Breast Pump Suction Level: What to Consider when Buying a Breast Pump
Are you looking for a strong suction breast pump? How much suction strength should a breast pump have? If you’re looking to buy a breast pump, you may have noticed that breast pump suction level varies quite a bit. Does suction strength matter when buying a breast pump? Regarding breast pump suction, here’s what to consider when buying a breast pump.
How is breast pump suction level measured?
Breast pump suction level is measured in mmHg – milimetres of mercury – which is the standard unit of measuring vacuum pressure. If that causes you pause, don’t worry – mercury has nothing to do with your breast pump! When you’re buying a breast pump, you might see mmHg in the product listing. This number, generally in the range of 220 to 350, is the maximum suction level. Hospital grade pumps generally have maximum suction levels in the 300 range while personal grade pumps are generally in the 200 range. This doesn’t necessarily make a pump better or worse – it’s just symptomatic of hospital grade pumps having bigger, stronger motors since they are designed for more rigorous use. The Pumpables Milk Genie has a maximum suction level of 270 mmHg.
Should I consider suction level when buying a breast pump?
It’s impossible to know ahead of time which settings will work best for your when you start using a breast pump. There are a few things to consider when buying a breast pump, such as whether it’s closed system breast pump or whether you can adjust the cycle speed. However, you don’t generally need to consider breast pump suction level when buying a breast pump. Here’s why...
Using a high breast pump suction level can hinder milk flow
It’s a myth that higher breast pump suction level means more milk output. Did you know that pumping at too high of a suction level can actually hinder milk flow, and even cause injury? Think of it like drinking from a straw in a juice box. If you suck too hard, the juice box will start collapsing inward on itself and you actually won’t get much juice out because of the vacuum effect. You would get more
juice by sucking gently and steadily. Breast pump suction behaves similarly – sucking too hard can cause the breast tissue to compress too much, cutting off flow in the milk ducts. This can hinder milk flow, cause in inflammation and risk injury. This is why you should never pump above your comfort level, and if you’re experiencing pain while pumping you should try turning the suction level down.
Most mothers can’t express at the highest breast pump suction level
The highest suction level on a breast pump is above the comfort zone of the majority of pumping mothers. So even if the breast pump has a maximum suction level of 350 mmHg, most pumping mamas will still be expressing more in the range of 150 – 200 mmHg regardless of whether their pump can reach 250 or 350 mmHg at its maximum setting.
It’s impossible to double pump at the highest breast pump suction level
The highest breast pump suction level is the actual highest the breast pump is technically capable of doing. This doesn’t mean that when you use a breast pump, you’ll be using it at this suction level. Certain criteria need to be met for the breast pump to actually reach its highest suction level, and the vast majority of pumping sessions will perform below that level. Things like how recently the valves or backflow protectors were replaced will impact the breast pump suction level, as well as how empty your breasts are – but the biggest thing that has an impact on suction level is whether or not you’re single or double pumping.
It’s actually impossible to reach the highest breast pump suction level while double pumping! This is because of the way breast pumps work: you have one motor which sucks and releases air through an air port. The tubing connects from the milk collection kit to this air port. In order to double pump, this air port is split into two ports – so, for example if you have your breast pump turned up to a maximum suction strength of 350 mmHg, that 350 mmHg is split into two and becomes less strong on each breast.
When should I consider breast pump suction level?
Although there are definitely some more critical things to consider when buying a breast pump – such as whether its a closed system breast pump – maximum breast pump suction level can be an important indicator of quality. A higher breast pump suction level generally means a more powerful motor.
If you’re buying a hospital grade breast pump, look for a higher suction
If you’re buying a hospital grade breast pump, look for a maximum vacuum strength above 300 mmHg. Most hospital grade breast pumps on the market will top out at 320 – 350 mmHg. If a breast pump is marketed as hospital grade and the maximum suction level is listed at below 300 mmHg, you should look more closely at the technical specifications and compare them to other hospital grade breast pumps on the market before buying it.
If you’re buying a personal grade breast pump
If you’re buying a personal grade breast pump, look for a maximum breast pump suction level of 250 – 300 mmHg. The majority of personal grade electric breast pumps on the market fall within this range. If the vacuum strength tops out at below 250 mmHg, it could mean a weaker motor. You should look more closely at the technical specifications before buying a breast pump like this, because a weaker motor would mean the motor would have to work harder to perform at the same level as other personal grade breast pumps – meaning it could wear out faster.
The verdict? Although breast pump suction level can be a great indication of motor strength and therefore overall quality of the pump, knowing the maximum strength is not very useful. You should first look for things like whether it’s a closed system when you’re considering buying a breast pump.