In-depth baby product reviews led by a Pediatrician

Best Breast Pump of 2021

We tested the top 7 breast pumps from Spectra, Medela, Baby Buddha, Willow, and more to find the best
Spectra S1
Credit: wckiw © 123rf.com
Wednesday December 29, 2021
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Need a breast pump? We've got you covered. After testing 23 different breast pumps over the past decade, we rank the top 7 options for 2022. We researched and purchased well-loved and promising contenders to send through extensive hands-on testing to determine the best. A breast pump is a nursing mother's second-closest companion during lactation, only outdone by her baby. A well-considered selection is worth its weight in the liquid gold it helps express. However, choosing a pump is easier said than done as breast pumps are not a one-size-fits-all product. We tested every product in our selection over several months. We got feedback from multiple users on ease of use, efficiency, comfort, portability, and more to help you decide which pump is best for you.

Top 7 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 7
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  
Price $200 List
$199.99 at Amazon
$250 List$500 List
$499.99 at Amazon
$31 List
$26.59 at Amazon
$100 List
$86.98 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
71
65
65
63
61
Star Rating
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Pros Efficient, comfortable, portable, easy to use, quiet, hygienicPortability, use on the go, easy to use, closed systemPortable, relatively quiet, wearable, useful app, stops when fullEasy to use, passive collection, silent, comfortable, portablePortability to get things done while pumping, comfortable
Cons Only one bottle holder, incompatible with a pumping braPrice, hard suction can be painful, buzzing soundSuper spendy, bulky, complicated, limited volumeLess efficient, one-sided, potential milk lossHarder to close, must transfer milk after use
Bottom Line We appreciate this compact pump for its quality, efficiency, hygiene, quiet sound, and comfortImpressive portable pump that is easy to use but has a more aggressive suction and loud acousticsUnique wearable container and pump that is useful for on the go moms but expensive and complicatedA passive system that is affordable, easy to use, and doesn't require hand pumping, but isn't very efficientUseful wearable collection cup you can pair with portable pump for on the go expression, but requires more setup
Rating Categories Spectra S1 Plus Baby Buddha Willow Gen 3 Haakaa Freemie Next Genera...
Efficiency (35%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
2.0
5.0
Comfort (25%)
9.0
3.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
Ease Of Use (15%)
8.0
7.0
2.0
9.0
7.0
Portability (10%)
3.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
Hygiene (10%)
6.0
6.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Acoustics (5%)
6.0
2.0
5.0
10.0
5.0
Specs Spectra S1 Plus Baby Buddha Willow Gen 3 Haakaa Freemie Next Genera...
Max Suction Strength 270 mmHg 320 mmHg 245 mmHg n/a n/a
# of Suction Settings 12 14 7 1 n/a
Weight 3 lbs 0.5 lbs 0.8 (per side) lbs 0.24 lbs 0.5 lbs
Available Flange Sizes 24mm
28mm
24mm, 28mm 15mm, 17mm, 19mm, 21mm, 24mm, 27mm 30mm 25mm, 28mm
15mm-26mm with available inserts
Open/Closed System Closed Closed Closed Open Closed
Capability Double Double Double Single Double
Power Source Battery Battery Battery Manual n/a
Approximate Battery Life 3 hours 1 hour Up to 5 pumping sessions n/a n/a
App No No Yes No No


Best Overall Electric Pump


Spectra S1 Plus


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Efficiency 7
  • Comfort 9
  • Ease of Use 8
  • Portability 3
  • Hygiene 6
  • Acoustics 6
Weight: 3 lbs | Suction Levels: 12
Efficient & quiet
Easy to use
Rechargeable battery
Bulky
Heavy
Replacement parts expensive

The Spectra S1 is the most sought-after daily-use pump for a good reason, and it is the one we recommend to friends and family looking for an effective and quality pump. It is comfortable, efficient, and easy to use with minimal parts and a rechargeable battery, so you are not a slave to an electrical outlet. The S1 has some serious suction power up to 270 mmHg at a surprisingly friendly cost. Combined with 12 suction levels, its power creates an efficient pump that can produce more expressed milk in less time than most competitors. This pump comes completely assembled with an easy-to-understand manual. The S1 is a closed system via hygienic protectors that connect to the tubing. This setup prevents both condensation build-up in tubing and microbial growth in the motor, which means that long-term, the Spectra's inner workings remain in good shape, and breastmilk stays pristine. Best of all, the S1 is quiet, so quiet that you can pump next to a sleeping baby and husband without waking them.

Even though the S1 is a closed system, it is a single-user pump, and only one person should use it. With such efficient pumping and helpful extras like an included nightlight, a built-in timer, space to place bottle, and memory that saves the prior setting, you will get your money's worth with this pump. Overall, there is much to love about this efficient option, and we can't think of a good reason not to add it to your breastfeeding routine.

Read review: Spectra S1

The Spectra 1 is an easy to use, electric pump that works well and...
The Spectra 1 is an easy to use, electric pump that works well and is whisper quiet.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Best Compact Expressing Buddy


Baby Buddha


65
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Efficiency 9
  • Comfort 3
  • Ease of Use 7
  • Portability 8
  • Hygiene 6
  • Acoustics 2
Weight: 0.4 lbs | Suction Levels: 14
Compact and lightweight
Rechargeable battery
Easy to use
Aggressive letdown suction
Loud
Timer in minutes only

At a fourth of a pound, the Baby Buddha is well-liked for its small size, ability to wear as a necklace, and being completely untethered while pumping. Its minimal footprint has impressively strong suction at a maximum of 320 mmHg, which results in efficient emptying for many women. In total, there are 14 settings. The rechargeable battery lasts one hour of pumping and takes 3 to 4 hours to charge through a USB port. Out of the box, it is straightforward and intuitive to use with only two buttons. It comes with a lanyard for wearing the pump, a simple carry bag, three tubes, one t-connector, collection bottles, and 24mm flanges lined with comfortable silicone.

One potential drawback to the Buddha is that some users feel the suction is too powerful, particularly in the letdown phase. Some complain it is painful. This experience isn't true for everyone, but it is something to consider if you already know you have sensitive breasts or nipples. Unfortunately, the Buddha is loud and makes a rhythmic buzzing sound you can hear over the phone and across the room. Also, the minimal user interface only measures time in minutes, not seconds, which may or may not be a problem as some competitors don't measure the time at all. Despite minor hiccups, the Buddha is a contender for those who travel, work away from home, or need to move about while pumping, thanks to its weight, size, and power.

Read review: Baby Buddha

The Baby Buddha is a mobile pump that lets you pump on the go, but...
The Baby Buddha is a mobile pump that lets you pump on the go, but the pump is loud and buzzy.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

If you need something more discrete than the collection bottles that come with the Buddha, the Freemie Next Generation Cups are compatible with this pump, and they fit inside your bra with a breast-like shape that makes them virtually undetectable.

Best Manual Pump


Medela Harmony with Flex


59
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Efficiency 5
  • Comfort 5
  • Ease of Use 6
  • Portability 8
  • Hygiene 7
  • Acoustics 9
Weight: 0.64 lbs | Suction Levels: 2
Portable & light
Flexible flange
Quiet
Repetitive hand motion
Single pumping
Not for frequent use

The Medela Harmony Manual pump is a simple, affordable, compact pumping system that is a great companion piece to an electric pump for occasional use like date night or overnights away from your baby. Alternatively, you may not require an electric pump at all. In that case, the Harmony can be convenient to have on hand for plugged ducts or engorgement. When your baby is on solids and down to one to two nursing sessions a day, it is also helpful for longer periods between feedings to release pressure and help with discomfort. Compared to the other manual pumps on the market, the Medela has a unique "two-phase expression," very similar to many electric pumps in this review. This feature is excellent in a manual pump as it makes pumping more comfortable without an instant sharp tug that can be very painful. The kit includes one 5 oz bottle with a stand and two 24mm PersonalFit flexible breast flanges.

Manual pumps that require frequent and repetitive hand motions can be taxing for many and impossible for some. While this pump allows for different hand positions, it is still something to consider depending on how you plan to use it. Also, it only pumps one breast at a time, so it will take longer to get the job done if you need to express both sides in one sitting. Overall, this pump is a perfect size for travel, is virtually silent, and can help busy moms in a pinch even if you won't want to use it daily.

Read review: Medela Harmony

The Harmony is a good choice for travel and as a backup buddy to a...
The Harmony is a good choice for travel and as a backup buddy to a standard electric pump.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Passive Letdown Collection Container


Haakaa


63
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Efficiency 2
  • Comfort 8
  • Ease of Use 9
  • Portability 9
  • Hygiene 8
  • Acoustics 10
Weight: 5 oz | Suction Levels: Passive letdown
Lightweight and portable
Easy to use and clean
Affordable
Not for everyone

The Haakaa is an inventive solution for passive breast milk collection while nursing a baby on the other side. It attaches to your breast for one long suction pull that doesn't require repetitive hand pumping. This system works particularly well for mothers with a strong letdown and issues with leaking. It is also a good addition for moms who can easily hand-express breast milk. It is soft silicone with an attached suction cup at the bottom and an included cap to help mitigate spillage. It is easy to clean, and moms love using it to collect extra milk instead of wasting it on a breast pad.

One potential issue with the Haakaa is that suction can release if you don't affix it properly or your little one kicks it while nursing. If you aren't ready for this, milk can spill. That said, most moms have great success with the suction staying on well. Also, some have trouble coordinating the Haakaa with a breastfeeding baby on the other side. Though it may take a bit of troubleshooting, many moms feel that this simple solution is well worth the extra effort once they get the hang of things, and we think this option is a budget-friendly solution for some moms who make a lot of milk.

Read review: Haakaa

The passive let down collection system of the Haakaa is good for...
The passive let down collection system of the Haakaa is good for moms who have trouble with leaking between feedings.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
71
$200
Editors' Choice Award
This pump offers superior quality, efficiency, hygiene, quiet sound, comfort, and style
65
$250
Editors' Choice Award
While loud and some report strong suction, it is an easy to use, portable option that gives new freedom to pumping moms
65
$500
This pump is complicated and expensive, but if you are busy and need a pump you can wear it might fill the bill and be the solution you're looking for
63
$31
Top Pick Award
Portable and easy to use, hand pump for passive letdown pumping or a budget-friendly solution for breast engorgement
61
$100
Handy, wearable collection cups that fit in your bra under your shirt for on the go pumping that lets you get things done while expressing milk
59
$42
Best Value Award
A potential pump for moms who travel or those who won't need to pump very frequently
58
$250
We think there are better pumps available that provide more for a lower price

Finding the right breast pump for you can be a saving grace when...
Finding the right breast pump for you can be a saving grace when breastfeeding, going back to work, trying to increase supply, or transitioning to part-time bottle feeding to get a little freedom.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Why You Should Trust Us


Our BabyGearLab founder and mom-in-chief led our breast pump review, Dr. Juliet Spurrier. Dr. Spurrier is a mother of two, a board-certified pediatrician, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Her education and professional and personal experience drive BabyGearLab standards and the product selection for this important review. The pumping team includes Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz, a mother of two and BabyGearLab employee since 2014. Wendy breastfed both of her children and used more than one pump to increase milk supply and remain a working mother. Senior Review Editor Abriah Wofford rounds out the pumping team with testing and analysis that included her breastfeeding sister, who graciously provided insight and information on each pump that only a first-hand user could generate. Together, this team has over nine years of experience using breast pumps and 20+ combined years of testing baby gear.

Since launching BabyGearLab, we've purchased and tested over 23 breast pumps. For this 2021 update, we've included our favorite seven options available today. We spent several months testing each pump for ease of use, comfort, efficiency, acoustics, portability, and more. We had real breastfeeding mothers using the selected pumps and providing feedback on their experience and research with other users. Our exhaustive and detailed testing can give you the information you need to make a well-informed buying decision on your next breastfeeding friend.

The Haakaa is a single silicone unit you squeeze before centering on...
Finding a pump with a few easy to clean and assemble parts is a...

Types of Breast Pumps


There are so many brands and styles available that it can be tough to decide which option is right for you. Even with the help of experienced friends, it can be hard to choose; your needs may vary from theirs. Each pump has its strengths, weaknesses, and costs to consider.

The two main categories of breast pumps are manual and electric. We'll discuss each type to help you decide which best fits your needs. In some cases, you may find that one of each is the most helpful path forward for your individual needs.

Manual pumps like the Medela Harmony work with hand expression and...
Manual pumps like the Medela Harmony work with hand expression and can be useful for travel or occasional pumping when electric pumps aren't available or baby is not around.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Manual Pumps


Manual breast pumps require the user to do the work. Manual pumps are hand-operated and pump one breast at a time via a flange and manual lever that creates suction via a simple squeeze and release operation to express milk. They are best suited for the sporadic pumper or occasional user. Once milk supply is well-established, this kind of pump can be an excellent companion to an electric pump for travel or quick relief from engorgement or temporarily stopping leaking. They are less expensive than electric pumps, light and portable, and have minimal parts, so they fit easily into a purse or carry-on for an outing, overnight, or even travel. A good manual pump should express a decent amount of milk, comparable to an electric pump, with some elbow (er, hand) grease.

Electric pumps do the hard work for you with variable suction and...
Electric pumps do the hard work for you with variable suction and speed so you can get pumping done efficiently and simultaneously from both breasts.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Electric Pumps


An electric breast pump has a motor that runs on electricity via an AC adapter, car adapter, rechargeable battery, or battery pack. They are available in single (pump one breast at a time) and double (pump both simultaneously) versions, as well as popular designs that allow mom mobility while pumping. Based on their power and consistent pumping rhythm, electric pumps are more effective and efficient than manual pumping, which aids in maintaining milk supply and saves time. If you pump more than 3x/week, a double electric pump is a very worthwhile investment. Working moms, moms with supply challenges, or those who exclusively feed baby expressed (pumped) breast milk would all benefit from a double electric pump of some kind. Double electric pumps are so much more efficient than the single versions and if you need to pump only one breast converting a double to a single is easy by closing off one of the suction ports into which the tubing attaches.

Analysis and Test Results


We accumulated test results, hands-on experience, and a wide swath of user feedback (including advice from the lactating professionals) to make our recommendations for this round-up. In this process, we have determined the critical attributes in a breast pump's performance: efficiency (suction strength), comfort, ease of use, portability, hygiene, and acoustics.


Value


The breast pumps in our review have a vast price range. There is something for everyone, from $30 for a minimalist handheld pump to $500 for a high-tech, gadget-filled option. If you plan to pump regularly, you will want to find a product that can take you through the long haul and be pleasant to use. The Spectra S1 has a mid-range price and excels in efficiency and comfort, and therefore, offers good overall value. However, a good breast pump can be a considerable investment, and if you only plan to use it every once in a while, a simple manual product like the Medela Harmony will do the trick. This pump offers an effective (albeit slow) way to express and collect breastmilk without spending hundreds of dollars on a fancy machine.

Pumping takes time, so finding a pump that works quickly to get the...
Pumping takes time, so finding a pump that works quickly to get the most milk is best. In our tests, the Spectra 1 impressed with the amount of milk it was able to express in a short time.
Credit: wckiw © 123rf.com

Efficiency


Efficiency is the bottom line for a breast pump. How fast does it take to pump "x" ounces of milk? Although every mom is unique in their milk production, some pumps are stronger and more consistent, resulting in more milk faster.


That said, it is a common misconception that more suction power/strength results in more milk. Each person has unique anatomy and milk supply, so finding what works best for you with suction strength and levels is essential. Ultimately, a woman's breastmilk output directly correlates with the supply/demand cycle, although some are overproducers, some under producers, and everything in-between. So, while it is important not to get discouraged, know that there are tips and tricks for wherever you lie on the spectrum. The Baby Buddha followed by the Medela Pump in Style with Max Flow were the most efficient pumps in our tests, earning a 9 and 8. The Medela Harmony is the top-performing manual pump, but it is still much slower because you can only pump one side at a time. However, if you need a non-electric pump and lack the hand strength or dexterity required of the Harmony, the Haakaa released an impressive amount of milk in our tests for a passive letdown system. It earned a 2 of 10, the lowest score in our tests. However, we were satisfied with the result given the small amount of effort it takes.

Finding the right size breast flange in a comfortable material like...
Finding the right size breast flange in a comfortable material like silicone can make pumping comfortable and pain-free during and after.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Comfort


When comparing pumps, comfort is a close second to efficiency. Let's face it, pumping isn't the most relaxing experience, and beginner pumping has a learning curve to it, just like breastfeeding.


If you are pumping 6-8x/day, as many moms will do to help establish supply, a workhorse pump should be relatively comfortable to use, not just tolerable. And, they shouldn't cause pain, not during or afterward. Some pumps have more comfortable flanges (the cone-shaped part that covers the breast) with a wider variety of sizes, making a big difference. Others have adjustable suction and pump settings, two-phase pumping for the initiation, and then let down. Most of the pumps in this review are rated as comfortable by testers, though some felt the Baby Buddha has a strong initial pull that wasn't as comfortable, and it earned the low score of 3 out of 10. The Willow Gen 3 can get uncomfortable once you finish pumping as it continues to suck until you remove it (ouch!). Most moms feel both the Haakaa and Medela Harmony are comfortable, with some remarking that the silicone on the Haakaa was particularly cushy. Due to size and placement, the Willow is the bulkiest, but you can move in most positions while wearing it, so the discomfort of bulk is a trade for mobility. The most comfortable pump is the Spectra S1 Plus, and our tester felt that it most closely mimics the feel of a breastfeeding baby.

Many modern-day pumps offer various flange sizes as everyone&#039;s...
Many modern-day pumps offer various flange sizes as everyone's nipples and breasts are different. If you experience discomfort, you should consider trying a different size flange before throwing in the towel or blaming the pump itself.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

A Word on Properly-Sized Flanges
As mentioned above, flanges are the funnel-shaped pieces you position directly over the breast, centering on the nipple. The pump's suction pulls the nipple into the flange. Nipples come in all shapes and lengths, as well as areolas and breasts, and flanges must fit properly; otherwise, they can cause pain. Most breast pumps have flanges available in different sizes, so you need to make sure you are fitted with the right size for success. You do not want the nipple to constantly be vigorously rubbing against the plastic as it may cause abrasions and lead to bleeding, pain, and even infection. If you have questions or concerns about fit, it is advisable to seek a lactation consultant's help.

The Baby Buddha has only two buttons and is easy to operate with the...
The Baby Buddha has only two buttons and is easy to operate with the information you need right on the pump itself.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Ease of Use


A breast pump is typically used multiple times a day and sometimes into the night hours; thus, one that is easy to use can considerably affect your overall experience with pumping. Convenience is especially vital if you pump exclusively, are a working mom, or travel frequently and need to use it in various locations.


Some pumps are complicated to set up, while others are quite intuitive. If given a wide selection of pumps to choose from, moms will naturally gravitate to the intuitive ones on a day-in-day-out basis. The Spectra S1 earned an 8 out of 10 because it has great "getting started" instructions and simple assembly. It has intuitive buttons and even comes with a night light for dim pumping while your little one sleeps. Almost nothing is easier than the Haakaa which earned a high score of 9. With one squeeze and proper placement, you can relax while passive letdown does the work: nothing to plug in and nothing to assemble with minimal parts to clean. Conversely, the Willow Gen 3 is the most convoluted option in the group with many parts, long instructions, and a steep learning curve. It earned a 2 out of 10 in this metric.

Key considerations include:

  • Number of Parts — The more parts, the more cumbersome and complicated the process becomes
  • Ease of Disassembly, Cleaning, & Re-assembly — Setting up and taking down the operation every pumping session requires patience. If you are on a timed break at work, the last thing you need is a convoluted process.
  • Power Source — Rechargeable batteries come in handy when on the go as you don't need to find an outlet for an AC adapter to pump. Some AC adapter pumps also have car adapters for pumping while driving, which many a working mother will admit to!
  • Size & Weight — Mobility pumps like the Baby Buddha are trendy because they are easy to carry in a bag for busy days out and travel.
  • Adjustable Suction and Pump Speed — This allows mom to fine-tune her pumping experience to the proper settings for her breast.
  • Included Accessories and Added Features — Items such as various flange sizes and features such as a bottle holder, nightlight, timer, and automatic dual-phase expression add value and convenience.
  • Dual-Phase Expression — Dual-phase expression seeks to mirror what occurs during a breastfeeding session. Most pumps automatically switch from stimulation to expression phase, giving mom one less thing to do and helping her relax while pumping.

The Baby Buddha comes with a handy backpack for transporting the...
The Baby Buddha comes with a handy backpack for transporting the pump and parts and it is wearable while pumping making it both very portable and offering mobility during pumping.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Portability


If you plan to work or often travel with your pump, portability should be high on your list. When considering portability, the weight of the pump, number of accessories, and overall size are factors in the equation. They dictate how easy it will be to lug the kit to and from your workplace. Top performers are easy to bring along with all the components necessary for a complete pumping session.


The best electric pump for portability is the Baby Buddha, which earned an 8 out of 10 because it is small, lightweight and you can wear it while pumping to increase mobility. The Spectra 1 is relatively light and has a handy carry handle but is not the best for on-the-go pumping sessions. The Spectra 1 is better suited for frequent pumper as it efficiently works on both breasts in a short period and has a rechargeable battery that can last through the workday. For working moms on the move who can't sit still to pump, the Buddha or the Freemie Next Generation collection cups combined with the Buddha are a good option for discreet mobile pumping. The Willow Gen 3 is also a wearable and a good choice for moms who need to be on their feet and situations where structured break times are a struggle, like a busy ER. While not the solution for every mom, it can be a helpful option to pump without being tethered to a specific place and time. The Haakaa earned the highest score for portability, 9 out of 10, due to its minimal design.

The Willow Gen 3 works with an app on your smart device recording...
The Willow Gen 3 works with an app on your smart device recording everything from ounces to time pumping. The system works well but it is somewhat bulky.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Mobility


There is a new trend towards mobility during pumping. Mobile pumps usually are hands-free with rechargeable batteries like many electric pumps these days, but the big difference is that they are small enough for mom to wear on her person while pumping. The Freemie, Buddha, and Willow are wearable pumps or collection systems that allow mobile freedom. The Willow is somewhat unique in that it pairs with a smartphone app, and there are no wires or tubing to mess with. The collection containers and the pump are all part of the same breast-shaped device that fits inside your bra and attaches to your breast.

Closed systems are the best for hygiene, but the Willow goes a step...
Closed systems are the best for hygiene, but the Willow goes a step further by expressing the milk directly into storage bags so there is less milk handling and potential for contamination.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Hygiene


Hygiene is essential as it determines the cleanliness of the milk you pump for your baby. We strongly recommend a closed system. We think that open system electric pumps have too much potential for milk build-up and/or condensation in the tubing, which is patently connected directly to the pump. This connection invites the opportunity for microbial growth inside. With closed system pumps designed to prevent backflow from entering the tubing, this is a non-issue. Every electric pump in our selection is a closed system in our newest update, and we are grateful that the new Medela fits in this group.


Cleaning pump parts in warm, soapy water with thorough drying takes sufficient effort and time. So, the easier, the better! If you are pumping several times a day while at work, washing pump parts after every session is definitely time-consuming and potentially embarrassing if you use the communal kitchen sink. The Willow Gen 3 is probably one of the easiest as the milk goes directly into the collection container or bag and does not require any milk transfer. While you will need to clean the parts at the end of the day, storing the units in a clean Ziplock bag can suffice between pumps on the same day, assuming the milk collection is a smooth one. Because they are all closed systems, most of the electric pumps in our review earned a 6 out of 10 because they have very similar parts and require similar cleaning methods.

Keeping your pump parts clean with soap and water is a must when...
Keeping your pump parts clean with soap and water is a must when pumping, so we recommend finding a pump with fewer easy to clean parts.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

A trick working moms often use is to store used pump parts in a Ziploc bag or Tupperware container in the refrigerator until the next pumping session. Then, wash the one set of pump parts when you get home. This trick beats carting several sets of pump parts around, ultimately creating more work for yourself when you are most tired at the end of the day.

Acoustics


It turns out that some electric pumps have very loud motors. In some cases, extra noise may not be such a bad thing as workmates may be less likely to interrupt a pumping session due to its tell-tale sound from down the hall. However, when pumping in bed with your partner next to you, the noisiness may very well be a problem. We're sure that you will agree that the quieter, the better when it comes to breast pumps. Stress has been shown to delay a lactating mother's "letdown reflex." And, sometimes, that loud pumping sound can hinder the relaxation so helpful to milk production.


Naturally, due to the lack of a motor, the manual pumps are the quietest, with the Medela Harmony and the Haakaa earning top ranks in this metric with scores of 9 and 10. However, we were surprised to find the Spectra S1 is almost quiet with only a soft sh sh sound! For an electric pump, the Spectra S1 practically whispers. The Medela Pump in Style MaxFLowz and the Baby Buddha have the loudest motors and earned a 4 of 10 and 2 of 10, respectively.

What Does Hospital-Grade Mean Anyway?

Increasingly, breast pump manufacturers use the term "hospital-grade" to imply strong suction. Some may interpret this term as a pump with multi-user capabilities similar to what you might use in the hospital. Although the FDA regulates breast pumps as they are considered medical devices, the term "hospital grade" is neither recognized nor monitored by the FDA. As such, it does not have a consistent definition and does not connotate safety or hygiene.

Thus, in the world of breast pumps, the term "hospital grade" is widely used by manufacturers to influence purchase decisions, so don't let it fool you. Instead, the FDA advises to pay closer attention to the terms multiple-user and single-user. Understanding the differences between buying a single-user versus renting or investing in a multi-user can make a big difference initially and sometimes even in the long haul for some moms.

Do Not Buy or Borrow a Used Single-User Breast Pump


We understand that single-user electric pumps can feel like an exorbitant expense. It might be tempting to borrow one from a friend or buy one used. However, we strongly feel that it is not worth the risk of using a hand-me-down pump due to health and hygiene concerns, as well as motor lifespan.

It is not advisable to use a previously owned breast pump. Breast pumps are single-user products, or personal care items, much like a toothbrush, and are registered with the FDA as single-use items. For safety, breast pumps should never be shared, resold, or lent among mothers. Medela actively discourages moms from reusing or reselling previously owned breast pump equipment. — Medela
  • Hygiene — Because humans can harbor infectious diseases without knowing it, sharing personal care products, including single-user breast pumps (manual pumps included), is not recommended. Breast milk is a biological substance that can harbor HIV and CMV that can be transmitted unknowingly. Also, if a mother with cracked, bleeding nipples pumps, blood comes into contact with external pump parts. Despite good washing, bacteria and viruses can still be transmitted. Thus, it is also important to always use personal milk collection kits. Single-User Pumps are not meant to be passed along. While closed systems may have less risk than open systems when new collection parts are used, it still isn't worth the risk and hassle of using a used pump.

There are certain risks presented by breast pumps reused by different mothers if they are not properly cleaned and sterilized. These risks include the transmission of infectious diseases … the FDA believes that the proper cleaning and sterilization of breast pumps requires the removal of any fluid that has entered the pumping mechanism itself. If proper sterilization of the breast pump cannot be achieved, the FDA recommends not using it by different mothers. — FDA

  • Motor Lifespan — Most single-user electric breast pumps are designed for about one year of use with one child. The warranties among manufacturers and models may differ, and manufacturers typically void a single-use breast pump's warranty if used by more than one person. In a nutshell, if you are pumping three times a day for a year, the motor will eventually lose its strength, which means hand-me-downs won't have as much power as they did when new. We firmly discourage moms from relying on a used breast pump for health and hygiene concerns and because it is likely to have lost significant suction power.

Even though we do not recommend it if you DO decide to go with a previously-used, single-user, closed system pump, it is VERY important to purchase NEW accessory parts. These include tubing, flanges, bottles, lids, membranes, and valves.

The Spectra 1 is an ideal electric pumping solution that even comes...
The Spectra 1 is an ideal electric pumping solution that even comes with a soft glow nightlight, so you know what you are doing even in the dead of night.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Conclusion


Choosing a breast pump is a personal decision complicated by considerations of the budget and what will work best for your body. We hope that our curated pump selections and test result information can help narrow down your options so you can find the one that is right for you. Most importantly, we wish every parent a stress-free and nurturing feeding experience with their baby.

Juliet Spurrier, MD and Wendy Schmitz

Honest, objective reviews. Led by a Pediatrician.

BabyGearLab was founded by a Pediatrician Mom with a mission to provide a reliable, independent, source of information to new parents. Our experts have tested thousands of baby and kids products to share key performance, health, and safety findings. We spend tens of thousands of dollars crash testing car seats to inform our ratings. And, we combine our review work with gobs of expert parenting advice. To assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing by people who care.

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