I remember sitting with a La Leche League Leader (volunteer breastfeeding counsellor) with my first born baby who was 3 months old at the time. I had a few questions that I was wondering about. One of them being, “Which pump should I buy and when should I buy it?” Looking back on this I can see how it was a question not from need but rather from the pressures I was feeling that I simply “needed” a pump! She was great in how she answered, “Why do you need a pump? Will you be returning to work or away from your baby for some reason?” Just by asking me this question I quickly realised that actually, I don’t need a pump at all! The reason I thought I needed one is because of the intense marketing my brain had absorbed over the years. I mean, I had just birthed a baby and was breastfeeding so I NEEDED a pump, right?! Um…no. Here is a checklist to go through to see if you do in fact need to head out to buy a pump (or rent one).

Pumping is only necessary in certain circumstances. These include:

  1. You’re going to be separated from your baby during a time (or times) they would normally be breastfeeding and you cannot hand express effectively.
  2. You’re returning to work outside the home without your baby and they are not eating solids yet.
  3. Your baby cannot effectively and efficiently drain the breast.
  4. You want to mix-feed your baby expressed breastmilk in a bottle and also breastfeed sometimes too.

*An IMPORTANT NOTE HERE! If you have been told that you have to “triple feed” (breastfeed, pump and top up) to increase supply, please READ THIS ARTICLE HERE! There are very few circumstances where this is necessary or even effective.

You might need to buy a pump for longer term use if:

  1. You know you’ll need it longer term for work.
  2. You’ll be mix-feeding for an extended period of time due to personal preference.
  3. You know you will most likely have ongoing concerns with your baby’s ability to remove the milk effectively and efficiently so need the pump to keep up supply. This will help ensure your pump is doing what your baby cannot do!

*An IMPORTANT NOTE HERE! If you are pumping to increase your supply, try “hands on pumping” which you can find more about here in my VIDEO, and click here for my “power pumping” instructions.

You can probably get away with renting a pump temporarily if:

  1. You have had a rough start to breastfeeding but know it’s due to temporary circumstances (being separated from baby at birth for example) and not because your baby is having trouble draining the breast.
  2. You will be going back to work when your baby is older (over the age of 9 months) and you won’t need to be pumping much or for an extended period of time when away from them. *If you’re unsure whether you’ll fall into this category, I’m available for consultations worldwide.

You can probably avoid having to pump all together if:

  1. Your baby is effectively and efficiently draining the breast. If this is the case (and you’re not in pain or discomfort when feeding), then the most effective way to increase supply is by switch nursing. You can read more about this HERE! 

breastfeeding, switch nursing, the milk meg, ibclc

2. You are returning to work when your baby is eating solids and drinking from a cup, or you can hand express very effectively and know that you can remove enough milk without needing an electric pump.  You might find that a silicone pump works well in combination with hand expression too.

3. Your baby is breastfeeding overnight frequently.

4. You will only be separated from your baby for short periods of time. If you need to pop into the shops, go to a yoga class or a walk and know you’ll only be away from an hour, then go when you know your baby will be happiest! Usually this means morning time. Breastfeed them right before you go, make sure you’re close by if you need to come home urgently and breastfeed them as soon as you return.

Another important factor to consider is your child’s age! If they are eating solids and drinking from a cup you might be able to avoid bottles all together, even if you are away from them for an extended period of time. When I was 9 months old, my mother returned to work 5 days a week from 8am-3pm, she left me with food and drinks (Probably juice! It was the 80’s so that was normal back then haha) and never pumped a day in her life! She would breastfeed me before work, when she got home and overnight. She never needed to pump or give me a bottle because she breastfed me so much when she was with me and I was eating foods and drank from a cup. You can read more about her experiences with this HERE! 

My mother and I circa 1981