What is a Hospital Grade Breast Pump?


Hospital Grade.

In the world of breast pumps, that term holds some weight. Most would assume a breast pump labeled hospital grade would be stronger, bigger, better. But is that really true? What is a hospital grade breast pump exactly?

It might surprise you to learn that the FDA does not recognize the term hospital grade when referring to breast pumps. Saying a pump is hospital grade typically meant that a pump could be used by more than one user so as long as they have their own attachments/accessories.

But there is some truth to the image we have regarding hospital grade pumps. The pumps used in actual hospitals are monsters. The Medela Symphony is a good example of that. Not only is the pump big but it is strong. It is often recommended for moms of premies or who are in the hospital or have a baby in the hospital to use the pump there. Moms who suffer from low supply may also be directed to a hospital grade pump by a Lactation Consultant for the strength of the pump to help them bring their supply up.

(Related: Have low supply? Find out how to increase it!)

So the suction strength of pumps labeled hospital grade will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but it will always mean that the pump is for multiple users or is a closed system pump.

What is a Closed System Pump?

When it comes to personal use breast pumps, the pump will either be open or closed system. Hospital grade pumps will always be closed system pumps because of their ability to be used by more than one person.

All pumps have the same basic design. The pump motor, a tube that connects to the motor and a breast shield or flange, which then connects to the milk collection bottle. Closed system pumps have a barrier or diaphragm that keeps any pumped breast milk or particles from entering the tubing and thus, the pump motor.How-to-Sterilize-Ameda-Breast-Pump-Parts

Single use open system breast pumps should never be shared even with separate attachments because the breast milk can enter the pump and cross-contaminate the next user’s milk. There is also the possibility for mold build up if an open system pump is not properly cared for.

If you do need to rent or buy a hospital grade pump, you will need your own attachments (tubing, flanges, valves, diaphragms, collection bottles, etc). It is not sanitary to share these items with another mom.

To learn more about Open and Closed System Pumps, Click Here!

So, are Hospital Grade Pumps Stronger?


Medela Symphony

Despite the term “hospital grade” made to mean that a pump is a closed system, most companies do market their strongest and most durable pumps as hospital grade.

There are plenty of single user pumps that are closed system that the manufacturer does not label as hospital grade. The Ameda Purely Yours is a good example of that. Ameda does have a hospital grade pump as well, however, called the Ameda Elite. Obviously, both are closed systems but the Elite is the better, strong pump and was given the coveted ‘hospital grade’ label.

As I stated above, the Medela Symphony is a huge, powerful pump that is typically used in a hospital or by renting. It has a very expensive price tag, so probably not something a mom would go out and buy for casual pumping. There are more affordable and compact hospital grade pumps that have a good punch, as far as suction is concerned, like the Spectra S1 and S2. Both marketed as hospital grade and have the pump strength to back it up.

Overall, you will generally find the stronger, better pumps are marketed as hospital grade by the manufacturer.

Who Should Use a Hospital Grade Pump?

Because hospital grade pumps are for multiple users and typically come with stronger pump suction, moms who need help establishing, maintaining, or increasing their supply will get the most use of a hospital grade pump.what-is-a-milk-letdown

Lactation Consultants will often refer moms to use one if their supply is extremely low.

Moms of preemies who are in the NICU should start using a hospital grade pump soon after birth to bring in their milk and maintain their supply to not only supplement their baby but to keep pace while their baby grows so that eventually latching to the breast can take place.

Working moms or moms who will be away from their baby for extended periods of time also benefit from the strength of a hospital grade pump. Smaller, more compact hospital grade pumps like the Spectra S1 are a good choice for moms on the go.

Moms of multiples will often find a hospital grade pump is key to breastfeeding, especially in the early months as they are establishing their supply. 

(Related: Need a Pumping Schedule? Get one here!)

Types of Hospital Grade Pumps and Where to Get Them

Most pump manufacturers have their own hospital grade versions. You can get your hands on these pumps in a few different ways:

  1. Buy one from a retailer
  2. Rent one
  3. Go through Insurance
  4. Use the one provided at the hospital (if your baby is in the hospital or preemie)

Most of the hospital grade pumps are much bigger and bulkier than the single user pumps. They also can be quite expensive depending on the pump. In most cases, the need for the big, powerful hospital pumps will be temporary.


Ameda Elite

Best Hospital Grade Pumps on the market today include:

  1. Medela Symphony
  2. Ameda Elite
  3. Ameda Platinum
  4. Medela Lactina
  5. Spectra S1
  6. Limerick PJ’s Comfort
  7. Hygeia

You will find the prices vary (in an extreme way) among the pumps above. The Medela Symphony and Ameda Elite, for example, both can be bought online for over a $1,000. Not exactly affordable. Renting is probably the best option in situations where you need an extremely powerful pump. But that too can add up.

The Spectra S1, Limerick PJ’s Comfort, and Hygeia pumps are much more affordable. The Spectra S1 being the most economical. Any of those pumps would be an excellent choice for moms who need to pump often or have a low supply.

If you find yourself in need of a hospital grade pump, talking with your hospital or doctor is a good place to start. Most hospitals have them available for rent and will be able to connect with your insurance provider on any coverage you may be eligible for. 


Spectra S1

For long term use, consider a less expensive hospital grade pump like the Hygeia or Spectra which would be more affordable if you bought one (renting would amount to more than the pump costs).

Have questions about hospital grade pumps? Drop me a comment below!

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    • Heather Grace says:

      Hi Emily,

      This is a great question. The answer is going to depend on the type of pump you are looking for and need.

      The best “hospital grade pump” for personal use at a price that is affordable would be the Spectra S1, hands-down. But if you have any issues with your milk supply, have a baby in the NICU, or other breastfeeding issues, you may need a very strong pump and in that case, I would recommend the Medela Symphony. As I said in the article, the Medela Symphony can be purchased but it’s super expensive, so moms are better off looking into renting one. At times insurance will cover that cost.

      So unless you are having issues, I would definitely look into the Spectra S1! Hope this helps!

    • Heather Grace says:

      Hi Diane!

      Great question! The S2 and Hygeia Enjoye have a lot of differences so a lot of it will come down to preference. Let me break it down for you:

      1 – Pump strength-wise, they are pretty close. The S2 maxes out at 280mmHG and the Enjoye at 250mmhg. So the S2 is slightly stronger.
      2 – Portability- Both the S2 and the Enjoye only work when plugged in. They do not have an internal battery. The Enjoye does have an optional battery pack you can buy. The S2 does not (there are aftermarket solutions, however). Both models have upgrades if you want an internal rechargeable battery (Spectra S1 and Hygeia Enjoye Cordless).
      3 – Milk Barrier – Both are closed system pumps but the Hygeia has the barrier between the pump motor and tubes which means the tubes need to be sanitized and cleaned often since milk can get into the tubing. The Spectra has the barrier at the flange and tubing so no need to sanitize the tubing.
      4 – Accessories and Parts – Both come with limited accessories in the basic set. No tote or cooler bag unless you upgrade. Both spare parts are not readily available unless online. Both are on Amazon though.
      5 – Pump Controls – The Enjoye had dials that you need to manually move to control the pump suctions and speed while the S2 is digital (and is backlit) and allows you to save your pump settings. The Enjoye does, however, have a unique feature in its Care Module which is a button that allows you to record your baby or use a prerecording of a crying baby to help your letdown.
      6 – Price – If you are having to cover the cost yourself (not going through insurance), you might be surprised to know the S2 costs significantly less than the Enjoye.

      Overall, both of these pumps are fantastic and will get the job done. If I had to choose between the two, I would probably go with the Spectra S2 based on the digital controls, price, and for the slightly stronger pump strength. If portability was an issue (if I needed to pump on the go lot), that would be enough to sway me to the Enjoye simply because it’s a great pump and easier to make portable than the S2.

      Here is my full review of the Spectra S2 and the the Hygeia Enjoye. I hope this helps you narrow it down!

  1. Seth Gold says:

    Hi! I’m so glad to have found your blog. I am going to heading back to work soon after having our first baby (she’s almost three months now.) The pump I’ve been using leaves a lot to be desired. It just doesn’t feel like it’s pumping all my milk out. Only hours later I have to pump again. My question to you is, since I’m going to be away from the baby 40+ hours a week, should I invest in a hospital grade pump?

    • Heather Grace says:

      Hi, congratulations on your baby! I am sorry your pump doesn’t seem to be doing the job. I am curious what pump you have. Not all moms who spend that amount of time away from their baby need a hospital grade pump. There are some great pumps that have a lot of strength that are not hospital grade. But if you already are using a strong pump and still having output issues, then I would suggest seeing a Lactation Consultant before investing in another pump. They can ensure your breast shields are fitting correctly, give you tips on how to work your pump correctly, and also determine if you need to step it up to a stronger pump like renting a true hospital grade pump like the Medela Symphony. If it is a supply issue, they will address that as well. Some moms don’t respond well to the pump and need the powerful strength of a higher end pump that you would likely want to rent vs buy but a Lactation Consultant would be a great resource to help determine that.

      I am always a supporter of the Spectra S1 for working moms. One of the reasons I love it so much is not only is to a solid pump strength-wise but the price tag is amazing as well. You will see good results using the S1. But again, I think my recommendation would depend on knowing what you are currently using.

      So, that was a very long way to say that, no, a hospital grade pump is not necessary just because you will be away all day but it might be necessary in some cases and there are some affordable hospital grade pumps if you do want to go that route. I hope that helps!

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