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What is an Automatic Breast Pump?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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For those women who plan to pump breastmilk often, an automatic breast pump is usually a better choice. These are opposed to either manually expressing milk without a pump or using a handheld pump that requires significant action to simulate lactation and get milk to flow. Either of these choices may be fine if the need to pump milk occurs on a very occasional basis. They tend to pale in comparison to the automatic breast pump, when milk expression has to occur frequently.

There are many different types of the automatic breast pump. Some are battery powered or have small plugs, but won’t provide a significant amount of suction. They’re usually much cheaper models, many about $20-40 US Dollars (USD), and these are, like their manual partners, better for occasional use.

A significant jump can occur in price and function. For a couple of hundred USD, women can buy automatic breast pump models that are much more heavy duty and better suited to extensive pumping, as might occur in a work setting or if a child cannot drink breast milk due to illness or hospitalization. Many of these styles have a number of features, include ways to adjust suction methods or speeds the pump employs, different cups that may stimulate or slow down lactation, and a variety of collection methods.

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At the top of the scale are heavier-duty and top-end models, which are often called hospital pumps. These are very expensive to buy, but many birthing centers and lactation consultants rent them to women for reasonable monthly prices. It is perfectly safe to rent one, as women use their own collection equipment and contamination between mothers is not likely. In fact, in hospital settings several women may share the same pump.

All of the electric automatic breast pump models tend to be powered from wall electricity. A few may have back-up battery packs too, which makes them more portable or usable when electricity fails. Mid-size pumps are likely to work with car adaptors too.

One thing that women should definitely consider with any type of automatic breast pump is buying equipment that allows for double pumping. Unless a woman plans to nurse a baby each time she pumps, pumping tends to offer the opportunity to waste a lot of milk. Double pumping, where a suction cup and collection device are attached to each breast is the most efficient way to fully empty the breasts and collect the most milk. This eliminates concern about milk spray, mess, or waste of milk if only one breast is pumped. Almost all automatic machines are compatible with double pumping apparatus and it is well worth a little extra investment to obtain double pump equipment.

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