With so many brands and models of electric breast pumps out there today, it can be quite confusing how to go about picking one. While googling for "best breast pump singapore", choosing what your friends use or reading reviews might be some good ways to go about deciding, this post aims to help break down all the attributes of electric breast pumps, and we've also created a video to help you understand visually:
1) Closed or Open System
- This refers to whether or not there is a barrier to prevent any pumped milk from leaking into the pump motor, and helps ensure your expressed milk travels through a hygienic route, only touching parts of the breastpump which can be sterilised.
- While the closed systems reduce the already remote chance of milk contamination, they may come with extra part(s) which need to be washed or sterilised
2) Bottles or cups
- There are 2 main ways breastpumps collect pumped milk - in milk bottles (which the pumping mum needs to wear outside her bra) or in collection cups (which the pumping mum wears inside her bra)
- Generally, bottle collection make it a little harder for the pumping mum to move around while pumping, since it might be harder to keep the increasingly heavy bottles balanced. They are also harder to conceal from sight while pumping.
- On the other hand, collection cups usually have more limited capacity (in order to fit inside the bras) and are more troublesome to change midway through pumping. In the flanges for collection cup have a limited curvature angle and some mums might find the fit less conducive for fully emptying their breasts. Other mums do not find much difference.
- For bottles, do find out which brands of milk bottles the pumps are compatible with to minimise need to buy different brands for pumping and feeding baby with!
3) Tubes or Tube-less
- Most pumps are connected to the rest of the pump parts (flanges, bottles, connectors, etc) through tubes. However, there are a number of newer pumps that have done away with tubes by having the pump motors directly on top of the collection bottles or cups (eg. Baby Express' Be Mini X or Be Nude pumps respectively)!
- Having no tubes definitely makes the system less complicated with fewer items to wash, and also allows for more mobility for the pumping mum (with fewer accidents!) In addition, separate pump motors for each side means it is easier to customise pump settings for each breast.
- However, pump motors can be heavy to carry around on top of milk bottles or collection cups which are filling up with milk, which might limit the mobility after all (to avoid accidents). Double motors mean double the pumping noise level!
(We were invited to be on a video to do an in-depth review of the Baby Express Be Free and Phanphy wearable pumps - check it out!)
4) Weight and Size
- Some people generally leave their pumps at the same place and so weight and size matter less to them, but if you foresee yourself needing to bring your pump around, pay some attention to how much space the pump and accessories will require and how much they will weigh in your work or baby bag!
5) Noise and Light levels
- Depending on where you intend to pump, a display backlight may be useful to pump in the dark, yet a nuisance when you are trying to be as discreet as possible.
- Most pumps can be heard if being used in a quiet place, so I personally would not rate this as a very important factor for differentiating between pumps.
6) Modes and Functions
- This is one of the most technical differentiators between pumps, but also the most subjective to a pumping mum's preferences.
- Most pumps have at least one "preparation/let-down" and at least one "pumping/expression" mode, as well as a range of levels of suction for each mode, but some pumps:
- Have auto switching between modes and/or allow manual switching between modes
- Have more than 1 type of "preparation/let-down" and/or "pumping/expression" mode. The differences between the modes are usually the lengths of "suction" vs "relaxation".
- Have auto adjustments to suction levels only for some/all settings and/or allow manual switching of suction levels
- Some pumps have pre-set timers and may auto switch-off when the time is reached, while others might be on until it is switched off or battery runs out. Some pumps display the time spent pumping while others do not. These can be either helpful or irritating if you tend to get engrossed watching netflix or require longer than the preset timings with no way to change it respectively.
- Some pumps also have "memory" capabilities, either to remember the last mode, level and timing during the last use when it is next switched on, and/or to save preferred settings
7) Flange sizes and Accessories
- The next most important factor to consider when choosing breast pumps is the range of flange sizes the manufacturer makes, and which sizes the pump comes with. Most pumps come with a 24mm size and some come with a 2nd larger 27mm or 28mm sized ones. If these sizes do not fit you, you need to check if the smaller/larger ones are available, or if the brand makes flange inserts that help adjust the size smaller.
- If you might be pumping for many months, you might want to check that the pump accessories are sold separately and can be purchased easily, as you might want to purchase additional sets for convenience or to replace your original sets when they wear out. The membranes are the most important parts of pumps to ensure good suction is maintained, and so these might need to be replaced more frequently. Some pump parts are also very small and easy to misplace.
- In addition, some pumping mums might find other brands' accessories (eg. tubes, pumping bras, flanges of different sizes/materials, inserts to change the size of the flanges, etc) more comfortable or helpful for them. It might hence be useful to check if the accessories will be compatible with your pump parts.
8) Materials and Colours
- When considering which pump to buy, the materials used to make the pump parts, especially the flanges, may be a good consideration for you. Some women find plastic more comfortable, others prefer silicone, others yet prefer a hybrid of both!
- Most milk bottles and collection cups are fully transparent (and hence boring looking), but there are some brands (eg. Mam milk bottles and Phanphy collection cups) which have parts of their bottles which are in opaque colours which might add to their aesthetic appeal but may obstruct viewing or measuring of milk output.
9) Durability and Battery Life
- Generally, electronic products perform best when used regularly. Good quality pumps can withstand long-term and heavy use, and may also withstand long breaks between uses. It might be hard to tell how durable a pump is, so user reviews might be most helpful in understanding this attribute.
- Some pumps need to be plugged into a power source (whether an A/C adapter or a power bank) while using while others have an in-built battery which can be recharged. The length of use each full charge of the latter types can vary substantially from brand to brand.
- Finally, one very important attribute for breastpumps is the price! There are so many brands and types available to mothers today, and the prices can range from $100-900 for everything you need to pump both breasts at once. Weigh the price against all the factors above to decide what works for your preferred lifestyle!
I know 10 factors sounds like a lot to consider when considering your investment into a suitable electric breast pump, but I've tried to make it as comprehensible as possible and intentionally left out aspects like single vs double pumps and hospital-grade vs. not hospital-grade, because they are less relevant! You should definitely get sets to allow you to pump both breasts at the same time and most brands today, and "hospital grade" is mostly only useful if you intend to rent your pump and/or share your pump with multiple other people over a long period of time! Drop any questions you may have on breastpumps in the comments and I'll try my best to answer them! 🙂
P.S. We're considering a post to list ALL the brands/models in the market today and rating them on all the 10 factors above, but we're still trying to find a good way to objectively rate them. Thing about breastpumps is that different pumps suit different people, so perhaps talking to us might be easier to help you than such a list! We'll keep trying anyway so watch this space!
Till then, we were invited to discuss a number of the factors on how to choose a breastpump with one mummy - check it out on youtube!