When you are pregnant for the first time, there are TONS of questions. So much of what happens to your body while pregnant and after you give birth is automatic and instinctual. There’s almost no way to adequately describe with words how things feel. But some things (like when to buy a breastpump) are questions that can easily be answered.
When should a pregnant woman purchase her breastpump?
Opinions will differ on this question. However, I think that it is best to be as prepared as possible. You don’t really know what is going to happen, or whether you will ever need or use it. But in the event you do need one, having a pump already in your home and ready to go can make a big difference.
In general, I think the best time to purchase a breastpump is during the second trimester of pregnancy. I wouldn’t go running out to buy one in the first trimester (you’ve got enough to deal with). And while we all hope to carry our babies to term, there’s no guarantee that any pregnancy will go any certain length. I feel the same way about the essentials, such as car seats, diapers, at least a little clothing for the new baby, and the sleeping setup.
In your second trimester, you have the time and energy to invest into getting ready for your baby. This is a perfect time to purchase your breastpump. You’ll have time to unpack it, look at all the unfamiliar tubing and attachments, and wash it.
Why not wait until after the baby is born?
You can wait if you like. Many women aren’t sure if they are going to pump at all, so buying a breastpump (which can cost several hundred dollars) in advance when there is still a question can seem like an extravagance.
The reason I think it is best to buy the breast pump BEFORE delivery is that the pump can come in handy for a new mom well before mom needs to pump milk to return to work (which is one of the primary reasons moms buy the pumps). There’s no guarantee that your infant will be able to nurse at your breast, even if everything goes well with the birth. Some infants struggle to get latched, and others struggle with tongue tie. If you aren’t able to pump in those first few days while baby is struggling, you might put the entire nursing operation in danger. After all, if the nipple and breast are not stimulated, there are no signals to the mother’s body to produce milk.
If you wait until after the birth of the baby to get the pump, you might end up scrambling for whatever is on the shelf at your local Target or Walmart. While some big department stores carry breast pumps, many do not carry anything high quality.
Further, if you have the time to plan, you can even check with your health insurance provider about getting payment up front for the pump, or reimbursement if you buy a specific pump. In my experience, many insurance companies will cover most, if not all, the cost of a breastpump, but only if you buy a specific model. If you are in a rush to purchase something (or your husband or other family members are out running around frantically to find you a pump while you are on bedrest) you may not end up getting something that you are happy with. This could endanger the entire nursing situation, or you might end up buying yet another pump after the fact to get what you want.
In a high risk delivery situation (where your baby is in the NICU for an extended period of time), you will probably have to pump milk. This won’t be an issue in the hospital, as they will generally provide high quality equipment for you while you are there. But once you go home, you may not have access to a pump. This could be really problematic if you are now at home, but your baby is still at the hospital in the NICU, and needs your milk (bottle or tube feeding). This is the LAST time you want to be running around trying to find a breastpump.
What should I look for in a breast pump?
In general, breast pumps come with the following items:
- Pumping “motor”–this is the electronic equipment which creates the vacuum suction. Some models come with rechargeable batteries, while others plug into the wall.
- Tubes-there are generally at least two skinny tubes that come with the pump. There are usually about two feet long. These connect up to the breast pump. Note–milk NEVER touches these tubes. These tubes simply transfer the suction created in the unit to the cups on your breasts.
- Breast shields–these look like rounded funnels that you put your breast and nipple into. When the breast pump is turned on, there is a rhythmic pulse from the vacuum, which squeezes the nipple in the narrowest part of the shield/funnel. This causes the milk to flow out.
- Bottles–there are usually a set of small plastic bottles that screw on, on the bottom of the breast shield. The pumped milk is collected in these bottles.
Some breast pump kits come with extra accessories, such as a cold bag to keep your milk cool if you are pumping away from your fridge or freezer, plastic freezer bags for storing milk, a good looking bag to carry your pump around in, extra shields, extra tubes, and extra batteries.
The Medela pump sells for under $200 on Amazon, You’ll be able to find other well-reviewed breast pumps for sale online as well, including non-electric hand-pumps. I actually found the handpump to be fairly useful after my first baby was born. He struggled to get the latch figured out, and frequently got frustrated. I could use the handpump quickly (without getting out the whole electric setup out), and pump for a minute to get the milk flowing. Once the milk was actually flowing down, he was able to get some into his mouth and stomach and it generally helped calm him down enough to focus on getting his latch. Bonus about the handpump is that it is very easy to clean up.
If you make your purchase in advance, you’ll have a chance to take a look through your purchase, make sure all the parts are there, that the unit is in good working order, and confirm that you understand how to use it. I will admit that I was VERY intimidated by my breastpump when I first received it, and it wasn’t until I saw another mother pumping that I actually understood how it worked. I didn’t realize that the milk didn’t go into the tubing, or that it never even went into the vacuum unit. It was just very foreign to me, as was most of the whole pregnancy process.
Do you have questions about breastpumps? Let us know in the comments.
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Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, ages 8, 6, and 3. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Emily is a full-time mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the screen when the kids are occupied. She can be reached through the Contact Us page.