A Guide to Breast Pumps

Not everyone has the ability or luxury (or desire) to breastfeed exclusively (or at all). For some women, a breast pump is a necessary piece of equipment. But the world of breast pumps is vast and scary, and pumping can be difficult. So how do you choose your pump? How do you become a successful pumper?

(For the purposes of this post, I am going to only talk about electric pumps.)


First of all, you want to make sure that your pump has adjustable speed and suction settings. The more settings available, the better. Every woman is different, so you want to be able to find the most comfortable and efficient speed-suction combination for your body. You also want to make sure that the flanges (also called breast shields) are the correct size for your breasts.

Here’s a good guide for flange sizing:

  • Your nipple should move freely in the tunnel of the breast pump.
  • Your areola should have little or no tissue inside the tunnel of the breast pump.
  • You should not be able to feel areas of the breast that still have milk inside. (Uneven removal of milk.)
  • You should not experience pain in your nipple.
  • You should not see a white circle at the base of the nipple, nor should your nipple blanche.

You also should take a few other things into consideration:

  • How loud is the pump? Does a loud motor bother you?
  • If you want to take your pump places, how portable is your pump?
  • Is it a closed or open system? Closed systems are a bit easier to keep clean.

And, of course, cost. Breast pumps have a wide range of prices, so everyone should be able to find one in their price range. There are also breast pump rental services, which may be more practical for some families. In addition, some insurance providers have started to cover breast pump purchases or rentals!

For safety and health purposes, never use a second hand open-system breast pump, and never use another woman’s collection system for a closed or open system (bottles, flanges, tubing).

For help picking a breast pump, read reviews!

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