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If you’re a breastfeeding mom, you’re probably hoping to avoid purchasing a lot of equipment. You know you’ll need some things, but would love to save money where you can. (After all, they weren’t kidding when they said that having kids was expensive!)

Advertisements and recommendations from friends may all be flooding you with suggestions for products that seem useful. How do you know what you really need and what will actually be useful? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

While it’s possible for a breastfeeding mother to never pump, the reality is that most breastfeeding moms will try pumping at some point in their nursing journey.

It’s certainly beneficial to learn how to hand express your milk when your baby isn’t around, but there will be days that you want something easier and faster!

There are many reasons why a pump may be introduced that include:

  • Baby needing time in the NICU. Separation of mom and baby can be difficult, but pumping can help to get and keep breast milk flowing!
  • Returning to work. If you work full time or part time outside the house, you’ll likely want a quality pump.
  • Personal preference. Some parents want to provide breast milk for their babies but don’t want to breastfeed directly, for a variety of reasons.
  • Baby having trouble latching and sucking. Not only can this prevent your milk supply from increasing the way you need, but this can also prevent your child from getting enough milk directly from your breast, requiring you to supplement their breastfeeding sessions with a bottle.
  • Needing a break from breastfeeding. You may have sore nipples or just need a few hours to yourself. Whatever the reason is, if you need a break from breastfeeding and want to still provide breast milk to your baby, you’ll need to pump or express your milk.

If you are a breastfeeding mom, should you pump?

The answer to this is a complicated one and highly personal. Some moms never use a pump, some pump while working or as needed, and some choose to exclusively pump.

One 2017 study of nearly 500 women found that moms who reported exclusively pumping also reported shorter feeding duration and earlier introductions of formula. The researchers in this study remained open to pumping, but suggested that babies should be encouraged to feed at the breast and not just exclusively receive pumped breast milk.

The advantages of breastfeeding are well established. Some of these benefits are linked to the act of a baby physically feeding off their mother’s breast, but other benefits can still be achieved through pumped breast milk.

If pumping will allow you to offer breast milk to your baby for a longer period of time then you would have breastfed otherwise, it’s beneficial to pump.

Keep in mind that the breastfeeding relationship is personal, and what works for one person isn’t necessarily right for the next. There are benefits to breast milk whether you are able to feed it for a few weeks or a few years.

You can bond with your baby whether they feed from the breast or from the bottle. Consider your options and how pumping might help, or complicate, your breastfeeding goals.

Knowing how often you plan to pump and where you’ll be doing so can help you determine which supplies are essential. The following are suggestions for a variety of pumping situations, from exclusive pumping to pumping as a back-up plan.

Breast pump

There are a variety of breast pump options on the market. Choosing the right one requires careful consideration of your particular needs. Ask yourself how much pumping you intend to do, where you intend to pump, and how much money you can reasonably budget for your breast pump.

If you need a place to start, here are four very different pump types suited for different needs and budgets.

If you’re exclusively pumping:

You’ll want a pump that operates effectively and can hold up to daily use. You may also want portability, since you may be pumping at work or on-the-go. A double electric pump will allow you to pump both breasts quickly and effectively.

The Spectra S1 Plus Electric Breast Pump is a great all-around option for many reasons. Extremely portable, it has a strong, adjustable vacuum with both power cord and battery charging options. Covered by many insurances, the Spectra S1 Plus gets rave reviews for nighttime pumping due to its two night-light levels and timer.

Shop for the Spectra S1 Plus Electric Breast Pump online.

If you’re pumping on-the-go:

You’ll want a pump that is easy to transport and set up. Some models are designed to be used underneath your clothing and feature quiet motors, making them a bit more workplace friendly.

If you intend to do your pumping on the go or are just looking for a way to be able to accomplish things while pumping, the Willow Wearable Breast Pump can be useful. It’s a pricey investment, but one that might be worth it to you if you’ll be pumping on the go regularly.

Because it fits inside the bra, some women feel more comfortable pumping in public with this option, and its cord-free design allows maximum range of motion, while still getting in a pumping session.

Shop for the Willow Wearable Breast Pump online.

If you want a just-in-case option:

Not everyone wants to pump often, but it’s nice to have an option in case you’re separated from your baby, they sleep through a feeding, or you just want a break.

When you don’t need to do a lot of pumping and would prefer to keep costs to a minimum, a manual pump may make the most sense. The Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump has a swivel handle to make your hand position as comfortable as possible while you pump. It’s also super easy to clean! (As an added bonus, the low price point makes it easy to afford a replacement if anything ever happens to it.)

Shop for the Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump online.

If you don’t want to pump but would like to have a stash:

It’s possible to build up a small stash for emergencies or nights out without investing in an expensive pump. There are collection cups or manual options that allow you to collect excess milk from your letdown that would normally be picked up by a breast pad.

Consider purchasing a single piece suction pump, like the Haakaa. You simply attach the pump to your opposite breast while your baby is nursing and the pump collects milk thanks to the suction. There’s no motor and you don’t have to continuously squeeze. The low price and simple design make this an easy option for everyone from newbies to experienced pumpers.

Shop for the Haakaa online.

Pumping bra

This is an accessory you’ll want to invest in if you’re pumping frequently. If the bra does not fit right, it can constrict the breast, preventing milk flow. Alternatively an overly loose fit won’t be able to truly offer hands-free pumping.

Pumping bras are a very personal decision! It’s a great idea to visit a shop or lactation center that will take the time to help you get properly fitted.

Shop for pumping bras online.

Milk storage bags

If you intend to freeze and store any of your breast milk, you’ll need to invest in some storage bags that are specially designed for such use.

Some pumps require specially shaped bags to fit their pump. However, most pumps allow you to pump your breast milk into bottles, and then the milk can be transferred to any milk storage bag you prefer.

Shop milk storage bags online.

Cooler for milk

Because breast milk can only be left at room temperature for so long, this is an essential item if you intend to pack bottles for on-the-go trips and outings. Your child’s day care may also ask that you transport their breast milk for the day in a cooler. And if you’re pumping at work and transferring the milk home you’ll need a cooler bag.

If you’re trying to save some money, it’s not essential to get anything too fancy or pretty. Simple insulated cooler bags with an ice pack should do the trick. Just make sure that your milk bottles will comfortably fit inside.

Shop for cooler bags online.

Bag for pump

Whether or not you need a bag for your pump is really determined by how often you intend to travel with your pump. If you’ll need to take your pump back and forth from work every day, investing in a bag may be worth it.

Some pump brands have gone all out creating attractive totes that will hold your pump and accessories. However, if your pump will mostly be used at home— or it is small enough to just keep in the diaper bag — forgoing this accessory can save you some money.

Shop for pump bags online.

Breastfeeding cover

While breastfeeding covers can look pretty and offer privacy when desired, it’s frequently just as easy to use a baby blanket or jacket to cover yourself while pumping on the go or at work.

If you do want to invest in a breastfeeding cover, consider one that is designed to serve multiple purposes like a nursing cover and baby car seat cover combo to maximize the value.

Shop for breastfeeding covers online.

Sanitizing hand wipes

Hygiene is key when breastfeeding or pumping. Because your little one is still developing their immune system, you need to wash your hands before breastfeeding and pumping. You’ll also want to keep any equipment as sterile as possible, so your breast milk stays germ-free for your baby.

Most of the time it’s fairly easy to locate a bathroom to wash your hands, but there may be occasions when you’re out and about without easy access. In these cases, it can be extremely helpful to have some sanitizing wipes in your diaper bag.

Shop for sanitizing hand wipes online.

Other useful items

You may be interested in a few other items to make breastfeeding and pumping more comfortable and convenient.

  • A car power adapter for your pump. This can be particularly helpful if you plan to pump a lot on the road or go on a vacation where electrical charge may be harder to find. However, it’s not usually an accessory that is super necessary.
  • Nipple cream. While your own breast milk can act as nipple cream, there are many commercial nipple creams on the market if you’d prefer. It can be useful to sample several brands and see what works best for your skin. Also, if your nipples are hurting and becoming cracked, your baby may have a poor latch. You may want to talk to a lactation consultant.
  • Breast pads. If you find yourself starting to let down at inopportune times or leaking through the front of your shirts, it may be worthwhile to invest in some breast pads. These come in both disposable and reusable options.
  • Water bottle and supplements. You definitely want to stay well hydrated when breastfeeding, but you also may benefit from a few supplements to enhance your milk supply.

There are many different products on the market for pumping moms. While some (like a pump) are more necessary, others are certainly optional. Consider your unique circumstances when making determinations about the pumping products you invest in. What works best for another mom may not be the right fit for you and your baby!

If you’re not sure whether something is fitting properly or working the way it should, it can be useful to check with a lactation consultant or a local breastfeeding support group. Or consider an online support group, like this one from the La Leche League.

Communities for breastfeeding and pumping moms can be helpful as you navigate your feeding journey. These support systems are the most essential of all!