Finding the right breast pump gives you more flexibility when you’re breastfeeding, as well as being a good option if your baby is having trouble getting a latch.
Whether you’re going back to work or your partner would like to take over feeding duties sometimes, expressing milk for later requires a little organisation and investment. Since breast pumps come in various different shapes and sizes, we’ve put together a quick guide to choosing the best one for you.
Should I go for a manual or electric pump?
This will depend on how frequently you plan to express. If it’s only occasionally, then a manual pump might be the best choice. They may be more labour intensive, but they generally cost much less than electric models, ranging from as little as under £15 for the small but powerful Nuby Natural Touch (£12.99, amazon.co.uk).
Manual pumps are also easier to take out and about with you, thanks to their light and compact designs. MAM (£100, amazon.co.uk), Tommee Tippee (£29.99, amazon.co.uk) and Lansinoh (£30, amazon.co.uk) breast pumps are all small and discreet enough to pop in your bag when you’re on the move. They’re also a lot quieter than electric ones.
However, if you plan to be at home with your baby most of the time, it’s probably worth investing in an electric pump. It’ll certainly prevent sore wrists and may be more efficient and comfortable in other ways too. Many electronic designs, like the Ameda Purely Yours (£129.99, amazon.co.uk), let you express milk from both breasts at once to save time.
Budget electric pumps can also be purchased for around £15, but their prices typically range from £30 to more than £250. Among the best value options is the hospital-grade MeMeDa (£40.98, amazon.co.uk), which features 91 speed and suction combinations and is designed to be quiet enough not to disturb a feeding little one.
At the top end of the electric scale is the Ameda Elite. It might cost more than £850, but this model gives you plenty of speed and suction combinations, a diaphragm barrier that ensures an airtight environment and technology that’s used by half of Britain’s maternity wards.
Your choice will also be driven by your circumstances, which – work plans aside – you won’t really know until your baby is born. If your milk supply is particularly good then using a manual pump probably won’t be too strenuous; if not then consider letting an electric pump take the strain.
What’s the difference between open and closed setups?
An open-system setup – a feature of the majority of single-use breast pumps, like this Medela Single Mini Electric (£79.99, amazon.co.uk) breast pump – means that some breast milk finds its way into the pump’s tubes and, as a result, the air contained inside them. This isn’t anything to worry about provided the pump is only used by one person and is regularly sterilised.
Most higher-end hospital-grade pumps have a closed-system setup, which means that none of the breast milk touches the pump itself or the air inside it. These pumps need to be used with a stand-alone milk collection kit, which the milk will come into contact with. In most cases an open-system setup will do the job fine, though.
What features and accessories should I consider?
Breast shields are among the most obvious features to think about – transparent ones tend to be easier to use since you can see how much milk you’re expressing. Some are physically harder than others, so it’s important to find ones that are comfortable and fit properly.
If you’re opting for an electric pump then you may want to look at any variable speed and suction combinations, which will give you control over how much you’re expressing. The Ameda Purely Yours (£129.99, amazon.co.uk), for example, allows you to begin at a gentle pace and, if you want, increase it later on.
Don’t be tempted to borrow or buy a used pump. Breast milk can harbour potentially harmful viruses that contaminated pumps can pass on to other mums and babies. That’s why it’s so important to sterilise whichever one you use regularly.