When it comes to breast pumps, there are many choices; it can be confusing and overwhelming if you don't know anything about pumping (probably most of us before getting pregnant?).
The most commonly known breast pumps are single-personal double electric and single-user manual pumps.
A class of double electric pumps is also known as hospital-grade breast pumps.
The term hospital grade is not regulated and may be used differently by different manufacturers.
What is a hospital-grade breast pump?
The main difference between a pump labeled 'hospital grade' and 'personal" or 'single user' is that the pump is for use by multiple users, and each user must have an accessory kit.
Multiple users can use a hospital-grade pump because it is always a closed-system breast pump, which prevents cross-contamination from milk or fluids getting into the pump.
Hospital-grade breast pumps are also the most substantial, with the most powerful and durable motors. They can help to establish your milk supply due to having a baby in the NICU, a premature baby, twins, or trouble breastfeeding for any reason.
You will typically need to rent a hospital-grade breast pump from a hospital or breastfeeding and lactation center. They are not available for individual purchase.
While the term hospital grade is not regulated, I have found that more and more breast pump manufacturers have started to use the term to describe their pumps.
The description above is typical when describing a "hospital-grade breast pump."
The FDA has an article about breast pumps; you can also check out for more information on types of breast pumps.
Types of hospital-grade breast pumps
Pumping parents can find hospital-grade pumps in hospitals; you can rent them if needed.
The leading manufacturers and models are the Ameda Elite and Platinum, the Medela Symphony and Lactina, and the Hygeia models.
The Ameda and Medela models differ significantly from their single-user, personal electric models. They are bigger, much more expensive, quieter, and usually only available for rental.
I have seen them for sale on Amazon and some pump rental shops for over $1000. So, while it may be possible to buy them, they are usually only offered as a breast pump rental.
Medela Symphony breast pump "Image provided by Medela. (c) 2021 Medela"
They are recommended as the better choice when dealing with a low milk supply, establishing a milk supply, or if the baby is too premature or sick to breastfeed.
According to Hygiea, all of their pumps are hospital-grade because all of Hygeia's pumps meet the criteria for multiple users and use piston-driven solid motors.
Why would you want a hospital-grade pump over a personal double electric pump?
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew nothing about pumps or pumping, but after some research, I went out and bought the Ameda Purely Yours Double Electric Pump.
I had it all ready to go, but my daughter ended up in the NICU.
Having her in the NICU caused a delay in my milk coming in, and I had a lot of trouble getting her to latch and breastfeed.
I quickly enlisted the help of a hospital lactation consultant.
I always recommend getting with a lactation consultant as soon as possible if you are having trouble getting breastfeeding started.
Since we had a rocky start to breastfeeding, the hospital recommended I use an Ameda hospital-grade pump to establish my milk supply.
The lactation consultant I worked with said the Ameda Purely Yours was great for an established supply, but a hospital-grade pump was much better at bringing in the milk supply.
Establishing a milk supply is one reason you may want a hospital grade over a regular pump.
We did not know I would need this pump ahead of time. Luckily, the hospitals keep them on-site to hook you up if needed.
Besides establishing milk supply, the hospital-grade pumps are also great for helping with low supply and exclusive pumping.
If you know you will deal with any of these issues, you should set up a rental before your baby is born.
Other reasons you may need a hospital-grade pump include - if you have a Preemie, a baby in the NICU, a baby that is too sick to breastfeed, or if you will be pumping for twins.
If you have any reason before the birth of your baby that you would instead try pumping before you buy, then renting a hospital-grade pump is an option, too.
Maybe you don't know if you will be pumping much and want a pump for the early weeks.
Or you don't know what pump you want and would like to try pumping first.
Another reason could be if you know you will only need to pump for a month or two and then will be moving on.
Any reason you would rent a pump rather than buy a pump is a reason to try a hospital-grade multi-user pump.
The hospital-grade pumps are more prominent and bulkier than personal pumps.
You may want your pump if you commute daily and pump at work.
To summarize, hospital-grade breast pumps are more efficient and great when you need to pump exclusively.
But they are bulky and heavy and will need to be rented. They can also get expensive if you rent one for a long time.
Where can you find a hospital-grade breast pump rental?
Most hospitals have them to rent. If you are not delivering at a hospital, check with your Doctor or Midwife.
You can still get one from a hospital even if you are not delivering there.
Check with your health insurance to verify coverage and where they recommend renting one.
There are many companies renting pumps on the internet as well. A quick Google search for 'breast pump rental' brings up many options.
If you are in my local DC area, I can tell you I rented my Ameda Elite breast pump from Inova Fair Oaks Hospital Lactation Center and Boutique.
Many breastfeeding and lactation centers will rent breast pumps.
Questions about specific breast pumps:
Is the Spectra S1 and S2 considered hospital-grade breast pump?
Since I originally wrote this post, Spectra breast pumps have come on the market.
They call themselves hospital-grade breast pumps. I think of the Spectra as a personal-use double electric breast pump, which is much more affordable than the hospital-grade pumps mentioned above.
The Spectra is a fantastic breast pump. I used it with my third baby, and it was my favorite breast pump I have used thus far.
I don't know if hospitals rent it as a hospital-grade pump. Spectra says it is multi-user as long as a new collection kit and attachments are used for each user, making it a hospital-grade type pump that also makes an excellent personal pump.
Is the Ameda Purely Yours a hospital-grade pump?
No, it is not. The Ameda Purely Yours was my first breast pump; I had to use an Ameda Elite pump when my daughter was born to bring my milk supply in.
Ameda has the Ameda Elite Breast Pump and the Platinum™ Multi-User Hospital Breast Pump available as their hospital-grade breast pumps.
While I used the Elite, Ameda touts the Ameda Platinum hospital breast pump as their best hospital-grade pump.
According to Ameda:
The Platinum has been proven with clinical research to be the most effective breast pump for establishing and maintaining increased milk production for preterm and full-term infants. The Platinum pump is our top-of-the-line product built for clinical use and is also available for moms to rent and use in their homes.
While the Ameda Purely Yours is not a hospital-grade breast pump, it is an excellent pump for everyday use and is available through most insurance.
Is the Willow Wearable Breast Pump a hospital-grade breast pump?
The Willow pump is not a hospital-grade breast pump but a fantastic personal-use pump.
I wrote a full Willow pump review if you want to check it out. You can wear it hands-free while pumping, and I seriously wish I had this back when I did have my first daughter.
A hospital-grade pump typically means a pump is for multiple users over many years.
If you are unsure how long you will need or want a breast pump, you can always rent a hospital-grade pump, then buy a personal-use electric pump a couple of months after having your baby.
Check with your insurance company to see if you qualify for a rental or purchase of your breast pump.
Please let me know if you have any questions about these different pump types! Thanks!