Now that you know about all of the reasons that you might be pumping, and when the best time to pump is, you need to ask some more questions.
What kind of pump should I get?
It’s best if you ask this question before your baby arrives. Whenever you ask it, the short answer is, whichever kind of pump meets your needs. A mom who is exclusively pumping for a preemie will have different needs than the mom who has an established milk supply and is just looking to pump for an occasional relief bottle. The mom who has a full-time job, and is pumping at work, will have different needs as well. The primary questions you should ask yourself are:
- Why am I pumping?
- How often will I be pumping?
- How much time will I have to pump?
- What is my budget for a pump?
- What is my milk supply like?
If you are going to be pumping for a premature baby who is not breastfeeding yet, or only breastfeeding a couple of times a day, you will need a hospital grade, rental pump, for at least the first 4-6 weeks.
If you start pumping after your milk supply is established, and only pump for an occasional relief bottle, you can probably get by with a manual pump.
The Affordable Care Act states that your insurance must provide you with a breast pump. Check out https://www.healthcare.gov/coverage/breast-feeding-benefits/ where it states, “Your health insurance plan must cover the cost of a breast pump. It may be either a rental unit or a new one you’ll keep. Your plan may have guidelines on whether the covered pump is manual or electric, the length of the rental, and when you’ll receive it (before or after birth).” The different insurance companies, and different plans within those companies, can interpret that requirement in different ways.
At my day job, most of the insurance companies that my patients have, are provided with double electric, personal pumps. Medicaid patients have not been provided with pumps, as it is assumed they will have WIC, where they will be provided with a pump. While they will get a manual pump at a minimum, that may not meet their pumping needs. The WIC offices in my area have hospital pumps that they can provide moms with, if they are available, and if the mom meets the criteria. WIC offices are not all the same in this regard, so if you have WIC, you will need to see what is available for you.
Your insurance may offer you only one type of pump, or a choice of two, or several to choose from. The insurance company may send it to you directly, or they may have you go to a website, or even Target to get it, with you not having to pay any money up front. There are probably as many different ways of doing it as there are different insurance plans. You will need to call yours to find out what is available to you. If you have not had your baby, call before your baby arrives. They may send it to you before your due date, or may require your baby to have arrived first. They may send it to you quickly, or it may take a few weeks. If you don’t have it when your baby arrives, and you are going home, then you will need to rent one until you have your pump in your hot, little hands.
The other thing to keep in mind is that it seems that every few weeks the ACA is in jeopardy of being scrapped, so who knows if and for how long this benefit will continue to be available.
There are a lot of different pumps out there. The number of different manufacturers has just exploded since the ACA has mandated insurance companies provide pumps. I recommend you check Amazon reviews. Look for the number of reviews, because a quick look at “Breast Pumps” shows that most of them get good ratings, but the number of ratings varies widely. Some of the reviews clearly look bogus. I’m not going to mention names, but there was one with a similar name to a very popular breast pump company, and all its reviews and questions were posted on the same day. And who thought “Nibble” was a good name for a breast pump???
How long you have to pump will affect your pump choice too. If you only have 15 minutes then you will want a double pump so that you can pump both breasts at the same time. If you have more time, and aren’t pumping very often, then you can probably get by with a good manual pump, but you will have to pump one breast at a time.
How much should I get when I pump?
The answer to that question all depends on a few different variables. You’re probably wondering if I ever give just a straight answer. The answer to that question is, it depends, on what the question is. (Insert smiley emoji here.)
- When are you pumping? You will get more if you are pumping instead of feeding. You will get less if you pump right after a feeding. You will get more than that if you wait an hour, but then you will be cutting into your baby’s next feeding, so that isn’t recommended.
- If you pump before your milk comes in, you may get just a few precious drops of colostrum. If you pump in the first couple of weeks of breastfeeding, you usually will get more than if you wait until 4 or 5 weeks because your milk supply tends to overshoot in the first couple of weeks.
- After about 3 hours, a mom with an average supply will usually get an ounce per hour, usually more in the first hour. The reason for that is that the emptier the breasts are, the fast they make milk. That same mom will usually get ½ – 1 oz., right after a feeding. Babies will rarely completely drain a breast, even when the supply is low.
- You will probably get more in the morning. That is when most moms have their most abundant milk supplies.
This is one question where I can give you a straight answer.
You should not use a pump that someone else has used.
There are a couple of reasons for this. There is the theoretical risk of transmission of bacteria and viruses from breast pumps. I don’t know of any cases where this has actually happened. I do know pumps have been taken apart and mold has been found inside. When I say inside, I mean in the parts of the pump you don’t usually take apart, so even if you got all new tubing and bottles and other pump parts, you would still be attaching the tubing to an area where there might be mold. There are pumps that have what is called a closed system. A closed system means the milk can never get inside the pump because of the way it is set up, in which case this scenario of mold inside would be highly unlikely with those systems.
However, what I have seen happen, time and time again, is a pump that has been used before and the motor is wearing out, and a mom is not getting enough stimulation or she thinks her supply is decreasing because she doesn’t get much milk when she pumps. I heard from a pump company that on average, their pumps will work at optimal strength for about 300 hours.
You may know that your friend only used hers a few times and are really sure it’s as good as new. I knew a family who had bought a pump from some friends, and assured me that the pump had been barely used by these friends. However, that friend had been a client of mine and I knew that she has pumped with it, 8x/day for 8 months. I guess some people just have a different definition of “barely used” than I do. I couldn’t say anything either, because of patient confidentiality.
My recommendation is to get yourself a new pump. Period. Especially if you can get one at no cost from your insurance, it’s silly not to.
The “used pump” term also refers to a pump you used for a baby you had before the one you are currently pumping for, if it was a heavily used pump, or if it has been a more than a couple of years since you used it.
One Final Thought
Different moms have different pumping needs. An article like this is a good starting point to get information. If you have more questions, or a more complex situation than this article could address, seek out the help of a lactation consultant.
Scales and growth charts – Making sense of them.
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