To all the mammas who have decided to breastfeed, a breast pump is going to be your new best buddy. I’ve nursed 2 kids for nearly 2 years each, and am working on the 3rd, so I’m an old hand with a breast pump. I’ve worked full-time outside the home, worked part-time outside the home, worked from home, and totally stayed home full time. And through it all, my trusty everyday breast pump has been by my side.
|Breast Pump||Why It's Best||Rating|
|SPECTRA S1 Plus Electric Breast Pump||Natural nursing technology, also works as a night light||♥♥♥♥♥|
|SPECTRA S2 Plus Electric Breast Pump||Reliable and strong, 12 different suction modes||♥♥♥♥♥|
|Medela Sonata Smart Double Electric Pump||Small, smart, and quiet with two different pumping rhythms||♥♥♥♥♥|
|Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump||Working mom favorite, smaller than the Sonata||♥♥♥♥♥|
|Ameda MYA Portable Hospital Strength Pump||Very portable and lightweight, 10 levels of suction||♥♥♥♥♥|
|Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump||Manual, natural gentle suction||♥♥♥♥♥|
|Bellababy Double Electric Breastfeeding Pump||Hospital-grade electric pump, 4 modes and 9 levels of suction||♥♥♥♥♥|
Best Breast Pumps of 2021
Spectra S1 Plus Premier Rechargeable Electric Breast Pump
Let’s start with one of the best breast pumps and award-winning Spectra S1 Plus Premier Rechargeable Electric Breast Pump. This beloved breast pump uses Spectra’s natural nursing technology. It’s designed to make this pump as close to a baby nursing as possible. That means that this electric breast pump gets out milk just like your baby would. That’s achieved through the adjustable suction strength and 2 different flange/breast shield sizes. There’s even a massage mode to help mimic a baby’s sucking, which helps get that milk flowing!
This is a closed system breast pump, which means that it’s more hygienic to use. It even comes with backflow protectors, which keep your breast milk out of bacteria’s way. The hospital grade motor, which can achieve up to a 250mmHg suction rate, only operates at 45 decibels, which is pretty quiet for a breast pump. Other breast pump features include a night light for those super late pumping sessions, and an auto timer with display. The rechargeable battery and the fact that the whole entire breast pump only weighs 3 pounds make it a fantastic option for moms who will be pumping on the go.
Like all other Spectra products, the S1 Electric Breast Pump features a 2 year motor warranty and 90-day accessory warranty, so you don’t have to worry about a part breaking and you being stuck with the bill.
This all being said, this breast pump does have some drawbacks. First off, accessories can be hard to find and can be very expensive. Plus, there’s a lot of pump parts, which makes cleaning pretty inconvenient. This breast pump does vibrate a little when in use. But most importantly, this pump is one of the more expensive ones on the market.
Spectra S2 Plus Premiere Electric Breast Pump
The Spectra S2 Plus Premier Electric Breast Pump is also one of the best breast pumps and extremely comparable to the Spectra S1. The S2 is another compact breast pump, weighing in at only 2 and 1/2 pounds. This electric breast pump requires AC power to work, which does limit portability somewhat. It’s crazy quiet, working at only 45 decibels, and crazy efficient, getting up to 250 mmHg suction strength.
There are 12 different suction modes, including a massage mode, so you can adjust suction levels to get a natural flow of milk. 2 different flanges/breast shields help you get the best fit. While your milk is being pumped, it stays within the closed system, so that there’s no worry of bacteria being exposed to your milk. This is because of the backflow protectors that are exclusive to Spectra breast pumps. This pump features an auto timer with a digital display screen so you can know exactly how long you’ve been pumping. There’s a night light that can be turned on for pumping in the dark.
You get a two-year warranty on the Spectra S2 motor and a 90-day warranty on all Spectra accessories.
Concerns with this breast pump include the tubing attachments, which come apart easily. The duckbill valves like to fall into the milk while pumping, which is a super big pain. Also, the accessories, like the bottles and adapters, are less than great. Oh, and it’s not easy to clean with all those breast pump parts. It takes forever!
Want a more in-depth review? Check out our full review of the Spectra S2 electric breast pump.
Spectra S1 vs S2- what’s the difference?
You’ve read both breast pump reviews, so what’s the big difference between the S1 and the S2? The S1 has that fabulous rechargeable battery. See our in-depth breakdown of the Spectra S1 vs S2 breast pump for further comparison.
Medela Sonata Smart Double Electric Breast Pump with New Flex Breast Shields
The Medela Sonata Smart Double Electric Breast Pump is a smart breast pump that was actually inspired by the hospital-grade Medela Symphony breast pump. This pump features the Medela exclusive 2 phase expression technology. It also has that handy Medela letdown mode, which helps pump users extract up to 18% more milk compared to other pumps. You can also select from two different pumping rhythms to help collect breast milk just like your baby would.
This breast pump is small, it’s smart, and it’s quiet. Compared to other pumps, like the Spectra, the Sonata is much smaller. It’s also a smart breast pump, which means it connects to the Medela app so that you can operate this thing from your phone. This brings breast pumps into the 21st century! The touchscreen display is illuminated for easy operation day or night. And speaking of night, this is actually the quietest Medela breast pump, so it’s discreet to use both during those middle of the night pumping sessions, or while working at your desk (it pairs perfectly with their new, discreet Medela Safe & Dry nursing pads… click to read the review!). It comes with a rechargeable battery so that you can take this breast pump anywhere.
The whole smart pump thing is great but does come with some issues. First of all, you can’t program anything into this breast pump. That just seems silly to me if it’s a smart pump! Second, the screen can be a little bit confusing. Finally, the whole smart technology sets this thing up for a lot of failures and it may require several hard resets now and again to make it work properly.
Another disappointment with this updated breast pump? The parts. Medela updated the size and structure of the parts they use, so you can’t use any older or alternate Medela Parts. You can only use the ones that are made exclusively for the Sonata. That makes it difficult and expensive to buy extra parts, which all pumping moms desperately need.
This breast pump is a favorite of working moms because it’s light, it’s small, and you can operate it easily. The tote bag that comes with it looks just like a stylish purse that you would carry anyway, as opposed to a large tote bag that says “here’s my giant breast pump”. For the somewhat high price, you’ll get a reliable and good breast pump geared towards working moms.
Ameda MYA Portable Hospital Strength Breast Pump
The Ameda MYA Portable breast pump truly is designed to travel with you and deliver solid performance without the weight. In fact, the pump only weighs 8 ounces. You really don’t need a special bag to carry it in if you have a medium-sized purse.
The pump unit itself is quite small and despite its size, it includes a rechargeable battery that lasts about 2 hours between charges. Some moms say they get 4 sessions out of it and others get 3 before needing to charge the batteries. A lot of moms with more than one brand of pump say that the MYA pumps faster than the other pumps they’ve tried, including the Spectra 1.
It has 10 different levels of suction that you’ll need to experiment with to find the level that works quickly for you but isn’t uncomfortable. It will work in both single and dual-mode. It also has 5 massage levels for the letdown phase. The rhythmic waveform it uses is meant to mimic a hospital-grade breast pump. The suction and massage settings together are meant to help you get the milk just like your baby would.
The other “portability” feature is its quiet operation. While it isn’t the quietest on this list (based on customer reports, not based on the manufacturer-supplied decibel level), it is in fact quieter than most. The Ameda MYA is a newer product and is very well-reviewed.
The pump itself is a closed system. Ameda prides itself on having an Airlock Protection barrier that helps keep the milk sealed and away from all tubing. The result is no buildup or condensation in the tubing. One of the few complaints is that the LED is very bright, so you may want to flip it on its face at night.
Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump
Whether you are pumping a lot or a little, it’s always a good idea to have a manual pump on hand. And Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump is one of the best. It’s a simple idea- the lever works to create suction that draws out the breast milk. And with each pump, the Lansinoh can get up to 250 mmHg of suction. That is just as much as a lot of electric breast pumps! The ergonomic handle means that your hands and arms won’t get so tired so fast, so you can do a full pumping session if need be.
There are two modes on this manual breast pump- stimulation, or letdown mode and expression mode. There are also two breast shield sizes, 25mm (regular) and 30mm (large) to help get a close and comfortable fit. This will help to get the breast milk flowing and to get maximum collection efficiency.
The milk is collected in wide neck Lansinoh bottles that are BPA free. The parts are dishwasher safe. The Lansinoh manual breast pump does have a lot of parts, but the way that you assemble them is pretty intuitive, so it’s no more or less convenient than any other pump.
Like all breast pumps, this manual breast pump will work for some and not for others. As long as you keep all parts in tip-top shape, and keep them from warping in the dishwasher, this breast pump should last you a pretty long time with occasional use. So do yourself a favor and buy a manual breast pump for the intermittent missed feeding or in case your electric one dies!
Bellababy Double Electric Breast Feeding Pumps
The Bellababy Double Electric Breast Feeding Pumps are a very popular and highly-ranked breast pump choice among moms, making it one of the best double breast pumps on the market. This pump includes 2 milk storage bag adapters, 10 storage bags, a high-definition display, and everything else you need to double pump.
Using a closed system, this hospital-grade double electric breast pump features 4 modes and 9 levels of suction including massage and stimulation to prepare breasts for pumping. With the display, you can adjust multiple settings such as massage mode, continuous suck mode, frequency conversion mode, and normal suck mode. You can also view the level status, battery level, and time, all while the display remains wireless.
This breast pump is recommended for women who pump multiple times a day. The suction is really great, according to many reviews, but the noise is a little loud. For the quality, it’s surprising how inexpensive the Bellababy Double Electric Breast Feeding Pump is!
Haakaa Manual Breast Pump
Maybe you aren’t a working mom, but you still want a way to pump out some extra breast milk here and there without spending a ton of money. Do I have the breast pump for you! The Haaka Manual Breast Pump is so unique and a wonderful solution to simple pumping. This creative breast pump won a couple of parenting and innovation awards because of its awesomeness.
How it works is it creates natural suction with its design. It’s an empty bottle with a flanged top. When you squeeze the bottle and place the nipple inside the flange, you get natural suction. This can help to gently relieve engorgement or to collect letdown as you pump or feed from the other breast. It’s a lightweight and inexpensive manual breast pump option for mammas that need to pump for an occasional missed feeding or engorgement.
This inexpensive breast pump is made from all-natural and safe materials. It’s a soft, flexible, and high-quality food-grade silicone bottle that can hold up to 4 ounces.
As I said, the Haaka Manual Pump isn’t ideal for moms who are going to be returning to work. This will only work well for a mom who needs to pump small amounts occasionally. Since it only holds 4 ounces (more like 3.5) with the standard version, you can’t pump a lot at once. You can upgrade to a bigger one, but it does cost a bit more.
Another concern is that there is no lid or anything, so you have to be very careful not to spill. They do make a Haakaa breast pump with a lid and a Haakaa breast pump with a bottle stopper, but they’re a bit more expensive than the regular version. So you either have to be on your A-game and dump any milk you want to save directly into a milk saver bag or bottle, or you can pay extra for the model with the lid.
Other complaints are that this manual breast pump isn’t easy to clean because of the shape, although you can dishwasher it or sanitize it in boiling water. When it gets heavy, it might drop off and lose suction because it’s too full of milk.
I love this option for collecting milk that would normally be wasted. This pump works without you having to operate a frustrating and painful hand pump and instead uses natural suction and gravity to stimulate let down. This is definitely one of the best manual breast pumps out there. Give this unorthodox manual breast pump a try! You’ll probably like it more than a regular manual breast pump if you are exclusively breastfeeding.
Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump
Now on to one of the most popular breast pumps- the Medela Pump in Style Advanced (PISA). This is one of the best double electric breast pumps. It can be used to pump one or both sides. It’s designed for mammas who are going to be pumping a lot. It uses a 2 phase expression technology to mimic the way a baby sucks- harder at first, then more gently after letdown. You can adjust both the pump speed and suction to get just the right level of suction to mimic your baby nursing. You can also use the letdown button to go into letdown mode, which stimulates milk flow.
Why is PISA so popular? Well, it’s covered by a lot of insurances, which is wonderful. Also, it comes in a lot of different setups- from the basic starter pack to the full kit with a tote bag or backpack, a cooler bag, and breast milk collection bottles. But, you can use any bottles to fit the breast pump. This pump is easy to use, stylish and can run on both AC and battery power.
Oh, and there is a 1-year limited warranty on the pump and a 90-day warranty on all parts.
Some things to consider: this breast pump is loud and it is heavy. The pump and tote bag with a few empty bottles is going to be around 7 pounds, which can be quite heavy with a baby and other gear in tow. And the noise level is enough that you have to go to another room or you could wake your baby up at night. Definitely can’t use the PISA incognito at your desk at work, either!
The last consideration – it’s an open system breast pump. That means that milk can potentially get into the parts and cause bacterial growth, which can then taint the milk. I can tell you that I’ve personally used this pump for over 5 years now, and I’ve never had a problem with milk getting in the tubes. Just follow the instructions and clean this pump regularly, and it will be one of the best portable pumps for working mammas and stay at home mammas alike!
Want a full breakdown of all the Pump in Style’s pump features? Take a look at Experienced Mommy’s full review of the PISA.
Spectra S2 vs Medela Pump in Style: Which breast pump should you choose?
Spectra S2 and the Pump in Style Advanced. Two of the most popular pumps. How do they stack up against each other? See our complete Spectra S2 vs Medela Pump in Style breakdown.
Lansinoh Smart Pump 2.0 Double Electric Breast Pump
Most breastfeeding moms know and love the Lansinoh breast milk storage bags. So I was excited to take a look at a Lansinoh pump. The Lansinoh Smart Pump 2.0 Double Electric Breast Pump is Bluetooth compatible and syncs with Lansinoh’s app, Baby 2.0 to track pumping sessions and more. It only weighs 3 pounds, so it’s a great breast pump for traveling with.
The breast pump itself has 3 pumping styles and 8 suction levels, allowing mom to get the most comfortable and efficient pumping experience. The pump even remembers your settings!
This breast pump is a hygienic closed system. There is a diaphragm that helps to keep the milk from flowing back into the motor system. There are a lot of parts that come with the bottle and pump assembly, but they are easy to clean and put together. The LCD display screen is backlit and shows you the modes, the pumping time, and all other settings. This makes it easy to use at night without being obnoxiously bright.
Overall, this is a good and very comfortable breast pump. It’s also one of the cheapest on the market. And sometimes, you get what you pay for. It features lower suction than some of the other brands, like Medela. The suction works best if you only pump on one breast at a time, which defeats the purpose of buying a double pump! The Lansinoh Smart Pump 2.0 is very quiet though, which is convenient for pumping at work.
This is a decent choice if you struggle with pumping soreness. But if you are a hardcore, exclusive pumper, it just won’t do the job.
Medela Freestyle Flex Breast Pump
With most traditional breast pumps, you have to hold the pump in place while you are using it. Not so with the Medela Freestyle Flex Breast Pump! This pump is one of the best hands-free breast pumps and small enough to fit in your pocket which is great for nursing at work. It can be used with a pumping bra for a hands-free experience!
The hands-free breast pump unit itself is super small and light. It weighs less than a pound and can be held around your wrist with the lanyard. The tubing then goes up into the Flex cups, which pump out milk while you do what you have to do. It has a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts 2 hours without a charge. A multifunctional interface allows you to use a count-up timer, delay start, pause, see settings, and see the battery life.
For those who exclusively pump, this may not be the best choice for you as some have said the suction is not great. Otherwise, moms love how discreet and portable the Medela Freestyle Flex Breast Pump is. It also can connect via Bluetooth to the MyMedela app!
Willow Wearable Breast Pump
The Willow Wearable Breast Pump is an interesting breast pump because you can literally pump in any position! Seriously, you can pump while laying down and watching TV or while doing yoga. Crazy, I know! Anyway, this breast pump goes inside your bra and features 7 suction levels including a sensitivity setting for new moms. This pump also features Smart Suction Technology that helps you get more milk based on your preferences.
As you pump, milk flows into self-sealing hygienic bags for storage. Willow claims their breast pumps are spill-proof, so no need to worry about milk leaking out while you’re on the move. To help your learn how the Willow pump works, Willow provides an app, 1:1 coaching, and a sizing tool to make sure you purchase the correct sized flange. Each kit comes with 2 pumps, 2 flanges, 24 milk bags (4 oz each), 2 cleaning brushes, 1 charger, and a 1-year manufacturer warranty.
The iffy part about the Willow Wearable Breast Pump is the conflicting reviews from moms. Some moms absolutely love the Willow even if the pieces are somewhat bulky. On the other hand, some moms have experienced leaking and poor customer service. Regardless, Willow has been featured as a great breast pump choice by The Bump, babylist, and more!
Medela Symphony Breast Pump
In my humble opinion, the Medela Symphony Breast Pump is the best hospital grade breast pump. This thing is a milk collecting monster! It still uses Medela’s 2 phase expression technology, so that you can get lots of milk out using the 50 to 250 mmHg suction. This hospital-grade breast pump has a letdown mode that helps you collect more milk by getting more stimulation. You can use this for pumping both breasts or pumping one breast at a time. It does all this while being extremely quiet and easy to use.
Unlike other Medela pumps, this one is a closed system. That’s what makes it a hospital-grade breast pump. It can be multi-user because the actual mechanism is totally separate from the collection kit. The breast pump parts are protected from overflow by a special Medela membrane. That means that this pump can safely be used by more than one person.
How the Symphony pump operates is really cool. It comes with a symphony 2.0 program card, which contains a little microchip that keeps track of all of the pumping program information. That means less work for you each time you plug in to use this because it will remember your maximum comfort vacuum level. Directions and settings are easily identified on the LCD display screen.
A big warning: this breast pump is extremely expensive. That’s because this is literally a commercial-grade breast pump (hence the 3-year warranty). I’ve personally used this in two different hospitals. Even though it costs an arm and a leg, it is one of the most efficient pumps out there. It just might be the best breast pump for low milk supply. It is also a great breast pump for flat or inverted nipples.
Philips AVENT Comfort Electric Breast Pump
The Philips AVENT Comfort Electric Breast Pump has been purely designed for more comfort. Everything from the silicone breast shields to the tilted design helps mom to be more comfortable, which results in better milk production. The breast shields, which come in a larger 25mm size, are more like cushions. They’re textured to make them feel warm against the skin and have a unique petal design. The way that the breast shields attach to the bottle at an angle means that you don’t have to lean forward while pumping in order to collect the milk efficiently.
The breast pump machine has 3 different settings: low, medium, and high. It also has a stimulation or letdown mode. Otherwise, there’s no fancy bells or whistles with this breast pump. There’s not even a display screen of any kind. Just 5 buttons for turning on and adjusting suction. This lightweight, 2-pound pump features a closed system for more hygienic pumping as well.
Many moms love that this comes with the AVENT natural bottles. These bottles make it so easy to go from pump to fridge to baby. Just screw on the different tops, and finally, use the BPA free natural bottle nipples to give your baby breast milk when you can’t.
This is one of the best double electric breast pumps and it doesn’t have a battery option, so you have to be able to plug into a power source. The AVENT breast pump isn’t the strongest, even though it’s so comfortable. It’s also really loud. You have to hold the bottles, which like to come loose from the shields, in place to keep them from slipping since the suction is so low.
If you have problems with sore nipples from pumping, then you’re sure to love this pump. But for those who will trade a tiny bit of discomfort for more efficiency, there are better pumps on the market for the same amount of money.
Want more information on the Philips AVENT Comfort pump? Experienced Mommy has done the research for you! Have a look at our full AVENT Comfort breast pump review.
Types of Breast Pumps
As you’ve no doubt gathered, there are a few different kinds of breast pumps. There are 2 main breast pump types. Here’s a little about them, including their pros and cons.
Manual breast pumps. These breast pumps use suction created by a hand pump to stimulate the nipple through the breast shield and draw out milk. The hand pump can either be a lever attached to the collection bottles or the collection bottle itself.
- Pros: Quick to use, don’t depend on the power source, less expensive, easily portable, easy to clean
- Cons: Takes a lot of strength and endurance, can’t customize suction levels, takes longer to collect milk
BEST FOR OCCASIONAL PUMPING
Electric and battery-powered breast pumps. This used to be 2 separate categories, but nowadays most electric pumps have a battery option, and vice versa. These breast pumps work by allowing a motor to create suction. The suction goes through the tubing and into the breast shields, where the milk then drops down into collection bottles.
- Pros: Collect milk quickly, collect more milk, allow for customization of sucking speed and strength, can get some models through insurance
- Cons: Dependent on electricity or expensive batteries, bulkier to travel with, can be noisy, harder to clean more parts, expensive
BEST FOR FREQUENT PUMPING
Within these 2 categories, there are both single breast pumps and double breast pumps.
- Single breast pumps can only extract milk from one breast at a time. Nearly every manual pump is a single pump, and most popular pumps come in a single pump option.
- Double breast pumps allow you to extract milk from both breasts at the same time. Double electric breast pumps are good options because they save time. Many can even be converted to a single breast pump if needed.
Finally, breast pumps can be categorized as an open system or closed system.
- Open system breast pumps are designed so that the milk could go into tubing that interacts with the motor. Most often, this occurs as the result of pumping too much, creating an overflow into these parts. This is a big deal because breast milk can transmit certain bacteria and viruses. Opened system pumps are single-user and should never, ever be shared.
- Closed system breast pumps are designed with barriers or filters that prevent the milk from being able to go into the tubing or motor. The milk goes straight from the breast shield and into the collection container. Most rental pumps or hospital-grade pumps are a closed system. As long as new accessories are used, it’s okay to share the motor portion of a closed system breast pump.
How to Choose a Breast Pump
Now that you know the types of breast pumps, you’ll want to know what else to look for when choosing a breast pump. Here are some of the most important categories to consider. Look for these breast pump features when shopping:
- Suction. How strong is it? Hospital-grade? Personal use? Many breast pump manufacturers will give you a number, measured in mmHg, that tells you how strong the suction is. Many pumps feature adjustable suction to help you comfortably draw out breast milk.
- Expression modes. Many breast pumps now have a letdown mode as well as an expression mode. This really helps to get the milk flowing, and it can help you get a lot more milk during each pumping session.
- Battery power. Does the breast pump have a battery-powered option? Does it come with, or do you have to buy a battery pack separate? Also, how many and what type of batteries does it take? Replacing 6 batteries every 2 weeks can get expensive. Reading through the reviews can give you a realistic idea of how long the batteries last.
- Price. Breast pumps can run anywhere from a few bucks to several thousand. In looking at what you can afford, keep in mind the number of features, the warranty, and the suction strength. Don’t pay more for a pump than you have to. There are a lot of good and affordable breast pumps on the market, and your insurance may even help pay for it, so don’t let price be your driving measurement of pump efficiency.
- Warranty. Nearly every breast pump sold on the market today will have a warranty. Keep a special eye on this number, because it will probably tell you a lot about the quality of the motor and the accessories. The longer the warranty, usually the more sturdy and reliable the motor is. Most good options have a 2 year or longer warranty.
- Display and programming. You can find breast pumps that have no displays or high tech digital screen displays. LCD screens are the most popular choice. Along with the screen, check for any programming options. Some pumps will have the option to save your favorite settings for repeated success during pumping.
- Portability. These days, nearly all breast pumps claim that you can travel with them. But how functional is it really? How much does the pump itself weigh? That’s going to be the biggest determining factor for portability. Look at other things though, like whether or not the pump comes with the tote bag, how long the tubing is, and also if it can be charged in your car or run for a long time on batteries.
- Accessories. Some breast pumps come with just the motor itself, while some will come with full tubing and breast milk collection kids, as well as other accessories, like tote bags, milk collection bottles, and even nipples for feeding. This is important because some brands will charge a lot of money to get the right accessories to go with your pump after the fact. Look for starter kits, which are usually a pretty good deal and come with everything you need.
- Cleaning. The more parts that are included, usually the harder the cleaning. Also, open system breast pumps are notoriously harder to clean, since you are often going to have to disconnect the tubing and totally sanitize it. Also, check to see if the flanges, collection bottles, and other parts are dishwasher safe. This will make your life a whole lot easier!
- Noise level. When and where you pump will determine the noise level that is acceptable. If you do a lot of pumping at night while your baby is trying to sleep, then you want to find a breast pump that is whisper quiet. Also, if you are trying to discreetly pump while at work, you want to find a smaller and quieter breast pump. Otherwise, noise might not be a huge factor for you. In any case, it’s nice to have a pump that you don’t have to shout over every time you use it.
- Breast milk volume. The last consideration is how much breast milk you will be pumping at a time. If you are a strong breast milk producer and will be getting more than 3 or 4-ounces per pumping session, you’ll want to make sure that your breast pump can accommodate larger collection bottles. Some pumps may only work well with 2 or 3-ounce collection bottles, while some pumps can take collection bottles that go up to 10 ounces.
How to Use a Breast Pump
You’ve done the research and you’ve got yourself a good breast pump. Now what? Using a breast pump can be intimidating at first, but it’s a pretty intuitive process that gets easier each time you do it.
Get dressed. Before you even think about actually pumping, you need to make sure that you are dressed for the occasion. Any nursing top or bra will work just fine. If you are going to be pumping in private, you can wear pretty much anything. Just avoid shirts with a lot of extra material, as they can just get in the way. If you are pumping in public and prefer to be covered up, make sure that your shirt exposes just the breast. If not, you can grab a pumping/ breastfeeding cover or blanket to use.
Get comfy. If you have an electric breast pump, find a wall outlet that’s close by. Most electric breast pumps have shorter cords, so you may have to get an extension cord. Aim for a spot that is comfortable. You’ll want a couch or chair that has good back support so that you can sit up straight. You may find that leaning forward slightly will help to collect more milk, because of you know, gravity, so make sure you have enough space in front of you.
Get clean. Once you’ve scoped out your spot, make sure that your hands are clean. Wash and dry your hands well, and make sure that all of your breast pump parts are clean and ready to go.
Get attached. Before using the breast pump, place your nipple in the middle of the breast shield opening. You want to make sure that they are centered correctly so that you don’t hurt yourself! Many moms who are just learning how to do this find it much easier to do if the bottles aren’t attached. Once you’ve got the breast shields/flanges on correctly, attach the collection bottles. Make sure that all of the parts and tubing are connected and ready to go. If you are just going to be using your double electric breast pump as a single electric breast pump, make sure that the suction is properly blocked off or it won’t work.
Get pumping! Now it’s go-time! Turn on the machine and begin pumping. Don’t get discouraged if nothing comes out right away. It can take up to 2 minutes to get the milk flowing. If your breast pump has a stimulation or letdown mode, use that first. Then, switch into expression modes to collect as much milk as possible. If your pump doesn’t have any fancy settings, then manually try to adjust the pump speed and suction at the beginning. This will mimic the frantic motions of a hungry baby nursing. Once everything is going well, adjust to a comfortable speed, and relax until you are done!
Get cleaned up. When you are finished, which is when milk is no longer being expressed, turn off the breast pump. Remove the breast shields carefully by inserting a finger gently under the side to break the seal. Watch out for drips! Unscrew the breast shields/flanges from the collection bottles and put lids on them. Store them properly remembering the CDC’s rule of fours: breast milk is okay for four hours at room temperature and four days in the fridge.
Cleaning Your Breast Pump and Parts
Beyond using the breast pump, you’ll need to become a pro at cleaning it. That will help to prevent any and all dangerous germs from getting into contact with your “liquid gold.” Proper cleaning will also help get rid of that build up that some nipple creams can cause on your breast pump parts. (Find the best nipple cream here!) You’ve got 3 basic options when it comes to cleaning your breast pump.
Each breast pump has its own parts that will need cleaning. Handwashing is a simple way to ensure that your parts are always clean. In general, here’s how the FDA recommends that you wash your breast pump parts.
- Start by disassembling the pump and rinsing the breast pump parts as soon as you can after each pumping session
- Then, when you are able, washing the breast pump parts in warm soapy water and rinse well with very warm/hot water
- Place clean pieces on a clean towel or drying rack to air dry
- Assemble parts only when they are completely dry
This method is so much faster and more convenient than handwashing. Many breast pump parts, like collection bottles and breast shields, can be cleaned and sanitized in the top rack of the dishwasher. A tip from me: use an unscented and all-natural dishwasher detergent to avoid the weird chalky buildup and permanent floral scent that some plastics get from regular scented dishwashing detergent. The biggest drawback to this method is that you have to have extra collection bottles and breast shields unless you want to be running the dishwasher between all your pumping sessions.
3. Microwave Sanitizing
This method is my personal favorite. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it kills germs. You can purchase special microwave bags that use the power of steam to clean your pump parts. Just rinse your breast pump parts thoroughly immediately after pumping, add some water to the bag, and nuke it all for a few minutes. Drain any excess water and open the bag so the parts can air dry. This is the best method for working moms who might not have 10 minutes or a clean sink to use to wash stuff.
Keep in mind when cleaning your breast pump that a combination of the above methods can work really well. For example, I would microwave clean my parts while at work, then I’d come home at night and either hand wash or dish wash my pump pieces for the next day. That way, I knew that they were always clean and ready to go.
Once your breast pump parts are clean, be careful to keep them that way. If you can help it, don’t touch the inside of any pump accessories that will come into immediate contact with the breast milk. Store the pump pieces in a clean place where they won’t get dirt or lint on them. If pump parts have been in storage for a long time, give them a nice cleaning before using them again.
Breast Pump FAQs
What does the term “hospital grade” breast pump mean?
This is a marketing term. It’s not a term regulated or recognized by the FDA, so any seller can say that their breast pump is hospital grade. Hospital-grade pumps are designed to work differently than personal use pumps. Namely, they are stronger, which helps to initiate and maintain the breast milk supply. That’s why hospital-grade breast pumps are the best breast pump for low supply. They are also designed to be used constantly and by more than one user. If you see a pump with the label “hospital grade,” be sure that it actually is before purchasing.
Does breast shield/ flange size really matter?
Yes! It might seem silly, but the size of the breast shield/flange can make a big difference. Correct flange size will equal better suction on your breast pump and more milk production for you. It will also make the whole experience much less painful. Keep in mind that a breast shield that previously worked for you may not work for another breastfeeding journey, since nipple size and shape can change with each child. Medela has a great guide for what size shield you will need. Some breast pumps are only compatible with certain sizes, and that may or may not work for you, so be sure to check what size breast shield comes with the pump that you choose. Also, look for inserts that you can place inside a breast shield to make it fit better.
Side note: breast flanges for breast pumps and nipple shields for breastfeeding are sized differently. Read our Best Nipple Shields article for more info.
What are the best breast pump accessories?
Every person will need something different to go with their breast pump. Here are my top 10 things you’ll want and need for your pumping sessions:
- A hands-free pumping bra
- Milk storage bags
- Milk collection bottles in different sizes
- A microwave sanitation bag for your pump parts
- Small brushes and drying rack for cleaning
- A tote bag or backpack to carry the pump in
- Extra parts, like membranes and tubing
- A couple of back up breast shields in different sizes
- A cooler bag for your pumped milk
- Extra batteries or an extra charger (especially a USB or car charger!)
Can I buy a used breast pump?
Technically, yes, you can buy a used breast pump. But only if it’s a closed system breast pump that is intended for more than one user. The FDA warns against buying a used pump since you can never be sure if it was cleaned or used properly. The big worry with improperly used pumps is that there could be bacteria or mold hiding in the breast pump that could make your or your baby sick. Breast milk can also transmit certain diseases, and no one wants to risk that! The manufacturer won’t honor the warranty if you aren’t the original purchaser of the pump, so you won’t get much help if something goes wrong. Overall, I’d say that unless you know the original user very, very well (like your sister for example), stay away from used breast pumps.
What’s the best breast pump for twins?
Breastfeeding twins is not for the faint-hearted! Mammas of twins need all the help they can get from their pump. Look for durable breast pumps that are “hospital grade.” These are more expensive, but they will last through pumping many times a day. I would recommend either the Medela Symphony or the Spectra S1 or S2 for twins. They are all durable and have strong, adjustable suction. These three breast pumps are also good options because they have such amazing and long warranties, which comes in handy when you are doing extra pumping!
How can I pump more breast milk?
I wish there were a magic answer to this question. Each mom makes milk differently. Here is some generally good advice that can help you increase your milk-making quota.
- Relax! Don’t look at the bottle and how much is being pumped. Distract yourself from the numbers.
- Think about your baby. This is proven to get that milk going. Grab your phone and watch videos or look at pictures of your little angel while you pump.
- Eat a good diet. There are certain foods that might help with milk production. Overall, just be sure that you are getting plenty of water and enough calories.
- Try galactagogues. While these aren’t scientifically proven, many moms find that they can get an extra ounce or two from trying certain supplements or herbs.
- Mimic your baby’s schedule. Breast milk is on a supply and demand routine, so try to pump when your baby eats. Pumping as often as baby eats helps you keep up with their demand so that you can have enough milk as they need.
- Give yourself enough time. Pumping for 5 minutes obviously won’t be as fruitful as pumping for 10 minutes. If you can help it, don’t look at the clock and instead look at your milk production as a timing cue. Most pumping sessions take between 10 and 20 minutes to get full let down and collection.
How often should I pump?
Your baby’s age will be the biggest determinant for how long you should pump. For example, a 2-month-old baby will eat about every 2 hours, while a six-month-old baby eats every 3 hours. Like I mentioned earlier, the most successful pumping sessions are those that mimic your baby’s eating schedule. Add in a couple of extra pumping sessions to keep your supply going strong and to get some extra as a backup in case you are separated from your baby for longer than planned. Here is a fantastic sample schedule from the experts at lactationmatters.org:
Bonus: Benefits of Breastfeeding (and my success secret weapon)
Maybe you’re on the fence. Maybe you want a good reason to breastfeed. Although I could give you 141 Reasons to Breastfeed, I’ll make it brief. Here’s why breastfeeding is good in a nutshell – it’s the perfect feeding system for your baby. Breast milk is specifically created to nourish a growing baby by having just the right amounts of fat, protein, and nutrients.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend breastfeeding over bottle feeding whenever possible. Why? It is better for the baby, and it’s really great for mommy, too. Some research shows that breastfed kids are smarter, healthier, and have better bonds with their mothers. My favorite part of breastfeeding is that it is said to lower the risk of SIDS. Mothers who breastfeed can reduce their risk of certain cancers and can lose baby weight quicker. Plus, it’s cheap, nearly free, and you’ll save time by not having to prepare and clean up bottles of formula. Although if you want the option to also bottlefeed, we have a great list of bottles for breastfeeding here.
I won’t lie, breastfeeding is hard. And there are times I wonder, is this really all that great? There are a lot of challenges to breastfeeding, and the science backing the benefits isn’t always convincing. At the end of the day, do what feels right for you and your baby. Each child is different, and each feeding journey will be different too.
But you know all this. Moms are notorious for researching all their parenting decisions. I won’t spend a lot of words in trying to convince you to breastfeed. What I will do is tell you the most indispensable breastfeeding help I ever received.
My secret weapon- the lactation consultant.
Lactation consultants are amazing. With their help, more moms are breastfeeding successfully. A lactation consultant is a breast expert that can help you with all your breastfeeding concerns:
- Latching position and techniques
- Low supply or oversupply
- Pumping advice and breast pump rental
- Nursing patterns
- Painful nursing, especially nipple pain and problems
- Nursing through sickness (yours or baby’s)
- Even weaning!
They are especially invaluable if you have a challenging breastfeeding situation, like nursing a baby with special needs or nursing twins or multiples.
Just one visit is all it will take for you to love lactation consultants. If it weren’t for them, I would not have breastfed my two kids. They helped me to tackle issues with painful engorgement, oversupply, and a tongue and lip tie on one of my babies. I even got help making up a breastfeeding and pumping game plan for when I went back to work. I didn’t know how to do it on my own, so their information was invaluable. Many lactation consultants don’t mind if you call or text them after a visit, so you can contact them any time as issues arise.
For best results, look for a lactation consultant who has the letters IBCLC after their name. It means that they are certified by the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants. In layman’s terms, it means that they know their stuff and they can prove it. You can find one through your local hospital or women’s clinic, or you can search for one online. Most lactation consultants are free, but some may charge a small fee for an in-home visit.
Please believe me when I say that lactation consultants can help you! You will be so thankful that you’ve tapped into their amazing amount of expertise. It’s the secret weapon to breastfeeding success.
Conclusion – The Best Breast Pump For You
Electric breast pumps have totally revolutionized the way that mothers feed their babies in the 21st century. Whether you are an exclusive pumper or an exclusive breastfeeding mom, you’ll need a breast pump at some point.
I hope that I have given you some good options no matter what your needs are. I’ve looked at the best breast pumps, ranging from single breast pumps to double electric breast pumps to manual breast pumps. I’ve gone over all the types, terms, and breast pump features. I’ve told you how to use your breast pump and how to clean it. I’ve answered some of the most pressing breast pump questions. Finally, I’ve let you in on my breastfeeding secret- the lactation consultant.
With all these weapons in your arsenal, I have no doubt that you will go forth and choose a great breast pump from this list!