Renting a Breast Pump: A Detailed How-To Guide

Last Updated On: 

January 9, 2019

Between moms who have to go back to work and ones who need a little extra help increasing their output, there’s a whole host of reasons why a new mom might need a breast pump. But, while making breastmilk is of very high importance to many new moms, sometimes it’s just not possible to get a pump to help support her supply.

Fortunately, renting a breast pump can be an affordable and accessible way to get exactly what you need, regardless of whether or not you’re able to obtain a pump via your health insurance plan.

If this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, then read on for our advice on who should rent a breast pump, what the benefits of doing so are, how you can start the process, what steps you need to go through, and things to look out for when you’re considering borrowing rather than buying.

How Can I Get a Breast Pump?

Although renting a breast pump is a very viable option for many, it should be made clear that healthcare benefits in the United States cover a breast pump for all nursing moms.

However, the law applies to newer healthcare plans and not ones grandfathered in under the new regulations.

What the Law Says About Breast Pumps for New Moms

In general, the law requires your health insurance plan to cover the cost of a breast pump, but it does not specify anything further.

This means your insurance company decides whether you can get a manual or electric pump, whether you can rent or purchase one, and when you’ll get it (either before or after the birth of your baby).

In most cases, your doctor’s recommendation or even a prescription is required to receive your breast pump, regardless of whether it’s a rental or a purchased one.

Therefore, it’s essential to talk with your healthcare provider about what their recommendations are in addition to what your insurance plan will agree to cover.

What if My Health Insurance Won’t Help?

Although health insurance companies are required by law to help you get a pump, this might not always work to your advantage. What they work to help you get might not be the type, model or brand you want (or need) for your baby.

And unfortunately, dealing with paperwork and tons of phone calls may take months or even longer, by which time you may have given up on breastfeeding altogether because of how tedious this entire process proved to be.

On the other hand, some insurance companies are more willing to pay for a breast pump rental—especially if you have a prescription from your doctor for a hospital-grade pump—instead of purchasing one outright.

One thing to keep in mind is that whatever your insurance covers, you may still have to pay some amount to get your breast pump and possibly the supplies you’ll need to use with it.

Of course, sometimes it’s not worth the trouble to argue with an insurance company or try to convince a doctor to give you a prescription for a pump. In those cases, it’s helpful to know how to obtain a rental pump even without insurance.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, read on for more details about renting a pump and what you need to know about how to get one, with or without health insurance coverage.

Who Should Consider Renting a Breast Pump?

First things first, who should rent a breast pump?

In general, moms who don’t have access to a purchased pump will want to consider renting one out. However, there are some other scenarios in which it might be a good idea for moms to rent a hospital-grade pump over purchasing whatever model is most affordable.

First-Time Nursing Moms

If it’s your first time nursing your baby, you may be uncomfortable with the process at first, and you may have concerns about your milk production.

For moms who have time to stay home with their babies and work at nursing, but also want to tread carefully into a world they know very little about, sometimes renting a breast pump can help with both mom’s milk production and her peace of mind.

Also, you may not want to purchase a pump since you’re not entirely sure if you’ll stick with breastfeeding on the long run. For many reasons, you may opt to switch to feeding your baby formula milk instead later. In many situations, you have no other choice than making a switch.

Or, you may decide that you don’t need a pump if you’re available to nurse your baby on demand. For the first few days or even the first few weeks, though, you might benefit from a few pumping sessions in addition to your baby’s regular nursing habits.

Moms of Multiples

Although many insurance companies will allow moms to choose the pump which works best for them, moms of multiples have a unique set of challenges.

While in most cases, a mom who births healthy twins, triplets, or even higher-order multiples is capable of making milk for them, some new babies are too small or sick to latch properly.

For mamas with multiple babies, using a hospital-grade pump may be key in making enough milk to feed the babies before they’re able to nurse directly.

In this case, you can rent a pump for the shorter term, and see how things go over time as your babies get bigger.

Moms with Low Supply

Moms who don’t make enough milk to feed their babies breastmilk exclusively can often benefit from using a hospital-grade pump.

If you happen to be using a hand-me-down pump or one which is intended for part-time use, including a single electric or manual pump, you may not be getting as much milk output as you would with a heavier-duty pump.

After all, hospital-grade pumps are intended to start and sustain a steady milk supply without the involvement of the baby. For this reason, they’re super beneficial for moms who find themselves struggling with having their babies nurse, or moms who simply aren’t producing enough milk.

Exclusively Pumping Moms

Exclusively pumping moms have a unique set of circumstances because often, they either cannot or do not want to nurse their babies directly for one too many possible reasons.

Whatever the case, a hospital-grade pump is often the best solution for making milk without having a baby nurse.

For moms who exclusively pump, using the highest-grade breast pump you manage to get a hold of is the best way to ensure a full milk supply for as long as you want to keep lactating.

So, renting one and using it till you no longer need it is ideal!

Before Renting a Pump: What Should I Try First?

Although renting a pump is an excellent way for lactating moms to get access to all the supplies they need to express milk till they no longer want or need to, there are a few things you need to consider first before rushing to your nearest hospital lactation center for that purpose.

Get to Know Your Existing Pump

In some cases, moms who decide to get a rental pump already have one available to them that they could use. However, it may be challenging to figure out the settings, how to operate the thing and best practices which can help you make the most milk.

If you already have a pump but haven’t been able to make enough milk using it, or if it feels uncomfortable and you’re this close to giving up on it and start looking for something else, consider these steps to see if you really can’t work with what you already have.

Tip #1

Make sure your flanges fit correctly.

The flange is the part of the pump which fits over your nipple. The flange should be wide enough so your nipple doesn’t rub against the sides as the pump begins operating.

If you need help with sizing, see a lactation professional or measure yourself to find the best flange fit.

Tip #2

Read your user manual (or find one online) to understand the settings on your pump.

Most pumps have a letdown setting and a deeper suction setting, although they may be labeled differently depending on the brand.

In most cases, nursing moms should use a light and fast setting to encourage the milk to let down. Afterward, a slower and deeper setting is often most practical for getting the most milk out as possible.

You may also have multiple letdowns; in which case practicing using these settings can help make your pumping sessions more efficient and productive.

Tip #3

Consider replacing the existing parts.

Especially if you are using an older pump, replacing the tubing, any seals, and valves may help enhance the pump’s performance.

Similarly, checking for air leaks or any damage in the tubes can help ensure you’re maintaining suction while you pump.

Learn to Hand-Express

Learning to hand-express breast milk means you’ll be able to get the milk out even if your baby oversleeps or doesn’t seem interested in nursing.

Plus, hand-expressing is a great backup method to be familiar with just in case you’re separated from your baby or if the pump you do end up renting winds up quitting on you.

Talk to a Lactation Specialist

Although many hospitals and birth centers have lactation support staff on hand at all times, many others do not. So, if you have left the hospital without seeing a lactation consultant, you might have unresolved breastfeeding challenges which are impacting your milk supply.

Fortunately, for most moms who can nurse directly, pumping is not necessary. However, you do need to make sure your baby has a good and active latch at the breast. He or she should also be gaining weight adequately, another measure your lactation consultant can help with.

In the end, however, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to pursue pumping – regardless of whether or not you’re also directly feeding your baby.

And if you do eventually decide to rent a pump, we have everything else you need to know about the process in this guide!

Breast Pump Rental Costs

In most cases, renting a breast pump is affordable regarding use over time. However, you need to know that not every rental location will offer the same pricing.

So, here’s what to consider as far as pump rental costs are concerned.

Long-Term versus Short-Term Rental

For most moms, it’s hard to decide how long you’ll need to rent a pump for, especially if you’re unsure how breastfeeding will go. Nonetheless, it’s something very important to consider, as it could – and will – affect the overall cost of renting a pump that you incur.

For example, many rental locations charge by the week, with special lower rates for longer-term rentals. But, if you rent a pump for six months and wind up not using it after the first month or two, then clearly you haven’t gotten your money’s worth out of the investment.

On the other hand, it’s also not fun to pay weekly for a rental when the long-term cost exceeds what you would pay for a long-term lease. Therefore, you should consider what your goals are and pick a point to reevaluate at.

In general, a month’s rental is probably enough for you to decide whether you like the pump you’re renting, whether it’s helping with your supply or any other issues, and if you’re going to continue breastfeeding for the time being.

Type of Pump and Supplies Included

The cost of a rental pump is also impacted by the equipment you’ll need to use with it. While many hospitals rent out breast pumps to nursing mothers, they may also charge a fee for the package of sanitary equipment you need to use it.

For example, many hospitals rent out Medela Symphony breast pumps, but since these pumps have a closed system for sanitary reasons (this is why they’re a great rental option!), you’ll need a kit which includes tubing, connectors, flanges, valves, and bottles to get started using it.

In many places, hospitals provide these kits to moms who are currently inpatient—but when you leave the hospital to go home after the delivery, then you’ll have to pay whatever the standard price is for the kit.

Insurance Portions and Reimbursement

If you have health insurance, it pays to check ahead of time to see what the company will cover as far as pump rentals and potential reimbursement.

The best-case scenario is your insurance company will pay the pump rental costs directly, but this isn’t helpful if you need to walk in and get a breast pump right away. Getting your insurance to pay for a pump, or for them to reimburse you, may involve filing paperwork and even a specific timeline.

Therefore, check out those options ahead of time before you decide on a particular pump or rental location.

Advantages to Renting a Breast Pump Over Purchasing One

I think I speak for all of us when I say we’d all like to own our breast pumps by making a brand new purchase, but this isn’t always feasible for everybody. Also, it’s not always the wisest of choices, either.

There are a few benefits to renting rather than buying a pump outright.

Access to Hospital-Grade Equipment

Did you know a Medela Symphony breast pump can cost upwards of a few thousand dollars to purchase outright? In contrast, renting a Medela pump often costs as little as $20 per week for as long as you need it.

While rental costs do vary, this is a relatively inexpensive way to borrow a high-end pump and use it when you need it most.

Included Support Package

What’s great about renting a breast pump locally is you can often get nursing and pumping support from the same location.

Hospitals and health care programs also tend to stock the products you’ll need for pumping, from different sized flanges to spare valves to tubes of lanolin for reducing chafing.

Lower Cost with Short-Term Use

If you’re hoping to increase or even jump-start your milk supply, a rental pump is a great way to do so. However, you may not need a high-performance pump after the first few weeks or months of pumping.

In this scenario, there’s a lower cost associated with short-term use of a pump. If you bought one instead, you’d be stuck paying full price even if you only used it a handful of times.

Safety Concerns with Renting a Breast Pump

The primary safety concern with renting a breast pump is cleanliness. After all, most nursing moms aren’t exactly excited about the thought of using a pump that several others have used before.

However, the breast pump industry has an answer to this dilemma: a closed system.

Hospital-grade pumps are intended for multiple moms to use. These pumps are closed systems, which means milk cannot get into the tubing and therefore into the motor or any of the insides.

Any pump which requires you to plug in your own tubing and also has a way to prevent milk backflow is considered a closed system.

Examples of commonly available closed system pumps nowadays include:

  • Medela Symphony
  • Spectra Pumps (when used with backflow protection)
  • Hygeia pumps

Guidelines for Renting a Breast Pump

When you decide to rent a breast pump, it’s important to know a few facts about the process in general.

First, even though the term “hospital-grade” is used often when speaking about breast pumps, the FDA does not recognize the title and therefore has no consistent definition for it. This could mean your pump is not necessarily high-performance just because it carries the label of “hospital-grade.”

Also, borrowing a used breast pump—whether through an organization or just through a friend—is also not recommended if it’s not a closed system.

In pumps which are not a closed system, there is no way to guarantee the pump can be cleaned or disinfected. As a result, you or your baby could get sick from the germs in the device.

Where to Rent a Breast Pump

Thanks to the increasing awareness nowadays concerning nursing moms, there are rental pumps available at a variety of locations.

Hospitals

First, hospitals are often a great place to borrow a pump from, as they also tend to have lactation support staff on hand to help you out. Also, if something goes wrong with the pump while you have it, you know you can drop by and return it for another one in good working condition.

As far as safety and ease of mind are concerned, it doesn’t get better than renting from a hospital.

Manufacturers

Besides a hospital, you may also rent a pump directly from the manufacturer. For example, breastfeeding supply and pump companies Medela and Ameda provide online resources for renting their breast pumps.

Online

There are also companies which sell and rent breast pumps, but you’ll need to be careful with these types of sites.

In general, it’s a good idea to stick with reputable brand names and websites when sourcing a breast pump rental. This way, you’re less likely to run into problems either with the performance of the pump or the sterility of the system.

Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program

You can also rent a pump via the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program in many states.

The organization focuses on breastfeeding promotion and support, including breast pump rental and other programs.

Also, many WIC locations can lend breast pumps for free to moms in need. You can also find a WIC office near you for more information.

State Health Departments

Finally, many state health departments also offer breast pump rental programs.

This varies by state, however, so you’ll need to contact your state’s health department for details if you’re interested in going down this route.

Wrapping it Up

Nowadays, finding a rental breast pump is easier than it’s ever been, but it’s still important to look for the safest and most effective device that’s suitable for your unique situation and needs.

It’s also crucial for moms to find a trustworthy provider to not only help maintain the pump, but to also answer any questions about its use and help navigate other breastfeeding and pumping challenges as they come.

Fortunately, most breast pump rental organizations also offer services to help make feeding easier for everyone involved – both moms and their babies.

With the right support and an efficient breast pump, moms who aim to breastfeed for as long as possible will have an easier time reaching their goals!

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