Over my 25 years, I have seen pump models come and go, and I now stand in awe of the advances that have come for this next generation of working/pumping mamas. Shall we take a little stroll down memory lane? Back in the "day", Ameda Egnell and Medela were the two powerhouse pump companies - they were the "go to" companies and the hospitals usually stocked their pumps. They were piston-driven, weighed a TON, and were meant to stay put in the NICU (usually) where the mothers of premature infants would come to express their milk. They were expensive, got the job done, and usually were rented not purchased. They would be best compared these days to the Medela Symphony. Back then, "hospital-grade" meant the Classic or the Lact-E pumps (those big mamas) not necessarily the Pump in Style Advanced you see today that are portable and affordable.
The Medela Lactina was the first improvement we saw in the hospital-grade pumps. It was piston-driven, but much lighter and portable, so if baby was in NICU the moms could carry this pump between home and hospital. It's actually still around and given out by WIC to their clients. It's a solid pump, just no bells and whistles, and a bit clunky to carry around.
When my daughter (in 1991) was 6 weeks old I got a job part-time in Oklahoma City at the YWCA Domestic Violence Center. I worked the evening shift, maybe 5-6 hour shifts, as I recall. I did not take my pump (which probably is what contributed to my lower supply) because it was horrifyingly LOUD and the thought of pulling it out to pump in public (even around a bunch of women) was not something I thought I could do. It was the Medela Mini-Electric single pump. It ran on batteries so you could be portable, which was nice, but it sounded like a blender. I'm exaggerating a little, but not much! And it would just pull and h-o-l-l-l-l-d your nipple. I would get only a very small amount of milk with that stupid thing AND the whole neighborhood knew what I was doing. Lose-lose.
I also tried the manual (non-battery operated) Medela Spring Express. This pump is actually still around (albeit without the spring) and we give it to the moms in the hospital when they are being discharged on a weekend and they are without a pump OR a latching baby. It was OK (good bicep workout). It has the option of adjusting the suction, but the speed is all on you and your arm strength. And you can only do one at a time, and it takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r. With my second baby, because I had some pumps in my house that I was renting out, I used the Lactina and got more milk out (enough to leave with baby while I was gone to nursing school). It wasn't perfect, but we made it work.
So, as you can see, the innovations for this next generation, with pumps that actually send information to your phone to tell you how much you pumped, blows my mind. Where there is a will, there is a way, and mothers will continue to drive the improvements with their feedback (and the good old fashioned concept of competition between pump companies, vying for the business). If working and pumping are on your horizon rest assured your options are aplenty. To learn about your pump options (how to select and use properly) be sure to sign up for a year's worth of support via my Work.Pump.Balance. online course. We cover every imaginable thing to help get you super-prepared to return to work with the right pump for your situation. Click HERE to learn more!