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How to Buy a Breast Pump.
Women purchase breast pumps for a wide variety of reasons.
Some mothers use a pump to produce extra milk for their child or to get their milk to come in.
Other women pump milk to donate or to relieve engorgement.
Breast pumps can be rather costly, so it is worthwhile to investigate the various types and styles that are available.
Ask around for good reviews.
Choose a pump that fits your lifestyle and budget — though if you have insurance, they are required to cover the cost of your pump.
You may spend quite a bit of time with this device so it is important that you don’t rush when you pick your pump.
Ask friends. Talk to your friends who have breastfed and used a pump.
Solicit their advice regarding which pumps seem to work the best and why.
This is your opportunity to get on-the-ground reviews of pump products.
Make sure to ask plenty of questions and if they still have the pump, request to see it as well.
You might ask, “What do you like about your pump? What do you dislike? Why?” or “Would you purchase this same pump again?
Why?” Avoid yes/no questions and you will get lengthier and more helpful responses.
The advice of a friend with similar pumping needs will be the most useful.
For example, if you are planning to pump while at work, seek out someone who does that as well.
Go to a major search engine and look for various types of pumps.
Browse through the photos to see if any pump appeals to you right away.
For example, if you want something simple you may want to shy away from the pump with a million dials on the front.
Look for reviews online as well.
Most shopping sites will carry links to reviews that you can read instantly.
As you read reviews, pay particular attention to any mention of defects or customer service issues.
You do not want to purchase a pump from a brand with a history of technical problems.
Search for instruction manuals for various brands of breast pumps.
Read the manuals of your top three pumps to determine the ease of usage.
Can you understand the manual? Will you feel comfortable operating this pump?
There are tons of free chat groups and forums devoted to mothering, breastfeeding, and pumping in general.
Sign up for a couple of these a few weeks before you will need to buy your pump.
Spend some time reading the posts and ask questions of the members.
Once you’ve decided on a model, post it online and request feedback.
You post could read something like, “Hi,
everyone, I’ve decided to go with model XYZ.
Has anyone had good or bad experiences with this pump before?”
If you really like a particular pump, don’t let anyone scare you away from purchasing it.
After all, a person’s experience is personal and not always reflective of what will happen to you.
Visit the store
Go to a brick-and-mortar store that carries breast pumps and take a look at the various options.
If the store has pumps on display, go ahead and physically feel them.
Take apart the pieces and put them back together.
Assess the weight of the pump and the quality of the materials.
Does the plastic seem sturdy? Do the dials move easily?
Some store websites offer virtual breast pump “tours” as well.
This is a good option if you don’t feel comfortable handling a breast pump in a traditional store.
Find the best deal.
Once you find a model that you like, you’ll want to search for the lowest price.
Check the ads for local baby and maternity stores.
Visit the stores in person and see if they have rewards programs.
They may even offer to price match, just in case you find a better price elsewhere.
Don’t forget to look online as well.
Many baby stores offer special online deals.
Online dealers also price competitively as well.
Complementing Your Lifestyle
Consider drafting a pumping schedule.
If you’re having trouble choosing, try determining how you will use it.
Try to imagine going through a typical day and when and where you intend to pump, how much time you will have for each session, and your milk production goals for each session (in ounces).
You can even write out a rough outline if this helps.
As you are planning your schedule, keep in mind that it is generally best to pump for 15 – 30 minutes per session.
Be aware that your pumping routine may alter depending on how well your letdown reflex responds to manual stimulation.
If your milk comes faster, you may be able to shorten sessions.
Or, if your milk takes its time, you may need to allot an additional “letdown” time for each session.
You will probably hear about “hospital grade” pumps while shopping.
These pumps are made for heavy use in medical facilities and, on occasion, for individual consumers.
Many women with NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) babies will use them to kick-start their milk supply.
These can be rented, so you don’t need to buy a hospital-grade pump.
The hospital should be able to help you locate one to rent.
Choose manual or electric.
These are two primary categories of breast pumps.
If you are only planning to pump occasionally to relieve engorgement or provide enough milk for a night out, a manual pump might be sufficient (and less expensive, too).
If you plan to pump multiple times per day while at work or to feed your baby from a bottle exclusively, invest in an electric pump which will pump your milk more quickly and efficiently.
Both models draw milk out of the breast by creating a vacuum between the breast shield (the part that goes over the nipple area) and the pump’s milk storage container (usually a plastic bottle attached to the shield directly or via tubing).
They differ in how the vacuum is created, whether by manual power or by electrical energy.
With a manual breast pump you will squeeze on a lever to create a vacuum which will then extract the milk.
This can be a tedious and time-consuming process.
But, manual pumps are generally affordable, fairly lightweight, and allow for easy transport.
With an electric breast pump you will place the breast shield against your nipple and turn a dial to start milk extraction.
Electric pumps can be loud and are heavier in weight and larger in size. They are also more costly and require an energy source (an outlet or batteries).
Electric pumps, unlike manual ones, also usually have adjustable settings for suction rate and suction strength.
This allows you to closely imitate the actions of a baby sucking, prompting more milk production.
Choose battery-operated or plug-in.
Electric pumps come in two forms: those powered by batteries and those powered by electrical outlets.
If you have another young child and will need to stay mobile while pumping, a battery-operated pump might be a good choice.
If you are planning to pump at your desk while at work or another stationary location, an electric pump would produce more milk for your time spent.
You can move around with a battery pump, but you will run through lots of batteries over time with heavy use.
Battery pumps are a good compromise measure for women who want to move while pumping but plan to pump too frequently to use manual methods.
They are also fall in the middle in terms of cost, cheaper than plug-ins but more expensive than manual.
Plug-in pumps are usually heavier than battery pumps; however, they also extract milk more quickly and are the standard choice for full-time pumpers.
Choose single or double-pump.
This choice really depends on the amount of milk that you need to produce, your time constraints, and your budget.
If you plan to breastfeed full time and use your pumped milk only as a supplement, you will be fine with a single-pump.
If you plan to feed your baby on pumped milk alone, it would be best to go with a double-pump.
You’ll get more milk per session and your sessions will gradually reduce in time.
As the name suggests, single pumps are used on one breast at a time.
Double-pumps let you drain both breasts simultaneously.
If you decide on a double-pump, you may want to purchase or make a pumping bra.
This is a bra that will hold the breast shields to your body while pumping, freeing your hands.
You can buy one at most maternity stores or make one by cutting holes for each nipple in a sports bra.
Customize after purchasing.
After you buy the pump that you want, spend some time putting it together and practicing using it.
Pay particular attention to the accessories that come with the pump.
For example, do you like the size of the milk storage bottle? Do the breast shields fit you?
Many women purchase additional breast shields.
Breast pumps usually come with one size and some women need to go larger or smaller in order to achieve a good nipple fit.
Pumping with the wrong size shield can cause many problems, including clogged ducts.
If your pump comes with a carrying case, practice packing up the pump and toting it around.
If it doesn’t come with a case, think of modifying a backpack or large purse for this purpose, especially if you intend to pump while at work.
Weighing the Costs
Decide whether to buy new or used. Breast pumps are costly, so it is tempting to consider buying used or second-hand.
A pump is considered a medical device and you must proceed carefully both for your health and that of your baby.
You always want to purchase a pump from a reputable, trustworthy source.
A pump must be designated “multiple user” in order to be safe.
That means that you can separate all of the parts, except the main pump itself, and sanitize everything.
You will want the pump professionally sanitized before use.
Be aware, though, that the stakes are high.
If your pump is not sanitized properly or is in fact a single-user model, you could transmit contagious bacteria or viruses via your milk.
For example, hepatitis and HIV can live within pump mechanisms.
If you use a temporary pump at the hospital, you will notice that these are hospital-grade and designed for multiple use.
You will also receive a separate package of sterilized accessories-shields, tubing, and milk containers-all designated for your personal use.
Consider purchasing two pumps.
Even if your pump comes with a nice carrying case, it can be a real hassle to take it back and forth between home and work.
If you plan on pumping multiple times in a day, and at different locations, you might consider buying two pumps.
One pump can stay at work and the other at home.
Add in the cost of accessories.
To start pumping, you will usually need to buy more than just the pump alone.
Create a budget that includes extra milk containers, extra (or different sized) shields, cleaning brushes, a drying rack, a carrying case, etc.
Some pumps are sold in “bundle packs” with additional bottles and storage bags.
This might be a good option if you plan to pump large quantities of milk.
Investigate returns and warranties.
Before you purchase, read about the warranty plans that are offered by various pump manufacturers.
Most have time limits of a year or so, but many last for a lifetime of use.
Be aware that most stores, for health safety reasons, will not accept a returned pump unless the package is unopened.
Contact your insurance company.
Call your insurance carrier and ask about their pump coverage policies.
The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover breast pumps, though which pumps are covered is at the discretion of the insurance company.
They often have a variety of other rules, including that the pump cannot be purchased until after the baby is born.
Contact your insurance company before the baby is born so you can get the necessary paperwork done as soon as the baby is born.
You can also contact a durable medical equipment supplier to fulfill a breast pump order through insurance.
While the covered pumps are usually cheaper models, free is always a good place to start.