Thinking of buying or renting a breast pump before your due date, so you can be ready to feed your little one once he or she makes their appearance? If you’ve shopped around at all or searched around to compare different breast pump options, you’ve probably come across the term “hospital-grade” breast pump and wondered what it means. So, what exactly is the difference between a hospital-grade (multi-user) breast pump and a personal use pump? Is one preferable to the other, or are there certain situations when you may require a hospital-grade (multi-user) breast pump in place of your trusty personal use pump?
As the #1 mom and doctor recommended breast pump brand*, we’ll explore and explain the differences between personal use pumps and hospital-grade (multi-user) breast pumps. Here’s what to know ahead of your expected delivery, so you can choose the breast pump that works best for your unique lifestyle and needs:
Personal use breast pumps
Whether you’re primarily nursing, alternating between nursing and pumping, or planning to eventually return to work and be pumping several times a day while away from your baby, a personal use breast pump is an excellent choice. It is generally recommended to ensure you have a well-established breast milk supply prior to introducing a personal use pump (typically 2–4 weeks postpartum). Depending on your needs, what your breast milk feeding journey looks like, and what pump features are most important to you, there’s a personal use pump designed for you. Many of them offer important features such as being:
- Efficient and effective. Many personal use pumps, like the Pump In StyleⓇ with MaxFlowTM Breast Pump, are designed with research-based pump performance technology for effective breast milk expression. Because it’s a double-electric breast pump designed with MaxFlow™ micro-vibrations and equipped with PersonalFit Flex™ breast shields, you’ll pump more milk in less time.
- Light, compact, and portable. This is especially important if you’re a busy mom with an on-the-go lifestyle or a parent who is preparing to go back to work soon. The Swing MaxiTM Double Electric Breast Pump is designed for mobility while pumping, weighs less than 1 pound, and includes a USB charging cable and built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery for up to 6 pumping sessions on one full charge.
- Convenient. Personal use pumps like the Freestyle Flex™ Double Electric Breast Pump are designed for life on the go with a built-in, USB-rechargeable battery for up to eight pumping sessions. Small enough to carry in your pocket or purse, this lightweight pump weighs less than a pound and features a touchscreen LED display for easy controls.
- Quiet. Whether you’re pumping at work or late at night in your little one’s nursery, personal use pumps like the SonataⓇ Smart Breast Pump with PersonalFit FlexTM Breast Shields are whisper-quiet for discreet pumping anywhere.
- Affordable. Personal use pumps range in price and some insurance plans may even cover all or a portion of the purchase price. Visit Medela’s Insurance Concierge to learn more and see if you’re eligible!
- Easy to clean. Though personal use pumps vary greatly in design and parts, several Medela pumps, such as Swing Maxi, come with our new PersonalFit Flex connectors specially designed with fewer parts to make assembly and cleaning easier and quicker. Because, really mama, who wants to spend a lot of extra time cleaning their breast pump parts when they could be snuggling their sweet newborn instead?
- Complete. Most personal use pumps come with a full kit that includes everything needed to start pumping right away.
When to use a hospital grade breast pump
Our Symphony PLUS® Breast Pump is engineered with Initiation Technology™ that has been clinically proven to help you initiate, build, and maintain your milk supply. In fact, using the Symphony PLUS soon after birth can significantly increase** your breast milk production due to its Initiate Program, which contains a combination of stimulation phases, an expression phase, and a pause phase.
There are several reasons you may decide that a hospital-grade (multi-user) breast pump is necessary after your baby’s birth, including:
- Ideal for moms of premature or sick babies. For moms whose newborns are premature or in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), ensuring adequate milk production is critical. A hospital-grade (multi-user) pump helps initiate and maintain your milk production when nursing during those critical early hours and days isn’t an option.
- Ideal for moms who have breastfeeding risk factors. Symphony PLUS has been shown through research to produce up to 67% more milk for a mom who is pump-dependent and/or is establishing her milk supply (typically during the first month postpartum).
- Ideal for moms with newborns who are having trouble latching. A hospital-grade (multi-user) pump can also help initiate and maintain your milk production if your baby hasn’t been able to latch effectively yet or nursing at the breast hasn’t yet happened, so you can still ensure he or she is receiving all your nutrient-dense colostrum from the very beginning.
- Designed for multiple users. This makes these breast pumps an excellent choice for hospitals and healthcare facilities or in a workplace lactation space. Because Symphony PLUS’s kit is separate from the pumping mechanism and protected from overflow by a specially-designed membrane, it’s safe for multiple users.
Which is best for you?
There are many factors to consider when choosing the ideal breast pump for yourself. To help narrow down your decision, consider the following:
- Will you need to pump on the go, or will you be primarily pumping at home?
- Will you need the flexibility to multitask or pump hands-free or do you plan to mostly pump in one set location near an outlet?
- Will you be mostly nursing and nearby your baby, or will you eventually need to alternate between nursing and frequent pumping?
- Is your baby able to effectively latch and nurse?
- Do you have a well-established milk supply?
- Are you a mom with any breastfeeding risk factors, such as asthma, obesity, or diabetes?
- How long do you plan to breastfeed and pump?
- Is cost a factor, or will your insurance cover all or a portion of the expense?
Buying a breast pump
Buying a breast pump is a good investment, whether you’re staying home with your new little one, mostly nursing, have an active lifestyle, regularly nurse and pump, or are returning to work. In all these circumstances, buying an easily portable personal use pump for added flexibility and convenience is a good and oftentimes helpful option – you’ll just need to decide which one makes the most sense for you!
Regardless of which personal pump you choose (or if you need to use a hospital-grade option at first!), what’s most important is that you feel comfortable and your baby is receiving your liquid gold – Remember, each and every drop you are able to provide counts and makes a positive difference for your little one.
*IQVIA ProVoice Survey; September 2020 – August 2021. Medela 2018 U.S. Breast Milk Feeding Report. Medela 2017 Managed Markets Pulse Study.
**Meier,P.P., Engstrom,J.L., Janes,J.E., Jegier,B.J., & Loera,F. Breast pump suction patterns that mimic the human infant during breastfeeding: Greater milk output in less time spent pumping for breast pump-dependent mothers with premature infants. J Perinatol 32, 103–110 (2012).
David Tobin did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He is interested in mental health and well-being.