When it comes to breast pumps there are many choices and 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 electric pumps and single user manual pumps.
There is also a class of double electric pumps that are known as hospital grade. The term hospital grade is not a regulated term and can be used by different manufacturers to mean different thing. 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 when each user has their own accessory kit. They may (depending on the manufacturer) have a stronger motor than personal use pumps and they are recommended if you need a pump to help establish your milk supply.
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 it is possible to buy them but most women rent.
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.
So, 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. 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 that you would rather try a pump before you buy. Maybe you don’t know if you will be pumping much and just want a pump for the early weeks. Maybe you don’t know what kind of pump you want and would like to try pumping first. Maybe 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, multiuser pump.
The hospital grade pumps are bigger and bulkier than a personal pump so you will have that to deal with. If you are commuting daily and pumping at work you will probably want your own personal pump.
Where can you find a hospital grade pump?
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 that I rented my Ameda Elite pump from Inova Fair Oaks Hospital Lactation Center and Boutique.
A hospital grade pump basically 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 an always rent a hospital grade pump and 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!