Some moms benefit more from renting an electric breast pump than buying one. Find out if you should rent or buy yours.

Medela Breast pump
Credit: Peter Ardito

If you've decided that a double electric pump is the best choice for you, your next decision is whether to rent or buy. According to Denise Altman, a registered nurse and international board-certified lactation consultant in Columbia, South Carolina, moms should consider price, portability, strength, and timing of the pump when making the decision.

Rental breast pumps are also known as hospital grade pumps or multi-user pumps. They're stronger and faster than pumps you can purchase in a store or online. Altman says that she's seen rental rates range from $40 to $80 per month. "You're going to end up spending more money over time," Altman says. On average, Altman says that a rental pump takes about 10 to 15 minutes to use.

Double electric pumps, also known as single user pumps, are available from retailers; prices range from $250 to $350. In-store and online sales, Altman says, can often save you up to $100. The double electric pump is more portable and convenient than a rental pump, but takes a bit longer. Altman says that, on average, this kind of pump takes about 15 to 20 minutes to use.

Women who fit in the following categories should consider a rental pump, according to Altman.

Moms who are exclusively pumping. "They really need the bigger engine," Altman says, adding that rental pumps allow for the smoothest transition between speed and suction levels, as well as the highest durability. She says that multi-user pumps are ideal for moms with preemies, sick babies, and nonlatching babies. Depending on their milk production, moms may be able to switch later to the single-user double electric pump. But the multi-user is the best way to go, at least in the beginning.

Moms who have had breast reduction surgery or tight implants. Following breast surgery, women sometimes experience decreased nerve sensitivity in their nipples, which can impede stimulation needed for nursing. Often, a nursing baby is enough to trigger the letdown. But if a mom is pumping, she may need the wider range of suction that a multi-user pump delivers.

Moms whose insurance covers a hospital-grade breast pump. Insurance coverage can be tricky, so it's important to check with your provider well before your baby is born to find out its policy on rentals and reimbursements. Call during your second trimester to see what your insurance company offers, and then again to verify as you get closer to your due date. The pump that your insurance company covers may not necessarily be the right pump for you, so it's good to know in advance. Also, if insurance doesn't cover a pump, parents can use their health savings accounts or flexible spending accounts to pay for breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies.

Moms whose jobs limit pumping time. Altman says she's worked with dentists and surgeons who have extremely limited time to spare between appointments, and they've chosen to rent multi-user pumps for promptness. "Mama needs to think about what her work day is like," Altman says. "How much time is she going to have to pump?" For some moms, five minutes saved can mean a world of difference.

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