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Finding the best breast pump feels like searching for a needle in a haystack. The wrong pump can make you feel miserable at best and ruin your breastfeeding relationship at worst. I spent many hours crying over breast pumps that just weren’t working correctly, and I thought the issue was me, not the pump.
I’m here to tell you that picking the right breast pump for you matter a lot. The problem is what works for your best friend might not work for you. What you find comfortable another mother may find painful. The wrong breast pump can feel like a torture device rather than a helpful tool, but if you do decide to breastfeed your child, you’ll likely need a breast pump.
For some moms, their breast pumps are used every day, becoming a normal fixture in their lives because of their work schedule. It pays to take the time to pick the right one for you.
After breastfeeding multiple kiddos, I’ve tried several brands and styles of pumps. Some have left me cringing and ready to toss the whole thing out the door, while others left me singing the praises of modern technology.
Do I Really Need a Breast Pump?
I asked this question, and for most mothers, the answer is yes, you need a breast pump. Some women who exclusively breastfeed have managed to not use a pump, but I have no idea how they managed that.
If you go back to work, a pump is a need. You’ll need a good pump that you can take to work with you to pump on your breaks to bring home.
If you don’t go back to work, a pump is still a good idea. I like to go shopping without my kids and to go out to dinner with my friends. If something happens and you end up in the hospital, you need to have a way to feed your baby unless you want to take your baby to the hospital.
For many women, the only way to make breastfeeding work is by pumping at work. If you work an 8-hour shift, not pumping is going to cause you to be engorged and leak everywhere. Not expressing milk often enough can cause your milk supply to decrease, and it can lead to clogged ducts and mastitis.
Examples of why you need a breast pump:
- To relieve a clogged duct
- Provide milk after returning to work
- Still allowing you to give your baby breast milk if he has latching issues
- Relieves the discomfort of engorgement
- To increase your milk supply or build a freezer supply for later use
- To avoid the cost of buying formula
When Do I Need a Breast Pump?
If you rely on your insurance, most of the time, they won’t send you a breast pump until your baby is born. So, you might wonder when do I need a breast pump?
Most lactation consultants don’t recommend that you introduce a bottle immediately if you’re breastfeeding. Baby needs time to get used to the breast and latching properly before introducing a bottle, otherwise, you risk nipple confusion. That is when the baby starts to prefer a bottle nipple over the breast.
It’s best to start pumping between three and four weeks old. By this time, your milk is in, and you’re starting to get a better rhythm down with breastfeeding. You don’t have to introduce a bottle just yet if you don’t want, but if you plan to go back to work, starting to pump a few weeks ahead of time lets you build up a freezer stash.
Remember, if you’re going back to work, federal law covers your right to have a private place to pump and the right to reasonable breaks. Your employer should already be aware of your rights, but be sure to research your state and provide any necessary documentations if your employer disagrees.
Types of Breast Pumps
Breast pumps come in two general types: single and double. You can guess what this means. A single pump is for one breast at a time, and a double pump can attach to two breasts. Double pumps let you express more milk in the same time frame, but they typically cost more.
After that, you can break those two groups into different types of breast pumps. Here are the categories.
I think everyone needs to have a manual pump available, even if you have an electric pump. Manual pumps don’t need any external power resource, and you create the suction or vacuum with your hands squeezing a handle. Having one on hand helps when your power goes out and you need to pump or for short dates when your boobs might explode.
Manual pumps are lightweight and portable. You can easily tuck a manual pump into your diaper bag or your purse if you’re heading out for several hours. They’re discreet and noiseless, so you won’t attract any attention. Plus, manual pumps are cheap.
The downside is that they don’t express as much milk because they don’t have as much suction power. Some women find this style of suction can be uncomfortable. It wouldn’t be a good choice if you need to pump at work several times a day because they aren’t as efficient.
Personal Electric Pumps
Electric pumps have strong suction strengths than manual pumps, and you don’t have to use your hand. They plug into an outlet and use electricity to express the milk from your breasts. Some brands have LCD screens, timers, multiple expression modes, and more. They can get fancy!
Electric pumps have a downside as well. First, they’re pricier for sure; some are triple the price of manual pumps. They weigh more; you’ll need to carry it in a separate bag if you’re headed to work. Also, they’re louder and not as discreet.
What About Batteries?
Some electric breast pumps have non-rechargeable batteries. It’s great for traveling, but battery powered typically lacks the needed power to mimic the natural sucking cycle of a baby. They will burn through batteries quickly, so always keep extra batteries on hand.
Some brands will include rechargeable batteries, but this will be more expensive. While I think having a battery powered option is great for occasional use, I wouldn’t recommend relying on a battery powered pump all the time.
Hospital Grade Pumps
Technically, the FDA doesn’t recognize the term “hospital grade,” but there is a difference. Hospital grade pumps are double electric pumps that are a closed system. These pumps have a longer motor life and can be used to express milk around eight or more times per day.
The downside is that you typically need to rent hospital grade pumps because they’re way more expensive than other brands. However, they’re great for moms who exclusively breastfeed.
Should I Put a Breast Pump on My Baby Shower Registry?
You know that you want to breastfeed, so it seems like a natural choice to add a breast pump to your registry. Now, you can absolutely add one if you want, but I would hold off on doing so.
Most insurance plans cover some or all of the cost of a breast pump. Some cover purchases, rentals, or both. Check with your insurance to see if they’ll cover the cost before adding it to your registry, and save that space for something else.
Some moms opt to add a second breast pump, such as a manual or a Haakaa. Those pumps are cheaper and work as a backup for parents. You also can add breast pumping or breastfeeding accessories to your registry. Read our breastfeeding tips if you have more questions.
How to Pick the Best Breast Pump
I learned the hard way to do my due diligence when it comes to picking a breast pump. Don’t just grab one off the store shelf, and don’t just listen to one friend’s recommendation. That will come back to bite you in the butt.
Everyone has different needs, different bodies, and different babies. Pick your breast pump with your unique situation in mind by knowing what to look for in a pump.
Painless, Effortless Pumping
Before anything else, the breast pump you select needs to be able to pull milk out of your breast effectively without any pain. The experience might not enjoyable; breastfeeding can be uncomfortable at times. Pumping should never be painful, so whatever you select needs to be painless and easy.
Cost is always the most important factor for your decision. You need to stick in your price range; there is no reason to blow the budget. At the same time, cheaper pumps won’t work as well as pricier options. Purchase a good pump from the start.
Check with your health insurance to see if they offer free pumps. By law, some insurances are required to offer free pumps or cover part of the cost of a pump. Double check to see what you qualify.
Most women will use a breast pump for several months. So, when looking at the cost, set an upper and lower price limit. You can expect personal electric pumps to run up to a limit of $400, and manual pumps are between $30 and $50.
Single or Double
Do you want to be able to pump both breasts at one time? Expressing milk is time consuming, so a double pump is ideal for working moms. You can pump both breasts at one time in an efficient manner. A single pump is fine for those who won’t pump as often.
Do you need to pump large quantities of milk on a frequent basis? Some pumps are meant for occasional use while others are meant for many pumps per day. Figuring out how much you expect to pump each day or week can help you decide what type of pump you need to have.
Ease of Cleaning
Pumps need to be cleaned after each use, so buying one that is like a jigsaw puzzle with dozens of pieces isn’t a good idea. When you open the bag, you don’t want to see dozens of pieces. Tubing is difficult to clean out. Who wants to spend all that time cleaning?
Available Parts and Accessories
Pumps should have a range of accessories and parts if you want to change the setup from out of the box. For example, you should have access to several breast shield sizes because the wrong sized shield will affect your pumping efficiency.
Also, are parts easily available for you to purchase? I’ve had to replace tubing and membranes – aka valves – in my pumps several times. Thankfully, the stores near me sold those parts so I didn’t have to order online and wait for them to arrive.
If you’re heading back to work after childbirth, a portable pump allows you to express milk during your breaks throughout the day. Having a portable pump is vital for working moms to be able to continue their breastfeeding journey.
Stay at home moms might not be as concerned about portability. If you plan to be home when you pump, it won’t be a huge deal.
How does the pump get power? Blackouts do happen, and you might have to worry about not having electricity to run your pump if you exclusively pump. Some pumps have alternative power sources, such as batteries or car adapters, so you can use your pump in different locations.
The pump needs to have adjustable suction because the amount of suction that works for me won’t work for you. You might need more or less suction than usual to stimulate let down.
There are two parts to a breast pump suction: the strength and the frequency. The strength is how the pump pulls and compresses the nipple while the frequency is how often is pulls the nipple. Some pumps let you adjust both the strength and frequency, while others combine both in a single control system.
The 5 Best Breast Pumps
You can purchase the Spectra in two versions – Spectra Baby USA S1 (blue) and Spectra Baby USA S2 (pink). Both are excellent breast pumps. Spectra S1 is a little bit more expensive than S2 because it has the option to switch to battery power. If you want to be able to take your pump with you everywhere, I would suggest S1 rather than the S2. It’ll open up your options, but it does cost more.
Moms love the Spectra breast pumps because they’re made to last for years, depending on your usage. It’s strong enough to make pumping quick, and it isn’t a noisy pump compared to other brands. In fact, Spectra is downright quiet!
Both the S1 and S2 are lightweight, weighing only around 3 pounds. You can express milk from one or both breasts, making this a double electric breast pump. Spectra uses a closed system, so no milk particles will end up in the motor of the pump. It’s more sanitary if you want to let your friends use the pump or give it away in the future.
Moms love so many of the features that Spectra included. It has a letdown mode that helps to stimulate and trigger your breasts to release the milk. Breasts like to be stubborn sometimes, so this mode is helpful. Massage mode simulates the natural suckling of a baby.
On the LCD screen, you’ll find a timer and a nightlight for late-night pumping sessions. In the set, you receive the AC power adapter, two Spectra wide neck bottles, two backflow protectors, two Spectra valves, two sets of tubing, and four flanges – two 24mm and two 28mm.
The Spectra tops our list for the best breast pump because many mothers state that they are able to express more milk with this pump than any other pump on the market. I’m one of those mothers. While I’ve always pumped, it’s never been a task I particularly enjoy, and I never collected as much milk as I know I can produce. With the Spectra, I increased my output, allowing me to collect more breast milk for my freezer stash.
- The S1 has a battery powered option
- Super quiet for discreet pumping
- Closed system
- Expresses milk quickly
- Tubes can fall off during pumping
- Vibrates during uses
The Medela Pump in Style is one that I’ve used recently and often are covered by insurance. It’s a fantastic investment, and Medela offers different breast flanges to help accommodate larger chests and nipples. Medela includes two sizes of breast shields with their pump – the 24mm and the 27mm. Make sure to give these a try before you decide to order the extra-large shields.
Unlike other breast pumps, the Medela Pump in Style is attached in a carry-all tote bag that comes with everything you need plus accessories like an ice pack and carrying bag for bottles. The tote bag makes it easy to transport the pump from place to place, and it’s very discreet. It looks like a normal bag. No one will know it’s your breast pump.
I’ve used the Medela Pump in Style extensively for a year, and the suction strength is impressive. It helps to keep your supply up while being totally adjustable. Above the knob to adjust the suction, you’ll see a small button which is to help stimulate your letdown. This is called a two-phase pumping technology that lets you simulate how a baby really nurses. You might not realize that babies nurse different to trigger your letdown!
As far as cleaning, it’s a breeze! Medela uses a closed system, so the tubes won’t be fully with milk, which makes cleaning easy. The pump operates with either the power cord or 8 AA batteries, so you can easily use this breast pump in your car or while traveling.
Medela includes four 5-ounce bottles with the pump along with their lids. Inside of the pumping bag, there is a removable cooler bag with a contoured ice pack that fits the bottles perfectly.
One huge advantage that the Medela Pump in Style has over the Spectra is the availability of accessories. Most Walmart and Target stores sell tubing, membranes, flanges, bottles, and more. That makes it easier to successfully pump for your child, even if you’re traveling. Medela also has a wider variety of breast shield and sizes.
So, are there downsides? The motor is loud; I wouldn’t say this breast pump is ideal for discreet feeding. You don’t want to make phone calls with it attached to you! Also, you need to clean several pieces. Medela does sell sterilizing bags that you can microwave for easy cleaning at work.
- Strong, adjustable suction
- Easy to clean
- Replacement parts are easy to find
- Comes in a bag for discreet carrying
- Costs more than other brands
- Heavy pump
In my opinion, everyone needs to have a manual breast pump on hand, and the Medela Harmony is my favorite pick for the best manual breast pump. It’s a breeze to figure out how to use it, and you can toss it in your purse or diaper bag without a second thought.
You do all the work, but the Harmony makes it as easy as pie. The front part of the pump handle can be pressed down forward to stimulate your letdown. It offers a different type of suction that helps your breast release milk, which can be a problem with pumping.
Then, you use the handle to stimulate the appropriate suction. This is called a two-phase expression technology, so you can either stimulate milk flow or maximize the flow with the same pump handle.
Pumping is comfortable with an ergonomic, cushioned, swivel handle. The Harmony is incredibly quiet as most manual pumps are. You can pump discreetly during break or in the car without anyone noticing.
Medela included a 24mm nipple shield, but you can use different sized Medela breast shields for this pump. Make sure you find the right one for you because it makes pumping more comfortable!. Medela created these pumps to be BPA-free. The Harmony includes two 5-ounce bottles with tops, a nipple with a collar, two extra membranes, a bottle stand, and a cap.
Perhaps best of all, the price of this pump is perfect, even if you’re on a tight budget. The Harmony is budget-friendly, yet it has a great design and isn’t missing anything you might desire. One thing I’ve learned is that if you notice that the pump is l.
- Easy to transport
- Easy to Use
- Might lose suction over time
- Your hand will get tired
Finding an affordable double electric pump is difficult, and the Lansinoh Signature Pro is an affordable, mid-range quality pump that you can trust to get the job done. It’s not as fancy as the Medela or Spectra, but, for the price, you get an electric pump that works well.
Lansinoh offers moms a closed, hospital-grade breast pump with extras such as stimulation phases, adjustable suction levels, and all the accessories you need. It runs off of battery power or power cables, which is great because it gives you the portability factor working and traveling moms need.
Many moms like the other features that Lansinoh added, such as the three different pumping styles and the backflow caps that stop milk from going back into the tubes. The three customizable pumping styles help to maximize the amount of milk produced. Then, the two-phase technology uses a rapid pumping rhythm to help start your milk flow. Then, the “expression” phase uses a slower pumping for the maximum milk flow.
They added a carrying bag, perfect for working moms. The set also includes two bottles with caps and nipples. On the front of the pump, you’ll find a display that shows the monitored pumping sessions, a digital clock, suction levels, and battery power. Using the display allows you to keep track of the phase settings, and you can use a timer to let you know how long you’ve been pumping.
Another awesome feature is that it has Bluetooth connectivity. Download the SmartPump app, and you can track your pumping schedule, your baby’s nursing schedule, his growth, and more. The app lets you print all of the information on charts to give to your doctor. How convenient!
Some might assume that, because it’s a cheaper pump, that it will be more painful or uncomfortable to use, but they’d be wrong. This pump is designed to have a lighter, more massage-like suction when compared to other pumps.
- Gentle, massage-like suction
- Closed system
- Included traveling bag
- Battery powered option
- Might be too gentle to stimulate some women’s letdown
Technically, the Haakaa isn’t a normal breast pump, but I had to include it on the list. No pumping is actually involved with this, but you’ll end up with a lot of breastmilk after using it. The Haakaa was one of the ways I increased my freezer stash without having to do much.
If it’s not an actual breast pump, you might be wondering what is a Haakaa? Basically, a Haakaa is a silicone pump that attaches with suction to one of your breasts while you feed your baby on the other breast. Then, you just let your boobs do their thing.
The force of the suction helps to stimulate your let down, and the milk will start to flow. You do need to be feeding your baby with the other breast to help the letdown or it won’t happen. It doesn’t hurt or feel uncomfortable. Best of all, it takes two seconds of effort from you. All you have to do is attach it and forget it’s there while it collects milk.
Haakaa uses 100% food-grade silicone that is BPA-free for their products. The size is perfect; you can fit it into your diaper bag or purse. You can purchase caps online to keep the pump sterile after cleaning and to stop milk from spilling out after you set it down. Spilled breast milk is sad.
Cleaning the Haakaa is easy. It’s dishwasher safe, but I just used a bottle brush with hot water and soap to get it cleaned after each use. It can be sterilized with steam or boiling water, but stay away from bleach.
- Easy to Use
- Great for traveling
- Ideal for moms with oversupply issues
- Won’t fully empty your breast
- Measurements aren’t totally accurate
- Silicone can hold scents
Should I Rent or Buy a Breast Pump?
Did you know that you can rent a breast pump? So many mothers have no idea that’s an option. Instead of paying a large sum for a breast pump, you can rent a hospital grade breast pump. This type of breast pump has the best motors with a closed system, so they can be reused over and over by mothers. You cannot rent personal electric breast pumps because you could transfer milk particles.
Depending on your doctor and hospital, you can rent a breast pump for around $50 a month. An average hospital grade breast pump can cost around $2,000 – yes, you read that number right! $50 a month doesn’t sound too bad.
Now, remember you will need to purchase breast shields, tubes, membranes, and bottles. Also, remember that this style of pump doesn’t travel as well due to their size, and they don’t run on batteries.
I would recommend one of these if you just want to see if you’ll like pumping. Most pumps cost around $200-$300, so if you do plan to breastfeed for the long-term, it’s financially smarter to invest in a personal electric pump. However, hospital grade pumps are great for short-term uses.
What is the Best Breast Pump?
I can’t pick the best breast pump for you because we’re all different. The best breast pump is the one that works best for you and your body. Look at the cost, painless pumping, availability of parts and more to pick the right one for you!
Do you have a preferred breast pump? Let me know in the comments!