Breast Pump Information
Pumps create a vacuum which allows the milk to flow to an area of low pressure in the pump. Pumps do not actually “pump”. A pump is different from the baby’s sucking method at the breast. Because full-term infants are more efficient at withdrawing milk, a mother can spend about 20 minutes pumping and not remove as much milk as a nursing baby does.
There are three basic types of breast pumps: the manual/hand pump, the battery-operated pump and the electric pump.
- Manual/hand pumps
- small, inexpensive and easy to locate in a variety of stores
- used for occasional milk expression
- works best when used only a few times a week by a mother who has an adequate milk supply and baby is nursing well
- large variety of hand pumps available – 3 basic types
Rubber Bulb Models – a poor choice as collects limited amounts of milk and can cause nipple pain and damage
Squeeze-Handle Models – works by squeezing and releasing a handle that creates suction. Used for occasional pumping and when no electricity is available. Easily cleaned, lightweight, inexpensive and quite efficient. However, the hand and wrist may get tired after awhile.
Cylinder pumps have 2 cylinders. The outside one creates the vacuum as it’s pulled away and the inner one with the flange is against the breast. Gaskets, which may need to be replaced occasionally, form a seal with the edge of the outer cylinder. These pumps are lightweight, not very expensive and easy to clean. Several brands can be adapted to use on the large electric pumps.
- Battery-operated pumps
- small, portable, hand-held pumps that use a small motor to generate a vacuum
- usually require batteries
- works best when used by a mother who has an adequate milk supply with a quick, strong let-down reflex
- usually only require one hand to operate and are popular with mothers who pump several times a week
- might not provide enough stimulation for a mother who is looking to increase her milk supply or for long-term pumping
- Electric pumps -available in small, medium and large
Small semi-automatic pumps The mother can set the level of suction, but needs to interrupt it every couple of seconds by uncovering and covering a small hole.
- A few models are automatic and have collection kits so the mother can pump both breasts at the same time.
- A good choice for mothers with a well-established milk supply who need to pump numerous times each week.
Medium-sized electric pumps are also known as personal use pumps and are more expensive than the small pumps.
- Usually have car adapters and carrying cases with ice packs and are small and lightweight.
- Usually can pump both breasts at the same time
- Usually can run on batteries
Large electric pumps are for long-term expressing or for mothers who wish to increase a low milk supply
- Usually very expensive and are generally rented
- Have the option to pump both breasts at the same time.
- Decreases the pumping time to about 10 minutes
- Electric pumps cycle most similarly to what a baby