Thoughts about breast pumps, part 1

Christy here, blogging in response to our GREAT evening meeting last night.

As often happens, we came to the topic of pumps and pumping, and I thought it would be useful to re-post something that I originally wrote last summer.

I am often asked about breast pumps, when to buy, which to buy, buying a used pump, troubleshooting etc. So often that I have developed standard answers which I will share with you in segments.

When to get a pump – it’s later than you think!

Pumps are on the list of ‘must-haves’ from baby-industrial-complex retailers. Why? Because they want you to buy stuff. Let me say this clearly, not every breastfeeding mother needs a pump. Pumps, particularly the double electric ones that get so much ad space, are expensive. Yes, it would be nice to have someone else purchase it for you, but wouldn’t it be even nicer to have the money or equivalent in other stuff (perhaps diapers) if it turned out that the pump was going to sit in the closet? Therefore I submit the following suggestions for different situations.

Employed mother, planning to return to work full-time, outside the home, where baby is not welcome: You will need to express milk in order to maintain your supply and have something to feed your baby while you are away. Most mothers in your situation find that a double electric pump is the most efficient means of milk removal.

First, have a chat with your employer. As a part of healthcare reform, your employer is required to provide time and space for milk expression. Perhaps your employer will also be interested in creating a dedicated milk expression room equipped with a hospital-grade pump. Benefits of hospital-grade pumps include long lifespan, efficient to use, ability to be used by more than one mother (not at the same time!) by having individual collection kits.

If your employer isn’t ready to shell out for a common pump, read your health insurance policy and/or call a representative to find out if you can get a pump as part of your durable medical equipment (DME) benefit. In this scenario, your healthcare provider writes a prescription, and you fill it through the insurance company’s DME provider. You may not get to choose which brand you get, but I for one am willing to sacrifice some choices for a savings of a few hundred dollars. With my second baby I used this route and got a new double electric pump delivered to my home for a $25 co-pay.

If your insurance won’t cooperate, then you will likely be purchasing a pump yourself. Wait until after your baby is born. Why? Well, it may turn out that you have a lot of other gifts to return to some major retailer and can use the credit generated towards the pump. There may be some change in your life circumstance such that you don’t need to return to work or can work part-time instead of full-time. If there is some unexpected or unfortunate circumstance and your baby isn’t able to breastfeed immediately you will need a hospital-grade pump in order to help establish your milk supply. The hospital will help you arrange this, and it might change the response from your insurance company.

Even if you have to pay full price for a pump, it is a better value than buying artificial milk!

Employed mother, planning to return to work part-time outside the home or in a setting where baby is welcome: You may not need to buy a double electric pump. For short separations a good quality manual pump or hand expression may suffice. Best scenario might be to keep your baby with you while you work, if that is possible. If you do want to acquire a double electric pump, see above suggestions.

No planned separation – mother is primary caregiver for baby: You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a double electric pump! If you want to be able to express some milk for a temporary caregiver, invest in a good quality manual pump or learn to hand express.

I was pleased to see a very similar discussion included in the new, 8th edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding!


One thought on “Thoughts about breast pumps, part 1

  1. Keep in mind that if you have less than 50 employees in your company, the employer does NOT have to provide milk expression time. I have a double electric pump and it is great. It was worth the $$ I spent on it considering I use it 3 times a day.

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