Breast Pumps 101: A Review of My Top Four Breast Pumps
With so many breast pumps now on the market, picking one can be a really daunting task. I remember when I had my first son, #theoriginalperfectpush baby, all we had was Medela, now for better or for worse we are clearly spoilt for choice.
I have had privilege of using most of the breast pumps on the market and have created this guide to help you select the right pump for you from my favorites. When looking at breast pumps I consider:
Effectiveness - how well it empties milk from the breasts
Efficiency - how much time it will take to pump
Comfort - a pump can cause just as much damage to the nipples as a baby with a bad latch when used incorrectly or if poorly designed
Ease of use - with sleep deprivation and mommy brain ruling the day, the last thing you need is a complicated pump
Intended use - take into consideration how much mobility you will need to have while pumping. This will help you decide whether it is worth paying a little extra for the battery pack.
Medical history - if you are at risk for low supply then you may need to seriously consider investing in a hospital grade pump.
The Faithful Four
These are my favorite never fail pumps. They are well made, efficient and effective meeting most of the criteria above. I have listed them below in order of preference with a brief description of why I swear by them. Enjoy!
1. Spectra S1
The S1 lives up to Spectra's claim to fame, that their "pumps suckle, they do not suck." Despite having a maximum vacuum strength of 270 mmHg, it is very gentle and easy on the nips. Its performance rivals even the hospital grade pumps on the market, making it a great pump to establish and maintain milk supply even if you have low milk supply risk factors. The S1 weighs about 3lbs and comes with a battery pack. However, its dumbbell type shape makes it rather bulky and less ideal for roaming around.
How I wish it had a digital interface! Compared to the other pumps on the market this is where I find it lacking. It also ALWAYS starts in expression mode. I cannot tell you the number of patients who come into the clinic after months of using it incorrectly. Nonetheless, its simple interface makes it pretty easy and straightforward to use.
At $199 from Target or Amazon, and given how well this pump works, it is well worth the price. Most insurance companies will cover the bulk of the cost with a nominal upgrade fee if you purchase from a Durable Medical Equipment (DME) store. If your insurance allows you to purchase it yourself and submit receipts for reimbursement (call to confirm before you order), it will likely be covered at 100%.
"A pump can cause just as much damage to the nipples as a baby with a bad latch when used incorrectly or if it's poorly designed." - Rue Khosa
2. The Unimom Opera
I cannot begin to explain just how amazing this hospital grade pump is. Unimom literally thought of everything and then some. The Opera comes with a battery pack, twin motors and is the only pump on the market with an "alternate mode" amongst it's four operating modes. Having dual motors you do not lose any suction when you double pump. Weighing only 2lbs, it is compact, very light, and portable.
The twin motors allow you set each side completely independent of the other. This function can be a life saver when you have nipple sensitivity trauma or damage on one side. The alternate mode can really encourage a lazy boob to show up. This is my pump of choice for mamas with any medical complications or low supply risk factors.
The Unimom Opera has a maximum vacuum strength of 280 mmHg and boy can you feel it. Be sure to increase the vacuum strength slowly to prevent nipple damage. This pump is definitely not as gentle as the Spectra S1 or S2, however Unimom included soft silicone inserts for a little added comfort. I find the pump parts clunkier than other comparable pumps (let's face it they are all clunky). Though its light weight and battery pack make it portable the bulky bottles and attachments make them harder to work around and they are far from discreet. The Opera retails at around $600 or for an upgrade fee of around $300 if covered by your insurance. Its hefty price tag makes it less practical for many families, but if money is not an object, then it is well worth it.
"Take into consideration how much mobility you will need to have while pumping. This will help you decide whether it is worth paying a little extra for the battery pack." - Rue Khosa
3. The Motif Luna
The Motif Luna is probably one of the most underrated pumps on the market. When we review pumps during the prenatal consult I am always amazed at how many of my patients have never heard of or considered this pretty spectacular pump. However, once they see it in action and consider the price point, many become believers.
The Luna is available with or without the battery pack, giving you a portable option. It weighs in at about 2lbs and has a maximum vacuum of 280 mmHg. It comes with a simple yet concise digital interface and starts in the massage mode. It is also fairly quiet, making it the perfect pump to use around a sleeping baby, partner, in the office or during meetings.
Retailing around $300 with a battery pack, it is pretty pricey and is less likely to be covered at 100% by insurance. Its interesting shape makes it a challenge to lug around even though it is light and portable.
4. Spectra S2
The Spectra S2 is identical to the Spectra S1 except it does not come with a battery pack. It leaves you tethered to the wall. For that inconvenience, it retails for less than the S1 at around $160, and is covered at 100% by many private insurance companies.
Other than those two differences you are getting the exact same pump in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and comfort. If money is a concern this is a solid choice. It may not have the fancy digital interface or allow you to be mobile but it gets the job done.
The Spectra Synergy Gold, The Unimom Zomee and The Baby Bhudha are three great pumps also worth consideration. I am currently using the Synergy Gold, Opera and the Zomee and will be posting detailed video reviews of these pumps here and on my Instagram in the very near future, so make sure you are subscribed and/or following.
I am yet to personally use the Baby Bhudha, but my patients and moms around the world rave about its compact size, versatility, compatibility with other pump parts and its very impressive maximum vacuum strength at 320 mmHg. It is currently sold out but available for pre-order for a discounted price of $189.99 on the Baby Bhudha website.
You really can't go wrong with any of the FaithfulFour. It truly comes down to preference on portability, updated interface and cost. Consider booking a Prenatal Lactation Consult to review your medical history and get help selecting and programming the perfect pump for you. Let me know what you think in comments.