breast pumps

Medela Pump in Style, $280,

amazon.com

Hooking the girls up to a manual or electric suction device for extended periods of time may not be super-fun, but for some moms, it's a necessary means to an end -- breast milk for baby when the boobs are MIA.

Do you really need a breast pump? Which one should you buy? From around CafeMom, here's a compilation of real-mom answers to breast pump FAQs.

Is a breast pump a must-have?

If you're planning on breastfeeding, but will be returning to work or want the flexibility of family and friends being able to feed the baby breast milk, a pump of some sort is a necessity. What kind you need may depend on how long the periods away from baby will be -- will it be just the occasional feeding here and there or will you be away full days?

You might be able to get away with a manual pump -- and some moms even find these are more effective at expressing milk -- or you may need a double electric in order to produce the most milk in the shortest amount of time.

Many moms say that, even though they're expensive, it's best to take the plunge and go for the double electric if you can. Just think of what you'll be saving on formula.

Which pump is the best?

The names that frequently emerged from the moms were the Medela Pump in Style (which comes in a discreet carrying bag, and costs about $280 - $350), the Lansinoh Double Electric (about $150), and the Ameda Purely Yours (also around $150.)

All three are double pumps (so you're expressing both breasts simultaneously) and they allow you to adjust speed and suction. (Word to the wise: Best not to crank up suction to the max the first time you use a pump -- just as with breastfeeding, it may take the girls a little time to adjust to this new activity.)  :)

What's the deal with renting a pump?

It is possible to rent a pump instead of buying. Ask your doctor or midwife for suggestions on where to go in your local area. Hospitals usually rent them, and you may be able to give a pump a test run after birth in the facility where you'll be delivering -- check in advance to see if that's an option.

Where can I get more info?

La Leche League and WIC (Women, Infants, Children) may be able to assist you in finding a place to rent a pump or even in purchasing one. Contact your local group or program.

Are you planning on buying a breast pump? Which one are you going with, and why?