and their infants. Ensuring that breastfeeding mothers have the resources and support they need in the early days and weeks after delivery has tremendous...

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