The most important thing that you need for exclusive pumping is a breast pump! (Obviously.) I have used four different breast pumps over my 2 kid/27 month pumping career. All of them happen to be Medela, though that wasn’t intentional on my part, more (I think) just a function of their market share. Here are my thoughts of them!
(Quick note: If you’d like more information about what insurance will cover when it comes to breast pumps, read this!)
The Medela Freestyle is Medela’s highest-end personal breastpump. This is my go-to pump and the one that I use most often.
Below are the pros that I’ve found to the Freestyle:
- It has a rechargeable battery that lasts about 3 hours when fully charged.
- It’s a small pump and very portable. Unlike the Pump in Style (another good pump, just not my favorite), you can take it out of the bag that it comes in. This can be nice if, for example, you are packing an overnight bag – you can throw the Freestyle and pump parts into that bigger bag, if you’d like. With other pumps you would need to carry the pump bag as a separate bag because the pump doesn’t come out of it.
- The ability to take the pump out of the bag affords you a degree of privacy that the Pump in Style doesn’t give you. When you carry around a Pump in Style pump bag, everyone who has ever pumped knows that you’re pumping. This is not something that I ever was sensitive to, but some people are.
- The tubing is permanent and doesn’t come out. I find the Pump in Style tubing attachment sort of annoying as it occasionally falls out out of both sides, and it can be pulled out by curious babies.
- It has a timer on it that tells you how long you’ve been pumping. It is easy to overestimate how long you’ve been pumping while you’re doing it, and I find that I am better about pumping for the length of time that I’m supposed to when I use the Freestyle.
Some cons to the Freestyle:
- It is sold at a higher price point than other pumps.
- Medela sells two different kinds of pump parts – those that are compatible with the Freestyle, and those that are compatible with everything else. This can be annoying if you forget your pump parts and need to run to Target, as they may not stock the Freestyle parts.
Medela Pump in Style
The Medela Pump in Style is a good quality double electric pump that will work just fine for exclusive pumping. As I’ve said, I prefer the Freestyle, but this one is good too. (I bought my Pump in Style second-hand and leave it at work, while I have my Freestyle at home. This way I only have to schlep bottles back and forth).
Below are the pros that to the Pump in Style (versus the Freestyle):
- The pump parts that are used for the Pump in Style are easy to find in stores in emergencies and are compatible with other kinds of pumps (i.e., the Harmony, which is a great backup pump).
- It is a very high-quality pump at a lower price point than the Freestyle.
The cons to the Pump in Style (versus the Freestyle):
- The battery situation is not as good as the Freestyle. There is a battery backup that you can plug into the Pump in Style, but it is really intended to be used with an outlet most of the time. This means that you may need to invest in a car adapter and make sure you are near an outlet whenever you need to pump.
- The pump parts are harder to clean than the Freestyle pump parts. I can never get the yellow piece off of the connector and I’m always afraid I’m going to lose the membrane.
- The Pump in Style does not come out of the bag that it comes in (backpack, metro bag, etc.)
- The tubing can be annoying as it occasionally falls out out of both sides.
The Medela Harmony is a single, manual pump. The Harmony is not a good solution to have as your only pump if you are exclusively pumping because manual pumping can be hard on your hands if you are doing it constantly, it can’t be done hands-free, and you can only do one breast at a time.
However, the Harmony is not expensive (about $30 on amazon.com), and I highly recommend having this as a backup pump if you are an exclusive pumper, because if your pump breaks or the battery is dead and you lose the charger, you are in trouble! I once left my pump charger in a hotel and was stuck attempting to hand express my engorged breasts in an airplane bathroom. Needless to say, a hand pump would have been a nice thing to have.
Another benefit to the Harmony is that it can come in handy in situations that are not ideal for pumping. If you need to care for a fussy baby or older child and just cannot sit down to pump for 15-20 minutes, getting a quick pump in with a manual pump is better than nothing. Or, if you in a situation where pumping is not practical – say, a day-long job interview – running to the restroom and quickly pumping for 5-7 minutes to relieve pressure can be a good solution.
Many women who are exclusively pumping rent a hospital grade pump to increase supply. I did not do this (I primarily used the Freestyle), but I used the Symphony several times when my son was born and then when he was hospitalized for a few days at 5 weeks and again at 4 months. (He was fine – just a virus both times.) For the situation I was in, it was fantastic. The pump produced slightly more milk than I’d been producing at home with the Freestyle (maybe 2-3 ounces more per day), and it was much faster and quieter.
The primary disadvantage of the hospital pump is portability – this isn’t really a pump you can throw in a bag and haul with you wherever you go. It’s large and is also a $1,500 piece of medical equipment, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable dragging it with me wherever I went.
Cost is another issue, though it depends on how long you plan to exclusively pump and what your insurance covers. If you are just going to do it for a month or two, renting may make the most sense (the prices will run $50-80/month, generally). If your goal is to do it for a year, you might be better off with a Freestyle or Pump in Style, or even buying a hospital pump and re-selling it after you are done.