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Breast Pumps Shopping Guide
Nursing can be one of the most profound bonding experiences that you can have with your newborn, often being a joyful memory related to motherhood. While we hate to face it, a lot of mothers will have to go back to work, might have social obligations, or just want to take a break from nursing, even if only for the evening. Breast pumps give mothers the freedom to leave the house for the night while still nourishing their baby with the benefits of breast milk.
As with any other item that you're shopping for before (or during) your motherhood journey, you'll be bombarded with too many options. Parents don't have time to delve into 100 mommy blogs or even those rare fatherhood opinions about breast pumps, so we've helped consolidate what you need to know into a simple shopping guide about breast pumps.
If you already know what you're looking for, but you just want recommendations, stop reading, scroll up, and check out our top 10 breast pumps At the end of the day, your opinion and experience is the most important, so trust yourself and what you need as you shop for a new breast pump.
First Off, You Need a New Breast Pump
We're all about saving money, especially with the different expenses that come along with children, but if you're thinking about just using your best friend's breast pump...don't. Even with all the cleaning in the world, all the scrubbing that you can possibly do, and soaking it for days on end, you're still risking contamination. Milk can accrue in unseen nooks of the breast pump, exposing your newborn to foreign germs, bacteria, and more.
Unless you're turning to a breast pump that you're renting from a lactation center or hospital, which use different flow systems to prevent any unexpected accumulation, you'll need to buy a brand-new breast pump.
Plus, purchasing a new breast pump means you have full control of the features, settings, and motor power that comes with the breast pump. Hand-me-downs are simply not a thing with breast pumps, even for the savviest of penny-pinchers.
How Often Will You Need a Breast Pump?
There are two main types of breast pumps: manual and electric or battery-powered. Your choice between the two relies on how often you'll be pumping milk and how quickly you'll need it done.
Manual pumps save you money and don't rely on any motor that can potentially die on you. Along with this, you have control over the suction patterns of a manual breast pump, so you can determine the speed and repetition that works best for your body. Because you'll be working with one hand to work the pump, you'll only be able to pump one breast at a time, ultimately taking longer to get the most breast milk possible.
Another plus to a manual breast pump is its portability and ease of use. With fewer parts to set up and break down, a manual breast pump requires little to no time to get started. This can be a great back-up as you're traveling, giving you the liberty to set up anywhere you need to.
Electric- or battery-powered breast pumps are generally the go-to choice for busy moms thanks to their efficiency and comfort. With automatic pumps, you'll be able to be hands-free, which for mothers can be a gift. Pumping can be reduced down to a 15-minute chore, freeing up your time in a lactation room or locked away in a separate space.
The best breast pumps on the market will mimic the natural rhythm of a baby's sucking, helping your body adjust to the breast pump. The most natural feel will include fast-paced suction to initiate the flow of milk. Then, the suction will pulse slower and deeper to simulate a newborn's natural sucking habits.
This is worlds apart from a breast pump that just tugs at your breast with little regard to the natural rhythm of a real-life newborn. We've avoided including such breast pumps in our top ten choices — you deserve better than that.
The Importance of Easy Cleaning
The last thing you need is an appliance with a dozen small, intricate parts to tediously clean every day. Since you'll need to keep your breast pump as sanitary as possible, it's important to have a pump that is easy to disassemble and simple to clean. Look for pumps that have dishwasher-safe parts and ones that operate based on a closed system.
A closed pumping system, like one used in the Spectra S2, prevents milk from entering the pump tubing by redirecting airflow away from any and all tubing. You'll find narrow tubing in any breast pump you shop for, and you'll want to avoid having to clean out milk from their narrow construction. This can easily reduce the time spent cleaning your device. Hospital-grade devices use this same design in their pumps to avoid any contamination between different users.
Other than looking for a closed pumping system or dishwasher safe parts, you can also check out the user reviews of each product. Parents will go into honest detail of their hassle, or non-hassle, as they clean a breast pump.
How to Look for a Pump That's Quick to Assemble
Pumping outside of your home can already be an uncomfortable experience. Add in a breast pump that's harder to assemble than a Rubik's Cube, and you'll never want to pump again. Don't set yourself up for failure with a breast pump that can double as a puzzle. When shopping for a new pump, you can spot some key features that will improve your overall experience.
A rechargeable battery gives mothers the portability to pump just about anywhere, as long as the battery is charged. This takes you away from any wall outlets, which aren't always located in prime pumping real estate.
The less individual parts a breast pump has, the less you need to piece together as you're setting up. Once again, user reviews come in handy with assembly, because parents are the first to say how difficult assembly was for each breast pump.
For convenient bottle fills straight from the pump, your breast pump should come with compatible bottles that connect directly with the machine. If you've ended up with other bottles that don't match the brand of the breast pump, you'll just have to take another step to fill those bottles with the milk you've pumped out.
Just because you have quite a few name-brand bottles lying around doesn't mean you should base your buying decision off this. Formula-based bottle companies might not design a breast pump that suits your needs, so your bottle collection shouldn't drive your choice. You can always transfer your breast milk to storage bottles, as long as they're BPA-free and equipped to safely store breast milk.
Check out the attachments that are included with your breast pump to make sure you're getting the accessories needed to make your pumping easier. Breast pumps often come with travel kits that make it easier to move around. Having a breast pump bag, designed specifically to organize all the parts of a breast pump, will help you easily keep track of all the parts you might need when you leave the house.
Different Sizes for Each Mother
Along with accessories, ensure that the breast pump you've chosen offers a variety of breast shield and flange sizes to accommodate every nipple size and shape. Each woman is different, and a breast pump that doesn't take this into account will likely not be manufactured with the woman in mind.
Women-owned companies, such as Spectra, have used previous pain points described by real mothers to design their breast pumps. Keep these manufacturers in mind as you make your decision — after all, it's your body that these pumps will be used on. Reputable manufacturers should be using real-life input to design their products...otherwise, you might as well slap a suction cup on your breast and call it a day.
Traveling Internationally With Your Breast Pump
One common question about breast pumps involves international travel when using electricity-powered breast pumps. This makes sense, seeing that breast pumps are used by traveling mothers who need to pump on the go and from anywhere in the world.
International electricity requirements are already tough to understand, and they're usually the last thing on your mind as you're preparing for a big trip with your family. But, you don't want to be stuck with a dead breast pump in the middle of the night in a foreign country. So, here are some quick tidbits to help you keep the stress levels low:
We suggest bringing a manual breast pump as a backup just in case. A manual pump is better than no pump, and when you're in desperate need of expression, a manual, hand-held pump can save the day.
For battery-powered breast pumps, be sure to charge your batteries before travel, and if possible, bring an extra set of batteries with you. When needing to recharge batteries, or for electric-powered breast pumps, that's when you'll need to do a little added research before traveling to another country.
Buy both an adapter and a converter so you can plug in your breast pump to a power source.
Different countries not only have their own outlet shapes but also their own frequency and voltage that doesn't always match that of the U.S. If a device is mismatched with the voltage and frequency in a foreign country, you can easily damage or destroy your plug-in breast pump.
If your breast pump is considered dual-voltage, this means that your product can deal with the standard voltages from different countries (you'll still need an adapter because of outlet shapes). For a breast pump that is not dual-voltage, you can easily buy a cheap converter from Best Buy, Amazon, or another reputable electronics store that helps your breast pump adjust, or convert, to international voltage power sources.
The "Liquid Gold" Rush
Put simply, breast pumps can make your busy life easier. There's a lot that goes into being a mom, and when you add traveling, work, or just errands to the mix, things can feel hectic or hard to manage. Breast pumps give moms the chance to step back, breathe easier, and still give their newborns that "liquid gold" (we've heard this term too much to not mention it in a cringe-worthy manner).
Finding the right breast pump shouldn't require interviews with every woman you've ever met, nor should you need to delve into novels of research about the right choice. It's important to find a breast pump that is reputable, reliable and one that parents love, and we've highlighted a few top choices that check all these boxes.
Compare and review our top breast pumps and add another level of efficiency to your breastfeeding journey!
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