Recently, there’s been discussion about the use of the term ‘hospital grade breast pump’ amongst professionals involved in supporting breastfeeding mums. There’s really no official definition of the term ‘hospital grade’ when it comes to breast pumps, and so it probably needs a little clarification.
Traditionally, there’s been a sharp delineation between ‘hospital grade’ breast pumps and those designed for personal use. Hospital grade breast pumps are generally bulky, long-lasting, and, importantly, designed to be able to be safely and hygienically used by multiple users. They’ve also been very expensive – usually running up to thousands of dollars. For example, companies like Medela have pumps that can easily be categorised as either hospital grade like the big Medela Symphony which is very expensive and able to be used by multiple users, and the Medela Swing, which is much smaller and more affordable, but poses a hygiene risk if shared.
Some professionals have asked how useful the term ‘hospital grade’ is though really, and have argued that what breastfeeding mums really need to know about breast pumps is whether they are ‘initiation and supply building’ pumps, – that is, able to be used by a mum to initiate and support milk supply, or ‘maintenance’ pumps, i.e. best used by a mum with an established milk supply if she needs to express for some reason. So for example, the first category might be needed by a mum with a prem baby or inadequate milk supply, and the second for a mum just wanting to express a bottle a day to have on hand while she goes to the gym.
Recently, the FDA has advised caution for women buying or renting breast pumps. It is important to understand that sharing breast pumps does present a hygiene risk, and just using a new breast shield kit doesn’t cancel out the risk unless the pump motor itself is protected from milk (i.e. it is a closed system). An FDA representative said thatalthough a pump may be ‘labeled ‘hospital grade,’ [the] term is not one the FDA recognizes, and there is no consistent definition’, and that what is important for consumers is to understand whether a breast pump is safe for multiple users or is just for single person use.
- is capable of initiating and supporting milk supply
- is able to be used by multiple users safely and hygienically
- is durable enough to be used by a mum expressing often (i.e. 8 x a day) and has a long motor life
Although once upon a time, the term ‘hospital grade’ was reserved for bulky, expensive pumps, these days the lines are being blurred – for example, ALL models from Spectra are capable of being used by multiple users, and even the pumps we identify as ‘hospital grade’ are less bulky and far more affordably priced than traditional hospital grade breast pumps.
Whether you need to buy a hospital grade breast pump or not depends on a few things – consider whether you’re:
- wanting a pump to support your milk supply
- needing to pump very frequently
- concerned about portability i.e. whether you need a pump that can fit in your handbag (most hospital grade pumps are larger in size)
If you’re still wondering which breast pump is right for you – just ask us!
*All information provided is general in nature – your care provider can provide you with advice based on your specific situation.