Breastfeeding may seem like a fairly simple task, but as many mothers are already too well aware, it can be surprisingly complicated. Sometimes the child wants to feed when the mother is not necessarily ready, and for others there may be physical difficulties in the way. A breast pump is a device used by lactating women to extract milk from their breasts on their own time, without needing their feeding child present. There are of course many other reasons women may opt to use a breast pump, though it is a considered a personal decision that may not necessarily be right for everyone. Here are some questions to ask to determine whether or not a breast pump is a good choice, and if so, which kind should be used. 

How Does A Breast Pump Work?

A breast pump works by creating a suctioning effect that extracts milk. A shield or phalange is placed over the center of the breast, and the pump is then operated to produce suction, which then triggers "letdown" (the breast releasing milk on its own). Contrary to popular belief, the milk is not suctioned straight out.

What is the Difference Between Manual and Electronic Versions?

Manual breast pumps use a hand or foot-operated pumping device, while electronic ones are either plugged in or battery operated (with many modern versions also being USB rechargeable). Some women may be more comfortable with one over the other, so it really comes down to lifestyle and general personal preference. 

Does A Breast Pump Affect the Quality of Milk?

One research study done in 2009 by Stanford University found that, overall, the quality of milk is not significantly affected by the use of a breast pump, although it may contain lower fat content. Standard nursing may still be more efficient in retrieving milk, but the use of breast massage in tandem with a breast pump can help. 

Does Pumping Hurt?

A breast pump should not hurt the user, and if it does, this may be an indicator that it is being used too frequently or otherwise incorrectly. That said, some women may find it a bit uncomfortable. Massaging during use is recommended in these cases, and manual pumps may be the better choice because they can allow for more control.

How Long Should a Pumping Session Last?

It is generally recommended that mothers pump for at least 15 minutes on each breast, or at least two to five minutes longer after the last milk droplets have been extracted. Mothers should wait at least an hour after nursing or a previous pumping session to try again. Pumping should be done every day (if not more) to keep up milk production and maintain quality.

What Are Some Good Deals on Manual Pumps?

Those interested in manual breast pumps should check out the NUK Expressive Manual Breast Pump at Target for $18.79 (order online for a 5 percent discount) and the highly rated Harmony Manual Breast Pump on for $41 and free shipping.

What Are Some Good Deals on Battery-Operated Pumps?

For a fairly straightforward design, there's the Cocobela Battery-Operated (also USB rechargeable) breast pump on Amazon for $36.99 and free shipping (Prime members save an addition $3). For those looking for something high-tech and hospital grade, there's the Spectra Baby USA pump (battery operated and rechargeable) for $199.99 on Amazon for Prime Members, down from $345.

What Are Some Good Deals on Electrically Plugged-in Pumps?

One of the best deals right now is the highly rated Lansinoh Signature Pro Double Electric Breast Pump (with LCD Screen and carry tote) on Walmart's website for $82.49, down from $99.97. For a simple, straightforward design, there's also the Drive Medical Pure Expressions pump, listed for $99.99 on Bed, Bath & Beyond (usually over $100 elsewhere) and free shipping.