Do I Need A Breast Pump and Why? – Here’s What You Need To Know

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Breastfeeding is a natural means of promoting the health and well-being of both infant and parent, and it is proven to effectively protect against illness and disease. However, there are times when a nursing parent must be apart from her baby. Purchasing a good breast pump is the best way to ensure that your baby continues to receive the benefits of breast milk when you must be apart for a time.

You may also find that the baby takes better to bottle and so pumping breast milk to feed via bottle works better. In which case you might find yourself needing a reliable breast pump.

A breast pump is not a necessity for a nursing parent, but there are benefits to investing in one. Breast pumps help increase milk production, provide a healthy supply of breast milk when a parent is unable to nurse, and provide more freedom to breastfeeding parents.

There are many brands and models of breast pumps on the market, so it is essential to compare prices and features to choose the right one for you. Some hospital-grade breast pumps can be a bit costly; however, other models are more cost-efficient and can fit almost any budget. This article explains what a breast pump is, compares the different types and brands of breast pumps, and examines when it is and is not essential to own one.

What Is a Breast Pump?

A breast pump is a mechanism used by lactating women to express breast milk for feeding. It can also stimulate or increase milk supply, relieve engorged breasts or plugged milk ducts, or pull out inverted nipples to help facilitate latching on by the baby.  

While the first patented breast pump dates back to the mid 19th Century, breast pumps have only been on the market since 1991, when Medela began distributing the first electric, vacuum-operated pump for commercial use. Since then, they have become commonplace for new mothers, providing a mechanism to extract breast milk for their babies, often so that the mother can return to work.  

What Type of Breast Pumps Are There?

The three basic types of breast pumps are manual, battery-powered, and electric pumps. Each of these is held in place by hand or a special bra or band. Breast pumps are composed of three parts: a breast shield, a suction pump, and a milk container to collect the breast milk.  

Manual Pumps

Manual pumps are hand-held pumps that you operate by squeezing a handle or lever to create suction, which causes the milk to be expressed. Some contain a tube that pumps in and out of a larger tube, creating suction. Others use what is called a bicycle horn pump with a rubber ball-type feature attached to the shield. This type of pump may be more challenging to clean and dry.  

Battery-Powered Pumps

Both battery-powered pumps and electric pumps contain tubes connecting the breast shield to the pump. A control panel on the pump allows you to select the amount of suction used. Some pumps allow for various levels of suction to mimic your baby.  

Electric Pumps

Electric pumps are similar to battery-powered pumps in that they contain the same types of parts and allow for the selection of the level of suction. The only drawback to these types of pumps is that you would need a backup plan such as a manual pump in an emergency where there is no power.  

How Much Are Breast Pumps?

The price of a good breast pump can be as high as £250 plus and as low as £20. High cost doesn’t always mean a better breast pump. A more expensive breast pump may equal more features, but you can purchase a high-quality pump that is functional and reliable for less.  

Listed below is a table listing some of the best breast pumps currently on the market, plus their prices and features.  

Elvie Wearable Double Electric Breast Pump£449.00Wearable, Quiet and discreet, Simple assembly and easy to clean, Free app controls pump and can monitor volume
Medela Freestyle Flex 2-Phase Double Electric Breast Pump£339.80App tracks pumping patterns, low battery, Light-up interface, good for night feedingDelay start function, One of the quietest, Not painful, Pumps same volume as hospital-grade
Lansinoh Breast Pump 2-in-1 Double Electric Breast Pump£116.99Hospital-grade performance, three styles, eight suction levels, Single or double pump, Hygienic design – pump directly into storage bags
Tomee Tippee Electric Breast Pump£95.00USB rechargeable and portable, Lab tests show quieter/discreetFive massage, nine express settings No backflow- hygienicGentle – soft, cushioned suction cup
Haakaa Silicone Breast Pump£29.49Not electric, so simpler and quieter, Easy to clean – dishwasher safe, Cordless and portable
Spectra S1 Double Electric Portable Breast Pump£154.95Cost-efficient, Lightweight and quiet, Portable with built-in rechargeable battery, Hospital grade includes backflow protectors, Night light for night pumping

Do I Need a Breast Pump if I Am Breastfeeding?

Although having a breast pump is not an absolute necessity if you are breastfeeding, it is advantageous, especially if you plan to go back to work or travel. Pumping your milk will allow you more freedom to leave your baby with another caretaker for short periods.   

There are many reasons having a breast pump on hand can be helpful to a new mother. Pumping can stimulate milk production when it is low. International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Heather Dennis, encourages new mothers to obtain a breast pump when the infant is sick or has difficulty nursing. 

In these cases, pumping can provide them with a healthy breast milk supply when they are unable to nurse. Using a breast pump can also prevent or help resolve conditions such as engorgement or inverted nipples.  

Making this purchase is an investment in the health and well-being of both mom and baby. It can also conveniently enable others to assist mom with feedings and allow her to return to work while still providing the baby with optimal nutrition. Additionally, some mothers choose to pump an extra supply of breast milk to store in case of emergency or to donate to a milk bank.  

Do I Need a Breast Pump if I Am Using Formula?

Owning a breast pump is not necessary for mothers who, for various reasons, cannot nurse their babies or choose to exclusively bottle feed. If a mother is not nursing, she should not pump, as this will stimulate milk production when she wants to suppress lactation.  

Heather Dennis, IBCLC, says that there is no need to purchase a breast pump if you are not nursing. Some women find it demanding or impossible to breastfeed their babies. Medical conditions such as jaundice, infections, psychological issues, or serious illnesses can inhibit a mother’s ability to nurse her baby.  

Other women have conditions that cause their supply of milk to be too low to nurse. In these circumstances, a mother will often forego breastfeeding and formula-feed their baby exclusively, eliminating the need for a breast pump.  

Nursing or feeding a baby is usually a positive and intimate experience between mother and baby and can facilitate bonding between them. Another reason to use a breast pump is to enable the father, siblings, or other family members such as grandparents to participate in this unique bonding experience with the new infant. Allowing others to assist with the task of feeding can also give the mother a well-deserved break from her duties with the new baby.   

What Alternatives Are There to Breast Pumps?

Hand expressing breast milk is an alternative to using breast pumps. Hand expressing is the process of removing milk by hand, and is effective at expressing colostrum in the postpartum days. The practice can also relieve pain and pressure if the mother’s breasts are engorged or too full of milk.

Although hand expression is not as productive in obtaining milk for storage, it can be used in the early days and weeks to obtain small amounts of milk for your baby. It is a natural backup for times when your pump is not available or in an emergency.  

Other than hand expressing, there are, at this time, no substitutes for a good breast pump for when you are nursing. It is a valuable tool for making your breastfeeding experience more satisfying and stress-free.