StorkNet interview with
Anne Smith, IBCLC
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant

Be sure to visit Anne Smith's website for more breastfeeding information and wonderful products. Also, read her articles on StorkNet.

Q's and A's:

BREAST PUMPS - Rent, purchase or need at all?

Cheryl: For my last baby, I went right back to work, so I purchased a very good breast pump and then sold it when through. I will be home after the birth of my next child, so I can't see the logic of purchasing a big pump. I am thinking of renting a pump, what do I need to know?

Anne: Hi Cheryl! How lucky you are to be able to stay at home with this baby. I know there must be nursing mothers out there who miss their jobs and look forward to going back to work, but they are in the minority. Most working mothers would love to stay at home, but just can't afford to do it.

If you are at home with your baby, then you have several options as far as pumps go. Some stay at home moms find that they don't need a pump at all. They take the baby everywhere they go, and are comfortable nursing when they are out and about by finding a comfortable spot to sit down and throwing a blanket over their shoulder.

Other stay at home moms find that they are not comfortable with nursing in public, and they like having the option of putting their milk in a bottle when they go out. If you have grandparents who live nearby and are willing to baby-sit a lot, then you may want to pump so that you can leave breastmilk for the baby when they are caring for him. Some mothers who have older children find that there are times when it just isn't possible to sit and nurse for long periods of time, so giving a bottle of breastmilk allows them the flexibility of letting someone besides them feed the baby. Of course, dads like to be involved with feeding, too, so pumping the milk can provide that option as well.

If you are only going to be pumping occasionally, then a manual pump or a small battery/electric pump like the MiniElectric may be a good option for you. These pumps are inexpensive and portable, but they don't provide the stimulation of a rental pump or a professional grade double pump like the Pump In Style. Working mothers or mothers who pump several times a day on a regular basis need the speed, power, and efficiency of a good double pump.

The only problem in your situation is that once you have used a good double pump, then you get kind of spoiled and it is hard to settle for one of the less efficient pumps. Both the hospital grade rental pumps like Medela's Lactina or Ameda's Elite and the professional grade pumps like Medela's Pump In Style or Ameda's Purely Yours provide excellent results in a very short amount of time. If you had never used a pump like that before, then you wouldn't know the difference. Since you have used a very efficient pump with your last baby, then you may find that you are disappointed in the results you get with a smaller, less expensive pump.

Renting a Medela or Ameda pump would certainly provide you with excellent results, but depending on how long you rent, it may end up being less expensive for you to buy another good electric pump. Rental rates vary around the country, but usually run between $30.00 to $50.00 a month. If you plan to pump for more than a few months, then it might end up costing you less to buy than to rent. Some rental stations offer a discount if the pump is rented for several months, so you need to ask about that. You also need to factor in the cost of a pumping kit. Each mother who rents a pump has to have her own pumping kit (the breastshields that fit on the breasts and the tubing that attaches to the pump). Unless you saved the parts from your last pump and they are compatible with the pump you rent, then you will have to purchase a new kit in order to be able to use the pump. These kits usually cost around $25.00, but may be more. Pumps that you buy usually come with the pumping kit included.

Most rental stations also charge a cleaning and inspection fee for each pump. These fees can vary from a couple of dollars to $20.00 or more. You need to check into the total cost before you rent.

You can find out about rental options available in your area by calling Medela at 1-800-435-8316 or visiting their website at medela.com, or calling Ameda at 1-800-323-4060 or visiting their website at hollister.com.

For more information about the pros and cons of manual, small electric, rental, and professional grade pumps, check out the article on "Collecting and Storing Breastmilk."

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