How to Choose a Breast Pump

Find out what features are right for your breast pumping journey.

There’s no way to describe what it’s like to use a breast pump for the first time. It’s not a fun task, hooking yourself up to a machine and, well…now you kind of know how cows feel, right?! But despite that commonality, pumping varies from woman to woman, and each pump offers different things based on different moms’ needs. Some are more basic and best for pumping part time, while others offer as many technological options as the newest smartphones.

Knowing what fits your lifestyle is essential before picking up a piece of machinery that can cost several hundred dollars. To help us figure out the differences between all the breast pump options on the shelf, we reached out to the digital health care experts at Maven Clinic, who introduced us to lactation consultant Leigh Anne O’Connor. Below, she walks us through the 4 questions you should ask when choosing the best breast pump for your nursing journey.

1. How often will you use the pump?
If you’re going back to work, you’ll be pumping a couple of times every day. If you’re staying home, then you may be an occasional pumper, if at all. If you’re a working mom, your best bet is a double electric pump, which provides you maximum power and the ability to pump both breasts at the same time. If you’re not going to be pumping that often, a simple hand pump or something like a Medela Swing would suit your needs and not break the bank.

2. How much are you willing to spend?
Keep in mind that cost isn’t a huge issue. Price doesn’t equal function. Sometimes you may be paying for bells and whistles, and it’s up to you if you want, or need, all of that. Hospital grade pumps are known to do the best at pumping, and they can be the most expensive. You can rent one from your local hospital or pick one up online. They usually feature an LCD screen that shows you what speed you’re pumping at.

3. What bells and whistles might enhance your pumping experience?
The bells and whistles vary depending on the pump you buy, and there are even extra accessories out there that can enhance your pumping experience. Speed and suction are two of these, which can be important since different women respond to these functions in different ways. Many moms find that the “let-down” feature (which automatically changes sucking speeds) on the Medela Pump In Style is important for them, while others find that it’s not something they truly need. Hands-free pumping can make life easier, whether you’re working or not, so investing in a hands-free pumping bra is a great idea. This is an item that once you have it, you don’t know how you did it without one!

4. What does your insurance company cover?
Insurance companies covering breast pumps can be tricky, but there are ways you can see if you’re covered. Everyone’s insurance plans are different, so speak to a rep and find out if a pump is covered and if so, where and how you purchase it. Sometimes there can be restrictions, such as certain types, brands and even a cost cap. If you’re unsure if your insurance will cover it and how long it may take to get one, don’t wait. This can be a “make it or break it” situation and if a mother absolutely needs to pump, she should get a pump, or rent one, as soon as possible to avoid losing her milk supply. To possibly avoid this, check with your insurance and work on purchasing the pump of your choice while you’re still pregnant.

Illustration by Talia Handler.

Chelsea Vassi

Chelsea Vassi

Chelsea is a Michigan transplant who hasn't ever fully accepted city life. She currently works full-time and writes honestly and thoughtfully on her blog, Harvest Mama. In her spare time she loves to sew and quilt, be outdoors and spend time with her family.

Comments {1}

  1. My sister is having a baby this summer, but will probably need to use a breast pump when she returns to work. I’ll pass along this information to help her as she makes a purchase. I didn’t know that this was something that might be covered by insurance. I’ll make sure she looks into that. Thanks for the information!

    April Cook

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