A breast pump can be a helpful tool for new mothers to maintain their supply and store milk for later. There are electric and manual options. Most insurance companies are required to supply new mothers with a pump. Most electric, double breast pumps are effective at maintaining a mother’s milk supply once her supply is established.

However, if a baby is not successfully latching, has a weaker suck, or is being supplemented with formula, a portable electric pump is not usually effective in establishing a full milk supply. In this case a stronger and more efficient hospital grade pump is key.

How do I know if my portable electric breast pump I received from my insurance company is sufficient?

If you leave the hospital with your baby latching correctly and feeding 8-12 times a day then the portable electric pump is probably sufficient. Hopefully you worked with a lactation consultant in the hospital before going home to learn how to successfully latch your baby. If latching is painful and causing nipple damage get help as soon as possible. This is the first sign that your baby’s latch is not correct. If your baby is not correctly latching, besides painful nipples, your breasts will not get the stimulation they need and your milk will not come in as quickly. Without milk, the baby is less likely to latch and will get frustrated at the breast. This starts the vicious circle of baby refusing the breast and low milk supply.

If your baby is latching well and content between feedings most of the time, then the portable breast pump can be used when you and your baby are separated or for returning to work. Make sure before you leave the hospital someone shows you how to use your pump. It is not something you are going to want to figure out on your own in a hurry if you need it!

Popular Portable Electric Breast Pumps

Spectra Electric Breast Pumps

Medela Pump in Style

Medela Freestyle Flex Double Pump

How do I know if I need a hospital grade breast pump?

Although hospital grade pumps are very expensive, they can be helpful in some cases. If your baby is nursing 8-12 times a day, then you probably don’t need to worry about pumping to establish your milk supply. However, if your baby is having trouble latching, fussy at the breast, or needs to be supplemented, then renting a hospital grade pump can make a huge difference. Using a hospital grade pump will almost always yield more milk. It is relatively easy to rent a hospital grade pump. One month is typically sufficient in establishing and building your milk supply, though some mothers love it so much they keep it for much longer. The Medela Symphony Pump has a stronger suction and is much more efficient. It closely resembles the sucking of a baby so it allows most mothers to let down faster and more completely empty their breasts.

What are some other pumping options?

Besides establishing and increasing breastmilk supply, there are some other instances where pumping can come in handy. A handheld manual pump is useful when you need a quick, simple way to express some milk. Some women’s breasts get very full between feedings so when it’s time to nurse their breasts are firm and the nipple is flattened. In this situation, massaging around the nipple back towards the breast can soften the area and make latching easier.

If this doesn’t help, then pumping for a few minutes with a manual pump will draw the nipple out and soften the area. Some women have an oversupply of milk in the beginning and can get uncomfortable. Pumping off a little milk here and there can help until the milk supply is better regulated. Just be careful because the more you pump the more milk will be produced. So keep it brief and make your baby do most of the work!

Manual Breast Pumps

Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump

Haakaa Manual Breast Pump

Are there any wearable pumps available?

Wearable pumps are another option. The Willow pump and the Elive pumps are discreet, quiet, all-in-one pumps that adjust to your body’s flow of milk. Both pumps also monitor milk output by a wirelessly connected app. These pumps allow you to go about your day without being stuck connected to tubing or a machine and are especially great for working moms.

Willow Wearable Breast Pump

Elvie Wearable Breast Pump

And lastly if you absolutely hate pumping than that’s fine too! Hand expression is just as effective it just can take longer. Some women do not use breast pumps at all and just hand express milk for their babies when they need to. It is definitely a skill that takes some practice but can be very effective. Whichever pump or method you use for breastmilk expression, knowing your options and how to correctly express milk before you need to will go a long way in your breastfeeding success.

What are some helpful pumping accessories?

  • Our favorite combined pumping and nursing bra with slots to fit the Spectra and Medela flange, as well as many others. This is great so you don’t have to switch between bras when you need to pump.
  • Microwave sanitizing bags for pump parts when you are not home
  • Milk storage bags
  • Power converter if you need to pump in the car and you don’t want to go inside a public place on a long drive
  • Great undershirts/camis for the winter so you can take your sweater off but still be covered, and use the clip down feature to pump
  • Short sleeve shirts (not undershirts) for everyday wear for nursing and pumping. It’s so helpful to have 5-6 of these shirts so you aren’t constantly doing laundry since you will be pumping and nursing daily.
  • Long sleeve shirts for everyday wear for nursing and pumping
  • Extra flanges and duckbills valves 


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