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 available today. 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.
Your baby will need to eat as often as they demand, and you might need gear to help you. Our list of the ultimate nursing gear provides all the essentials regardless if you're exclusively breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby. If you need to transport your breast pump, you might want a stylish and functional breast pump bag.
Editor's Note: We updated this breast pump review on January 23, 2023, with a review of product availability and accurate pricing.
The Spectra S1 is the most sought-after daily-use pump for good reason, and it is the one we recommend to friends and family looking for an effective, quality pump. It is comfortable, efficient, and easy to use, with minimal parts and a rechargeable battery. The S1 has some serious suction power up to 270 mmHg, with a budget-friendly price. Combined with 12 suction levels, its power creates an efficient pump that can help create 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 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 disturbing 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.
At a fourth of a pound, the Baby Buddha is well-liked for its small size, design as a necklace, and being completely untethered while pumping. Its minimal size has impressively strong suction at a maximum of 320 mmHg, resulting in efficient emptying for many women, with 14 settings. The rechargeable battery lasts for one hour of pumping and takes 3 to 4 hours to charge using a USB port. This pump 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. Thanks to its weight, size, and power, the Buddha is a contender for those who travel, work away from home, or need to move while pumping.
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 the best nursing bra with a breast-like shape that makes them virtually undetectable.
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.
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. 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.
Since launching BabyGearLab, we've purchased and tested over 23 breast pumps. For this update, we've included our favorite options. We spent several months testing each pump for ease of use, comfort, efficiency, acoustics, portability, and more. We had breastfeeding mothers use the pumps and provide 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. We tested metrics like efficiency, comfort, hygiene, ease of use, portability, durability, quality, features, noise, and more. With more than 10 individual tests conducted per pump, we used our results and mother input to rank products a pick award winners.
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 help increase her milk supply and remain a working mother. Spoiler alert… she still struggled (it's normal). 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.
Types of Breast Pumps
There are so many brands and styles available that it can be tough to decide which pump is right for you. Even with advice from experienced friends, it can still be difficult to choose, as your needs may vary from theirs. Each pump has its strengths, weaknesses, and costs to assess.
The two main breast pump categories are manual and electric. We'll discuss both to help you decide which type best meets your needs. For some new moms, one of each is the most practical path forward to meet multiple needs.
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 the 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.
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 expressed (pumped) breast milk would benefit from a double electric pump. 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 collected test results, hands-on experience, and a wide swath of user feedback (including advice from lactating professionals) to make our recommendations for this review. In this process, we have determined the critical attributes of a breast pump's performance: efficiency (suction strength), comfort, ease of use, portability, hygiene, and acoustics.
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.
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. 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 one of the lowest scores in our tests. However, we were satisfied with the result, given the small amount of effort it takes.
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 a low score. 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.
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 equip yourself 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. Also, check out our favorite nipple creams. We suggest having one on hand for times when your nipples need some extra care.
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 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. 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.
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.
Portability should be high on your list if you plan to work or often travel with your pump. When considering portability, the weight of the pump, the 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 and 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 pumpers 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 in 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 due to its minimal design.
There is a new trend toward mobility during pumping. Mobile pumps usually are hands-free with rechargeable batteries, like many electric pumps these days. The big difference is that they are small enough for mom to wear in her bra 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.
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 above-average scores because they have similar parts and require similar cleaning methods.
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.
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, the manual pumps are the quietest due to the lack of a motor, with the Medela Harmony and the Haakaa earning top ranks in this metric. 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 Baby Buddha have the loudest motors.
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 think it is not worth the risk of using a hand-me-down pump due to health and hygiene concerns and 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. Breast pumps should never be shared, resold, or lent among mothers for safety. 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. Used pumps are also likely to have lost significant suction power, making them inefficient and frustrating for those who make small amounts of milk.
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.
Finding the right breast pump is a personal decision complicated by budget and what will work best for your individual body and situation. Our breast pump selection, test results, and detailed information can help you narrow your options to find the perfect one for you and your budget. The last thing you need during this time of new experiences and caring for your little one is stress finding a breast pump.