Best Breast Pump

December 5, 2020
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For most moms, pumping is an integral part of the breastfeeding process. You want to remain comfortable and save every drop of your milk for your baby. Thus, you need the best breast pump for your pumping needs and budget. We’ve looked at the options to determine which breast pump is best for different moms.

What to Look for in a Breast Pump

Any internet search will reveal that you have no shortage of options. Before you make a choice, familiarize yourself with the options out there and learn the terminology. You can choose between manual and electric pumps, single and double electric pumps, and open- or closed-system pumps.

Manual vs. Electric

If your budget is very limited or you prefer to keep things simple, the manual pump might be your best option. They’re smaller and more portable than electric pumps because you don’t have extra accessories to keep up with. You don’t have to worry about batteries or finding an electrical outlet when you use a manual unit.

However, it does take longer to pump the milk, and your hands and wrists may get tired and sore. Also, while some of these units allow you to switch between phases of breastfeeding, you’ll have to decide when to do so yourself.

On the other hand, most electric pumps will switch automatically. There is no doubt that using an electric pump is faster and easier since the machine does all the work for you. The phased expression mimics the sucking pattern of a baby, from stimulation to expression. They offer faster let-down, and these units usually come with a way to store your milk.

You do, however, need a power source. Depending on the unit, you’ll need to be near an outlet to use it or monitor battery levels when it’s not plugged in. Because of the machinery and technology involved, these devices are more expensive and heavier than manual pumps.

Single Electric vs. Double Electric

Single or double simply tells you whether you can use the device on one breast at a time or both at once. Manual pumps are almost exclusively single, so you’ll only face this choice if you want the best single or best double breast pump. Single electric pumps are less expensive than double, but most moms tend to find that the benefit of pumping both breasts at once is worth the price. Some research has even found that double pumping leads to a greater production of milk volume overall.

Open-System vs. Closed-System

The type of system depends on whether the pump mechanism is sealed off from the milk. Closed-system pumps are hospital-grade. They’re more hygienic, so multiple women can use them with individual sterile kits, but they also tend to be much more expensive. Open-system pumps must be cleaned more thoroughly, which is inconvenient, but they’re also less expensive. Keep in mind that this is a casual label, not a regulated certification. That means some companies may claim their machine is closed-system when it might not be completely sealed.

Other Considerations

Here are a few other features to keep in mind.

  • Portability – If you’re on the go a lot, then portability is important. You want a system that is lightweight and easy to carry from one location to another. You’ll probably also want a unit that is battery operated.
  • Storage – When pumping anywhere outside of your home, you need a way to safely store the breast milk until you can refrigerate it at home. Therefore, having a unit that provides a cooler, ice pack, and similar accessories might be important.
  • Comfort levels – Comfort levels are different for each individual. What one person may consider comfortable may be irritating to another, so it’s hard to say if a particular breast pump is comfortable or not. However, there are a few things that you can look for, such as the size of the breast shields and the type of padding. The vacuum strength and speed along with pump phases also determine comfort level.
  • Cleaning and maintenance – You don’t want to spend large amounts of time cleaning your unit, so see what is involved in the cleaning and maintenance process before making your purchase. Among open-system units, some are easier to clean than others.

Winner: Medela Symphony          

Widely considered the most powerful pump on the market, the Medela Symphony is undoubtedly a high-end option, but it’s also the best. This model was designed specifically for mothers having difficulty establishing milk production, making it simultaneously the best hospital strength breast pump and the best breast pump for low milk supply. Once attached, the Symphony provides remarkably speedy pumping, which lessens the possibility of nipple soreness. It’s a closed-system pump that multiple moms can use at once. You’ll just need your own kit of sterile equipment – the parts of the system that touch your body or your milk.

The major drawback with this kind of efficiency and sophistication, of course, is the price: the Symphony retails for around $2,000. Few people buy this model outright. Most use one while in the hospital or rent one when they return home. Luckily, the Medela Symphony and Harmony Double Duet breast pump kit that contains all the sterile equipment you need to use with a rented pump is closer to $50. It even includes our choice for the best manual pump (discussed later). If there are several nursing moms in your home or neighborhood, you might consider splitting the cost and sharing a single unit.

The only hospital-grade pump that rivals the Medela Symphony for power is the Hygeia EnJoye. Unfortunately, you can only order this breast pump through insurance. The Hygeia vs Medela breast pump debate is a common topic on blogs and forums, and there are strong feelings in both directions. However, the Medela Symphony edges out the competition for our best breast pump for exclusive pumping.

Runner-Up: Spectra s2 Breast Pump

Obviously, the Medela Symphony will be outside most budgets. For the best closed-system breast pump at an affordable price, go with Spectra S2 hospital strength breast pump. Spectra is fairly new to the market but has received a lot of praise from reviewers and nursing moms alike. The S1 and S2 units are similar, but the S2 requires an electrical outlet for power. This means it’s less portable but lighter (without the need for a battery) and more powerful.

The S2 is a great option for the stay-at-home mom since it doesn’t come with a carrying case or ice pack. While the suction is not as powerful as the Medela system, the Spectra breast pump is still considered a good, reliable hospital-grade machine with the bonus of an attractive design. It’s consistently been the best rated breast pump of the past few years.

Having the ability to adjust the suction speed and strength separately allows you to customize the pump to suit you perfectly, making it very comfortable to use. The machine allow both single and double pumping, and it won’t lose power when you switch between modes. Reportedly, the S2 breast pump runs so quietly that you can even use it when sitting next to your sleeping baby. The night light and timer are helpful extra features.

The price for the Spectra S2 is a very reasonable $150. The main disadvantage associated with this model is that it’s difficult to find Spectra breast pump accessories and spare parts locally, so you’ll need to search for and order these online. You’ll also need to buy the best breast pump bag for Spectra separately.

Honorable Mentions

Even though the Medela Symphony and the Spectra S2 are generally the best breast pumps on the market, they don’t fit all circumstances or all budgets. Here are some other models from the best breast pump brands that might better fit your needs.

Best Breast Pumps for New Moms: Hygeia Breast Pumps

Although you can only receive a Hygeia breast pump by going through your health insurance, since the company doesn’t sell directly to the consumer, these pumps are well worth requesting. The EnJoye model comes with customizable speed and suction to help you fine-tune what works best for you. According to reviews, the company also offers excellent customer service, which might be important if this is your first time using a pump.

Best Portable Breast Pumps: Medela Freestyle Flex and Ameda Purely Yours

Companies recognize that most breastfeeding mothers prioritize portability, so you have plenty of choices for the best portable breast pump. We’ve picked one from Ameda and one from Medela as the top options that combine convenience with function.

The Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump is lightweight and small enough to fit inside a small backpack or diaper bag. It comes with an AC wall adapter, but it can also run on AA batteries, making it flexible enough to use anywhere. The expression speed and suction power is efficient but not as powerful as some of the other pumps on this list, especially when using the batteries.

While the Symphony is the best Medela breast pump overall, it’s out of reach for most individual moms. If you like the Medela system but need something cheaper, you may want to give the Medela Freestyle breast pump a try. It’s smaller and easier to handle, but that also means it has less pumping strength and battery life. However, it does include everything you need to get started such as an ice pack, bottles, and shields.

Best Manual Breast Pump: Medela Harmony

The best manual breast pumps are those that maximize the strength of your hands to produce more milk with less effort. The Medela Harmony is our top choice for a manual pump. At about $30, it’s far cheaper than any electric model, and it provides the most comfortable hand pumping experience. It’s designed with a two-phase stimulation and expression system that is easy to use. With no tubes or membranes to deal with, cleanup is fast and you don’t need a lot of room for storage.

The Harmony’s contoured breast shield is soft and comfortable to use. The handles pivot, which makes it easy to use whether you’re right or left-handed. If you’re searching for the simplest breast pump on the market that is also effective, this one should suffice. However, you will experience at least a little fatigue when using any manual pump.

Easiest Pump to Use: Haakaa Gen 2

Every Haakaa breast pump is as simple as you can get: a single piece of silicone that uses nonmechanical suction to express milk. You squeeze the air out of it, attach it to your breast, and let it work. That said, it’s really more of a collector than a pump. Most moms seem to use it to collect let-down from the breast not nursing their baby. And at $24, it’s hard to beat the price.

Best Double Electric Breast Pump on a Budget: Lansinoh, Evenflo, Pure Expressions

Of course, even moms on a budget sometimes need the speed and convenience of an electric pump. Here are some of the best models that won’t break the bank. The Lansinoh breast pump Signature Pro Double Electric sells for about $84 and even features a hospital-grade closed system. Its drawbacks are a noisy motor and a tendency to run through batteries quickly.

You can get an Evenflo breast pump in single electric for about $45 and double electric for about $110. These are lightweight, portable units, but again, they are fairly loud, and some of the washable parts are reportedly fragile. Drive Medical’s Pure Expressions breast pump is another good option at $110. It’s a workhorse of a machine that’s durable, but replacement parts seem hard to come by.

Best Hospital Grade Breast Pump to Use at Home: Ameda Finesse

Unfortunately, there is no strict qualification for calling a pump “hospital-grade,” but this usually means the pump is powerful and uses a closed system. The Ameda Platinum is usually found only in hospitals, but the Ameda breast pump Finesse is their at-home model with the same power and sterile operation. It offers fully customizable settings and single or double pumping. Users praise its efficiency and portability

Best Hands-Free Breast Pump: Willow and Elvie Wearable Pumps

You’ll find the most advanced technology in hands-free smart pumps. These are generally high-end, expensive models at around $500, but they have features you can’t get anywhere else. The Willow smart breast pump, for example, slips into a nursing bra with no tubes or bottles for completely hands-free operation. You can control suction and keep track of volume right from your smartphone.

Similarly, the Elvie breast pump is whisper-quiet and bag-free. You can walk around wearing it and transfer the milk straight into a bottle. The downside of these models is, of course, the price tag, and you exchange power for the ultimate portability. If your milk production is substantial, you may need to empty the collection cups in the middle of a pumping session, especially with the 5-oz bags of the Willow breast pump.

Best Breast Pump for Working Moms: Freemie Wearable Pumps and Medela Pump in Style

We’ve selected two best breast pumps for working moms, one from Freemie and another from Medela. The Freemie breast pump, available in Liberty and Independence models, is another wireless, wearable model. However, because it doesn’t connect with a smartphone, it’s substantially less expensive than the Willow or Elvie. It takes a little bit of effort to get everything set up correctly at the beginning of a pumping session, and it has many of the same drawbacks as other wearable models. However, many working moms swear by it.

The Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump starter set is another excellent option for the workplace. This automatic double breast pump costs around $200 and is powerful enough to get the milk flowing fast and keep it flowing consistently. The portable rechargeable battery and cooler make it a great choice for moms on the go. The pump is built into a stylish Medela breast pump shoulder bag about the size of a backpack or diaper bag. This makes it discreet and easy to carry with you everywhere you go. However, since the pump is built into the tote bag and the tubes are small, it can be a little challenging to clean.

Best Breast Pumps Covered by Insurance

Finding a good breast pump that your insurance will pay for can be a little tricky, but there are services to help you. The following companies don’t manufacture pumps themselves but rather exist to help you go through your insurance to get the device you need.

And, yes, you can get a Medicaid breast pump. Indeed, the ACA mandates that health insurance cover lactation devices. However, you’ll have to contact your own insurance company or work with one of the companies above to find out what’s covered.

Best Accessories

Unfortunately, buying just the pump is rarely enough to fit your lifestyle. Now that you know about the best breast pumps, we’ll cover some of the accessories you’ll almost certainly need.

Best Pumping Bra: Simple Wishes

Our choice for the best hands-free breast pump bra comes in both Velcro and tie-back models. Both have slits to allow the collection bottles to comfortably rest against your chest as you pump. The company even offers some customization with a center panel to fit moms of all sizes. If the best breast pump bra wasn’t enough, Simple Wishes also sells nursing bras as well as bras that can be used for both nursing and pumping, all under $30. You’ll want to have one of these in your hospital bag from the very beginning.

Best Breast Pump Bags

Just as there’s no shortage of pumps, there’s no shortage of bags to carry them. The best breast pump bag for you may depend on your personal style, but here are some options we like. Overall, the Sarah Wells Abby bag gets top marks for its classic, understated look that hides a wealth of pumping necessities. There’s a side zipper for easy access and insulated side pockets to keep milk cool. At $180, it’s not cheap, but it’s easy to clean and can be reused as a diaper bag.

For those on stricter budgets, the Machine Bird backpack has a wealth of pockets for all your accessories and costs only $30. Similarly, the HaloVa diaper bag is usable as a breast pump bag thanks to its roomy interior and insulated pocket for bottles. It will only set you back about $36.

The best breast pump bag for Spectra machines, which are round and so may not fit in other bags, is the Bananafish Charlotte tote bag. Bananafish also makes an excellent backpack specifically for breast pumps called the Madison, which will hold the Spectra.

Best Brush to Clean Breast Pump Parts

You don’t need a specialized brush to clean the parts of a breast pump – any bottle brush of the right size will do. However, you don’t want to use the same brush that you use for your dishes. Fortunately, sets of specialized breast pump cleaning brushes are inexpensive and often come in sets. The Munchkin 4-piece bottle and cup detailing brush set is only $6. It comes with four brushes of different sizes with comfortable handles to hold as you clean.

Best Breast Pump Wipes

Unsurprisingly, Medela makes the best breast pump wipes in addition to the best breast pump. Like other brands of wipes, they allow you to clean without needing soap and water. However, these wipes have no scent, alcohol, or bleach. While Medela Quick Clean Wipes won’t actually sanitize your breast pump parts, they will allow you to do a reasonably good job of cleaning on the go.

The Least You Need to Know

Obviously, this is all a lot of information to take in. However, just remember that in order to make the best choice when buying a breast pump, you need to determine your individual needs. The best choice is the pump that you’re most comfortable using that also suits your needs the best.

Monica

About the Author

Monica

Monica is a mom to two boys and creates content to help other moms, particularly those who are raising newborns and toddlers.

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