Breast-feeding: Choosing a breast pump

Should you invest in an electric breast pump? A double pump? A lightweight pump? If you're in the market for a breast pump, ask yourself these questions and more. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Many breast-feeding mothers consider breast pumps as important as car seats and baby wipes. Whether you're going back to work or simply want the flexibility a breast pump can offer, you'll have many choices. Ask yourself these questions to decide which type of breast pump is best for you.

How often will you use the breast pump?

If you'll be away from the baby only occasionally and your milk supply is well established, a simple hand pump might be all you need. You simply place a cone-shaped shield on your breast and squeeze the handle to express the milk. If you're returning to work full time or you're planning to be away from your baby for more than a few hours a day, an electric pump is probably a better option.

Will you need to pump as quickly as possible?

A typical pumping session lasts about 10 to 15 minutes a breast. If you'll be pumping at work or in other time-crunched situations, you might want to invest in an electric breast pump that allows you to pump both breasts at once. A double-breast pump helps stimulate milk production while reducing pumping time by half.

How much can you afford to spend on the pump?

You can buy breast pumps from medical supply stores and most drugstores and baby stores, as well as many discount department stores. Manual models are typically available for less than $50, while electric pumps might cost up to $250 or more. Because there's a small risk of contamination, don't borrow or buy a used personal-use breast pump.

You might also consider renting a hospital-grade electric breast pump from a hospital or medical supply store — especially if you're pumping milk while your baby is hospitalized or you've chosen to feed your baby expressed milk rather than breast-feed your baby. If you rent a pump, you'll need to buy the equipment that attaches your breast to the pump (pumping kit).

Some health insurance plans cover the cost of buying or renting a breast pump. Beginning in 2011, breast pumps and related supplies are considered tax-deductible medical expenses.

Apr. 07, 2012 See more In-depth