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The best pump for you depends on how often you plan to use it

A comfortable, effective breast pump can relieve engorgement and help to establish, maintain or stimulate a good milk supply. Moms who want their babies to have only breast milk but must soon return to work will rely heavily on their breast pumps, as will those who have to pump exclusively to feed a preemie or a baby who's hospitalized beyond the normal post-birth time frame.

A manual pump is best for occasional use to relieve engorgement or to allow mom to supplement with the occasional bottle without giving formula to her baby. Lactation experts suggest having a manual pump available in case your primary electric pump fails so you don't suffer discomfort while waiting for a replacement.

A single electric pump is a step up from a manual pump. It's faster than a manual, but not nearly on par with a double electric pump. All double electric pumps can also be used as single pumps.

A double electric pump is best for frequent pumpers such as working moms, moms who have to exclusively pump, or moms who want to pump as quickly and efficiently as possible. These pumps can empty both breasts in as few as 10 minutes. The best models have features that stimulate the letdown reflex and mimic the action of a nursing baby, which experts say makes the pumping process easier and more efficient.

A hospital-grade pump can be rented from a medical supply company, the hospital where you give birth or a local lactation support group. The accessories that attach to the mother must be purchased separately. These pumps are made available to moms who must exclusively pump, often due to a health issue with their newborns, and have sophisticated systems for simulating the actions of a nursing baby. They can be purchased, but cost well over $1,000 and aren't very portable. Insurance companies typically cover the rental cost of these units.

Breast pumps range in price from as little as $30 for a basic manual pump to more than $300 for a double electric model. Moms who have to pump frequently often say they're glad they invested in a top-of-the-line pump because it makes the process so much easier. The better pumps usually include convenience features such as carry bags, storage systems and insulated compartments with ice bags for storage. A higher-end model is often recommended for moms who don't have a good milk supply or find it difficult to pump, because they have features that more closely mimic the act of nursing.

Closed systems versus open systems

Hospital-grade pumps are closed systems, meaning breast milk can't infiltrate any part of the pump system. They're certified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as multiple-user pumps, requiring the purchase of parts that touch the mother's body. Some companies sell closed-system pumps, but these should never be used by more than one woman due to the possible risk of cross-contamination by bacteria or viruses. The only real advantage to these pumps is that the tubing doesn't ever have to be cleaned, which shortens maintenance time. Only FDA-certified, hospital-grade pumps are suitable for sharing.

ConsumerSearch.com studied the most current research into breast pump technology and safety, and evaluated dozens of expert reviews and hundreds of owner posts to find the breast pump that will best serve you and your new baby. One of these is sure to make motherhood go just a bit more smoothly.

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