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 user-personal double electric pumps, and single user manual pumps.
There is also a class of double electric pumps that are known as hospital grade breast pumps.
The term hospital grade is not a regulated term and can be used by different manufacturers to mean different things.
What is a hospital grade breast pump?
The main difference between a pump labeled 'hospital grade' and 'personal" or ‘single user' is that the hospital grade pump is made for use by multiple users, each user must have their own accessory kit.
This is due to it always being a closed system breast pump, which prevents cross contamination from milk or fluids getting into the pump.
Hospital grade breast pumps are also the strongest pumps with the most powerful motors, and also the most durable.
They are recommended if you need a pump to help 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.
In general though the description above is what is generally meant 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
Hospital grade pumps can be found in hospitals, and you can rent them if needed.
The main manufacturers and models are the Ameda Elite and Platinum, the Medela Symphony and Lactina, and all of the Hygeia models.
The Ameda and Medela models are very different than their single user, personal electric models. They are bigger, much more expensive, somewhat 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.
They are recommended as being the better choice when dealing with low milk supply, establishing milk supply, or if baby is too premature or sick to breastfeed.
According to Hygiea all of their pumps can be considered hospital grade. This is due to all of Hygeia's pumps meeting the criteria for multiple users, and using strong piston driven 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 a little research I went out and bought the Ameda Purely Yours Double Electric Pump.
I had it all ready to go but then my daughter ended up in the NICU.
Having her in the NICU really 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 any 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.
You can read more about this here.
The lactation consultant I worked with said the Ameda Purely Yours was great once a supply was established, but a hospital grade pump was much better at bringing in the milk supply.
Establishing milk supply is just one reason you may want a hospital grade over a regular pump.
In my case we did not know I would need this pump ahead of time. Luckily the hospitals keep them on site so they can 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 be dealing with any of these issues you may want to 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 rather 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 just want a pump for the early weeks.
Or perhaps you don't know what kind of pump you want, and would like to try pumping first.
Another reason could be if you know for sure you will only need to pump for a month or two and then will be moving on.
Basically any reason you would rather rent a pump than buy a pump, is a reason to try a hospital grade multi-user pump.
The hospital grade pumps are bigger and bulkier than a personal pump.
If you are commuting daily and pumping at work you will probably want your own personal pump.
To summarize, hospital grade breast pumps are more efficient and they are great when you need to exclusively pump.
But, they are bulky and heavy and will need to be rented. They can also get expensive if you are renting 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 probably still get one from a hospital even if you are not delivering there.
Check with your insurance to see if it will be covered 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.
There are also many breastfeeding and lactation centers which will rent breast pumps.
Questions about certain breast pumps:
Is the Spectra S1 and S2 considered a hospital grade breast pump?
Since I originally wrote this post Spectra breast pumps have come on the market.
They call themselves hospital grade breast pump. I think of the Spectra as a personal use double electric breast pump, and it is much more affordable than the hospital grade pumps mentioned above.
The Spectra is an amazing breast pump, and I used it with my third baby and it was my favorite breast pump I have used thus far.
I am not sure if it is rented by hospitals as a hospital grade pump. Spectra does say it can be used by more than one user as long as a new collection kit and attachments are used for each user, therefore making it a hospital grade level type pump that also makes an amazing personal pump.
Is the Ameda Purely Yours a hospital grade pump?
No, it is not. The Ameda Purely Yours was my first breast pump ever, at the time my daughter was born I had to use an Ameda Elite pump 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 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 own homes.
While the Ameda Purely Yours is not a hospital grade breast pump it does make a great 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 it is an amazing personal use pump.
I wrote a full review of the Willow pump if you would like 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 made 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 as well to see if you qualify for a rental, or to purchase your own breast pump.
Please let me know if you have any questions about these different pump types! Thanks!