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Spectra, Medela, Elvie: Which breast pump rules them all? Here’s the scoop on the best breast pumps we’ve tried.
All the pumps on this list, except Momcozy M5, were purchased independently. While Momcozy provided its pump for free, our opinions are ours alone and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the brand.
Decision making can be stressful in any stretch of pregnancy. Many decisions involve pricey purchases, like breast pumps.
To help, we collected feedback from 15 moms about 16 breast pumps they purchased and used for their breastfeeding journey. The pumps were used anywhere from 3–6 months and reused for many pregnancies and babies. Multiple moms tried multiple pumps are provided anecdotes about how they compared.
Based on their experiences with output, charging, cleaning, noise, comfort, and portability, we narrowed it down to these seven breast pumps we think are the best.
- $ = under $100
- $$ = $100–$250
- $$$ = $250–$500
- $$$$ = over $500
Dr. Brown’s Customflow Double Electric Breast Pump is another fairly affordable double electric pump. One of our reviewers called the shields magical, comparing them to the Medela Pump in Style shields, which she felt were more rigid and uncomfortable. However, it’s not the strongest pump on our list at 230 mm Hg, so it may not be the best fit if you have supply issues.
The Lansinoh Signature Pro Double Electric pump was previously a top pick in our budget category. But because we’ve noticed an influx of reviews citing poor suction and uncomfortable flanges, we removed it from our list.
The Spectra S2 is a durable and reliable pump. It’s cheaper than the S1 if you don’t mind having to be plugged into the wall.
The Zomme Z2 Double Electric Breast Pump has an impressive number of suction levels (19!), and the battery life and cleaning process are on par with other pumps. However, we decided not to include it because our reviewer reported having to hold the pumps to her chest throughout pumping sessions to prevent leaks.
The Willow 3.0 and Willow Go are durable, cordless portable pumps. Like the Elvie pumps, there’s a learning curve with these to properly latching to get the best output and ensure you empty. The Elvie Stride and regular pump received more positive feedback from our reviewers, and we like that they are slightly slimmer (43 mm and 68 mm compared with 134 and 85 mm) and therefore more discreet.
We also considered the Phillips Avent Manual Breast Pump, which is designed to support manual pumping in a reclined position. However, online reviewers cited the Phillips is on the louder side for a manual pump because the handle doesn’t have a bumper to prevent it from banging against the collection bottle. It can also give your hands a bit of a workout since the handle doesn’t swivel like the Medela Harmony and the grip can’t be adjusted.
Here’s a comparison of our picks for best breast pumps from above:
|Max suction power
|Spectra S1 Plus Electric Breast Pump
|5.4 oz in each cup
|270 mm Hg
|Motif Luna Double Electric Breast Pump
|5 oz in each cup
|270 mm Hg
|Elvie Stride Breast Pump
|5 oz in each cup
|300 mm Hg
|Momcozy All-in-one M5 Wearable Breast Pump
|5.4 oz in each cup
|270 mm Hg
|Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump
|Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump
|Medela Symphony Double Electric Breast Pump
|5–8.4 oz depending on bottle size
|250 mm Hg
- Experience: We used these breast pumps ourselves for many months — and in some cases for multiple babies— and highlighted the pros and cons we had with each.
- Customer reviews: We looked at other consumer experiences and reviews to take note of any common complaints or praises.
- Price: We aimed to include a variety of pumps and prices, knowing that different types of pumps work best depending on how often you’ll be pumping — whether you’re an exclusive pumper or an occasional pumper.
- Safety and reputation: Our team thoroughly vets the products we recommend for safety, medical credibility, positive business practices, and social impact. You can read more about that process here.
A breast pump is considered a medical device. The
Breast pumps can be manual or electric. They can be single expression (pumping one breast at a time) or double expression (pumping both breasts at the same time). They can also be closed or open systems.
Breast pump glossary
Closed system breast pump: A closed system breast pump uses a barrier between the different parts of the breast pump, such as the valve, breast shield, flanges, and connectors. These pieces (which can be a pain to clean) prevent liquid, be it the breast milk itself or the moisture from the heat of the pumping parent’s body, from affecting the electric motor. It also helps maintain a more hygienic environment for the milk. Most major pumps are closed systems.
Open system breast pump: Open system breast pumps don’t have this separation between the pump parts and the motor, which may cause milk to get into the motor if you use an electric pump. The milk is at greater risk of contamination with an open system. These pumps are not very common anymore.
Electric breast pump: Electric breast pumps are connected to an electronic device that creates suction. This type of breast pump is ideal for parents who pump frequently and need to express a significant amount of milk at a given time.
Manual breast pump: A manual breast pump requires you to remove milk from your breasts manually. They are more affordable. Natural suction cups like Haakaa are a type of manual breast pump.
Double pump: A double breast pump allows you to pump from both breasts simultaneously, which is the most efficient way, especially if your goal is to create an excess milk supply or if you’re pumping instead of nursing.
Single pump: A single breast pump only allows you to pump from one breast at a time, which may come in handy if you plan on pumping from one side while your baby nurses from the other.
Hospital-grade pump: These pumps typically have heavy-duty motors. They’re designed for several people to use at the same time. They often offer a higher level of suction and are more efficient than some of their less innovative competitors. Many major breast pump brands offer hospital-grade models, but a family would rarely need one for at-home use.
Wearable breast pump: A wearable breast pump, also known as a cordless or wireless breast pump, is a type of breast pump you can wear in your bra. It doesn’t require being connected to cords.
Hand expression: This is the process of manually extracting milk from your breasts without a pump. You can do this by forming the letter “C” with your hand around one breast and gently squeezing from the outer breasts toward the nipple. Though not a popular way to pump, it’s a useful skill and certainly an option when you need it.
Used breast pumps
You may encounter used breast pumps on the market. (After all,
While it can be tempting to go after a great bargain, there are some parts of a breast pump that can’t be cleaned well once exposed to another person’s breast milk.
Because of the higher risk of someone else’s milk having reached the pump in an open system, many people avoid buying these types of pumps secondhand. In some cases, you can purchase replacement parts for closed system pumps and reuse the motor attachment.
But according to the FDA, it’s never safe for a pump that’s designed for a single user to be rented or resold.
Hospital grade vs. hospital suction
Some pumps marketed as hospital grade are designed for multiple users and have a much more powerful motor than a single user pump. The only true hospital-grade pump on our list is the Medela Symphony.
Electric pumps (such as the Spectra and most of the pumps we recommend above, sans the Symphony) sometimes reach the same level of suction as a true hospital-grade pump but don’t necessarily have all the same modes, and the motor won’t last as long.
That said, the
When choosing a breast pump, there are many things to consider:
- Your pumping needs and lifestyle: How often are you going to use your pump? What’s your goal for pumping: maintaining milk supply, doing it daily during work hours, etc.?
- Which pumps your health insurance will cover: As of
late 2012, private U.S. health insurers need to cover breast pumps under the Affordable Care Act.
- Price: Find that balance between your budget and the type of pump that will serve your needs best.
- Portability: Pumps vary in this department, so it should be a factor you strongly consider. Some breast pumps require you to be plugged into an electric outlet at all times, which confines you to a certain area. Others are charged with a battery, so they allow you to move around freely as long as you’re attached to the battery-operated device, which can range in size and heaviness.
- Strength and variability of suction: Not all pumps are created with the same suction and efficiency. It’s a good idea to check the mm Hg, or millimeters of mercury. This measurement that indicates the strength of the suction.
- Comfort: Does the pump fit your body well? With any pump, it’s crucial to make sure you can get compatible flanges that fit the size of your nipples.
- Loudness of the pump: Some pumps have motors that are louder than others. It can be hard to know how loud a pump is until you’ve tried it, so be sure to read reviews to determine whether a pump you’re interested in purchasing is louder or on the quiet side.
- Additional parts: In addition to your breast pump, you may look for other accessories that can help streamline the pumping process, such as breast milk storage bags, nursing pads, nipple creams, and nursing bras.
Don’t forget to consider cost effective ways to test out a potential pump before buying it. Some hospitals offer pump rentals. Talk with a local lactation consultant about why and how to use a breast pump and where to rent one.
When your baby is gaining weight and keeping a moderate weight, experts recommend waiting 6 weeks to use a breast pump to first establish a nursing routine.
However, low birth weight, separation from your baby, and other factors may mean your medical team recommends you start pumping sooner (but never during pregnancy).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cleaning any breast pump parts that come into contact with breast milk after each use and ensure they dry thoroughly. This is true for both shared pumps and if you own your pump.
Many breastfeeding parents don’t need a pump at all. If you decide to get a pump, most lactation experts agree that a double expression breast pump is ideal, though a single expression pump can be beneficial in certain scenarios, such as when nursing and pumping at the same time.
You can also choose between manual and electric breast pumps, which comes down to preference.
If you have a low milk supply, need to build up stores, or establish your milk supply, a hospital-grade breast pump is a good choice.
If your baby spends time in the NICU or is born prematurely, your healthcare team may recommend one. In most cases, a double electric pump will fulfill pumping needs.
Always wash your hands first, and then assemble the breast pump parts.
For electric breast pumps, center the breast shield over your nipple, pressing gently. Start on a low intensity and then increase slowly if you want. It should never feel painful.
Manual pumps require a slightly different process. You want to stimulate your breast by hand first and then center and press the pump to your breast before you start manually pumping the handle. Check out our full article on how to pump.
Lactation experts may have different favorite breast pumps they recommend, but they do all agree that a double expression pump is the best so you can pump on both sides at the same time. Our top pick is the Spectra S1.
After breastfeeding and pumping, your breasts may be different than before having your baby, but many people experience minimal long-term changes.
Nipples may change in size and appearance while breastfeeding, and stretch marks may intensify.
Pumping should never be painful, but breast pumps can cause trauma to breasts when used incorrectly or too often. It’s crucial to choose the right size shield and not to overpump, which can lead to engorgement and mastitis.
There’s a breast pump for every person and situation.
Whether you need to pump every day on the go, want something to help take a bit of the edge off in the middle of the night, or are looking for a pump designed to help bring in your milk, these options should help take one more decision off your to-do list. (Don’t worry. You’ll still have plenty of other ones to make.)