The Best Breast Pump Review
Editors' Choice Winner
Spectra Baby USA S1 Hospital Grade
This pump beats out its competition by pumping a more significant amount of breast milk in a shorter amount of time, making it much more efficient and effective. The pump has a timer which allows you to keep track of how long you're pumping and then saves the previous settings for the next round. This pump also has the benefit of a "closed hygienic system". The S1 did not build condensation in the tubing, thanks to the "backflow hygienic protectors" that you simply connect to the tubing before connecting your breast flanges and collection bottles. This is a feat that the Medela Pump In Style Advanced was not able to achieve. We were also pleasantly surprised to find this pump to be more comfortable than most when used repeatedly. As an added bonus, the included nightlight made it super convenient for night pumping. Spectra has released a new portable electric breast pump. Read more about the Spectra 9 Plus Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump in the full review.
Read review: Spectra Baby USA S1
Best Value Winner
Medela Pump In Style Advanced
Read review: Medela Pump in Style Advanced
Best for the Traveling Mom
Medela Harmony Manual
This pump would be great for two different essential mommy purposes. First, as a "mom's night out" pump for a mom who needs to get away for a few hours on occasion. Retailing from $30-$40, this pump is very affordable and should meet most "occasional" pumping needs. Secondly, this pump is the perfect, compact traveling companion for any nursing mom. It can comfortably fit in most purses, diaper bags, or carry on luggage for a no-fuss travel experience. It can easily be used on the plane as well if your breasts become engorged due to flying and/or your baby is too fussy to breastfeed.
Read review: Medela Harmony Manual
Analysis and Test Results
As ubiquitous as breast pumps are these days, interestingly it was only a little over 2 decades ago in 1991 when the Swiss company Medela introduced the first electric-powered, vacuum-operated pump for use outside of the hospital. In fact, the first pumps were patented in the mid-19th century to address issues with inverted nipples and small, weak newborns that were having too much difficulty with nursing. They've come a long way since then and have been an essential tool in providing nourishment to millions of babies ever since.
When purchasing a new breast pump, there is a range of options available. You have single manual pumps and double electric pumps and everything in between, which creates a huge range in price. We love the Editors' Choice winner, the Spectra S1, but it comes in as the most expensive. A less expensive option is the Medela Harmony Manual, which is a great choice for less than $45.
Selecting the Right Breast Pump
Moms choose to pump for their children for a variety of reasons. For most moms, pumping is a way to ensure that their child reaps the benefits of their breast milk even when she can't be with them. Some moms are unable to physically breastfeed which leads them to become an "exclusive pumper". Others desire to create a supply of stored-up breast milk, thus allowing them to return to work while continuing to provide their child's meal. Still, other mothers are pumping for some much-needed mommy time, or maybe for that elusive date night one so rarely sees in their child's first year of life, or possibly, just in case of emergency. For whatever purpose you may be pumping, we have tested the best pumps on the market and determined why they may or may not be a good fit for you. Don't forget to check out the articles titled How to Choose the Best Breast Pump and Related: How We Tested Breast Pumps for more detailed information to aid in your pre-pump purchase research. In addition, don't miss our article Best Practices for Handling Breast Milk as it indeed is liquid gold for your baby.
Types of Breast Pumps
When choosing a breast pump there are two major options: electric or manual. Each has their positive and negative attributes and we found we liked aspects of both for different purposes. We break this down even further in our article How to Choose the Best Breast Pump.
An electric breast pump, as the name states, is a pump that runs on electricity, normally via a wall outlet, but many also have the option to run on batteries, which is nice. All the electric pumps we tested were double breast pumps which means you can pump both breasts at the same time. We found them to be far more efficient than the manual pumps we tried, based on their power and consistent pumping rhythm combined with the ability to pump both breasts at the same time.
Manual breast pumps are those that require the user to do the work. They have a lever which attaches to the breast flange (the part that covers your breast) that generally uses a simple squeeze and release type of operation to express milk. We found manual pumps to be beneficial due to their ease of portability and lack of excessive parts. They can be a bit labor intensive, still, we found that they were very handy, especially for in certain situations, like during travel.
Criteria for Evaluation
Two of the electric pumps that stood out above the rest when it came to efficiency were the Spectra S1 and the Medela Pump In Style Advanced. While these pumps often rendered the same amount of milk as comparable units, they were able to do it more quickly.
Most moms are in for a little bit of suffering when they first begin to breastfeed. It can be very uncomfortable to start, but for most, it slowly becomes more comfortable. This can also be the case with breast pumps. Thus, comfort is very important to consider when purchasing a breast pump. We have found that some pumps were more comfortable depending on their breast flanges (the cone-shaped part that covers the breast), while for others, it depended on the way their suction and pumping settings work.
Our top two rated pumps in comfort were the Spectra S1 and the Medela Harmony Manual pump. These two pumps could be used four to five times a day with minimal discomfort.
Ease of use
Your breast pump has the potential to be used multiple times a day and even throughout the night hours. Because of this, an important thing to look at is exactly how involved setting up and using the pump is. We found that some pumps were very difficult to set up, while others were quite intuitive. This is especially key if you are an exclusive pumper, a working mom and/or travel often with your pump and need to use it in different areas.
A few other questions to take into consideration might be:
- How many parts are there?
- How quickly can it be used, taken apart, cleaned, dried and then re-assembled?
- Does the unit require a wall outlet or can it run on batteries?
- Does it come with an insulated cooler to store pumped milk in?
Our two highest scoring pumps in this category were the Medela Pump In Style Advanced and the Spectra S1, both of which started out with great instructions and simple assembly. They were also easy to use, especially when it came to adjusting pump speed and suction, which we really appreciated.
If you are planning to travel with your pump often, portability will be high on your list. Women travel with a pump for a multitude of reasons, most commonly for work or on a vacation. When considering portability, it is important to look at ease of use as well as what storage the pump offers, such as a bag for the pump and an insulated cooler for your expressed milk.
Our two highest rated pumps for portability were the Medela Pump In Style Advanced and the Medela Harmony Manual. We feel the Pump In Style would be more suited to the working mom or frequent pumper, while the Harmony would be more suited for a vacation or occasional pumping needs.
Our two highest ranked pumps for hygiene were the Spectra S1 and the Spectra DEW 350. These pumps scored so well mainly because of their "closed-hygienic system" design which prevents condensation from building up in the tubing. While some other pumps also offered a "closed system" they were not as well designed or as easy to use, take apart and clean as the Spectra products. Our lowest rated product in hygiene was the Medela Pump In Style Advanced due to the trouble we had with condensation in the tubing.
Many new moms will be surprised by how loud some of these pumps are. We came to appreciate the quieter pumps, especially if pumping in an office, or in the middle of the night when others are sleeping. Stress has been shown to delay your "let-down reflex"(when your milk begins to flow) and sometimes that loud pumping sound can hinder relaxation.
Our top-rated pumps for acoustics were the Spectra S1 and the Medela Harmony Manual. For an electric pump, the Spectra S1 practically whispers. The Medela is a manual pump which is naturally very quiet but was the quietest out of all three manual pumps tested. The lowest rated pump in this category was the Medela In Style Advanced. It works so well but not without a lot of sound from the motor.
Choosing a breast pump is a personal decision and one that is complicated by considerations of budget, as well as what will work best for your body. That said, we hope that our extensive testing and rating information helps you to narrow down to a few pumps, and pick the one that is right for you.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team