You may have heard that you should get a double breast pump – but what does that mean, exactly? And are single or double breast pumps better? Here’s everything you need to know about double pumping vs single pumping.
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What is a double electric breast pump?
A double electric breast pump has two distinct features:
- The ability to pump breastmilk from both breasts at once, and
- A motor that provides the suction for removing milk.
What is a single breast pump?
A single breast pump only allows you to pump milk from one breast at a time.
Single breast pumps can be manual or electric. Electric pumps are powered with a motor, while manual pumps are usually powered with a hand crank.
Examples of single electric breast pumps include Medela Swing and Evenflo Advanced. The Medela Harmony is an example of a manual pump.
Double pumping vs single pumping
You might be wondering why it matters whether you double or single pump, and what makes the most sense for you. Here are some instances when you’d want to do one or the other:
When you might want to double pump
- You’re pumping at work and don’t have a lot of extra time. Single pumping will take twice as long, so you’d probably want to double pump.
- You’re exclusively pumping. In most cases, you want to double pump (again, to save time).
- You’re working on building a freezer stash. While either single or double pumping will work, it will be faster if you double pump.
When it might make sense to single pump
- You have a clogged duct on one side. You might want to single pump more often on the affected side while you work on clearing the blocked duct.
- You’re home alone with baby and need to pump. Sometimes it’s easier to single vs double pump when playing with baby – it’s easier to move around and keep tubing away from baby.
- You’re going out for the night and need to pump on the go while you’re gone. A single pump can fit more easily in a handbag.
- You’re going to nurse on one side and pump on the other. Here, you’d obviously want to single pump!
In most cases, you can set up a double pump to work as a single pump. Here’s a story I did that has a few videos showing how:
Should you get a single or double breast pump?
In most cases, if you’re buying a pump before your baby is born, I would suggest getting a double electric pump, even if you plan to nurse most of the time.
Because sometimes things don’t go according to plan. For example, maybe your baby will need to spend some time in the NICU, or maybe you’ll end up going back to work earlier than you thought.
But – if either of those things happens, can’t you just buy a double electric breast pump then?
Yes – but you’re entitled to one free breast pump per pregnancy (in most cases) if you have health insurance in the United States. So if you get a single pump through insurance because you think you don’t need a double pump, and then you end up needing one, you’ll have to pay for the second pump out of pocket.
The other reason is that the situations that might cause you to need a double electric breast pump suddenly (like you or baby being sick, nursing not going well) tend to be stressful. It’s much easier if you already have one on hand and don’t have to pick one out while dealing with other stuff.
However, if you’ve already had your baby, nursing is going well, and you just need to pump for a date night and other occasional separations, a single pump will work fine.
Remember, you may qualify for a free pump through insurance. You can fill out a short form here and find out what you are eligible for.
Hopefully this helps you decide whether you should get a single or double breast pump. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions!