Hey, mama. I’m guessing you probably fall into one of two camps:
- You’re not sure whether you need a breast pump (perhaps they are another over-hyped and unnecessary mom accessory?)
- For you, life dictates that you’ll need to pump. You just need to know which is the best breast pump for you.
We’re going to keep things simple. We’ll quickly answer your questions, then we’ll round-up the best breast pumps of 2017.
Let’s do this.
Do you need a breast pump?
Not necessarily. Many moms don’t use breast pumps. It depends on your situation and what you want. If you are a stay at home mom, you may be able to comfortably get by without one. For many moms, however, they are absolutely essential.
We recommend you buy a breast pump if you are breastfeeding and…
- You are going back to full or part-time work and need to provide milk for your child’s carers;
- You and your partner and/or family members would like to share night-time feeding duties (this can be a life-saver and gives your baby bonding time with the other important adults in her life);
- You want to stimulate your milk supply. It is certainly something to try;
- You have to stop breastfeeding for a while (eg, to take medication). With a pump you can store a supply of milk to get you through this time;
- You have a premature baby who finds it difficult to latch; or
- You want the occasional night away from your baby
If this is you, then a breast pump may be essential. At times it may feel like a hassle, but trust me, you’ll soon be making your baby food and this precious breastfeeding window will be over.
Types of breast pumps
There are several types, so which is the best breast pump for you?
Electric – Whether by direct connection to an electrical socket and/or by using batteries, these pumps do all of the work for you. The downside is that they can sometimes be noisy and are bulkier; not always ideal if using out of the home.
Hospital Grade – These are typically top of the range pumps which are both powerful and extract milk quickly. Often, they are for new moms who are having trouble breastfeeding. Being both heavy duty and expensive they are often hired or lent to moms by hospitals. Note that “hospital grade” isn’t a term recognized by the FDA (Food and Drug Association). So when it comes to manufacturers, this is more of a marketing term. If you aren’t experiencing any problems with breastfeeding, then you may well choose to buy a more affordable pump which will be just fine for your needs. That said, if budget is no issue, then hospital grade pumps are still a good choice. They tend to be more effective, faster and durable. So they’ll make your pumping easier and ought to stand the test of time.
Manual – These are quick and easy to use. The benefits are that no batteries or electricity are needed for you to power the pump and they can often be much quieter than electric pumps. The downside is that you’ll need to pump using your own hand power, and it is (virtually) impossible to pump from both breasts simultaneously. They can take longer and get tiring if the suction is not good.
Travel/Work – Designed to be more discrete and easier to fold up/store when not in use. They come in both manual and electric varieties.
Double/Single – Double pumps allow you to pump from both breasts at once. This can be a huge timesaver. If, however, you are pumping on the go, then it may be easier to transport a single.
The Best Electric Breast Pumps
Electric breast pumps are probably best if you plan on doing pumping every day for an extended period of time.
The BelleMa Effective Pro Double allows for independent control and suction adjustment for when using both pumps simultaneously. The BelleMa has nine different suction settings and uses a hospital grade anti-backflow system for enhanced hygiene. The silicon cushions are designed for enhanced comfort for your nipples and all parts of the pump are BPA free and FDA approved.
Although powerful, the BelleMa Effective Pro Double allows for convenient and comfortable large-volume pumping using a compact design that can easily fit into your purse or bag. The pump comes with the control unit, two pumps, two four-ounce bottles (with caps), two nipple sets, and two bottle stands. It also comes with two bottle collar adaptors for using a wide variety of collection bottles.View on Amazon
A truly complete breast pump set, the Nibble’s built-in technology carefully mimic’s your little one’s feeding patterns by starting with shorter, more rapid sucks before transitioning into deeper, more slow suction. The Nibble breast pump comes with 10 different suction levels for dialing in exactly the right intensity of suction and to help you avoid nipple discomfort.
The double breast design allows for rapid pumping of large volumes of milk while the anti-backflow design ensures hospital standard of hygiene. The Nibble system is designed for comfort and ease in clean-up. It comes complete with two electric pumps, two bottles (with caps), two bottle stands, the control mechanism, and four cleaning tools.View on Amazon
The Best Manual Breast Pumps
Manual pumps are excellent both for occasional pumping or everyday pumping. They’re usually much quieter than electric pumps, and you’ll never have to worry about batteries or finding a place to plug it in.
One of the top manual breast pumps on the market, the Medela Harmony features a complete system to allow for sustained daily use. The pump functions using the company’s patented two-phase expression technology that more accurately simulates your infant’s feeding motions while the swivel handle and ergonomic grip make manual pumping easier and more comfortable.
The Medela Pump is BPA-free and includes two five-ounce bottles (with lids), a bottle stand, a cap, a nipple with built-in collar, and two membranes (bags). The breast shield/flange is a standard 24-mm (medium) size and is whisper quiet when in use.View on Amazon
Designed to be easily used with all Philips Avent products, this manual breast pump has an ergonomic, compact design to more easily position and operate the pump. It comes with a textured massage cushion to help stimulate milk production and flow and is entirely BPA free.
Unlike some manual pumps that only operate using gravity, the Philips Avent Manual Comfort Breast Pump is uniquely designed to let you relax as milk flows through the angled neck into the collecting bottle. The flange of the pump has five textured petals that mimic the natural suckling motions of your baby and help stimulate milk flow. It can safely be washed in a dishwasher, hand washed, or soaked in boiling water.View on Amazon
The NUK Expressive Manual Breastpump is a simple pump that is very affordable. Weighing just 5.5 ounces when empty, you can easily fit this pump into your purse or bag. It comes with a super soft shield and an ergonomic handle that makes one-handed pumping far less fatiguing and more pleasant.
The NUK pump is assembled in the United States, is BPA free and can be cleaned in a dishwasher. The pump comes with two silicone valves, one silicone nipple, and a 5-ounce milk collecting bottle.View on Amazon
The Best Hospital Grade Breast Pumps
Hospital grade breast pumps are often the most powerful units you can buy, delivering strong suction cycles to maximize the stimulation of milk production in the breast. They can also be far pricier. If you only need one for a short time, you can rent one from your local hospital. But if you’re in the market to buy one for home use, here are our reviews:
Despite being a very powerful breast pump, the Spectra Baby USA S2 has a remarkably quiet operation. This pump features a fully closed anti-backflow design for enhanced hygiene and comes with a night light and timer for comfortable nighttime operation.
The Spectra Baby is fully programmable to set the rhythm and suction power of the machine, including a massage mode (less suction, more rapidly to stimulate the beginning of the feed cycle), and an expression mode (deeper but slower cycles of suction) to mimic natural milk letdown processes.
Best of all, the machine can be instantly adjusted on the fly for your expression needs yet it remains nearly whisper quiet even when both pumps are in operation.View on Amazon
From one of the top names in breast pump technology, the Medela Lactina allows you to safely and easily pump from one breast or both simultaneously. The pump can be used anywhere, powered directly from a wall socket, the included rechargeable battery, or with a vehicle’s lighter socket.
Despite its powerful design, the Medela Lactina has a relatively compact form that makes hygienic, comfortable milk pumping possible everywhere. Both DPA and DEHP free, the Medela Lactina is a hospital grade breast pump system designed for long-term, everyday use.
Please note that this is a VERY expensive pump totting in at about ten times the price of the most expensive pumps we’ve reviewed. But if you have the money, we highly recommend this product. You could consider buying a refurbished version or renting one from your local hospital if the hefty price tag is a deal breaker for you.View on Amazon
The best breast pumps for working moms
It’s never easy to pump milk at work, so all of the pumps that we’ve reviewed in this section have an ideal combination of discretion, efficiency, and ease of use that make them perfect for moms on the go.
Designed to be powered by any computer or mobile device with a USB port, the KidsTime Pump is a BPA-free, affordable double breast pump that is compact enough to easily fit in your purse or travel bag. The pump comes with a power adapter and recharging base, but its nifty USB function allows you to plug it into your phone or computer to give it the juice it needs to finish the job. This is a great space saver for moms who are on-the-go.
It has two expression settings, a secretion mode that starts off with minimal suction and then gradually increases, and a massage mode to initiate your natural letdown response. It has 18 different modes that can be easily adjusted for comfortable and productive pumping. It comes with one pump, two bottles, a USB power cord, and everything you need to begin pumping.
The KidsTime USB Double comes with one pump, two bottles, a USB power cord, and everything you need to begin pumping.View on Amazon
Using a hospital grade anti-backflow closed design for enhanced hygiene, the BelleMa Mini is a versatile machine with a very compact design. The LED lights on the display include a real-time status update, countdown timer, and memory features for saving your preferred pump settings. The Bellema Mini has two different pumping settings, one for stimulation and one for higher volume expression, as well as three different suction settings.
The Bellema Mini comes with a USB cable that can be connected to a computer or mobile device for pumping anywhere on the go.
It comes with one bottle, a bottle adapter for use with other brands of bottles, one nipple set, a power adapter, and one bottle stand. The Bellema Mini can also be powered by four AA batteries (not included).View on Amazon
This electric single breast pump is so compact that you can store it just about anywhere. Shipped fully assembled, the Evenflo Single Breast Pump is made from durable ABS BPA-free plastic and has an innovative valve design for more consistent suction. Designed to be powered from a standard wall socket or by three AA batteries (not included), the Evenflo is designed to quickly and efficiently pump up to four ounces of milk.View on Amazon
Pumping Top Tips
Every woman is different, so there are no universal truths about buying the right breast pump for you. First, decide how you are going to use it; then, pick the right type (eg, electric, hospital-grade, manual, travel). With this main decision out the way, there are a few more things to consider.
Every breast pump sold on the market today comes with breast shields or “flanges”. This is the curved piece of (usually) plastic or silicon that cups onto your breast. Because every woman’s breast is different, these shields or flanges come in different sizes. It’s important that you either know the ideal size for your breasts or that the breast pump you choose has a shield/flange the right size for your needs. Many breast pump manufacturers offer additional sizes in shields/flanges that you can order.
No matter which breast pump you choose, be aware that it will take a while before you master it. Be sure to give yourself time to become familiar with the sensation of the breast pump and how it operates in order to reliably and comfortably pump milk on a regular basis. A little nipple soreness is normal and it shouldn’t last too long. (If this is you, be sure to check out our guide to natural and effective nipple creams.) If you’re struggling with producing milk using a breast pump, it may be advisable to contact a lactation counselor.
First-time pumper? Here’s what else you’ll need:
Storage bottles or bags: Pump manufacturers normally supply storage bags and bottles. You’ll need these to store your pumped milk. It’s worth investing and creating an organized system from the get-go.
Portable cooler: For those of you pumping at work, you’ll need somewhere cool to store your milk until you get home.
Bottlebrush and soap: Old milk smells. Eurgh! Plus, it’s not hygienic. Make sure you’re equipped with a decent bottle brush and baby-friendly soap.
Whether you need a dependable, heavy-duty breast pump system for everyday use or a lightweight and compact travel breast pump for occasional pumping, there is a breast pump on the market perfectly suited to your needs. Ranging from powerful electric double breast pumps that can be adjusted on the fly to mimic your baby’s suckling patterns, to ergonomic manual pumps designed for a relaxing, quiet pumping experience, there is a pump out there for you.