It can be a difficult choice to choose the best breast pump for your needs. When preparing to bring home your baby, you might picture yourself using those generous baby shower gifts you received. Perhaps wrapping them in that soft sling or capturing their footprints. However, there’s one handy piece of equipment you might not have pictured using – a breast pump.

PBB has put together this handy guide on choosing the best breast pump just in case you do end up needing it, or you know in advance that you’ll be using one.

How to choose the best breast pump

Who might need a breast pump?

While a breast pump isn’t essential for everyone, it might surprise you to know that almost all mothers do decide to express milk using a pump. In a Melbourne study of more than 1,000 women whose babies were born at term, 83% had a breast pump at six months after birth. Even within a day or two of welcoming a new baby, 60% already had a pump. The women said the main reasons were to be able to go out without the baby, or because they had too little or too much milk.

Another reason for pumping is that you’re returning to work and want to make sure bub still has your milk when you’re apart from each other. Then there are the harder-to-predict reasons for expressing milk. For example, it might be a baby who was born prematurely, hasn’t yet learned to feed well, or who has other health issues.

Which is the best breast pump for your purpose?

 If you’re expressing milk so you can go out occasionally without the baby and are pumping once a day or less, you could use a:
Manual Breast Pump

  • manual pump
  • personal electric pump.
  • You could even opt for hand expressing – no special equipment required.

The benefits of a manual pump over an electric pump are that they are cheaper, quieter, and you don’t need a power source. When you hand express, you’re using positive pressure to “push” milk from the breast. However, when you squeeze the lever or handle on a manual breast pump, this creates negative pressure to “pull” your breastmilk out. Then you release the handle and repeat.

Compared to a manual pump, electric pumps are more efficient at collecting your milk. Plus, they involve much less work for you. Using a single-sided electric pump takes about 20 to 30 minutes to empty both breasts.

If you’re returning to work away from your baby, the best breast pumps are:

  • personal electric pump
  • hospital-grade electric pump.

Hospital-grade electric pumps design enables multiple people to use them safely. Because of this, they have extra barriers in place to decrease the risk of contamination. They’re also robust and designed to last several years. What’s more, being powerful makes them fast and efficient. As a result, a hospital-grade pump takes only 10 to 15 minutes to empty both breasts after let-down. However, the drawback is that they are often larger and bulkier. They’re harder to transport to and from work, or when travelling away from the baby.

hospital grade breast pump

So, who needs to use a hospital-grade pump? You might need one if you’re expressing because bub is not feeding well, is premature or unwell, or there are other issues with baby’s latch or your supply. Also, if you’re exclusively pumping (no breastfeeding), you will need a hospital-grade pump. If you’re not sure, your lactation consultant is a wealth of expert advice.

What features should you look for in a breast pump?

Battery and mains power

An electric pump that can be either battery-operated or plugged into a wall is handy if you’ll be pumping in different places. For example, with battery power, you can sit