Recently, I was contacted by 3 different mothers all complaining that they were not able to pump out milk completely with a leading brand name breast pump supplied by their insurance companies. All 3 knew there was more milk in their breasts but the pump just didn’t’ pump it out well. Two complained that even at the “highest suction” there was no difference. One said she couldn’t stand the pain when she turned it up to a higher suction.
Since the Affordable Care Act of 2013 kicked-in, most breastfeeding mothers are relying on their insurance companies to supply a breast pump to meet their pumping needs when they need to go back to work or school but want to continue to breastfeed. Unfortunately, insurance companies are “for-profit” entities and your insurance company is more concerned with keeping their cost down to supply any breast pump to you as the subscriber, that quality often gets “thrown out the window”!
I think a discussion about “consumer-grade” versus “professional or hospital-grade” breast pumps is needed in order for mothers to understand whether a particular breast pump will meet your need at a given time. It is also important to understand that this terminology (ie. consumer-grade, professional-grade or hospital-grade) is industry driven and not regulated by any particular agency to guarantee an industry standard.
That being said, most manual or electric breast pumps (whether they are computerized or not) that you find in any retail store or outlet are going to fall into the “consumer-grade” category. What does this mean? It means that these pumps are not meant to optimize your milk production but to take off breast milk from a very well-established and robust milk supply. This usually follows after 4-5 weeks of EXCLUSIVE BREAST FEEDING! These pumps are typically pulled-out and initially used around 4 weeks after breastfeeding starts, with the focus on beginning to collect breast milk for your own personal milk-bank, while continuing to breastfeed baby when you are together.
If you are fortunate enough to have a wonderful milk supply at 4-5 weeks postpartum (most likely breastfeeding got off to a great start and continues to be working really well) then most consumer-grade breast pumps will empty your breasts pretty effectively, even a manual (non-electric) pump. Hand-expression also is very effective and quick for mothers with a fabulous milk supply and I feel, is not practiced by enough mothers in this category.
IF HOWEVER…….you anticipate problems with milk supply (history of breast augmentation, reduction, adoptive nursing infant, baby in NICU with medical need, etc) or got off to a rocky start in the first 3-4 weeks, you may be still struggling with your milk supply at the time you were hoping to begin collecting “extra” breast milk to freeze because work or school is looming ahead just 2-3 weeks!
Mothers….please hear me when I say that if you are in this group of mothers, you do not want to depend on a consumer grade breast pump to establish or increase your less-than-normal milk supply. Put that insurance-provided breast pump aside and consider renting a professional, hospital-grade breast pump. These slightly heavier solid-state pumps are more likely to provide consistent, higher but more comfortable suction and can be relied upon to empty your breasts more effectively thereby increasing a milk supply that is “in trouble”.
The cost of renting a hospital-grade breast pump such as the Hygeia EnDeare breast pump that I rent (see link “breast pump rental” on this site) is only $410! To purchase this high quality breast pump would be approx. $1000! Compare the cost of renting hospital-grade with the cost of buying the leading consumer-grade backpack style pump for about $344.50. That $65 cost difference between renting for 9 months or purchasing a less-quality, consumer-grade breast pump is negligible compared to the incredible difference in pump reliability, action, and sold-state!
Oh yes, those 3 women I mentioned that weren’t happy with their insurance company “free” breast pumps? They all rented from me and couldn’t believe the difference! All three wish they hadn’t even wasted their time depending on the other pumps.
Be smart AND GREEN…..rent a high-quality, hospital-grade breast pump!