About Pumps & Pumping



Breast pumps have become almost standard equipment for many new moms.

When should you pump?

  • when baby can't or won't nurse at least 10 minutes per side. Baby will be your best pump, but complement what baby does until he catches on.
  • to relieve engorgement. Don't worry about too much milk during the first couple weeks - keep the milk moving.
  • to soften the nipple if your breast is over-full, or to pull the nipple out for easier latching if you nipples tend to be flat or inverted. These are the only times you would pump before baby feeds.
  • after the first couple of weeks of exclusive breastfeeding, family memebers may enjoy feeding the baby with a bottle occasionally.
  • to increase a lagging milk supply, pump for 5 to 10 minutes after regular nursing (even if no milk is coming out).
  • when you go back to work.

Which pump?

There are 3 categories of pumps: occasional use (can be manual or electric), heavy duty, or hospital grade.

  • Occasional Use:
    • Manual: most difficult to use because you provide the power. You tend to get tired before your breast has had enough stimulation. However, some moms are champs at this and it is the least expensive.
    • Electric single pumps: most run on batteries, some plug in. These tend to be noisy, rough and not very effective for a lot of women. Look for one that will auto cycle, i.e. has to suck and release, not just a vacuum suction you have to control (Bosom Buddies only carries this type). Prices range from moderate to expensive.
  • Heavy duty electric pumps: more effective effective than occassional use, gentle and quiet. Again, look for one that will auto cycle, i.e. has to suck and release, not just a vacuum suction you have to control. These are designed to maintian lactation with longer separation from baby, such as returning to work or school. Pumps both sides at once so you can finish in 10-15 minutes. Purchase price: moderate to expensive.
  • Hospital grade electric pumps: the heaviest duty pump available, and also generally the most quiet, gentle and effective. Typically used when there are problems breastfeeding, if you are seperated from baby due to hospitalization, or when you want the most efficient pump available. Pumps both sides at once so you can finish in 10-15 minutes. Rental prices are moderate. Purchase price: expensive.
See our guide to help choose Which Pump is Right for You

Studies have shown:

  • prolactin levels (and thus milk output) are increased by double pumping (pumping on both sides at once) and
  • prolactin levels and milk output with various expression methods were compared to a nursing baby with the following results:
    • hand expressing - 1/2 as much as baby;
    • single, battery operated pump - about 1/4 as much as baby;
    • manual pump - 1/2 as much as baby;
    • double electric pump - about 1/3 more than baby.

Every individual's personal experience will differ. The important thing is to get a pump which will fit your needs whether pumping once in a while or all day every day.