The Whys and Hows of Breast Pump Rentals
by Shel Franco
When I gave birth to my first child six years ago, a young nurse asked if I wanted to discuss breast pump options. Having received one as a shower gift, I enthusiastically declined.
My first breast pump experience was horrific: painful, awkward, unproductive and even humiliating. For years, I relegated myself to the fact that I was simply one of those ladies who couldn’t pump; my body just wouldn’t let me.
After the birth of my third child, I had the opportunity to try a “real” breast pump – not a mass of cheap plastic sold in my local discount store. Was it different? You bet.
So now it’s your turn. Are you planning to pump? Will you rent or buy? Do you know what to look for in a breast pump? They’re not easy questions, but with the right information, you can get a fairly easy answer – and a great breast pump!
Which Pump is Right for You?
First things first, you have to know what sort of “pumping mom” you are
First things first, you have to know what sort of “pumping mom” you are – or are going to be. The breast pump professionals at Camp Healthcare, makers of the EXPRESSLY YOURS breast pump line offer these tips for determining your pumping style:
You are Pump Dependent if you answer YES to any of the following questions:
Are you working full time?
Is your baby premature or hospitalized?
Does your baby have a cleft lip or palate?
Is your baby neurologically impaired?
Are you trying to relactate?
Are you trying to dramatically increase your milk production?
Do you need to pump at least 50 percent of your baby’s breast milk feedings?
You are a Part time Pumper if you answer YES to any of the following questions:
Are you working part-time?
Are you working at least 15 hours a week?
Is your baby recovering from prematurity or other illness?
Are you trying to increase your milk supply?
Do you need to pump for an upcoming trip or absence from your baby?
Do you need to pump at least 30 percent of the baby’s breast milk feedings?
You are a Light Use Pumper if you answer YES to any of the following questions:
Are you at home with a healthy, nursing baby?
Do you want to pump extra milk for an occasional absence?
Do you have less than five brief absences from your baby per week?
Do you want to pump milk so that family members can feed the baby?
Once you know what kind of pumping mom you are, you can begin to get pump specific.
If you rate as Pump Dependent – or even Part-time Pumper – renting a hospital-grade pump could be the best bet for you. Why rent?
According to Stacy Block, CLC, MBA, senior product marketing manager for Camp Healthcare, renting a breast pump presents a few distinct advantages over purchasing a pump. First, when you rent, the company that owns the pump can address any mechanical problems, and you are not held responsible. Second, with hospital-grade pumps, you are most likely getting a pump with a longer motor life and a higher level of suction. With a hospital-grade pump, Block says the consumer is on the “safe side.”
“I bought a mid-priced pump from a baby supply store right before I returned to work,” says Kate Rinehart of Richmond, Va. “I figured I would pump while I worked and feed from the breast when I was home. That was all the thought I gave to the matter.”
Rinehart never anticipated how much she would be pumping, and she certainly never expected her pump motor to succumb to premature wear and tear – but it did, and she blames that for early weaning. “I just wasn’t pumping the volume that I had been,” she says. “I thought it was me. I was supplementing with formula more and more every day. My pump was dead, and Chase was weaned by 4 months old.”
When she was pregnant with her second child, Rinehart took a breastfeeding class specifically designed for working mothers. “The instructor taught us so much about breast pumps and pumping,” she says. “This time, I chose to rent a pump according to my personal needs. I’ve been pumping for Chloe for eight months without so much as a grinding noise from the motor.”
Where to Rent
“Some hospitals rent directly, but not all,” Block says. If your hospital doesn’t rent directly to the patient, ask for a referral. Medical supply stores, independent lactation consultants and DME stores are all possible sources for hospital-grade pump rentals.
Lynn Beckett of Pittsburgh, Pa., started working with a board certified lactation consultant shortly after the birth of her first child. “I thought I wasn’t making enough milk,” she says. “Lily was always rooting and crying, even after eating. When I pumped, I never got more than an ounce. My husband and I were convinced that she was starving.”
Beckett called her hospital’s lactation consultant, and she was shocked and relieved when the woman fixed Lily’s problem by fixing her latch. “Then she asked to see my breast pump,” says Beckett. “She told me to throw it out the minute she saw it.”
Beckett became hysterical. “I had to return to work – full time – in two short weeks; throwing out my breast pump didn’t seem like the right solution,” she says.
The lactation consultant explained to Beckett that her pump was not a solution – it was part of her problem. “On the spot, she whipped out one of her rentals and had me ‘feel’ the difference,” says Beckett. “My jaw dropped. There really was a difference. Mine sounded like a dying animal – complete with rough pinching and jerking. Hers purred like a kitten and felt like nothing but a pulse. I rented from her until Lily was 6 months old.”
Regardless of the pump’s manufacturer, the national average for pump rental is about $50 per month. (This varies according to location.)
Points to Ponder
Just because you’re considering renting doesn’t mean you can’t shop around for pump quality. According to Block, the following pump features are fairly standard:
Pumps are more lightweight today, so that mothers can take them to work and carry them home.
Most have an auto cycle that is based on research that shows how a baby suckles. This is to ensure the proper pumping speed and is especially useful to moms who have been unable to experience their babies actually suckling at the breast. For moms who want more control over the pumping speed, some pumps have adjustable cycles.
Some mothers may have a letdown reflex that requires more suction. To compensate for this, many pumps offer a variable vacuum control.
Industry standards aside, you will want to know how each pump provides a clean, safe environment for breast milk that includes keeping air contaminants out of the milk. Renting might conjure up images of hand-me-down breast pumps, but keep in mind that these pumps are professionally cleaned between users.
You will also want to know something about the cup or funnel that will be in direct contact with your breast. Is it hard or soft? (Some manufacturers will give you a choice.) What material is it made from? While some of this will come down to personal preference, research has shown that certain materials work better at simulating your baby’s suckling action.
“The EXPRESSLY YOURS Soft-Cup is the only funnel written up as being equivalent to Baby for producing prolactin levels,” says Block.
Whichever pump you choose, the bottom line is that now – more than ever – breastfeeding moms have access to all the equipment and information they need to pump as much as they want for as long as they like.