Hand/manual pumps and battery pumps are used in situations similar to those where hand-expression is appropriate – short-term separation or to remove a little bit of milk for comfort. They pump one side at a time, and are definitely not efficient enough to maintain a mother’s supply in the case of long-term separation.
Electric pumps (not rental/hospital-grade pumps) are designed for personal use. They will pump both sides at the same time. For a mother with a good milk supply this can be efficient enough to maintain her supply if she is separated from her baby for a normal work week (30 – 40 hours, or 7 -8 hours at a time).
Hospital-grade pumps are the most efficient pumps available, and are only available as rentals.
Lactation experts can also provide education about pumps.
When returning to work, it is helpful to develop a pumping schedule to make sure the mother has plenty of time in her day to pump. The Business Case for Breastfeeding from WomensHealth.gov offers a sample-pumping plan for returning to work. This is just an example, and every woman is going to have variations in her day so creating her own pumping plan is important.
It may also be helpful for new mothers to return to work gradually to get used to the new routine. The Business Case for Breastfeeding offers some tips for returning to work slowly.
Return to Work Gradually
This gives you more time to adjust and helps your body make a good supply of milk. Talk with your supervisor about options that have worked for different women:
Many mothers face the challenge of continuing exclusive breastfeeding of their baby while returning to work. Often, mother’s return to work within three months of their child’s birth, and for many mother’s the return to work must happen even earlier. In order to be successful in their breastfeeding beyond their return to work, they must have support as well as a plan to help them manage an appropriate pumping schedule so they can provide enough milk for their baby while they are away. For more information on returning to work, please click the link below to see the whole brochure from The Business Case for Breastfeeding.
Mother’s returning to work may have many questions about when and how to pump. Visit: https://wicbreastfeeding.fns.usda.gov/going-back-to-work, for more information on pumping strategies and answers to commonly asked questions.
Please see Section 5: Successful Breastfeeding Requires Support-Establishing a Breastfeeding-friendly Practice for more information.