There are many types and brands. Consider:
- The choice of a single or double pump
- Function buttons
- Suction strength
- Cycle speed
- Quick express
- Standard breast pump shield size:
- Options for using different shield sizes
- Other functions
- Night light
- Display readability
- Systems (open or closed)
- Noise levels
- Type of power (rechargeable battery, plug-in)
- The brand
- Can it be used hands-free
1) Single or double
In general, single electric pumps are cheaper and smaller compared to double electric pumps but tend to offer fewer functions. Some mothers may find that manual or constant suction pumps are just as effective and more portable than electric pumps when they pump occasionally. Most breastfeeding specialists recommend double electric high-grade pumps for mothers who are highly reliant on pumping.
Some mothers have a single electric pump but find that they want to express both breasts at the same time. If they find their pump effective, they can get a second one and use the two together or can use a hand or constant-suction pump. This may be cheaper than buying or renting a new double electric pump.
2) Suction strength
Electric pumps have a range of suction strengths. The ideal suction strength is between -150 and -250 mmHg but some models have been reported as high as -320 mmHg. (A mmHg is a millimetre of mercury and is a unit of pressure.)
Controlling the suction is critical. If it is too strong, you may feel pain; if it is too weak, you may not express enough milk. The amount of suction required depends on the mother.
3) Cycle speed
Electric breast pump cycle speeds (how quickly suction is held and released) range from 30 to 80 cycles per minute and can affect how much milk is expressed.
Many pumps have a stimulation phase, a period of faster cycles at the start of expression to stimulate a let-down, followed by a slower expression phase, wherein the milk is removed from the breast.
- Be programmed with a set number of minutes of stimulation and expression phases.
- Have a button that provides one minute of the stimulation phase.
- Have adjustable cycle speeds.
- Increase the suction strength in the expression phase.
Some hospitals have double electric pumps for mothers of premature babies with cycle speeds specifically programmed for this group.
4) Noise levels
Electric pumps can be noisy with some being as loud as a normal conversation (60 dB). This may be distracting, may add to household noise levels, or may be unwanted in a work environment.