Effectiveness – A pump’s effectiveness is generally based on how often the pump cycles. A nursing baby sucks approximately 45 to 55 times each minute. The closer a pump is to this range the more effective it will be at drawing milk from the breast.
Pumps with cycling rates lower than 25 are likely to be ineffective at expressing milk. When a pump has a cycling rate this low the cycles tend to be longer and can cause nipple and breast pain since they are suctioned and pulled for long stretches of time. Auto-cycling pumps tend to be more effective than pumps that require the user to manually adjust cycling during a pumping session.
A pump’s suction or vacuum strength will also determine its effectiveness. The average suction strength of the breast pumps available today range from 0 mm Hg to 250 mm Hg. A pump with a vacuum above 250 mm Hg could cause severe pain.
Durability – Not all breast pumps are created equally. Some have durable motors that are designed for frequent, daily pumping while others have smaller motors, which are only recommended for occasional pumping. Because of these differences in durability, how often you plan to pump is an important factor when it comes to choosing your pump.
If you use a pump more often than its recommended purpose, you may wear out the motor prematurely and shorten the pump’s lifespan.
Type of Pumping – There are three types of pumping actions including single, double alternating and double simultaneous.
Single pumps allow you to pump one breast at a time and are appropriate for occasional pumping. Occasional pumping refers to pumping once a day. This type of pump is usually suitable for a stay-at-home mom or a mom who works part-time.
Double alternating pumps stimulate both breasts but at alternating times. When suction is created on one side, it is released on the other. While alternating pumping offer more stimulation than single pumping, these pumps are still not as efficient at pumping as double simultaneous pumps.
Double simultaneous pumps stimulate both breasts at the same time, and offer the most superior pumping available. When using a double simultaneous pump, most moms are able to cut their overall pumping time in half and increase their milk production.
Comfort Level – The breast shields that are used with a pump will have an affect on how comfortable it is to use. Some pumps come with an included one-size fits all type of breast shield, which can be uncomfortable for moms with larger breasts and/or nipples and can hinder their milk output.
A pump’s cycling also affects its comfort level. Auto-cycling pumps are usually more comfortable for pumping moms as well since manual cycling often results in the suction lasting too long.
Motor Noise Level – Although the noise level of the pump motor may not be the most important aspect of the pump, it may be a feature that you are concerned about especially if discretion is important to you. For some mothers, a noisy pump motor can be a distraction while pumping.
In general, larger motors tend to be quieter while smaller motors are louder.
Power Options – While an AC adapter is often the most reliable power source, it may not be the most convenient option in all situations. When choosing a pump, consider where you will be pumping. Will there be times when an electrical outlet is not available? Do you travel often? If so, then you may need to choose a pump that offers a car adapter and/or the ability to run your pump on batteries as alternatives.
Portability –The portability of the pump can be a major factor in your decision if you will be pumping often since you will need to take the pump with you wherever you are going. The pump’s portability can be determined by the weight, power options and carry bag option.