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Primary, Secondary, and Wearable Breast Pumps: What You Need to Know

Here's what you need to know about Primary, Secondary, and Wearable Breast Pumps. Understand the functions of each pump so you can choose what is right for you.

Reasons choosing the right pump is overwhelming:

  1. There are so many brands and options available.
  2. Pumps can be pretty pricey.
  3. The reviews are full of terminology you’ve never heard before. Primary pumps? Secondary pumps? Wearable pumps? Who knew there were different types?

Consider this blog your quick-reference guide. 

By the time you’re finished reading you’ll walk away with:

  • An understanding of the key characteristics and functions of primary, secondary and wearable pumps
  • A curated list of pumps by type, plus access to reviews and recommendations
  • A short tutorial on how insurance can offset the cost of your pump
  • The confidence to pick the right pump for your needs

Primary, Secondary, and Wearable Breast Pumps: What You Need to Know

The Primary Pump: Your Main Squeeze

If you’ve been around One With The Pump for any length of time, you’ve heard me talk about how important it is to fully empty your breasts at regular intervals throughout the day. When you empty your breasts, it sends a signal to your body to make more milk. If you don’t empty your breasts, your body thinks you don’t need as much, so it won’t produce what you need.

To protect your supply, you need a pump that can reliably empty your breasts every time you use it. You should be able to sit down for your 20-30 minute pumping sesh and know without a doubt your pump will fully empty you, 100% of the time.

Enter the primary pump.

Your primary pump is your go to, ride-or-die, use it for all (or the majority) of your pumping sessions throughout your pumping journey. Its powerful motor gives it the umph needed to empty your breasts efficiently and effectively every single time you pump. You feel comfortable and confident when you put it on, because you know it will pull out every last drop of milk.

Bottom line: If you only own one pump, it needs to be a primary pump.

Primary pumps include:

Pumping pro tip: Your insurance might cover some or all of the cost of your pump! This video walks you through how to get the best quality pump without paying a ridiculous amount out of pocket.

The Secondary Pump: Your Part-Time Pumper

Secondary pumps are usually smaller and more portable than primary pumps* and use a less powerful motor. As a result, a secondary pump won’t fully empty your breast 100% of the time. So while it's great to have, a secondary pump shouldn’t be the only pump you own and use.

In order to protect your supply, only use your secondary pump 1-3 times within a 24-hour period. And if you’re able to, it’s good to extend your pumping session by 10-15 minutes when using a secondary pump to get your breasts as close to empty as possible.

Think of a secondary pump like a substitute teacher. A competent and necessary life-saver who can fill in at a moment’s notice, but never meant to be a permanent replacement for the regular teacher. 

Examples of secondary pumps:

Pumping Pro Tip: While most portable pumps are secondary pumps, there are a few exceptions. The Pumpables Genie Advanced (Discount code: ONEWITHTHEPUMP) and the Baby Buddha are super portable primary pumps.

The Wearable Pump: Your “Juggling Everything Plus your Jugs” Solution

Wearable pumps are a type of secondary pump and a favorite of moms who need to multitask. 

Wearables are all one piece—no wires, tubes, or external parts—so they tuck right into your bra. They allow you to pump while driving carpool, doing a Zoom meeting, or wrangling your active toddler.

Keep in mind you won’t be able to see your letdown while using a wearable since it is hidden away in your bra. Wearables also have a limited range of flange sizes, so they aren’t as accessible to all moms. These inserts do work inside a wearable pump or cup to make the flange size smaller. 

When it comes to using your wearable, follow the guidelines as you would with any secondary pump:

  • Only use your wearable 1-3 times in a 24-hour period
  • If possible, extend your pumping session by 10-15 minutes to remove more milk from your breasts

Examples of wearable pumps:

Pumping Pro Tip: Before you buy your next pump, check out my Pump Reviews Playlist on YouTube and get the 411 on some of the most popular pumps on the market.

But what about a hospital grade pump?

The term hospital grade has nothing to do with how well the pump works, its ease of use, or its ability to empty your breasts. It just means it’s a multi-user pump, made with durable materials. The hospital keeps parts on hand, and the pump goes from room to room. Think about it: the pump in the hospital gets hauled from room to room to be used by hundreds (maybe thousands) of moms. It needs to stand up to the wear and tear of multiple uses by multiple people—some of whom might not be so gentle with it.

I’ve used “hospital grade” pumps that I wanted to immediately throw in the trash, and others that worked pretty well.

You don’t need to worry about getting a “hospital grade pump.” Make sure your main pump is a primary pump, and you’ll be good to go.

Trade confusion for confidence

New pump, who dis? Don’t let the buttons and settings on your pump throw you for a loop. With The Ultimate Pumping Course, you can learn to use your pump pump efficiently and effectively in less time than it takes to find and read the user manual. 

With demonstration videos dedicated to a variety of the most popular pumps on the market + a step-by-step settings guide, The Ultimate Pumping course is the “easy button” for anyone who pumps.

Primary, Secondary, and Wearable Breast Pumps

Wherever you are in your pumping journey, this course empowers you to:

  • Confidently pump and nurse from day one
  • Choose the right pump and make the most of your pumping sessions
  • Create a pumping schedule that supports your short and long term needs
  • Eliminate pain while pumping
  • Size your own flange
  • Establish, maintain, and manage your milk supply
  • Prevent common pumping problems
  • Utilize pumping full-time or alongside nursing as part of your overall feeding plan

You can pump efficiently, effectively, and confidently—from your first feed to the last. The Ultimate Pumping Course will show you how. Get instant access and be one with your pump, starting today.