Three best breast pumps

Ana Sanchez

To increase milk flow, try massaging your breasts before pumping.

Most people probably know that breast milk has far more health benefits for a baby than formula. Not all women are able to breastfeed, but for those who can, the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics that babies be breastfed for the first six months can only be accomplished with the aid of a breast pump. Breast pumps allow breast milk to be refrigerated and bottle-fed at a later time by the mother, partner, or caretaker.

For mothers who work outside the home and want their babies to have breast milk, breast pumps are a necessity. They also are an advantage when a newborn is having difficulty latching or can't feed at the breast for other reasons. Breast pumps also come into play when a mother is traveling or simply wants a rest. There are a lot of these helpful devices on the market, so this shopping guide outlines what you need to know when choosing the right pump for you.  

Considerations when choosing breast pumps

There are four types of breast pumps available to the consumer.

Manual breast pumps are operated by hand, utilizing a lever or bulb to create suction. These are the slowest and most labor-intensive breast pumps, but they are compact, lightweight, inexpensive -- typically $30 or less -- and don't require a battery or power outlet for operation.

Battery-powered breast pumps are portable and good for travel. For infrequent use, these compact, inexpensive devices will get the job done. However, they don't mimic the baby's sucking cycle and they go through batteries quickly.

Hospital-grade electric pumps are large and powerful. These are what you find in hospitals and lactation centers, and medical supply shops rent them out. Women tend to need this type of pump in the early weeks of nursing when trying to establish milk supply or for other medical reasons. These pumps have controls that allow you to set the intensity, pressure, and rhythm to your needs.

Personal-use electric pumps have similar controls for suction levels and cycles as hospital-grade pumps but are lighter in weight and often come with a carrying case and accessories to transport them to, say, an office. Working moms prefer this type of pump above all others. Expect to pay $100 to $150 for a single pump (one breast) and $150 to $300 for a double pump (two breasts).  

Breast pump features

One of the most common mistakes women make when choosing a pump is selecting one that takes too long to express milk. There are several features to look for in a pump that make this process faster and easier.

Letdown setting mimics the baby's sucking pattern: shallow and fast at first, then deep and slow.

Pump settings, such as adjustable speed, rhythm, and suction that can be tailored to what works for you, are ideal for your comfort.

Double pump attachments attach pumps to both breasts, the most time-efficient way to pump. It also helps increase prolactin, the hormone responsible for your milk supply.

Accessories that come with pumps can include a backpack or carrying case, milk containers and lids, and tubing. Also, look for BPA-free plastic parts because the chemical is harmful to your baby. For use on the go, look for a pump with a car adapter to plug your pump into your car's power outlet, or a pump with a battery backup.   

Other factors

If you're pumping at work, consider a model that's quiet. All electric pumps make noise, but some are noisier than others. Also, consider a hands-free model so you can multitask. We recommend finding a private, quiet space to pump because relaxation is key to getting your milk flowing. So is having a picture of your baby nearby. Try your best to pump on a regular schedule to keep the milk supply steady and prevent leaks.


Q. How long can I keep breast milk in the fridge?

A. It should keep in the fridge for three to five days. You can also freeze breast milk for up to six months.

Q. Does pumping hurt?

A. Pumping shouldn't hurt. If it does, check to see if the pump flange (the piece held to your breast) is rubbing against your nipple. Also, try lowering the pump suction. A little discomfort is normal, but if pain continues, consult with a lactation specialist.

Breast pumps we recommend

Best of the best: Medela Pump in Style Advanced Double Breast Pump

Our take: The very best hospital-grade pump at a reasonable price.  

What we like: Double-pumping kit is lightweight and highly portable. BPA-free parts.

What we dislike: Not cheap, but it's a bargain for such a high-quality breast pump.

Best bang for your buck: Spectra Baby USA S2 Electric Double/Single Breast Pump

Our take: Highly affordable breast pump that doesn't compromise on quality.

What we like: This bestseller can be used as a single or double pump. Has features for comfort and convenience found on more expensive pumps, including a nightlight.

What we dislike: Poor instructions, but the company's customer service makes up for it.

Choice 3: Bellema Mango Portable Single Electric Breast Pump

Our take: An affordable single-breast pump that works well, although there may be a learning curve to using it effectively.

What we like: It's lightweight, powerful, and an excellent value for the money.

What we dislike: Some owners don't have as much success with it as a pricier pump and say it's better as a backup pump.

Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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