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.
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.
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.
So, are Hospital Grade Pumps Stronger?
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.
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.
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:
- Buy one from a retailer
- Rent one
- Go through Insurance
- 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.
Best Hospital Grade Pumps on the market today include:
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.
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!