As you start researching breast pumps, you'll see references to 'hospital grade' and 'portable' breast pumps. It can feel confusing trying to figure out which one is right for your situation and we do get asked this a lot of times.
When women ask us whether they should buy hospital grade or portable, we kind of have to say 'it depends'. How important is portability? Where do you need to use the pump? Will you be relying on your pump for milk supply?
Hospital grade breast pumps are bigger
A hospital grade breast pump has a much bigger, more powerful motor under the hood, which is capable of achieving higher suction and greater speeds. Although in the past, hospital grade breast pumps were big bulky things, in 2020 advances in technology mean hospital grade pumps are much smaller. However, a hospital grade breast pump still needs to be larger to accommodate it's bigger motor and greater vibration.
Our SuperGenie hospital grade breast pump is 1.2 kg, whereas our Genie Plus portable pump is just 220g.
Think of it like carrying around a laptop versus a smart phone.
Hospital grade breast pumps provide much more flexible speeds and options
Because a hospital grade breast pump has a large motor, it can achieve high suction and also fast cycle speeds.
Portable breast pumps have smaller motors that can only achieve high suction on low cycle speeds.
(Cycle speeds are how often the pump will 'suck and release' every minute, the way a baby sucks and releases during breastfeeding).
When you turn up the suction on your portable breast pump, the cycle speed will generally slow down.
Hospital grade breast pumps like SuperGenie are capable of having cycle speed and suction strength adjusted separately.
Most women respond best to faster cycle speeds, so this is really important.
Pumping is really, really individual thing, so being able to vary the way that your pump stimulates your breast is important. Every woman is different!
SuperGenie actually has faster speeds than any other pump on the market 💪.
Again, think of it like carrying around a smart phone versus a laptop - the smart phone is awesome and a true game-changer for 'on the go' but nobody wants a smart phone to be their only device if they really need to get work done.
If you're not relying on your breast pump for your milk supply, portable is fine
If you'll just be pumping up to 2 x a day and using a hospital grade pump or breastfeeding directly the rest of the time, a portable pump is fine. Although some women do fine using a portable pump for most of their expressing, it generally won't support / build milk supply the way that a hospital grade breast pump will.
If you need to use a pump more than 2 x a day, then your milk supply will be relying on your breast pump and the safest choice is a hospital grade breast pump.
Hospital grade used to mean 'safe for multiple users' but this is kind of out of date
So, back in the day, the term 'hospital grade breast pump' used to mean that in addition to the larger motor, the pump had also been fitted to be suitable to be used hygienically by multiple users.
10 years ago say, hospital grade breast pumps were super expensive and only really used in hospital / rental settings. Portable breast pumps were 'personal' and were often not hygienic to be used between users.
Nowadays, all modern breast pumps have something called a 'closed system' where a backflow protector makes a barrier between milk and the pump to ensure hygiene, so this distinction no longer really makes sense (yes, all Pumpables breast pumps are most definitely closed system!).
74% of women we asked said they did better with a hospital grade pump
We asked our Instagram followers recently how they did when switching from a portable pump to a hospital grade breast pump, and we found that 74% of people said that their milk output improved. This just about exactly matches the experience from our customer service team. Some women do just fine with a portable breast pump and even pump exclusively with one, but this is the minority. Most women will do better with a hospital grade breast pump (get more milk, in less time) and are better keeping a portable pump for on the go or just when needed at work or for an outing.
If you're not sure, keep thinking about it like a smart phone versus laptop!
Did we cover all your questions on this? Let us know if you still have more!