A hospital-grade breast pump is a breast pump that meets 3 criteria:
1. It is safe to be used by more than one user.
Many breast pumps are what we call “open system” pumps. It is possible for milk, bacteria, fungi and viruses to travel up the tubing and contaminate the system. For this reason, manufacturers of “open system” pumps insist that the pump be used by only one mother. An example of an “open system pump” is the Medela Pump In Style.
2. It’s motor is long-lasting.
Most small motors are not manufactured and tested to last for long periods of time. Manufacturers always know that, after some number of hours of use, the product will cease to work. Hospital-grade pumps are engineered to work many hours longer than less expensive pumps, which are generally designed and tested to be used by one mother over the course of the nursing relationship with one child.
3. It is designed to stimulate the breast more effectively.
Hospital-grade pumps contain a higher quality motor which is able to create superior suction. Both the rhythm and the suction power are more precisely tuned to stimulate and empty the breasts. Hospital-grade pumps are designed to maintain the milk supplies of mothers who are pumping exclusively or nearly exclusively. Consumer pumps are only strong enough to maintain the milk supplies of mothers who are pumping a few times a day.
(Please note that the term “hospital-grade” is not regulated by the FDA. Please consult a lactation specialist when choosing a hospital-grade pump. Ask them what kind of success they have seen with the pump or pumps that they recommend.)
Of course, hospital-grade breast pumps are much more expensive than consumer-grade breast pumps. Most mothers choose to rent hospital-grade pumps instead of owning them. So when is using a hospital-grade breast pump desirable?
If A Baby is Not Nursing at All
If a baby is not nursing at all, the mother needs a hospital-grade breast pump to help establish and maintain her milk supply. She may not be breastfeeding at all because her baby was born pre-term, or needs intensive care and can not nurse. Perhaps she is experiencing a long separation from her baby. In any of these cases, she should start pumping with a hospital-grade breast pump within 6 hours of the baby’s birth and continue pumping at least 8-10 times every 24 hours to establish milk supply. She should work closely with a lactation specialist to create a plan to provide her baby with the maximum amount of human milk that is possible.
If Mom Has a Low Milk Supply
Low milk supply can be caused by a number of factors. It is usually assessed by a lactation specialist or doctor when baby is not providing adequate output (is not producing enough urine or stool) or is “failing to thrive” (not gaining enough weight), despite adequate time at the breast. In these situations, a hospital-grade pump can help stimulate and drain the breasts efficiently, in order to establish a greater milk supply. Depending on the cause of the low milk supply, other measures may also be taken to ensure maximum milk production. Work with a lactation specialist with experience dealing with low milk supply for best results.
If Baby Does Latch or Nurse Properly
Some babies have anatomical issues (cleft palate, for example) which make it difficult for the baby to latch properly for the amount of time it takes to properly feed. In this situation, a mother may be pumping to meet all or some of her baby’s needs. A consumer-grade pump is not necessarily up to this task. It is recommended that mothers in this situation use a hospital-grade pump to keep up with their babys’ needs under these circumstances. Mothers should work with a specialist to determine when baby might be able to transition to directly feeding from the breast.
If Mom Has Not Been Able to Produce Enough Milk with a Consumer-Grade Pump
Some mothers use a pump regularly to provide milk for their baby while they are away; for example, they may use a breast pump to provide milk for their baby while they are at work. If a woman finds that she is unable to keep up with baby’s intake while he is with another caregiver, she should consult a lactation specialist to determine whether the caregiver may be overfeeding the baby. If it is determined that baby is taking an appropriate amount of milk, the mother may need to consider using a hospital-grade pump to keep her breasts stimulated and drained while she is at work.
If a Woman is Exclusively Pumping
When a mother is feeding breast milk from a bottle or other feeding device for any reason for more than 24 hours, it is recommended that she use a hospital-grade pump. This will allow her to maintain her supply at an optimal level for a longer period of time than she will using a consumer-grade pump.
Mothers Guild offers the Medela Symphony, an excellent hospital-grade breast pump, for rental. Please contact us if you are in the Ventura, California area and in need of a hospital-grade breast pump rental.