Every week we have several moms come in to A Nurturing Moment to find out about renting a breastpump. Sometimes they want to make sure breastfeeding is going to work before they invest two or three hundred dollars in a good pump. Many times, though, they are trying to decide if they should rent or buy. That's a really good question, and the answer depends on several factors.
Timing of Baby's Birth
If your baby is a healthy, term baby, you should be able to exclusively breastfeed from the time he is born. As long as he is nursing well, you shouldn't need a pump to stimulate your milk supply. However, if your baby is 3 or more weeks early, he may have a very difficult time nursing. Even if he does latch on, he may not have the strength to help you establish an adequate milk supply. I tell mothers of premature babies that they really need to use a hospital-grade breastpump to establish their supply. The Medela Symphony pump actually has a preemie card, developed through extensive research, which helps the mothers of premature babies establish a more complete milk supply earlier than they would otehrwise. I think all mothers of preemies should have access to this technology!
How Nursing is Progressing
If everything is going well - no sore nipples, good milk supply, etc. - no pump is necessary in the early days. However, if a mother is experiencing cracked and bleeding nipples, then she should pump for at least 24 hours and finger feed the pumped milk using a curved tip syringe or a supplemental feeding tube. A hospital-grade pump is ideal for the mom in this situation. Even though she might have another pump, the hospital-grade pump will be more effective at helping establish and maintain a good supply.
Pumping should NEVER be painful. If it is uncomfortable, ask your lactation consultant to help you find breast shields that will fit you better.
Mom's Work Situation
First of all, I want to make a disclaimer here....I believe that ALL mothers are working mothers. The word mother implies lots and lots of hard work. Some mothers, however, have a second job outside of the home. Those mothers need to be able to pump their milk quickly and efficiently. Good pumps that a working mom can purchase include the Medela Pump in Style, Medela Freestyle, Ameda Purely Yours and Hygeia. Some mothers, though, prefer to rent a hospital-grade pump. You can rent a pump for about 4 months before it becomes more cost-effective to purchase a good quality double pump. The mom who struggles with decreased milk production when she returns to work may find that a hospital-grade rental pump will be more effective at helping her maintain her supply than a regular double pump.
What Is a Hospital-Grade Pump?
Many people really don't understand what makes a hospital-grade pump different. First of all, it is larger and has a more powerful motor. But the difference doesn't end there. Because it is a multi-user pump, a hospital-grade pump will always be a "closed" system. That means that it is engineered in such a way to make it impossible for milk to ever back up into the pump's motor. Therefore, it is totally hygienic and safe for multiple users. The two most popular hospital grade pumps are Ameda and Medela. You can use these links to find a rental station near you. Find out if the rental station allows short term rentals or pro-rates the price if you return the pump early. Some do, but many do not.
Ideally, you should rent your pump from a breastfeeding professional (IBCLC) if possible. That way you have someone who can give you solid research-based advice on your particular situation. Ultimately, your lactation consultant is the very best person to help you decide if YOU should rent a breastpump.