A breast pump is typically a nursing mother's "close companion" during lactation. For some, a double electric breast pump can make all the difference between a stressful breastfeeding experience and a successful one or a lackluster supply and a robust one.
This article's focus is on "Everything You Need To Know about Breast Pumps." In it, we will guide you through the world of breast pumps and answer fundamental questions.
Will you Need a Breast Pump?
Whether you are exclusively or partially feeding your baby breast milk, it is highly likely that you will use a breast pump somewhere along the way for one purpose or another. The frequency of its use depends upon your lifestyle and milk production as well as baby's appetite.
Typically, a baby's latch and sucking power during breastfeeding produce superior stimulation and volume in comparison to what a pump can accomplish during the same time frame. So, keep in mind that pumping may not produce as much milk as during a nursing session with your baby. Also, know that every mother's letdown and production can widely vary. While one may produce 5 ounces a side in a 15-minute pumping session, another mother may yield 2 ounces or less a side.
The following are common reasons why mothers choose to purchase and use a breast pump.
Breast pumps can feel like lifesavers when mom's milk comes in. Some women have significant engorgement to the point where baby can't possibly relieve mom of her load. Also, it can be difficult for newborns to latch onto an engorged breast, so a pump can come in handy to help reduce volume and soften the breast before baby prior.
Pumps can also play a vital role in stimulating milk production when a mom has with little supply. The physiology of breastfeeding is a demand-supply loop. By pumping for 10 to 15 minutes after baby has already nursed, the extra stimulation will typically create a more robust milk supply over time.
Challenging Mother-Baby Nursing Dyad
Occasionally, mothers face great difficulty getting their baby to latch on and suck properly. The reasons for this can be many such as inverted nipples or a baby who is ill or developmentally delayed. In this circumstance, a mother needs a pump if she chooses to feed her baby expressed breast milk. To keep up with a full or part-time pumping schedule, these women often need powerful pumps to keep milk supply going.
Mother Working Out of the Home
Mothers who work outside of the home are typically away from their baby for extended periods of time and rely on breast pumps to create sufficient supply and demand so that they can continue to nurse. Breast milk is certainly the most nutritious and healthful option for baby, and it takes a great breast pump and maternal dedication to keeping this train going.
For mothers anticipating a return to work, it is important to build a stockpile of frozen breast milk. When to begin and how much to store depends upon a mother's level of milk production as well as how many hours a week mom will be away. If mom is an overproducer, lucky her! If supply is a challenge, starting the storage process earlier may be helpful. Remember that supply is usually more robust in the morning, so occasionally pumping after a morning feed is one approach. Or, when a baby takes only one breast, pumping the other will get you there over time. Regardless, breastfeeding while back to work requires daily dedication and preparation to keep production going. It truly is a labor of love!
Mothers In the Home
For those moms who have the job of caring for their little one(s) full-time, a breast pump can be an integral tool for reasons already discussed: engorgement, low supply, and difficulty with latch and suck. But for the mother who is with her baby 24/7, this is a particularly nice reason to invest in a pump: Every new mama works hard (whether in our out of the home) and needs as well as deserves time away. By having a supply of expressed milk available, mom can get away for few hours to run an errand, exercise, or have a precious date night. Dads can also get in on the feeding action and bond with their baby by giving them expressed breast milk via bottle while mom gets much-needed rest or personal time.
The Affordable Care Act and Breast Pumps
Signed into law in 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a. "Obamacare," requires commercial health insurers to include the services of "breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling" in the comprehensive health care of women. This ACA law includes coverage of a breast pump for lactating women. The caveat here is that "coverage" may or may not pay for the entire cost of the pump, and this can vary company to company, plan to plan, and network to network.
Obtaining a breast pump through your health insurance can make a big difference on your pocketbook at zero to less out of pocket cost when compared to buying without it. However, know that it will take some legwork and make plans in advance, if possible. For example, some insurance plans will allow filing a claim no earlier than 30 to 60 days before delivery while some will only do so once mom has delivered and up to a year past childbirth. The 30 to 60-day policy does make sense because if you end up having a baby prematurely, you may need a particular prescription for a hospital grade breast pump, typically a rental like a Medela Symphony.
The basic steps to obtaining a breast pump through health insurance are the following:
Prescription — A mother must get a prescription/prior authorization for a breast pump from her physician. If you plan on pumping frequently or have a history of low milk supply, make sure your doctor writes a prescription for a double electric one. Though manual breast pumps do fill a particular niche, double electric pumps are much more efficient. Additionally, manual pumps are much less expensive than electric, so if insurance covers the bigger expenditure, take advantage of this opportunity.
Submission — The prescription needs to be submitted to mother's insurance company.
- Choose a Pump — Upon submitting the prescription, a selection of covered pumps will be provided as well as one or more Durable Medical Equipment (DME) companies through which you can order. You may also find out further information about your coverage such as if your insurance company will only cover a set cost or whether or not you will be responsible for a copay as part of this transaction.
- Order Pump — Contact contracted DME company and place an order as well as pay any remaining costs not covered by insurance.
But, what happens if a mom prefers a different style or brand of a pump than her insurance allows? This can feel like a great roadblock, one where many may choose to quit the coverage process altogether. However, many DME companies may offer "upgrades" for a determined out of pocket cost. With this information, we encourage you to take this opportunity to shop around for the best price and package with reputable retailers to ensure you are getting the best deal.
Types of breast pumps
There are so many brands and styles of breast pump available that it can be tough to decide which one is right for you, other than what your friends have to say through their experiences. You may also find that your needs may be very different from theirs. Each pump has its strengths, weaknesses, and individual price point.
The two main categories of breast pumps are manual and electric. There are pros and cons to each, and there are reasons why one or the other may work better for you. Read on as we define each a bit more clearly.
Manual pumps are hand-operated and pump one breast at a time via a flange and manual lever which creates suction. They are less expensive than electric pumps as well as light and small so easily fit into a purse or carry-on for an outing, overnight, or travel. A good manual pump should be able to express a decent amount of milk, comparable to an electric pump. However, this process is certainly more time consuming and labor intensive.
They are best suited for the sporadic pumper, ideally, once milk supply is well-established. Even if mom has an electric pump, manual pumps are a nice companion piece for the breastfeeding mama. Once a baby is down to a few feeds a day, a manual pump is a definite space-saver when out for an overnight or a short work trip.
Electric pumps are attached to a motor and run via an outlet or battery power. Most breast pumps now have the following options: AC adapter, car adapter, a rechargeable battery, or a battery pack. They are available in single and double versions. Single Electrics pump one breast at a time. An example of such a pump is the MADENAL Double Electric Breast Pump.
Double Electrics pump both breasts simultaneously which can be a huge time saver. Typically, doubles can also be easily configured to pump just one breast if desired. All of the electric pumps we tested in our review are doubles.
If you pump more than 3x/week, a double electric pump is a very worthwhile investment. Working moms, moms with low supply needing more stimulation, or a mom who exclusively feeds her baby pumped breast milk all fit into this picture. Double electric pumps are just so much more efficient than the single versions and if you need to pump only one breast converting a double to a single is easy, so you have a 2-in-1 setup. Just close off one of the suction ports into which the tubing attaches.
Important Breast Pump Features
We recommend the following key features in any pump you purchase.
Well fitting flange(s)
Flanges are the plastic pieces that you put over your breast when pumping. The pump's suction pulls the nipple into the flange. It is crucial for flanges to fit properly. Most breast pumps have flanges available in different sizes. You do not want the nipple to constantly be vigorously rubbing against the plastic as it may cause abrasions and lead to bleeding, pain, and even infection. If you have questions or concerns about fit, it is advisable to seek the help of a lactation consultant.
Having a pump with 2 phases is important as each step aims to mirror what occurs during nursing with a baby. The first step is stimulation where baby takes short, shallow, frequent sucks to produce let down. The second phase is the expression where the milk comes in, and baby's sucks become longer and deeper.