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“Hospital Grade" Breast Pumps

Written by Certified Lactation Consultant
RN, IBCLC

Be careful when manufacturers make the claim “hospital grade” breast pump. It means very little when it comes to how well a pump works and deals more with part replacement. For any medical device to be considered “hospital grade” it must do the following:

1. Be electrically designed so that it can be used in the presence of flammable anesthetics.

2. Can be sanitized between users to prevent cross contamination.

3. Have parts that can be sterilized so they can be used in a sterile field (e.g. in an operating room).

4. Consistently create the same cycles, or pressures (or whatever it is supposed to do) 100% of the time.

Not one of these four points implies how well the pump works or guaranties its durability.  More accurate labels for these pumps are “rental grade” and  “personal use".

Any pump that is designated “single user” is a personal use pump and NOT hospital grade.  To be very clear, single user and hospital / rental grade are very different types of breast pumps. They are not the same as a rental grade pump.   A single user pump usually has a much smaller motor with a shorter life span in comparison to a rental or hospital grade breast pump. This is why personal use pumps normally have only a 1-year warranty.  Rental grade pumps are intended for heavy daily use, by multiple users, and are meant to last for many years.

Medela Hospital Grade Breast Pumps

Medela "The Classic" (no longer manufactured)

Weighs roughly 18 pounds, has a large pewter colored piston that moves up and down, (on a rod, just like one inside a car engine) inside a smoke colored case, with a blue colored metal housing.  They have a life span of 25 to 30 years. The Classic is primarily an in-hospital or rental unit and is the best pump for the mother who is establishing her milk supply for a preterm baby or is exclusively pumping.  Medela’s newest rental grade pump is called the Symphony.

Medela Symphony

The Medela Symphony represents one of the bigger advances in breast pumps in the last 20 years. This computerized breast pump uses a different program card based on the individual mom’s circumstances: moms who are exclusively pumping, moms pumping for a preemie, moms pumping for a full term baby or moms who are pumping daily at work.

It uses two removable diaphragms in the upper portion of the unit to produce suction. Medela boasts their new 2-Phase Expression Technology is designed to mimic a baby’s nursing pattern, so it triggers a faster let-down than traditional style electric breast pumps, and can extract as much milk as the baby.

The Medela Symphony is primarily a hospital grade unit that is frequently available for rental. It is also a great choice for mothers who are exclusively pumping and want an incredibly reliable breast pump. It's a little complicated at first due to the setup process and configuring the various settings for an individual mom’s circumstances. However, once the settings are programmed, it's easy to use. 

There is also a Medela Symphony Plus which has a rechargeable battery for on the go moms.

Medela Lactina

The Medela Lactina is an extremely popular hospital grade breast pump that comes in a small blue box. It has an armature that moves the piston back and forth to create suction. It weighs roughly 5-8 pounds.  The external cylinder housing and piston armature from the personal pump kit, “click onto” the machinery.  It has both speed and suction controls.

Speed is controlled by a setting on the Lactina. The suction level is controlled by a valve on the cylinder housing.  The piston has a rubber gasket on the end that forms the seal.  The gasket should be replaced if it becomes tough, brittle, or cracked, or there is a noticeable change in the suction level. The Lactina is also primarily a rental unit, although they can be purchased from Medela.  An external battery can be rented or purchased.  A 12V car adapter is also available.

Ameda Hospital Grade Breast Pumps

Ameda SMB (no longer manufactured)

The Ameda SMB is one of the original rental grade pumps and it weighs roughly 18-20 pounds. The SMB has a large silver piston that moves up and down inside a clear case on a silver metal housing. It is not currently in production, but can still be found in many hospitals. The SMB is primarily an in-hospital pump. However with the personal pump kit and tubing the SMB can be used as a personal pump. It has suction level control only.

 Ameda Lact E

The Ameda Lact E is also similar to Medela’s Classic but it is smaller and much lighter. The piston housing is brown and cream colored plastic. It has a life span of about 15 years.  Only the suction level can be controlled.

Ameda Elite

The Ameda Elite is the flagship of the Ameda hospital grade breast pump lineup. It's a mint green breast pump about the same size as a small gym bag.  The Elite weighs about 9 pounds without an internal battery and 10 pounds with the battery. A car adapter is also available. The Elite Comes in 2 models: one with suction control only or one with both speed and suction controls. The pump kit attaches to an armature on the pump. Holders for the pump kit are molded into the pump body.  Milk back-up into the pump is not possible when the Ameda HygieniKit is attached, because the milk never touches the tubing.