6 Best Breast Pumps

6 Best Breast Pumps

Best Overall Breast Pump
#1
Medela Pump In Style Advanced Breast Pump Backpack
  • Comfortable regardless of size
  • Super portable with its own backpack
  • Convenient to use and store
Best Hospital Strength Breast Pump
#2
Spectra Baby USA S1 Hospital Strength Breast Pump
  • Exceptionally portable; take it anywhere
  • Quiet operation for discreet expression
  • Compact and comfortable design
Best Manual Breast Pump
#3
Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump
  • Super easy to clean
  • Great for occasional, on-the-go use
  • Both portable and affordable
Best Breast Pump for Discretion
#4
Bellema Melon Double Electric Breast Pump
  • Excellent (and comfortable) suction
  • Even beginners find it easy to use
  • Simple and swift to clean

According to the United States Department of Labor, about 70 percent of American women with a child under 18 years of age participate in the labor force. That's an incredible 800 percent increase in working moms since 1860, despite the fact that the percentage of moms working outside the home decreased slightly over the past few years.

And, okay, let's hope that no one is still breastfeeding children in high school, but it shows just how many women feel the need to work - even after having a baby. 

That need can be economic, a drive to change the world, or simply mental stimulation. Whatever it is, the need is there. And, as the United States is the ONLY developed country that doesn't offer paid maternity leave, many mothers find it necessary to return to work sooner than they would like. (In case you're wondering, the only other countries to skip out on paid maternity leave are Swaziland and Papua New Guinea.) 

Put all these factors together and you can see why breast pumping has become commonplace in our world. 

Everyone wants the best for their child.

Whether you need to work or not, you're likely to feel an overwhelming desire to give your baby his or her very best shot in life. And, when it's medically and physically possible, that usually means breastfeeding. 

Breast milk contains just about everything your baby needs and nothing she or he doesn't. It's also been linked to higher IQs, fewer ear infections, and a reduced likelihood of developing asthmatic conditions. According to the World Health Organization, breast milk is the best source of nourishment for your child - and "if every child was breastfed within an hour of birth, given only breast milk for their first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding up to the age of two years, about 800 000 child lives would be saved every year." 

Wow!

So, if you need to get back to work, you want to get a breast pump.

No one is going to tell you that manual breast pumps are easy. No one says that electric breast pumps are fun (even when they have all those lovely buttons to play with). Even reading breast pump reviews to find the best breast pump for you can be a tiring experience. 

But, if a breast milk pump is what gives your baby his best chance at success, you're going to do it, right? 

Even if you don't need to go back to work and you just need a little more flexibility with feeding schedules - you're going to do it because happy moms make happy babies, and breast milk is just healthier than formula. 

(There are, however, circumstances where formula is the only or best option. That's something you need to discuss with your doctor. And, you may want to consult a lactation specialist before you give up on breastfeeding or pumping altogether.)

What are you looking for?

There are hundreds of expression machines on the market and they all claim to be the best breast pump. And, you will always find women that swear by their breast pump. That made it difficult to narrow our faves into a workable, researchable list. So we spent several hours a day for more than a week considering each option. 

We tried to present a range of options because every woman's situation is different. Some may only need to express on the rare occasion that they're traveling. Other's only pump once during the day while they're at the office. Some work in different spots every day of the week and need something portable. 

While each one of these factors is important, it's up to you to decide which is tops in your book. But now it's time to take a look at our Faves!


Editorial staff

6 Best Breast Pumps

6 Best Breast Pumps

Read Video Infographic Tips

According to the United States Department of Labor, about 70 percent of American women with a child under 18 years of age participate in the labor force. That's an incredible 800 percent increase in working moms since 1860, despite the fact that the percentage of moms working outside the home decreased slightly over the past few years.

And, okay, let's hope that no one is still breastfeeding children in high school, but it shows just how many women feel the need to work - even after having a baby. 

That need can be economic, a drive to change the world, or simply mental stimulation. Whatever it is, the need is there. And, as the United States is the ONLY developed country that doesn't offer paid maternity leave, many mothers find it necessary to return to work sooner than they would like. (In case you're wondering, the only other countries to skip out on paid maternity leave are Swaziland and Papua New Guinea.) 

Put all these factors together and you can see why breast pumping has become commonplace in our world. 

Everyone wants the best for their child.

Whether you need to work or not, you're likely to feel an overwhelming desire to give your baby his or her very best shot in life. And, when it's medically and physically possible, that usually means breastfeeding. 

Breast milk contains just about everything your baby needs and nothing she or he doesn't. It's also been linked to higher IQs, fewer ear infections, and a reduced likelihood of developing asthmatic conditions. According to the World Health Organization, breast milk is the best source of nourishment for your child - and "if every child was breastfed within an hour of birth, given only breast milk for their first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding up to the age of two years, about 800 000 child lives would be saved every year." 

Wow!

So, if you need to get back to work, you want to get a breast pump.

No one is going to tell you that manual breast pumps are easy. No one says that electric breast pumps are fun (even when they have all those lovely buttons to play with). Even reading breast pump reviews to find the best breast pump for you can be a tiring experience. 

But, if a breast milk pump is what gives your baby his best chance at success, you're going to do it, right? 

Even if you don't need to go back to work and you just need a little more flexibility with feeding schedules - you're going to do it because happy moms make happy babies, and breast milk is just healthier than formula. 

(There are, however, circumstances where formula is the only or best option. That's something you need to discuss with your doctor. And, you may want to consult a lactation specialist before you give up on breastfeeding or pumping altogether.)

What are you looking for?

There are hundreds of expression machines on the market and they all claim to be the best breast pump. And, you will always find women that swear by their breast pump. That made it difficult to narrow our faves into a workable, researchable list. So we spent several hours a day for more than a week considering each option. 

We tried to present a range of options because every woman's situation is different. Some may only need to express on the rare occasion that they're traveling. Other's only pump once during the day while they're at the office. Some work in different spots every day of the week and need something portable. 

While each one of these factors is important, it's up to you to decide which is tops in your book. But now it's time to take a look at our Faves!


Editorial staff

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Best Breast Pump for Busy Moms

76
Score 76

Why People Love it

  • Incredibly convenient; GTD while expressing
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Effective, hands-free pumping

Let's face it, being able to complete other tasks while pumping is a bonus for many moms that have more to do than can ever get done; that's what this system offers. You can pump with your clothes on. 

Women with larger breasts have difficulty getting this product to work for them - not to mention being discreet when they do. 

Details

As a mom, you're busy. That, and tired. It all goes with having a baby and raising a family. You need more time to get things done and relax (it goes without saying for just about everyone). And that's why concealable, hands-free breast pumps were created. Yes, these allow you to pump with your shirt on while you're doing other things. You probably don't want to be standing over a hot stove, preparing dinner while you pump, but this super breast pump might just give you a little extra time in your day, even when friends and family come to visit. 

  • Efficiency: The efficiency of this breast pump is what you can do while pumping, not what it can do. That's not to say this breast pump is inefficient or doesn't collect milk as well as other models. It's just not top of the line or as strong as some of the other models available. That said, you do get a lot of flexibility to do one or both sides at the same time. 
  • Ease of Use: If only you didn't have to be plugged in all the time! Other than that, these cups are a lot less pinchy and painful than other electric breast pumps. Set up is easy and you don't need to worry about too many bells and whistles. While the power switch could be in a more convenient position, it's not terrible. And, because this is completely hands-free, once you get it going, you're all set. 
  • Comfort: There's something to be said for hands-free pumping, isn't there? The collection cups resemble plastic breasts, so that is a little strange, but the fact that they tuck into your bra and you can put your shirt back on makes all the difference when it comes to comfort. This setup is still visible, but it's not as bad as some. Most users find the suction and the way this works to be very comfortable. 
  • Portability: Okay, you can plug this in anywhere, but that doesn't mean you have full mobility - even if your hands are available. You're still connected to the wall socket, and there isn't a battery option available. When they come out with that, we'll all jump for joy. In the meantime, you can rest assured that you can take this hands-free electric breast pump just about anywhere you go.
  • Washability: This might just be the easiest electric pump to care for. It and all the accessories are super easy to wash. As a bonus, the funny collection cups look a little less like a mommy thing and more like ordinary lunch containers. You can easily rinse in the office bathroom without it being obvious what's just been going on. 
  • Noise Level: Lovely noise levels here. It's not silent, but it's not going to drive anyone insane either. The humming noise may even be called soothing after awhile. 
  • Price: Really not bad at all. The MSRP is $160. For that, you get the electric pump itself, collection cups, a combination of tubes, and spare parts. It's nowhere close to the most expensive pumps, though it's hardly as affordable as some of the budget options on this list. 

Best Budget Electric Breast Pump

80
Score 80

Why People Love it

  • Incredible product given the price (and covered by many insurances)
  • Very comfortable for moms
  • Easy to clean electric breast pump

Any double breast pump makes for efficient expression which is a bonus for any busy mom. There are also eight suction-level settings so you can set an optimal pressure and speed. 

Some women have a difficult time getting the suction right on any of the eight speeds, and it's not recommended for women that experience difficulties with breastfeeding or pumping. 

Details

Breast pumps come in all shapes and sizes. And, you'll find an extreme range of prices. While you can more or less live by the adage that you get what you pay for, you don't always need to spend a fortune. If you need a super portable, super affordable, electric breast pump, you've just stumbled upon it. Don't think of this as the best of the cheap pumps out there; instead, consider it to be an inexpensive electric model for occasional pumping. As a bonus, this is a double pump which means you can express more milk in less time. 

  • Efficiency: Let's be honest, you're not expecting much for the price, but this is a lot more efficient than one might think. Sure, it's not going to give you super strong suction, but it works marvelously well for what you pay. And, it may even do better than that. If you are only pumping at the office or to relieve some pressure; it is more efficient than more expensive models on the market. 
  • Ease of Use: Okay, let's talk about that handle; it seems really rather odd, doesn't it? But it's there to make your life easier, and it really works. That said, it can be strange at first and you may need to figure out how to get into a comfortable position while pumping. But, the setup of this pump is very simple even with the harness. With only eight speeds to deal with, there isn't a lot you need to figure out. The plug-in cable is long, but you can operate it with batteries only - as long as you have some charged. 
  • Comfort: Yep, that handle again. We'll admit that it's not easy to wrap your head around at first, but once you get it, you won't have any issues. More importantly, the suction and breast shields are found to be very comfortable - as long as you don't have very large breasts. If you do, positioning this comfortably can be a challenge. But, you're unlikely to experience sore nipples unless you're using this machine constantly. It's simply not designed for constant use. 
  • Portability: Wow! This baby comes with a tote that allows you to store everything you need. (Yes, at that price!) That's pretty awesome already, but when you factor in just how compact the pump itself if, you'll be amazed at how easy it is to bring this with you wherever you go. It's a top choice for women that work in different locations every day or spend a lot of time getting from point to point. 
  • Washability: This electric breast pump isn't difficult to assemble or disassemble. You won't find it difficult to clean, though you will need to give it some time to dry so that condensation doesn't build up in the tubes. That said, it shouldn't require any great effort on your part to keep it safe for you and baby. 
  • Noise Level: People will know you're pumping; they will hear it. But, you can't expect everything on a budget model, can you? However, the noise level still isn't overwhelming; indeed it can be said to be quieter than most. After awhile, you may even enjoy the little buzzing noise.
  • Price: The initial MSRP of $99 has come down over the years to sit at about $80. That includes the tote and a couple of bottles. If you find it for less than $70 (which you can), you've just scored an impressive deal. 

Best Breast Pump for Discretion

84
Score 84

Why People Love it

  • Excellent (and comfortable) suction
  • Even beginners find it easy to use
  • Simple and swift to clean

This breast milk pump is ultra quiet for those moments when you need to be super discreet. It also has a memory function that remembers your settings. 

You'll need to source your own carrying bag to go with this pump and its accessories; it's a terrible shame. Then again, you probably have a few baby bags already.  

Details

Not everyone has a few hundred bucks to spend on a breast pump - or the need. If you're not planning to exclusively pump and you don't need to express several times a day, you can take a look at some of the less expensive, but still efficient electric breast pumps on the market. This is one of those models that works beyond expectations as long as you're not using it constantly.

  • Efficiency: Wow! Women love the efficiency of this breast pump. Many report being able to get a lot more milk in less time than more expensive models. True, this is a double pump, so you should always be able to express faster, but there is a lot of truth in those reviews. Add to that the amazing 25 settings you have to play with when choosing your pumping rhythm. That alone allows you to choose just how comfortable or how fast your session is. 
  • Ease of Use: Set up is a cinch; it's super easy to see what goes where without bothering to look at the manual. You can, of course, and if you're a first-timer, you really should. You can control both speed and suction with two buttons on the top of the pump. Each option allows you to adjust up or down. It's certainly more basic than you would find with some of the pricier options, but it's definitely easy to use.  There's also a memory function so you can quickly find the settings that work best for you.
  • Comfort: This double breast pump does not disappoint most women. The breast shields are comfortable and don't tend to leave moms with sore nipples. There's no harness on the tubing and shields, so you really can work yourself into whatever position is most comfortable for you. 
  • Portability: This is not meant to be a portable machine. It really is designed for women who need to lock it in their office or home. That said, it's not heavy and you can certainly move it from place to place. Except, you will need to get a carrying case to make that happen. Don't forget to grab an insulated bag for the bottles - unless, of course, you're pumping in the privacy and comfort of your own home. 
  • Washability: Not bad at all. Not that this is a clear-cut winner, but you're not going to scrub until your hands are raw or fight with little pieces while your eyes start to close on you. It's above average, and perhaps even better than that. 
  • Noise Level: For a double electric breast pump that retails for under $100, you would expect this to be louder than it is. Get ready to be surprised; it's not going to drown the sound of the television (or any snoring in the house). But, it's not silent either. You will hear some noise, though perhaps not enough to warn colleagues what's happening in the break room. 
  • Price: You'll find the MSRP of roughly $90 more than fair for this product. You get the pump, two suction kits, tubing, four bottles (and two bases), plus a nipple set and power adaptor. That's a bargain for any electric pump and especially such an efficient double pump. 

Best Manual Breast Pump

86
Score 86

Why People Love it

  • Super easy to clean
  • Great for occasional, on-the-go use
  • Both portable and affordable

This breast pump is lightweight, portable, and discreet. Plus, the swivel handle is ergonomically designed so you'll remain comfortable during manual expression. 

All manual breast pumps share the same issue; manually expressing is time-consuming. You won't find this one any different. 

Details

Some women have the luxury of being able to breastfeed most of the time. But, there are those moments when you just can't be with your baby and you need to express. If that's you, a manual breast pump is the perfect way to alleviate fullness and feed your hungry baby the best nature can provide. Manual breast pumps are known to be exceptionally comfortable, but you will need to spend some time. There's always a tradeoff, right?

  • Efficiency: For a manual model, this Medela breast pump is clearly a winner. The design is just right - and it provides you with two phase expression that you'll find in the more expensive electric pumps. So, although you can only empty one side at a time - and you'll need to do a bit of the hard work yourself, this is going to be the most efficient way to make that happen.
  • Ease of Use: Again, it's a manual breast pump; it will be more difficult to use than pushing a single button. But, if you're not doing it all the time, you can cope. The lever has two ends - a short one and a long one. The short side stimulates your let down reflex as if your hungry baby was there with you. When the milk really begins to flow, you can swivel the level to work with the longer side for more efficiency. There are a few connections to manage, but as there are no wires or readouts to deal with, it's about as simple as can be.
  • Comfort: If you want comfort when expressing, you will need to look at a manual breast pump. That's not to say that electric breast pumps can't be comfortable, but manual will win hands down. And this is the best of the best for your breasts. (Your hands will become a little fatigued, however.)
  • Portability: There's nothing easier than tucking what you need into a sealable bag and popping it into your purse. In fact, you could get an insulated lunch container and call it a day. Manual breast pumps are designed for portability and this one fits the bill. 
  • Washability: This Medela breast pump is easy to disassemble and clean. Nothing is difficult to reach nor are there fiddly bits to cope with. The only apsect that some users may have an issue with is the center of the pumping lever, but this never comes into contact with the breasts or the milk, and poses no threat to your baby. A good soak and a dedicated brush may be all you need. 
  • Noise Level: About as silent as you could expect from any manual breast pump. You won't hear it at all which would make it very discreet to use - as long as no one can see what you're doing. 
  • Price: With a MSRP of $41, it's more expensive than most manual breast pumps out there. But, it's still a lot cheaper than electric models and worth every penny considering that you also recieve two sealable bottles and a bottle stand. An insulated carrier wouldn't go amiss, but given the price and the quality, we can overlook it. 

Best Hospital Strength Breast Pump

93
Score 93
$174
44 Bought | Save: $126 (42% OFF)

Why People Love it

  • Exceptionally portable; take it anywhere
  • Quiet operation for discreet expression
  • Compact and comfortable design

The powerful, adjustable suction of this breast pump is amazingly comfortable - and quiet. As a closed system, it's hygienic for mom and baby. 

This is a little on the pricey side (especially at the MSRP of $285). Though you will likely get it at a cheaper price through Amazon, the S2 model is even less expensive. 

Details

There's something you should know before you read any further; there's no such thing as a hospital grade breast pump. Sorry. The FDA does not recognize the term "hospital grade breast pump" and neither should you. The term applies to multiple-user pumps that are provided in hospitals so lactation consultants can work with new mothers. And, we want to qualify that some more; you cannot assume that any used or multiple-user pump outside of the hospital has been completely sterilized; indeed, bringing your own to work with is always a better idea if you can.

This closed-system, electric pump does, however, have the efficiency and accessories you would expect from something you would call a hospital grade breast pump. This double pump even has a nightlight and a rechargeable battery. And, there are some other bonuses too. 

  • Efficiency: Of all the breast pumps you could ever consider, this one is perhaps the most efficient. Not only does it effectively work exactly the way a hungry child would, you'll find a lot of options here. You can adjust speed and suction to your liking and nursing moms report more milk with this pump than any other electric breast pump they have used. And, because you can pump both breasts at the same time, you can be done before you have a chance to finish that glass of ice tea. 
  • Ease of Use: Set up is very easy as it's just a matter of making all the connections you need, including the backflow hygiene protectors. Once you're set up, this breast pump could actually be called fun. There are buttons that control the suction (vacuum) and cycle (speed) along with plus and minus buttons to adjust to your heart's content. Then there's the nightlight, a button to reduce the noise, and a clock to let you know how long you've been pumping. Basically, it provides everything but a television to watch while expressing. 
  • Comfort: If you experience sore nipples quickly or easily, this is the pump that you should try. It is about as gentle as you're going to find - even when switched onto the higher, stronger cycles. 
  • Portability: On it's own, this electric breast pump is quite portable as anything with a rechargeable battery should suggest. But, it doesn't come with a tote, backpack, or even a bottle bag. You can purchase a tote separately, and you may already have a couple insulated bottle bags... but, if you want everything to be just so, you will need to spend more. And that makes us a little sad. 
  • Washability: Awesome, awesome, awesome. That backflow thing really works to prevent condensation. If only it could also clean itself!
  • Noise Level: Another big plus with this machine is the noise level. There almost isn't one, except for a shhhh sound. Combined with the nightlight, this is a solid choice for exclusively pumping mommies. 
  • Price: The MSRP is $285 and you do get a solid machine for that price - which you won't pay as there is always a bargain to be found. But, it only comes with two bottles and standard breast shields. If you want a carrying case, extra bottles, different shields, or anything else - you must expect to pay more for it. Now, this portable breast pump's younger sister, the S2 is a little less powerful, but it's also less expensive and possibly worth the look if budgets are very tight. 

Best Overall Breast Pump

97
Score 97

Why People Love it

  • Comfortable regardless of size
  • Super portable with its own backpack
  • Convenient to use and store

This Medela breast pump is perfect for busy moms that need to pump several times a day - and the carrying case makes it easy to do so away from home. The pump itself features two-phase expression technology with a single touch let-down button. 

Some users report occasional condensation in the tubing and it can be a little on the loud side (especially in an echoey bathroom).

Details

If you can afford it, this is the breast pump you want to get. Sure, nothing is perfect (and it may feel as though your home will never be clean again), but there are a lot of pros to this particular model. In addition to the electric pump and the backpack it comes in, you also get four bottles in a cooler bag with removable ice pack. It's about as convenient as you can get; especially with the battery adaptor. 

So, why is this the top fave? Easy. You get a huge amount of options, benefits, and convenience. But, as The Pumping Mommy will tell you, it's all about the "performance!" Indeed, most mommy and pumping bloggers have plenty of great things to say. According to the website, Breastfeeding Quest, the Medela Pump In Style is "one of the best daily-use pumps on the market." She recommends it for "moms who pump regularly to boost their milk supply. Also for moms going back to work and pumping away from their babies."

  • Efficiency: You can expect a large amount of milk in a short amount of time with this Medela Pump in Style breast pump. That's because of the two-phase expression mechanism designed to replicate the breastfeeding experience. Essentially, you'll experience short, gentle suction at the beginning which stimulates the let-down reflex your baby would provide at the beginning of a feed. After that, the tugs become longer and stronger. There are options to adjust phase length and intensity according to your needs. 
  • Ease of Use: This is perhaps the easiest pump to use, in part, because of the portability offered by the included backpack. All you need to do is unzip the pocket with the pump and plug it in before attaching the tubing to it - and the bottles and breast shields. It's rather intuitive, which helps - especially for first-time pumpers that have reservations. There's also a battery adapter which makes it easy to take the entire setup somewhere quiet, comfortable, and away from people. 
  • Comfort: Breast milk pumping is never completely comfortable, though many women barely notice any pain or sensitivity. In general, manual pumping is a little more comfortable than electric pumps but obviously more time-consuming. This pump, however, is one of the most pleasant experiences a nursing mother can have, and this pump is easily one of the best for moms that exclusively express. There are different sized breast shields available, so if you need to move up or down a size, you don't have to replace the entire unit. 
  • Portability: The all-inclusive backpack should really tell you this machine can go anywhere - and is designed to do just that. The battery adaptor doubles the portability score. If you're always on the move, consider this Medela Pump in Style breast pump.
  • Washability: If there's one part where this pump falls down, it's the condensation in the tubing of this open system. This doesn't affect suction, but after a few months, you don't want to experience any buildup that could affect the quality of your milk. The easiest way around this is to pick up a pack or two of replacement tubes, which are easy to find. Regular washing is, as with all things regarding your baby's health, absolutely essential - but no breast pump is self-cleaning. 
  • Noise Level: Okay, okay, it's not quiet. But, the hum isn't terribly annoying for most people. If you need to be discreet, however, this is not the pump for you. 
  • Price: The MSRP is $300, but you're never going to pay that much. It typically retails on Amazon for under $200 and for what you get, that's a great price. 

When you’re pregnant for the first time, there’s a whole lot of supplies to buy - and if you’re planning to return to work after your baby is born, a breast pump is probably high on your list… after a crib and a car seat, of course. And, so it should be.

Breast milk is the perfect source of nutrition for an infant, and the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months if at all possible.

Why do you want a breast pump?

Besides the obvious convenience of a breast pump, there are a couple of other reasons a new mother might consider purchasing one.

Insufficient milk supply - There are many reasons women aren’t always able to produce sufficient milk, including the strength of the baby to release milk and continue sucking until satiation. Reduced demand leads to reduced supply even when a baby desperately needs more milk. Breast pumps can stimulate greater demand, making it easier for both mom and baby.

Engorgement - On the other side of the spectrum is engorgement, when so much milk is produced that it’s difficult for infants to latch and subsequently drain all of the milk. In this instance, a breast pump can reduce the volume before breastfeeding, making it easier for the baby to latch. And, as breast milk stores incredibly well (in the right conditions), it doesn’t need to go to waste.

Medical and physical demands - Premature babies may be kept in the NICU for some time, during which it may not be possible to breastfeed (some or all of the time). Pumping makes it possible to maintain milk supply for future breastfeeding. Other physical conditions (both maternal and infantile) may make it almost impossible for comfortable breastfeeding; pumping still provides optimal nutrition without the strain.

Types of breast pumps

There’s a lot more variety to breast pumps than you may initially suspect; there is one for every budget and reason, but you will need to spend some time considering what will work best for you.

Breast pumps are available with single and double cups; the latter provides the option to express more milk in a shorter time span - though they are often more expensive (and some designs are significantly less comfortable).

Additionally, you’ll find manual, electric (or battery-operated), and hospital grade pumps. The right one for you may not be the one you initially expected; it’s best to consider the pros and cons of each before investing.

Although there are other considerations, the type of breast pump you need is the first point you need to address.

Manual breast pumps

Though these are definitely the least expensive option out there, they do require a fair amount of effort as they are exactly as described: manual. That said, they are the perfect choice for women who:

  • Plan to leave their child only occasionally (such as with a sitter);
  • Are on a strict budget (and can’t claim a breast pump from their health insurance); or
  • Just want something for emergencies.

It is possible to find both single and double manual pumps, but you’ll need to check whether they require one or two hands for both types of models.

On the plus side, these pumps are:

Conversely, manual pumps may not completely empty mom’s supply, have reduced suction control, and can be difficult to operate. And, you should steer clear of any with parts that are difficult to clean.

Electric breast pumps

Electric breast pumps are perhaps the most common - and there are definite advantages, including ease of use. But you’ll pay more for the features that go with these pumps. Women who can afford an electric breast pump should consider one if they:

  • Need (or want) to express often (such as moms who work outside the home);
  • Require multiple modes (including letdown); or
  • Don’t have a lot of time to express.

Many electric pumps offer double pumping (though single options are available), weigh less than five pounds, and require only one hand to operate. In addition, you’ll find that there are usually a few extra features and sometimes an added battery pack - though you will definitely pay more for these options.

You should be aware that most electric pumps work with an open-system; these are only designed for one user as there are multiple areas that touch breast milk and residue may be left behind.

Hospital-grade breast pumps

First, you should note that while the FDA regulates breast pumps, they do not have a hospital-grade classification. To further complicate matters, there doesn’t seem to be an agreed definition as to what manufacturers mean by hospital-grade. Often, but not always, this is taken to mean a high-end, electric, closed-system breast pump.

For reference, closed-system pumps (which ensure milk never touches working parts) are the only suitable options for sharing or renting, though extreme care must still be taken and lactating mothers must still invest in their own accessories.

Most women do not require such systems; those that do usually receive a referral from a medical professional. However, women who are exclusively expressing and have the budget available may want to consider a breast pump labeled as hospital grade, though these are more commonly rented out by hospitals and lactation specialists.

How to pick the right breast pump for you

A recommendation from your sister, friend, or co-worker does not mean you will end up with the right breast pump. Sorry. But, as you know by now, you don’t have the same breasts as they do. You also don’t have the same child. And, you probably don’t even have the same needs or comfort levels.

By now, you’ve probably got a good idea of whether you’re interested in a manual or an electric pump, and whether double or single pumping is right for you. But there are a few more things you should consider before you look closely at specific models.

How much pumping will you really do?

If you’re almost exclusively expressing milk (or you will be at some point), you definitely want to consider the higher-end models. Sorry. Remember that the more powerful the motor is, the longer your breast pump will continue to be effective. Luckily, this means that you’re more likely to get a few extra features.

How well do you express milk?

This is such a tricky one as you really don’t know until you give it a go - and it can be different for every baby. If you’ve previously had a lot of success expressing, you’re more likely to have an easy time of it… but not necessarily. However, if you’ve experienced problems in the past, you probably want to opt for a higher-end model that features more suction-and-release cycles and stronger suction than cheaper breast pumps.

Remember, though, you should never try out your breast pump until your baby is born, as you can bring on early labor if you do!

How portable is it really?

If you’re after a manual breast pump, you have almost no need to worry about this. And, if you’ll normally express at home, you probably don’t need to spend too much time on this aspect either. Everyone else should consider how easy (or difficult) a pump will be to tote around. This is where battery packs and car adapters can be important.

Portability goes further than the pump itself, however. It’s also critical to consider the safe bottling and storage of milk once it is expressed. Some breast pumps will come with everything you need in a single pack while others will require you to buy additional pieces. Either way, it’s important to understand the ease of use for every item in your breastfeeding bag when you use it away from home.

Is it easy to clean?

Cleaning your breast pump and all its accessories is critical for the health and safety of both baby and mom. If you’re only pumping on the odd occasion, you can spend a little more time cleaning than women who plan to express several times a day. So, pay close attention to the number of parts you need to clean as well as the cleaning method.

Can you adjust the suction and the settings?

This isn’t a deal-breaker for all women. But, everyone has an optimal suction strength (which may be different for every baby) and having some control over this is one way to ensure a breast pump works for you. In addition, babies drink at their own pace and variable cycle lengths can make or break the pumping experience for some moms. It’s not usually critical, but it’s worth taking the options if they’re affordable.

Can you afford it?

Babies are expensive as any parent will tell you. And, while you may be tempted to skimp a little on your breast pump, it’s better to purchase the best model you can afford that ticks all of the right boxes for you. Otherwise, you may just need to go through the whole process again and shell out for a second pump.

If you are covered by health insurance, Medicaid, or WIC, you can be reimbursed in full or in part by your provider. But, this may not always be the case.

Does your health insurance cover the cost of a breast pump?

In the US, the Affordable Care Act includes specific provisions for insurers to cover breast pumps in their policies. However, it is uncertain when and if this requirement will be dropped. It is, however, likely. And, it is also possible that legally-mandated workplace spaces for breastfeeding will fall away, as well as coverage for breastfeeding support from qualified lactation specialists.

Despite a mandate, employers and insurers may continue to offer these services. However, upon the complete repeal and (or) replacement of Obamacare, you will need to check with your health insurance provider rather than assuming a breast pump will be covered.

You may also want to check out Aeroflow Breastpumps, a company that assists women with the process, investigating whether their insurance covers the cost of a breast pump (or to what amount they will pay) as well as obtaining the necessary prescription from your doctor and completing required paperwork. This company can take a lot of work off your plate and it’s always worth the look.

What else do you need?

A breast pump isn’t the end of the road; it’s the beginning. You will need some extra pieces to make the most of your new pump. And, some aren’t as obvious as you may think.

  • Additional shields (flanges) - Unless you’re renting a closed-system pump from a professional, you will definitely receive the cones that attach the pump to your breasts. These are commonly known as shields or flanges, but that’s where the commonalities end. The shields that come standard with a machine may be too big or too small, they may suck too much of your areola in or just feel uncomfortable. Double check that your breast pump has options (even if they’re sold separately) and that they’re easy to get. They’re usually affordable, costing somewhere between $10 and $20.
  • Battery adapters and car connection kits - These are a nice to have... until that one emergency and then you’ll be happy you have one or both.
  • Cleaning products - You’ll be able to get by with the cleaning stuff you use at home… until you leave the house. A portable cleaning kit is essential if you’re planning to pump outside your home.
  • Insulated tote bag - Unless you’re planning to express and dump your breast milk, you’ll need to be able to store it safely until you return home. That typically requires an insulated cooler of some type and an ice pack. As you’ll definitely need this to express while you’re out, it’s worth looking at breast pumps that come with fitted carrying accessories. Make sure the capacity of the bag matches your intended expressing plans.
  • Bottles and milk storage bags - It’s much, much easier when you can express into the bottle you will use to feed your baby. It’s worth buying a machine that allows for this and offers several bottle sizes and options. Remember that milk bags may also offer better long-term storage solutions. As always, look for a system that offers a complete solution, even if you need to buy a few extra pieces.

Breast pump safety

When it comes to breast pumps, you absolutely need to be safe about it - even if you’re pumping and dumping. We seriously recommend reading through all the instructions and warnings included with your pump. But, there are a few things you really should pay attention to.

Used pumps

It is possible to purchase a second-hand pump or to rent one, but only if it is an FDA-recognized multi-user pump. And, even then, you need your own accessory kit and bottles. Single-user, open-system pumps can easily harbor bacteria and viruses from previous users - including HIV and cytomegalovirus which are really not the start you want to give your baby.

Unless your healthcare provider has recommended such a pump to you, it’s always advisable to buy a new one rather than save a few bucks this way.

Clean after every use

We know you’re not going to do a full sterilization in the office after expressing during your break. But, you should wash parts with dish soap and rinse with hot water for at least 10 seconds. It’s preferable to air dry pump parts (even if you give them a once over with a paper towel), but you may not have the option to do so when you’re away from home. When you do return, it’s worth the extra washing, drying, and sterilizing according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

But, don’t clean tubes

These only need to be cleaned if milk gets into them. But, you will need to refer to the manual as to the best way to clean and dry the tubes according to your specific model. Keep in mind that some breast pump models advise replacing certain tubes if they become foggy and it’s better to do so than to provide a convenient breeding ground for bacteria.

Shields and single pumping (with a double pump)

Always turn off an electric breast pump before removing the shields. While this is a mistake you’ll only make once, you want to avoid it altogether if you can. Need we say more? Even after switching off, it’s best to use a finger to break the seal before removing the flanges.

If you have a double pump, but only plan to empty one breast, seal the other side, otherwise you’ll have an issue with the suction. While this isn’t a matter of safety, per se, you’ll appreciate the reminder if you don’t want to sit with your pump for the next three hours.

How to use your breast pump

This is where things get personal. And, as every breast pump is different (as are the women using them), we can’t advise you how to use yours. You really do need to read the instruction manual and contact the manufacturer if you have additional questions.

If you’re really struggling, your first port of call should be your doctor or a licensed lactation specialist. Not every pump is for every woman, but some issues go beyond pumping itself. But, one thing we can tell you before you head off to find the right machine for you is that pumping can take time - the first couple sessions are likely to be trial and error as you find the right settings and the most comfortable positions. And, at the beginning of every session, you’ll need to exercise plenty of patience (it’s not as if you’re a faucet that can be turned on and off at will). But for your sweet little baby, it's all totally worth it.

Editor: Fashion & Grooming, Home & Office, Food & Drink

Katie’s Cleveland proud; but she’s also lived in Australia, Switzerland and now stays in South Africa. That’s a roundabout way of saying she can’t sit still; she’s always moving, always busy.

She has a BA in International Relations from Kent State University and work towards a Masters in Human Rights. She speaks French, is learning German and used to dream in Spanish. For years, Katie worked as a producer on fashion and advertising shoots before she realized her passion was the written word.

Katie’s far more interested in guy’s gear than women’s, except she has a wardrobe brimming with little black dresses. She drinks her beer out of the bottle and is raising her two boys to be better men.

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