Is the next generation of breast pumps worth saving for?


A new generation of breast pumps

Up until a few years ago, there were only a few breast pumps for women to choose from. Today, there are options­—so much so that the landscape can be overwhelming.

As we approach 2018, an entirely new generation of breast pumps—and pump technology—is changing the face of breastfeeding in the U.S. The latest pumps are sleeker, quieter, more modern-looking, and can be controlled by an app on your smartphone. Women everywhere are breathing a collective sigh of relief…It’s about time.

But these cutting-edge pumps often come at a steep price, debuting between $500 and $1000. Do they live up to the hype? Are they worth the splurge?

The answer is…it depends.

The new and swanky state-of-the-art breast pump technology is deserving of hype, and can be worth the hefty price tag—but it’s not necessarily for everyone. To decide, you should consider which pumping features are most important to you and how you plan to use your pump. But first and foremost, definitely check with your insurance to see what, if any, breast pumps they cover.

Deciding what matters to you

When shopping for a pump, first consider which features are most essential to you. The latest pumps offer a new level of discretion, portability, and comfort/ease of use. These products have been specifically developed to reimagine pumping—to transform it from an awkward, uncomfortable, time-consuming endeavor into an expeditious, inconspicuous one.

To say that new breast pump companies are invested in making pumping pleasant might be pushing it a little too far, but not by much. From better breast shields—goodbye painful plastic, hello soft silicone!—to the ability to pump without taking off your shirt, it’s definitely clear that new models make the whole pumping experience less grueling and more humane.

Next, think about how often you will use your pump, how much time you will spend pumping daily, where you will be pumping, and what kinds of potential hurdles you might face. Will you be carrying your pump to and from work? Pumping mostly at home, in an office setting, or on the go? How many times a day will you pump? Do you have any privacy barriers, scheduling issues, or other children that might bother you, impede your pumping, or else make you uncomfortable? If you’ve pumped before, has your experience been painful?

People who exclusively pump, pump at work, or otherwise pump frequently will undoubtedly get more use out of these new features. If you plan to use your pump infrequently, or predominantly at home in private, you may decide that a free (or more modestly priced) pump provided by your health insurer will suffice.

Breast pumpGame-changing features of the new pumps

  • Outlet-free pumping: cordless pumping with easy recharging is becoming standard. Every pump ranging from the not-yet-released Babyation to the Medela Sonata offers it.
  • Portability: the newer pumps typically weigh a fraction of the older versions—usually just 2-3 pounds, instead of 8-10.
  • Sleek, compact, appealing aesthetics: think your new iPhone versus your 2002 Nokia. Designs like the Spectra and the Willow have some visual appeal, making even the once-trendsetting Medela Pump-in-Style-Advanced (PISA) appear bulky and unattractive by comparison.
  • Ultra-quiet functionality means new pumps emit a quiet, barely-there hum versus an audible, repetitive whooshing. These puppies are quiet.
  • Automatic data syncing with smartphone apps is another feature that’s becoming more common. Most of the high-end pump models offer bluetooth capabilities that allow you to track stats like daily milk output, session duration, time between pumping, etc.
  • Discretion is the biggest boast of the ultra new-age pumps, the Babyation and the Willow. They designed the whole system to work under your shirt, with your regular bra, so you can easily multitask while pumping…without the whole 1980s double-pump bra contraption. With these designs, pumping in the car, in public, or at work is a completely different experience. Thank you, wonderful engineers!
  • Hospital-grade power and efficiency is available through most of the pumps released in the last couple of years, which was previously the exclusive reserve of special, unwieldy “hospital-grade” pumps. It’s now becoming fairly standard.
  • Comfort is the real bragging right of the newest pumps, ranging from the Sonata and the Spectra to the Willow and the Naya. According to reviewers, they make pumping feel more like nursing and less like milking. Win!


Making the call

These kinds of features undoubtedly make pumping a dream compared to ten years ago.

If such attributes are non-negotiable for you, then these newer pumps are definitely worth a look. However, if these features sound appealing, but aren’t indispensable; you can certainly find a more cost-effective alternative, including those your insurance company offers for free.

The bottom line is that the world of breast pumps is changing fast! We are witnessing some truly promising and exciting developments. And though the higher cost of the newest generation of pumps may make them impractical for many women right now, like any new technology, these innovative and trailblazing designs will become more and more accessible in the years to come. Whether you decide to splurge on the latest pump to be released or not, take heart in the fact that the era of dated breast pumps is coming to an end.

— Brittany Cowgill is a researcher and writer at Lucie’s List, an educational website, dedicated to serving new and expectant parents.

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