Personal electric breast pumps, also sometimes called double electric or small electric have probably become the most common type of breast pump on the market today. The most commonly seen pump of this style in America is the Medela Pump in Style in its various varieties (original, advanced, backpack, etc.). Ameda and Hygeia as well as other companies offer popular pumps in this style as well. Let's take a look at personal electric breast pumps.
Personal Use Pumps
I chose to list this type of pump in my article title as a Personal Electric. This is to distinguish it from other types of electric pumps, namely hospital grade pumps. Generally personal use/double electric pumps are meant to be used by a single mother and not shared. There are exceptions to this rule, and some companies design their personal electrics to be shareable.
There is often a great deal of debate about whether it is ok for women to buy or be given a used double-electric breast pump. For further examination of this issue, see my article "Buying a Used Breast Pump" in related links at the end of this article.
Double Electric Pumping
Probably the most distincting feature of this type of pump is the ability to pump both breasts at the same time and to no have to manually control the suction action of the pump itself. This has several effects. First, double pumping is basically telling your body that two babies are nursing at the same time -- essentially, that the mother is nursing twins! As you might expect, the body's reaction to this information would be to increase supply. This is great for mothers who return to work with young babies, with premature infants who can not yet nurse at breast, for mothers who must or choose to pump exclusively and other who need to increase supply. Double pumping can help to keep supplies stable even though the pump doesn't do quite a good a job as a baby at stimulating milk production, by compensating with fooling the body a bit.
The other obvious benefit of double pumping is time savings. For mothers who need to squeeze in a pumping session during a break at work or between classes, this can be really important. And the electric feature of the pump means that hands aren't needed to control the pumping action itself once the pump is started. And for those who really like to multitask, there are handsfree bras and kits available so moms can keep on working while pumping (some even drive while pumping with car adaptors for pumps, but PLEASE be careful ladies if you do... your babies need you even more than they need your milk!!!).
Who Needs a Double Pump?
Generally, a double pump would be for women who are returning to work or school full-time or at least more than a few hours a day on a consistent basis. For women pumping exclusively, those pumping for preemies or others seeking to increase milk supply with the use of a pump, I would generally encourage you to consider renting a hospital grade pump (see my article on hospital grade pumps for more details). For those who are not returning to work until the baby is more than 6 months old or will be working less than 5 hours each day or only a couple days a week, a less expensive, simpler and smaller pump may be more appropriate (see my article on Manual and Battery Pumps in related links, below).