If you’re pregnant or recently had a baby, you’ve most likely been researching breast pumps. Even if you plan to breastfeed, having a breast pump on hand may be a good idea if latching doesn’t come instantly. Some parents pump in tandem with formula feeding or breastfeeding, some exclusively pump, while others may want to pump occasionally to build up a freezer stash of breast milk over time. If you plan on being away from your child for more than a few hours—perhaps if you need to return to an office, or are planning a weekend getaway—having a pump is a great way to express your milk so your baby can drink it later.
We're assuming you're in the market for breast pumps for one reason or another, and whatever you want to do with them is completely your choice. We're just here to help you with the best product recommendations available.
Types of breast pumps
There are various types of pumps—electric, manual, hands-free, wireless, and “hospital grade.”
For parents who will be pumping often, consider getting an electric pump: “Parents should look for a high-quality, double electric pump,” says Chrisie Rosenthal, a Consultant Relations Manager and International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant with The Lactation Network.
“A high-quality double electric pump is appropriate for most pumping parents,” says Rosenthal. “However, there are times when a hospital grade pump is more appropriate, including pumping while Baby is in the NICU, multiples, very damaged nipples, and/or working on increasing milk supply. Hospital grade pumps are stronger, gentler, and more efficient at removing milk.”
When you’re not at home, a wireless option may be your best bet. “Sometimes parents go back to a job where it's very challenging to take scheduled pump breaks (for example, a surgeon) and a wearable pump (like the Elvie or Willow) that fit into their bra and are completely wireless, allow them to keep pumping at work,” adds Rosenthal.
Manual is what it sounds like—it doesn't have any motors or tech to help. Some folks prefer this, especially when they're in an unexpected situation and their breasts feel engorged with milk, or when there isn't a power source (like in a car, or at the mall). And some like hands-free pumps for multitasking situations, or when they'd like to be discreet.
Rosenthal also notes that there is a federal law that requires employers to provide breaks to pump or nurse, as often as needed. Many insurance carriers will also cover the cost of a breast pump (and/or allow you to use HSA dollars), so check with your provider.
Keep reading to see our picks for the best breast pumps.
Best Overall Breast Pumps
“Spectra S1 seems to be most people’s favorite these days because it’s quiet, smaller, has a rechargeable battery, good variation on suction strength and speed and is easy to use with a strong motor,” says Jada Shapiro, CLSC and founder of boober, which matches parents to care providers like lactation counselors, doulas and more. This “hospital grade” setting can help strengthen supply, and doesn’t have to be plugged into the wall.
This is one of the most affordable and convenient options out there. This single silicone pump is frequently used while breastfeeding to catch any leaks on the opposite side. It’s easy to suction, BPA-free, and wildly portable. “The Haakaa is great because it’s light, small, easy to bring around, and doesn’t need technology or need to be plugged in,” adds Shapiro. Use it with The Bӧkee, another mom-must have, to keep it securely upright while you’re holding baby and need to do everything with one hand.
Best Hands-Free Options
Willow has been around since 2018, and introduced the first in-bra, cordless pump. Years later, their newest models offer women the flexibility and freedom of having a completely cordless, wireless, in-bra pump. You can hold your baby, go for a walk, or really do anything, without having to worry about tubes, wires, or spills.
Although they can be on the higher end cost-wise, check with your insurance carrier. “More than 20 percent of Willow pumps were purchased with insurance in 2021. Offering Willow Go at an affordable price point, as low as $150 with most insurance plans, allows more moms than ever to have access to best-in-class technology without requiring any tubes, cords, or bulky external motors,” said Willow CEO Laura Chambers. I also love their app, which lets you adjust speed and suction, and gives you an exact measurement of output each time you pump.
Elvie’s newest launch was just released with a nearly 13,000 person waitlist. The Stride Plus is a hands-free, in-bra, hospital-grade pump that also includes a carrying bag with an ice pack to keep milk cold. The pump is powerful yet super quiet, with 10 intensity settings for personalized control. FSA/HSA dollars are accepted.
Best Electric Breast Pumps
“The MAM 2in1 Double Electric Breast Pump is one of my favorite new products to hit the market in years,” says Dr. Sethi. “The pump does not need to be plugged into the wall and functions at full strength with a battery life of three hours. This is so convenient for moms on the go. Another amazing feature is that the MAM 2in1 Pump allows for different suction strengths on each breast, which makes the pumping experience very customizable. Even more convenient is that the pump can easily switch to manual mode, adding to its flexibility and making the pumping experience just a little easier should the battery run out. This means that nursing mothers can still manually pump when not near an electric outlet. The pump is not only compatible but also comes with MAM Easy Start Anti-Colic Bottles, which have been shown to reduce gas and colic in babies by preventing excessive gas intake,” adds Dr. Sethi.
This pump can be used as both a single or double pump and has a rechargeable USB battery to allow you to pump anywhere. It’s small, light, and easy to carry. If used with a pumping bra, it’s also hands-free. This affordable option is great for moms on-the-go.
This pump uses “Natural Motion Technology” to mimic a baby’s suckling, resulting in a quick and comfortable milk flow. The pump comes with a belt to hold the rechargeable battery so you don’t need to be near an outlet, and the included bottles are BPA-free. The pump also comes with a sleek carrying back, perfect for toting milk and your pump to an office.
Adjustable and comfortable, this super small and lightweight pump is great for moms who travel or need to discreetly pump. It’s quiet, and has a rechargeable battery for convenience. It easily fits into a purse or diaper bag for pumping on-the-go.
Best Manual Breast Pumps
This super lightweight and compact pump is an attachment—you just screw on top of any Hegen bottle and use the one-handed manual pump. It also minimizes spills since there is no milk transfer necessary—just switch out the pump with a storage lid or nipple if baby is ready to eat. The flange is also tapered to fit a variety of nipple sizes comfortably.
Mom’s letdown will collect in this silicone bottle that is 100 percent BPA, PVC, and phthalates free. The suction is secure but not overly tight, and won’t cause discomfort. You can easily switch out the wide neck collection top with a lid for storage or nipple for immediate feeding. Since it’s two pieces, it’s easier to clean, and it’s also dishwasher safe.
Best Pumps For Working Moms
This new and innovative pump uses super small nipple shields connected to tubes that pump milk directly into a carrying container. This means milk is not collected in a bottle or container at the breast, making it ultra discrete. It’s nearly silent and controlled via an app. The tubes are one-time-use, but fully recyclable. The company works with TerraCycle to ensure responsible discarding of the tubes.
This efficient, portable, light (just two pounds!), and quiet pump is a must for working moms. Actress Mandy Moore called it her “MVP accessory” just before she hit the Emmy’s red carpet! There is a rechargeable battery that lasts more than two hours, and it has an LED screen, nightlight, and more. It has a 4.5 star rating with hundreds of reviews on Amazon.
The Final Word
Rosenthal recommends buying the pump in your third trimester, giving you time to wash, set up, and familiarize yourself with the pump before your baby is born.
Shapiro mentions the obvious but forgotten: “Your hands are fantastic because they are free, sensitive, right there at all times, and most effective when it comes to removing colostrum or quick easy pumps on the go.”
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