The Hospital Grade Breast Pump: Should You Invest in One?

breast pump
The Hospital Grade Breast Pump: Should You Invest in One?

Did you know that American women buy 40 percent of all the breast pumps in the world? Whether they're using a manual hand-held or a hospital grade breast pump, American women put more of their milk into bottles than anyone. It isn't surprising when you consider that 60 percent of American women use mechanical milk extractors pump because they work full-time. Without the benefit of paid family leave, it's pump and get back to work or breastfeed at the nearest homeless shelter.

That is, of course, extreme. The reality of pumping is that women do it for a variety of reasons. One might do it to maintain flow while their pre-term baby is in an incubator. Some women pump to contribute to milk-share and donation programs. Add to that the ever-increasing number of full-time working moms and it's no wonder breast pumps are flying off the shelves.

But regardless of your reason for pumping, there are a lot of different kinds of equipment on the market. What kinds of breast pumps are there? And do you really need a hospital grade breast pump? What's the difference?

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Spectra Breast Pumps

Spectra Breast Pumps
  • include an exclusive “backflow protection”
  • carries two pumps that are industry standard “hospital grade.”
  • customers love their products

Freemie Breast Pumps

Freemie Breast Pumps
  • “freedom cups” are collection cups that hold 8 ounces of milk
  • isn't for women with ample bosoms

Ameda Breast Pumps

Ameda Breast Pumps
  • Ameda is the oldest name in breast pumps
  • designed the first pump to truly mimic a child suckling

Lansinoh Breast Pumps

Lansinoh Breast Pumps
  • global leader in quality pumps at reasonable prices
  •  uses a single motor to run both pumps

Medela Breast Pumps

Medela Breast Pumps
  • recommended by doctors more than any other brand
  • insurance claim has a great chance of landing you the apex of what a hospital grade breast pump should be

Evenflo Breast Pumps

Evenflo Breast Pumps
  • is the baby product company we chose to pick on
  • the most cost-effective pump to sell
mother bottle feeding her baby

A Brief History Of Breast Pumps

There aren't many things people can say they've been doing literally since the dawn of man -- or better yet -- the dawn of women. But breastfeeding is one of them. We are mammals, after all, and nothing is more natural or more nutritious for a baby than breast milk.

But breastfeeding isn't always easy. Many women experience engorged breasts, which become leaky and sore. Inverted nipples can make it nigh on impossible for your baby to latch on. For millennia, women have dealt with breastfeeding side effects by relieving the pressure. Ancient Greeks used a ceramic cup filled with water to create a light suction that siphoned the milk. The Romans used a straw-like instrument to create suction with air. And today we use breast pumps to help.

In America, the land of invention, the first breast pump patent was issued in 1856 to a New Yorker named O.H. Needham. It was designed after cattle market products using the same technology. It wasn't until 1898 that a device designed to "give a mother relief" was awarded a patent.

Breast pumps have come a long way since then. Marketed nowadays to breastfeeding moms and not doctors, the modern hospital grade breast pump focuses on comfort, quiet and reliability.

How Breast Pumps Work

Mother using breast pump

Breast pumps create suction. Manual pumps, which use a squeeze lever or foot pedal to create that suction, express directly into a bottle, giving you control over speed, suction level, etc. Motorized pumps use plastic tubing and motors to pull air from a flange that fits over the nipple and areola. The milk, like in the manual system, goes directly into your collection system.

A typical breast pump uses what's called a "closed system," meaning no milk can travel through the lines and into the motor, avoiding potentially hazardous viruses and bacteria. And that's important.

What is a Hospital Grade Breast Pump?

mother, baby and nurse in a hospital

That depends on who you ask. There's a misconception among far too many breastfeeding blogs that a "hospital grade breast pump" means the pump has stronger suction, a different setup, and is available for rent at your local medical facility.

What the term actually means is "something companies stamp on their box to compete with other companies." According to the FDA, there is no such designation. Hospital grade pumps don't actually exist. That doesn't mean that hospitals don't use or rent out pumps for special circumstances. Ameda, Medela, and Spectra are names you'll hear thrown around the NICU quite often. But for most home pumps, the term "hospital grade" is only an advertising gimmick.

Where do I get one?

  • If you need a medical device from your hospital, you won't be researching them online. You'll sign for the unit they give you. That unit will address your specific need. As for the dozens of pumps out there calling themselves "hospital grade," you can get those anywhere.
  • Online retailers stock every known option, from the cheapest knockoff to the best available. Your local retailer will carry an array of supplies in the infant and toddler section, including several pumps at varying price points.

Hospital grade breast pumps and insurance

According to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), your insurer must provide breastfeeding materials, supplies and support for the duration of your child's needs. They must either rent or buy you the equipment necessary to manage breastfeeding as successfully as possible.

Your insurance company is going to listen to the advice of your doctor. Most will also have an approved list of pumps. Your best tool is information. Find out what your available options are and go from there. Our comparisons of pumps considered to be hospital grade will guide you along the way.

Comparing Hospital Grade Breast Pumps

Considering the term "hospital grade breast pump" doesn't require any kind of certification, there are dozens of pumps with identical parts and different names gracing the halls of Amazon. We've narrowed the field down to six companies that all have a large presence in the infant and toddler supply industry.

How we reviewed

We compared professional opinions, doctor recommendations and customer reviews, combined with warranty, to give you the best possible overview of a very important and diverse product. We understand that a breast pump is more than a simple purchase. Your comfort and your baby's health are at stake.

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Spectra Baby is a company devoted to breastfeeding. Their innovations include an exclusive "backflow protection" that keeps the milk in your already closed system even safer. Backflow protection ensures that no milk can contact anything other than a sterile collection device after it's expressed.

Spectra's emphasis on safety comes from its roots. Owned and operated by moms, lactation specialists and registered nurses, Spectra understands the importance of breast milk and remains committed to supporting breastfeeding moms.

Spectra carries two pumps that are industry standard "hospital grade." 


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Freemie is a breastfeeding supply company that has found a fantastic gimmick product. It is so innovative that calling it a gimmick is almost unfair.

Freemie's "freedom cups" are collection cups that hold 8 ounces of milk. The gimmick is, they are curved like the breast and fit inside a nursing bra. Freemie calls them inconspicuous. They are very clear that the freedom cup works best when you're stationary and vertical.

Why, then, are they a gimmick? The Freemie freedom cup isn't for women with ample bosoms, which isn't stated anywhere. They are also inconspicuous, not invisible. While you can use them at home, at work, or in the car, you can't use them while running a 5K, rock climbing, or bungee jumping.

The plus side is if you're of typical breast size -- you'll have to decide where you land -- you're likely to love the freedom cups like so many of their customers. 


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Ameda is an unfortunate brand. Of all the closed systems available, only Ameda gets complaints of milk in the lines. Milk inside the internal workings of a closed system means it has to be taken apart and sterilized. No pump is worth that kind of aggravation.

It's a shame, however, as Ameda is the oldest name in breast pumps. The first pumps carried in hospitals bore the Ameda name. There was no competition. Unfortunately, the lack of competition caused a stagnation that still exists today. Ameda designed the first pump to truly mimic a child suckling.

The rest of the industry followed suit and continued to innovate from there while Ameda stuck to its guns and doubled down on its products. In their defense, the doctors and customers who have used Ameda loyally for decades continue to recommend the company to friends.


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Lansinoh is a company anyone who has ever breastfed has heard of. A woman with sore nipples from breastfeeding developed HPA® Lanolin in the early 1980s and the cornerstone for a multi-national corporation was laid.

Decades later, Lansinoh is a global leader in quality pumps. Long before the Affordable Care Act made breast pumps readily available to so many, Lansinoh developed products that came as close to the high-end pumps as possible without breaking the wallets of the working moms they serve.

While Lansinoh is certainly respectable enough to call their product a hospital grade breast pump, there are big differences between their design and that of a Spectra or Medela.

Lansinoh uses a single motor to run both pumps. The more expensive pumps have a motor for each. The difference is twice the suction. Some women find the lower suction more comfortable. Full-time pumpers, however, may find the Lansinoh line insufficient for their needs.


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The Medela company immigrated to America -- legally -- in 1985 for the sole purpose of developing a hospital grade breast pump. The Medela Horizon, which is the modern incarnation of their medical device, is for patients with inverted or flat nipples. It is one of the few breast pumps on the market that is actually used by hospitals.

Medela didn't stop there. Medela systems are the cream of the crop. They cost more than all of the competition for good reason. Madela is the best money can buy. Medela is recommended by doctors more than any other brand. Your insurance claim has a great chance of landing you the apex of what a hospital grade breast pump should be.

Nobody loves Madela products more than Medela customers. Achieving a four-star rating on Amazon as a hospital grade breast pump manufacturer with more than a dozen or two reviews makes you an absolute superstar. Medela is nothing short of that.


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Evenflo is the baby product company we chose to pick on. They're in the infant and toddler business to sell as many products as possible to as many people as possible. If a baby touches it, eats from it, looks at it, sleeps on, rides in it or plays with it, chances are Evenflo makes one, too.

You'll find Evenflo strollers on the aisle with the Evenflo safety gates at the end. Those will be next to the Evenflo binkies, bottles and crib mobiles, just around the corner from the Evenflo car seats.

The Best Of The Best Hospital Grade Breast Pump

Finding the right hospital grade breast pump is no joke. There are many factors to consider. It all comes down to you, in the end, to decide which pump you need. Your insurance company will make the decision for you unless you take the reigns and work with your doctor.

 Those looking to pump enough to let hubby help so they can sleep through the night will love a Lansinoh. Those pumping 35 ounces to nourish baby all day while they're at work want the comfort and reliability of Medela.

Do you have a favorite breast pump? Or a breastfeeding story to share? Let us know in the comments!

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