Ballpark Estimate: $30 to $350 to buy; $1 to $3 per day to rent
If you want to give your child the healthiest start, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusively breast feeding your baby for the first six month of life and continue nursing combined with food for up to two years. In order for most women to achieve this goal and still be able to work or engage in other activities, a breast pump is necessary.
Breast pumps can also be useful to help nursing mothers who are experiencing a host of lactation challenges, such as a weak milk supply or difficulty feeding the baby.
The concept of a breast pump is to make it easy for the mother to express her milk and store it safely, so it can be used to bottle feed her baby later. This is particularly helpful for women who work and leave their baby in day care or with another family member. It also enables a mother to enjoy independent activities when desired and/or necessary.
There are a variety of breast pump types you can find today, which fall into three basic groups:
Manual Breast Pumps
These are the most basic, and inexpensive, options that are operated by hand, which can be sufficient for mothers who want to pump only occasionally and don’t plan to use a breast pump on a daily basis. As the name implies, these breast pumps work by having you squeeze the handle to express the milk. On the positive side, they’re very portable and can be manipulated to mimic the baby’s natural sucking rhythm. Adversely, some women find manual breast pumps slow and cumbersome to use, so they may not be a good choice if you plan to pump a few times a week or more.
Personal Battery/Electric Breast Pumps
These are a more efficient type of breast pump and can be quicker and easier to use. For women who plan to be away from the baby for a few hours at a time on a regular basis, this type of breast pump can be a very worthwhile investment. These work by automatically recreating the sucking motion of your baby and can help to keep your milk flowing well even when you and your baby are separated.
Hospital-Grade Breast Pumps
These breast pumps can also be found in a range of styles and qualities, from low-end options with basic features to more elaborate versions that include many extras (including the ability to pump both breasts at once). Some of the higher-end breast models are comparable to commercial hospital-grade pump but they weigh less and are more affordable. A few benefits you can find with some of the better models include that they come in carrying cases and are easy-to-transport. Many electric breast pumps also work with an adapter plugged into the cigarette lighter in your car so you can use them on the road, which can be a big plus.
These commercial breast pumps are the top-of-the-line equipment, which are usually rented by mothers who need some extra help with the nursing process. This can be because the babies are having trouble latching on, aren’t getting enough milk or have other health challenges. These commercial breast pumps work much faster than many personal breast pumps and they also very closely recreate the motion of a baby’s mouth. You can also rent a double breast pump. The only drawback to these commercial quality breast pumps is that they can be quite heavy, often weighing between 15 and 20 pounds (this can be double or more the weight of some of the better personal options). This makes them difficult to carry back and forth to work or other activities. Commercial breast pumps are often best suited for short-term usage. Many women use these for a newborn at home until they manage their breast-feeding challenges and then switch to a personal manual or electric style breast pump they can take with them on the go.
Things to Consider
When shopping for a breast pump, there are a range of details to consider that can affect what you select and what you can expect to spend on the investment. How much it weighs, whether it pumps one breast at a time or both, if it’s electric, if it has a battery back-up so you can use it anywhere, how many replicated “suctions” it achieves per minute, how strong the action is and how loud the motor sounds (which can be important if you work in a quiet office). If you’re looking at manual breast pumps, you’ll also need to consider whether it requires one hand or two in order to use it.
To Buy or Rent
It’s important to note that for manual breast pumps and personal battery or electronic versions, these are always purchased. When you buy your own breast pump, it should come with all of the pieces you need to start using it.
On the other hand, hospital-grade breast pumps are very expensive to buy and therefore, most women prefer to rent these units just for the time they need them. For rental breast pumps, though, you’ll need to purchase a breast milk collection kit with the basics, such as breast shields, tubes to transfer the milk and storage bags or bottles.
A Word of Caution
If you have a friend who has a personal breast pump she’s no longer using, you may be tempted to borrow it instead of buying your own. However, the FDA cautions women against this practice, because personal breast pumps are designed in such a way that the breast milk can get inside the unit and can then transfer viruses and diseases to other users. Even using your own collection kit won’t avoid this risk. On the other hand, commercial rental breast pumps are created to avoid the problem completely and are safe for multiple users as long as they provide their own breast milk collection kit.
Where to Find
You can find breast pumps for sale in many baby supply stores and discount houses. Babies R Us, Walmart and Target are a few places that usually carry different types of breast pumps and a range of qualities. You can also do a search online for websites that carry these types of baby items.
To rent a hospital grade breast pump, you can check with the hospital where you deliver your baby, call a local breast feeding consultant, check with your local La Leche League International chapter, visit a local medical supply store or ask your Ob-Gyn or pediatrician for suggestions.
Cost for a Breast Pump
What you will spend on a breast pump depends on the type you select and what features it offers. Here are some general price points to give you an idea of what you might expect.
- A simple manual breast pump costs between $30 and $50.
- A single battery/electric breast pump costs $50 to about $175 for basic to middle of the road models. (Double electric pumps start at about $70 and go up from there.)
- A hospital-grade pump cost begins at $1,000 and can increase to about $3,000.
- To rent a hospital-grade breast pump usually costs $1 to $3 a day, this is about $30 to $90 a month. Many mothers need to use this pump for the first few months, so three months would cost between $90 and $270.
- You can expect to spend another $50 to purchase a personal collection kit that contains the sterile breast shields, tubes and bags/bottles you will need to use this equipment
If you think the cost of buying or renting a breast pump seems high, remember that when you breastfeed your give your baby the healthiest start to life and you may find you spend less on sick doctor’s visits and medicine for child. In addition, when you decide to breastfeed your baby, you also avoid needing to purchase baby formula, which usually adds up to much more than the cost to buy or rent a breast pump.
If your baby was born with any health problems or difficulty feeding, you can check with your insurance company to find out if it will cover some or all of the costs of the breast pump.
You might be surprised to know that as of the fall of 2010, breast pumps are not considered a tax-deductible expense, despite the fact that they are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as medical equipment. This fact has created much outrage among many women’s groups in the United States, who are working to change this situation.