This article was updated in August 2022

So, you're preparing your Poppylist baby registry and trying to decide: Do I Need a Hospital Grade Breast Pump? The short answer is no. And here's why.

When preparing for the arrival of a little one, there are many things to think about, one being which breast pump best meets your needs. There are several brands of breast pumps, with Medela and Spectra being the most well-known and varying levels of pumps: manual, regular electric, and hospital-grade electric. Most moms find the standard pump meets their pumping needs, whether to pump upon returning to work or build a stash to keep when they are away from baby for a few hours. Knowing the three main differences between the levels can be helpful when deciding which is best for you.

What's the difference between a hospital-grade breast pump and a regular breast pump?

There are a few things that separate the two types of breast pumps.


Most insurance companies will pay for a regular electric breast pump ($150-$200), but they will not cover the cost of a hospital-grade pump ($2,000). They will often times cover or provide a discount for renting one, depending on your insurance plan. The second difference is an open or closed system. The hospital-grade pumps are open systems meaning multiple people can use them. A regular breast pump is a closed system intended to be used by only one person.

  • Hospital = multiple people = open system: An open pump system has no barrier. If milk gets into the tubing, then the tubing must be cleaned and dried before using it again.
Medela Freestyle Flex Breast Pump. Example of an Open System Breast Pump = No Tubing
  • Regular = one person = closed system: A closed system pump has a barrier between the milk you pump and the pump itself.
Spectra S2. Example of a Closed System = Tubing

A reminder, momma— this is marketing jargon, so please don't worry about remembering the names of the systems

Suction Strength

The last difference is suction strength, which can help be the ultimate decider if a hospital-grade pump is needed. A hospital-grade pump has stronger suction meant to initiate, build, and maintain supply, particularly in the first five days after birth (Medela). This can be helpful for mothers who will be exclusively expressing, have more than one baby they will be feeding, have a baby in the NICU, or are separated from the baby for other reasons (Spectra).  

At-Home SpeCtra S1 Plus, a Poppylist favorite

Do I need a hospital-grade breast pump?

In most cases, no. Why? The FDA doesn't regulate any standards that a breast pump must meet to be considered "hospital grade," so breast pump manufacturers may have different criteria for designating a pump hospital grade.

Do I need to bring my breast pump to the hospital?

No, you do not. Every hospital will have a hospital-grade breast pump for you to use should you choose to pump immediately.

If you have more questions or want support to determine what pump is best for you, it can be helpful to speak to a lactation consultant either at the hospital or upon returning home.

Article and Words by: Eliza, CEO & Founder of Sunbarn Snacks, Mom extraordinaire, and Poppylist community member. For our favorite, simple ingredient snack, visit